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Constitution Review: That Ikemba Ojukwu's Latest Outing

December 22, 2009

When Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu rose to speak at the South-East zone of the Senate Public hearing on Constitution Review at Enugu, expectations were high the Ikemba Nnewi would, at least, take a shot at the contentious subject of restoring fiscal and political federalism in a pluralistic State like Nigeria. Ikemba has seen it all in Nigeria's political terrain since independence, from the merrier to the messier, therefore, many had expected him to bare his mind on many of the numerous flaws of the 1999 constitution.

An average Igbo is seen to tilt towards returning Nigeria to a truly federal state in the on-going review of the 1999 constitution. Some of the Igbo elite even sneer at the idea that creating one more state in the South-East zone may attenuate Igbo marginalization in Nigeria, nonetheless, the proliferation of more states nationwide in a bid to balance the existing inequity. But there are Ndigbo in the half-bread-is-better-than-none position who insist, perhaps rightly, that in the continued absence of fiscal federalism in the country, another state needs to be created in the South-East forthwith.

So, ears were drawn to hear the Ikemba speak. And when he came on, he first tickled his audience with his choice to speak only in Igbo language, because, according to him, in English language, your 'is' can easily be turned to 'was.' But when he was done, to the astonishment of many, the hub of Ikemba's speech was on state creation in the South-East. He did add that he would want the creation of another state in the South-East precede any other amendments in the 1999 constitution.

Ikemba Ojukwu's sonorous silence at Enugu on other matters germane to constitution review spoke volumes. Is he reserving his input for the right time?  Does he, like many others, believe that the on-going constitution review shall end up a fruitless exercise?

Ojukwu's speech climaxed with what observers have since dubbed a dud support for Arthur Nzeribe's newly recomposed Orashi state proposal. Get the Ikemba's support base for Orashi: "My friends are spearheading it. Arthur Nzeribe and Mark Ezemba, they have been carrying me around." Ojukwu also added that he supported it because his mother was from the area. Short of outlining whatever considerable factors that merit Arthur Nzeribe's proposal for a state, analysts believe it is uncharacteristic of Dim Ojukwu to have his support base for a cause like that on such 'my friends are spearheading it' feeble type of remarks; and that such remarks are out of sync with serious 'Ikemba speak.' 
At last, it turned out that on witnessing the unrestrained session a state movement from Enugu state's Nsukka senatorial district had on the first day of the hearings when only Enugu and Ebonyi states were fixed to present their contributions, Arthur Nzeribe hurriedly went to curry with the Ikemba to come over the next day for support.

However, on the map of Arthur Nzeribe's proposed Orashi state, he criss-crossed, circumvented, maliciously excluded or divided kindred,  villages, communities, fraternities, and old inter-community linkages between people spread across the 12 local government areas in the Imo West (Orlu) senatorial zone. Nzeribe's mission: demonstrate his spite for his perceived enemies in his Imo West constituency as well as stymie their proposed, all inclusive Njaba state in all of Imo West and parts of Anambra South senatorial districts.

From records of past state creation exercises in the South-East, the proponents of Njaba state believe theirs is the most naturally favoured for the sixth state in the zone. However, many see Nzeribe's untoward politiking in the area to have given fillip to the  sprouting of other state agitation groups through out the South-East bent on profiting from the disequilibrium; and the outcome is today's discouraging resemblance of Igbos in the South-East at each other's throat over where the state or states they are soliciting for from the rest of Nigeria shall be located when created. And if caution is thrown to the wind, the worst of this Nzeribe-induced schism is yet to fully manifest throughout Igbo land. This perhaps, explains the sonorous silence that enveloped the hall when Dim Ojukwu arrived at the 'Orashi' portion of his speech.

Highly opinionated septuagenarian, Chief Francis Arthur  Nzeribe, is apparently, yet to grasp the whys and hows that eased him off his cherished seat in the senate and has continued to point fingers to perceived enemies from his constituency for 'destroying' his 'political career'. From Nzeribe's 'Association for Better Nigeria' whose activities in 1993 helped in jeopardising the fruits of Nigeria's most free and fair elections since independence, to his   Yes-in-the-day and No-in-the-night stance before the 'Third Term' debacle in 2006, not a few Nigerians have developed shivers from Arthur Nzeribe's unprincipled style of politics. The first of the many tales of 'Arthur woes' any well-informed adult from his senatorial district recounts before a stranger is that Nzeribe represented them for close to two decades in the senate, and that within the period, the zone attracted no worthy federal or state government's presence despite being the oil producing area in Imo state. Not even running water.

But long before some younger people in Nzeribe's senatorial district lost their patience on him and decided to give him a rout in the last senate seat primaries, a nation-wide resentment for 'Arthur Nzeribe politics' had already blossomed. Former governor of Kano state, Abubakar Rimi, on noticing the perverse roles Nzeribe was playing in the senate had to shout out on one occasion: "that man Arthur Nzeribe, what is he still doing in the senate?" And about seven years ago, Senator Jonathan Silas Zwingina, Arthur Nzeribe's once senate colleague minced no words when he had to describe his colleague, Arthur Nzeribe, as a man "allergic to good reputation"

So far, Ikembologists find it hard to find the genesis of that  'my friends' linkage the Ikemba Nnewi made between him and Arthur Nzeribe. Above all, they believe there is a lacuna in that Ojukwu's Enugu speech. And they ask: does Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu believe in the on-going review of the 1999 constitution?

Steve Ejesi

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