By: Ejiofor Nweze
Foremost Nigerian historian, Prof. Adiele Afigbo, in his seminal Igbo history: Ropes of Sand, Studies In Igbo History and Culture stated at page 70 that : “It was as Nsukka Division that this amorphous group of villages came to achieve a distinct identity in recent Nigerian history and politics. And in spite of the vagaries of administrative policies since 1967, they have continued to regard themselves as one people with a unique interest in the context of local and national politics and development”.
Despite our ..”distinct identity” and …unique interest in the context of local and national politics and development” as stated by Afigbo Nsukka Division as it was called then and cultural zone as we popularly call it today has not been able to rise beyond what it was in the 60’s. It has not achieved anything substantial politcally even economically since then. If the zone has achieved anything, it is through the efforts of ordinary people who have through their sheer dint of hardwork,luck and God’s grace risen beyond the crippling poverty in the Senatorial zone.
Many will ask why has Nsukka zone or Enugu North remained almost the same since all this years? One will not go far to locate the lack of credible politcal leadership at all levels as the major reason.
Nsukka has been unlucky in the leadership recruitment. The quality of leadership we have been having are not inspiring and transformstive We maybe until recently have also refused to work hard to either produce good leaders or make our leaders to work to turn around the zone in area of infrastructural and hunan resource development. The few opportunistic leaders we have produced were at best self-centered, timid, naive and some extremely callous.
It is lamentable that the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), set up by the first President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe has remained the only visible Federal and State institution in the cultural zone since 1960. Even then, there have been several attempts to reduce the stature of the main campus of the university by moving all the professional courses to Enugu Campus.One heard that there is plan to further move nursing, economics and other business courses to Enugu Campus.
But our major setback has not only been our inability to recruit credible leadership but also the inability to confront the power structure that has kept us down for years now. Consequently, we have remained with any party in power even when they obviously undermine us.
In 1979 to ’83, the people of Nsukka had solidly supported the then Governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo, even though he worked hard to undermine Nsukka interest even up till today.
It was Nwobodo as the Governor we however made to understand who influenced the movement of the UNN Teaching Hospital permanent site to the present place at Ituku, Ozalla, instead of Obukpa where a land was said to have been provided.
It is unfortunate that this was happening at a time when our own D.C.Ugwu, now late from Obukpa was the Minister of Health under President Shehu Shagari. Both himself and the president were of NPN, while Nwobodo was not only of opposition NPP but was antagostic to Shagari’ s Government. How Nwobodo maunvred Shagari and D.C. Ugwu to move the permanent site to Ituku Ozalla remains a mystery but that is what we talk of naivety of Nsukka leaders.
Then came PDP. Since 1999 to date the people of Nsukka have followed the party, voted them as Governor, National and State members but have nothing to show for their support for PDP in the last 24 years or thereabout.The Senators and the House of Representatives we voted in PDP as lawyers would went on frolic of their own at the detriment of the people they were elected to represent.
But things came to a head when an Nsukka man became the Governor of Enugu State. Our hopes were high that the poor infrastructure in our area especially roads would be worked on. That lack of empowerment of our people would be redressed.
Eight years down the ladder the Nsukka people are bitter that their own son has not only failed to address the infrastructural deficit in their land but stabbed them at the back.
Even with this massive unpopularity of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, he like Abacha, the late military dictator had dribbled everybody in PDP and hijacked all the elective positions to himself and cronies.
Ugwuanyi who became the Governor for eight years after spending 12 years in the House of Representatives, where he was the Chairman of Marine Committee, cornered for himself the Senatorial ticket of Enugu North Senatorial Zone even when it is not the turn of his area to represent the zone in the red chamber according to the zoning formula of the Senatorial Zone.
But thank God for the emergence of Peter Obi and Labour Party, who provided rare opportunity for our politicians, hence the emergence of Chijioke Edeoga as the Governorship candidate of the party in Enugu State, Okey Ezea, popularly called Ideke as the Senatorial candidate for the party in Enugu North Senatorial Zone and other national and State House Assembly candidates.
These politicians have filled the void and provided alternative platform for Nsukka people to express their free will in determining those who will represent them in the various elective positions that would be filled on February 25 and March 11, 2023. It is also pertinent to underscore the facts that these particular election have produced a different hue of Nsukka politcal class who can stand face to face against the oppressors of their people to interrogate them.
The massive support they are getting across the length and breadth of Nsukka people is unwholesome and encouraging. The tremendous support also coming from the elite, the artisans, traders, farmers, diasporas among others.
It is expected that as Nigerians troop out this Saturday to elect their next president and members of National Assembly, the voters of Nsukka Senatorial zone should come out enmasse to equally massively cast their votes for the Labour Party candidates as represented by Ideke, Chidi Obetta, the Igbo-Eze South/Nsukka Federal Constituency candidate in the House of Representatives and others.
Ideke has shown in the past his commitment and capacity to interrogate the oppressive class in the State in his bid to salvage the zone. One is not in doubt that he will even be more committed in the struggle as a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Senate of the the Federal Republic is very critical and important institution which must be occupied by serious politicians who have power of advocacy, capacity to speak for and on behalf of their people.
It should be for those who are tested and found that they can fight for the interest of their people. There are people we may consider astute politicians but have no capacity to defend their people. Is it even morally right for some politicians to hijack the politcal structure in the zone and put it in their pockets; dispense political positions to themselves and their cronies at whims and caprices?
We are lamenting the deplorable situation in the country but our plight in Nsukka zone is even worse. The people of Nsukka Senatorial zone should this time liberate themselves from the worst politcal slavery that have held them down in the past 24 years by translating this their massive support for Labour Party into electoral victory for Ideke and other National Assembly candidates in the Saturday February 25, 2023 election.
Ejiofor Nweze is a Journalist and Coordinator, Nsukka Collectives.