-Ends 2-day Security meeting in Enugu

The Association of South East Town-Unions has said that the often lamented marginalization of Ndigbo is real, undeniable and unjustifiable. 

The group stated this through its national President,Chief Emeka Diwe on November 19, 2020 while addressing Town Union Presidents during a two 2-Day emergency security retreat at Enugu. 

He said “we meet at a time of great tension. This tension is rooted in some fundamental issues which imperil the security of our people nationally and seek to roll back the progress which our people have made in the past decades. As a people, we seem to be losing grasp of who we are, we seem to be forgetting the difficulties we have emerged from, we seem to have hurriedly dropped the lessons of the past, and we seem eager to repeat its mistakes.

Our history should make us wiser, and our heritage should inspire us to greatness, and the lofty dreams of our forebears must be alive in our time and passed on to future generations. 

The Igbo, from origin, even though consisted of independent villages, were generally ruled through diffused authority devoid of formalized and unitary power. Decision-making was subject to collective deliberation. Our early societies maintained thoroughly decentralized systems that were purely democratic and egalitarian to some significant extent.

The villages were not organized in kingdoms. The function of government was carried on by a direct village-level democracy, where the assembly of the people represented the popular authority.

The age grades, titled men, women, and ritual priests, as organs of the society, played their roles in enforcing compliance to collective decisions, and in adjudication.

The organic evolution of this system led to the convergence of various related villages to form towns and to commit themselves to unions which would further promote civic participation, collective labour, development, peace and security. Some chose to go by Development Unions, some others chose Improvement Unions, some preferred Progressive Unions, while a lot more simply bore Town Unions. No matter the nomenclature they adopted, they are the same in every form, shape and purpose across Igboland. And in response to the evolutionary process, these Town Unions have bonded together in all the Local Government Areas in Igboland, formed leaderships in all the Igbo States and have coalesced into one umbrella union known as the Association of South East Town Unions (ASETU). Today, ASETU is the incarnation of the democratic spirit of the Igbo, and it embodies the purest expression of the Igbo republicanism.

A few months ago, young people across Nigeria began to assert the legitimacy of their freedom of expression to press home their demand for police reforms. For most of them, the police force in Nigeria has not failed to present itself as an enemy to them. For most of the youths still, their personal experiences and ordeals under a regime of police brutality are mind-boggling and cannot be denied. All these expressions built up into a nationwide movement which completely shut down most parts of the country for over two weeks.

In an inexplicable turn of events, hoodlums infiltrated the process, and the protests turned violent, occasioning massive looting, destruction and arson. Worse still, other issues which hitherto were never on the agenda of the protesters began to emanate. It was further reported that one of our sons ordered the attacks on security establishments and mindless murder of law enforcement agents. To further worsen the matter, the attacks on assets belonging some public figures from other ethnic nationalities were alleged to be masterminded by our sons.

To be sure, we cannot pretend that all is well. We cannot delude ourselves that a negative stereotype of the Igbo who are belligerent, destructive, expansionist campaigners, domineering and imperialistic best suits our identity. We all are fully conversant with the age-long Igbo proverb which translates that when one finger catches oil, it spreads to the other fingers. The burden we now bear is to remind ourselves who we are and to let our words and deeds mirror that which we represent.

The Igbo remain the most hospitable, peaceful and accommodating group in Nigeria. It is only the Igbo man that sees every part of Nigeria as home and toils to develop anywhere he finds himself. We do not despise nor discriminate because of differences in tongues and creeds; we seek interest in admiring and accommodating those differences. We socialize ourselves into other cultures, take titles from other tribes and celebrate doing so, speak all tongues as if they were ours, intermarry with other nationalities and freely participate in fostering the progress of any land that hosts us.

It is pertinent to point out that the marginalization of Ndigbo Nigeria is real, undeniable and unjustifiable. The litany of injustices which our people face have propelled most of them to begin to think of another country of their own. The system, it seems clear to our youths, has been rigged against them simply because of their tongue. For most of them, prosperity within the context of Nigeria is only an aching mirage. This agony they bear, and the natural proclivity of man to seek equality, has radicalized our youths. They cannot fathom a nation in which their aspirations are cut short simply because of their state of origin, and the nation they call theirs has become an emblem of injustice onto them. Their notion of Biafra becomes an expression of the extent of marginalization which they face in Nigeria and the remedy thereof. 

These realities make our youths to be susceptible to manipulation, indoctrination and abuse. But this obvious marginalization has still not radicalized our youths to the extent of adhering to the dictatorial tendencies of a single figure. Our youths have refused to cower before the feet of a petty tyrant and to carry out the dictates from Hell. They have rejected to be unthinkingly obedient to someone who seeks to lure them into such barbaric practices as breaking bones, burning down infrastructure, perpetrating carnage and brutally murdering law enforcement agents. However, we must begin to address the injustices, grievances and agonies which have constituted millstones around the necks of our young ones. We must begin to treat the disease, not the symptoms anymore.

We have therefore convoked this highly representative and all-inclusive Retreat to reaffirm our belief in the efficacy of the timeless institution of the Town Union in addressing the worries of Igbo people, and in setting the agenda for the peace, security and prosperity of our people. As elected Presidents-General chosen by the people themselves, we are drawn from every end of Igboland, representing every community, and giving meaning to the democratic spirit of the Igbo and the inclusiveness which is the hallmark of the authentic Igbo decision-making process. This Retreat could have held earlier than now. But even the little ostensible delay is testimony to the inclusiveness that democracy entails, which attainment requires a bit of time.

We can recall that through Town Unionism, the wounds inflicted by the 30-month Civil War were healed, infrastructure was reconstructed, social bonds were reestablished, lives were rehabilitated and a new vista of hope was reopened for our people. History now beckons.

In this emergency security Retreat, we shall reflect aloud on the myriad of security challenges confronting our people everywhere in Nigeria. We shall make a holistic appraisal of where we are as a people, in order to determine where we want to be and how we could get there. 

We shall not be fixated with issues of physical security alone in our discussions on security. We shall ask ourselves some key questions about our economic, political and cultural security.

The economic component of our security drive raises a deeper question of Igbo homeland investment model, which is the Aku Ruo Ulo Investment Initiative, which ASETU has always advocated as the key to unlock the exclusive potentials of our people. And the sustenance of our sociocultural heritage, which is the Town Union, comes to the fore in our discourses on securing the Igbo culturally.

I wish you all exciting moments as we commence our deliberations. 

May God bless, secure and prosper Igboland”.