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Isi-Uzo LGA and political oppression in Enugu State

By Jeff Ejiofor and Odo Chukwuemeka Andrew
21 March 2022   |   2:37 am
One of the foremost Greek philosophers, Plato, said that there may be times we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.

One of the foremost Greek philosophers, Plato, said that there may be times we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.

The above quote by the great Plato captures the plight of Isi-Uzo people of Enugu State, who obviously have been marginalised in the scheme of things since the inception of the current political dispensation but have remained calm in the face of such outright injustice. I am of the imperative opinion that the time for self-appraisal tailored towards achieving political liberation and justice has come.

Explicitly, Isi-Uzo is one of the six local government areas that constitute the present Enugu East Senatorial Zone of Enugu State. Though Isi-Uzo was formerly under Nsukka Zone in the old political order, the creation of Ebonyi State in 1996 made it politically exigent for the local government to be included in what is known today as Enugu East Zone for senatorial balancing in Enugu State.
For a better understanding, it will be recalled that before the creation of Ebonyi State, Enugu had three senatorial zones, Nsukka, Enugu and Abakiliki zones in its political structure. In that arrangement, Isi-Uzo was under Nsukka Zone. However, when Abakiliki left in 1996, Isi-Uzo was carved out from Nsukka to form Enugu East Senatorial Zone with Nkanu and Nike people at the behest of the elders of Nkanu land owing to their cultural/historical affiliation which predated the advent of colonial government. As a result, the other remaining part of the old Enugu zone formed what is today known as Enugu West Senatorial Zone. Currently, Enugu stands on a tripod political structure, Enugu East, Enugu West, and Enugu North. Unfortunately, this new order signalled the beginning of the current ordeal of Isi-Uzo people in the area of political marginalisation.
Considering a gentleman agreement reached by the stakeholders of Enugu State on sharing of political offices at various levels, the three new senatorial structures were adopted as the formula for sharing positions involving the state as a whole. Federal constituencies in each senatorial zone became the basis within which offices are zoned, while LGAs rotate offices due for them at the level of the federal constituency. This sharing formula continues up to the community and ward levels to guarantee equity, justice and fair play in the system.
Having provided the background information on the genesis of the current political structure of Enugu State vis-a-vissharing of political offices as agreed upon by the elders of the state in principle, I would narrow my contributions in this article to Enugu East Zone as it affects the Isi-Uzo question. From the above explanations, Isi-Uzo people no doubt are bona fide members of Enugu East Zone, and therefore are qualified to aspire to any position zoned to the senatorial district. Whatever political aspirations by Isi-Uzo people must be within the confines of Enugu East senatorial zonal structure, which is their constitutionally recognised senatorial zone.
Unfortunately, however, these rights of Isi-Uzo people have been flagrantly trampled upon over the years, right from the inception of the current political dispensation in 1999. All offices zoned to Enugu East Senatorial District had eluded them in an orchestrated manner designed to perpetually keep and relegate them to the background for coming from a different political structure in the past. Even though it is on record that the cultural/historical ties between the Nkanu/Nike people and Isi-Uzo predates the advent of colonialism, these later days political naysayers within the senatorial zone, out of mere mischief, had always thrown up the inclusion of Isi-Uzo in old Nsukka zone for administrative convenience as an excuse to deny them political opportunities in the current dispensation. The promoters of these oppressive tendencies have forgotten the genesis of Isi-Uzo’s inclusion in the Enugu East zone at the behest of Nkanu elders who said they were their brothers in Diaspora.
Nonetheless, whichever way anybody wants to look at it, Isi-Uzo is currently in Enugu East Senatorial Zone and must be politically accommodated in all facets of political endeavours. The divisive narratives usually propped up against them by some political merchandisers do not have any place in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. Isi-Uzo people are not lesser political beings in their fatherland, Enugu State, and must have equal opportunity in the scheme of things within their constitutionally recognised political structure for peace and justice to prevail. Turning the LGA into a political orphan that cannot represent its zone in any capacity of governance is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.
The current situation where Isi-Uzo is the only local government in Enugu East Zone that has not represented the zone in any capacity of governance is quite unfortunate. It is a statement of fact that all other local government areas in Enugu East Zone have represented the senatorial zone in different capacities. Nkanu West has produced governor, senator and minister, Nkanu East has been deputy governor for eight years and even produced a minister. Enugu South had taken the senate slots of the zone and a ministerial position, while Enugu North LGA, with a predominantly non-native population, has produced a minister. Enugu East on its part has produced a senator for eight years, speaker of the house of assembly, chief judge of Enugu State and ESUT Vice-Chancellor (VC) for five years respectively. It is only Isi-Uzo LGA that has been left in the political wilderness to date, with no single representation in the zone.

The height of this oppression came into force in the case of Professor Denchrist Onah, an indigene of Isi-Uzo, who contested for ESUT VC in 2015 when it was the turn of Enugu East Senatorial Zone to fill the position. He expectedly emerged the best of all the candidates that went for the interview and were announced as ESUT VC designate. Surprisingly, overnight, the same forces bent on denying Ndi Isi-Uzo their rights, prevailed on Governor Sullivan Chime to replace him on grounds that he was of Nsukka extraction having come from Isi-Uzo. It was really a disappointing action by Sullivan Chime who many had seen as an urban personality before then. The action was, however, condemned by all well-meaning citizens of Enugu State. What can be more wicked and divisive than that? Are Isi-Uzo people not equal stakeholders in their fatherland again? Are they not Igbos of Enugu State extraction? As I write this, no Isi-Uzo man has, to date, been allowed to occupy any tangible position under the current arrangement in Enugu State. No Isi-Uzo man has been found worthy enough to occupy the position of governor, senator or any office of equal status zoned to Enugu East in a state collectively owned by all of us. Even a mere chairman of one out of over 18 political parties in Enugu State given to an Isi-Uzo man was fiercely contested by those who feel their sense of entitlement should not be challenged.
As a matter of fact, no article can contain the list of complaints arising from the marginalization Isi-Uzo people have been subjected to in Enugu East Senatorial Zone. They are too numerous to mention, hence, the necessity to pause here, and appeal to all men of goodwill in Enugu State to come to our rescue and look into the matter with a view to addressing it once and for all. Let us remember that injustice to one is an injustice to all. We cannot be talking about equity, justice and fair play while we’re folding our hands and watching a particular section of our society go through the worst marginalisation in the history of Nigerian politics. What the people of Isi-Uzo are going through is simply akin to political annihilation. A situation where the people are not allowed to aspire to any political position outside the confines of their local government is the height of injustice, marginalisation and political decimation.
In conclusion, this political exclusion should not be allowed to continue if Enugu people are interested in zoning based on equity and justice. It has to be addressed before it is seen as a deliberate ploy to perpetually put a segment of Enugu State down for no just cause. Making Isi-Uzo look like a political bat that has no base is unacceptable. Isi-Uzo is a lawful part of an existing political structure under the Enugu East Senatorial Zone. The narrative of core Nkanu, periphery Nkanu or whatever they concoct to whip unnecessary sentiment against Isi-Uzo is baseless and has no place in Nigeria’s political structure. 2023 should be a golden opportunity for men of goodwill in the senatorial district and Enugu State in general to right the wrong and give all sections of the society a political sense of belonging. According to Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a kingdom founded on injustice never lasts. And in the words of Dr. Ben Nwoye, the chairman of All Progressive Congress, Enugu State, there is nothing like Nkanu senatorial zone anywhere in Enugu State, what we have is Enugu East Zone and no local government in the zone is inferior to the other.

I am of the candid opinion that elders of Enugu State should preserve the current charter of equity embedded in the zoning of political offices for a peaceful transition of power in the state and address the plight of Isi-Uzo people now. Let the objective views of a respected statesman of Nkanu extraction, Chief Anike Nwoga, that there is no superior or inferior local government in Enugu East Zone be acknowledged in deciding the fate of Isi-Uzo in 2023 political calculation. Equity, justice and fair play usually adopted by the amiable governor of Enugu State, Rt Hon Dr. Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi when taking political decisions is the bedrock of successful democracies across developing societies of the globe. A stitch in time saves nine.

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