Constituency delineation and Idea to federal constituency
By: Dr. Amaeze Irechukwu
Constituency delineation is a constitutional word of art that means that once every ten years, representational political units of the federation of Nigeria are redistricted in accordance with shifting population patterns or for purposes of achieving more parity between federal and state constituencies. The last delineation was by the military before the present democratic dispensation came into being. That was more than twelve years ago. Like everything else the military foisted on the polity, constituencies – both state and federal were created by mere fiat. The military got it right in some cases but in many others, gerrymandering and other distortions were rampant, thus leading to the situation today where we have many federal constituencies, especially senatorial zones that were just plainly disproportionate to the others. Prof Maurice Iwu now wishes to put things right and he is in order.
Take Imo State for instance, where we have twelve local government areas in Orlu senatorial zone; and eight and seven in Owerri and Okigwe, respectively. Ideato Federal Constituency lies in the Orlu senatorial zone. It is made of two local government areas known as Ideato North and Ideato South. The name ‘Ideato’ does not connote any distinct sub-ethnic or cultural group amongst the Igbo, unlike the Abribas, the Aros, the Ohuhus, the Ngwas, Ndi Owerre, or Ndi Orlu (Ulu). ‘Ideato’ is only a conjunctive coinage conceived by one Eze Mbanaso Ejimakor from Urualla to encapsulate the three large clans that then comprised of the defunct Ideato LGA. The three clans were Arondizuogu, Mbanasaa and Nwaboshi. It was coined from the word ‘Ide’, roughly meaning great or solidness. ‘Ato’ means three. Ideato then loosely translates to ‘an amalgam of three great or solid clans’. Again, it was never intended to stand for a distinct cultural group of Igbos ancestrally belonging to or hailing from Orlu (Ulu). In some paid advertorial by some hithertofore unknown group by the name of Ideato Consultative Assembly, Orlu (Ulu) was referred to as ‘kiths and kin’ and ‘ancestral home or origins’ of the people of Ideato. This is far from the truth.
For instance, Akokwa – a very large and influential town of many autonomous communities is undoubtedly known to have migrated from Umuchu in Anambra State, Obodo-Ukwu’s ancestral roots lie in Unubi in present day Nnewi (Anambra State), Urualla is known to have come from Achina, also in Anambra State, Akpulu and Isiokpo have cultural affinity with Uga in Aguata LGA of Anambra State. Most of Arondizuogu, also comprised of many autonomous communities came from Arochukwu in Abia State; some came from parts of Anambra State and also from Urualla. Across the bridge towards the Port Harcourt-Enugu Expressway lies Onuimo LGA (Okigwe) with vast majorities of Aros and other sub-ethnics, having blood relatives across the river in Ideato. And even in many areas of Okigwe, you are wont to find Aro/Ideato settlements and even other groups having ancestral links to Awgu areas of Enugu State, and then Ishiagu in Ebonyi which is minutes away from Ebonyi’s borders with Enugu to the north, Abia to the West and Imo to the East. And if you travel across the undulating hills of Isuochi (Abia), you will be looking at the lower reaches of much of Aguata ( Anambra State), Arondizuogu ( Imo State) and lower parts of Awgu in Enugu State. Thus, this whole area is a melting-pot of sorts for disparate sub-groups of Igbos.
So, for any one to now claim that Ideato people are exclusively ancestrally related to Ndi Ulu (Orlu) is a fallacy. Ideato is comprised of mixed cultural groups of Igbos that migrated from many areas of Igbo land – from the far-flung parts of Abia, lower highlands of Anambra and parts of Imo, including Okigwe/Mbano. Recall that Okwe and Okwelle both share common boundaries with Dikenafai in Ideato South LGA and also with parts of Anara in Mbano. Mbano, Okwe and Okwelle lie in present day Okigwe senatorial zone. The truth is that Ideato people are not in any way exclusively related to Ndi Ulu (Orlu). Ideato people are like the rest of the Igbo race that cross-migrated in the earlier centuries from within Igbo land. So, the question of ‘uprooting Ideato people from their ancestral home in Orlu’ can never arise. If you buy the argument, you might as well start demanding that Arondizuogu be scattered and returned to Arochukwu in Abia, parts of Anambra State and Urualla where some of them migrated from; or that Akokwa be returned to Umuchu in Anambra, Urualla to Achina in Anambra, Obodo-Ukwu to Nnewi, and parts of Umuobom returned to Mbano in Okigwe senatorial zone. The point? Ideato people are but an indistinguishable part of one united Igbo race.
Therefore, as far as constituency delineation and state creation are concerned, it is perfectly okay to merge Ideato with Okigwe senatorial zone or even parts of southern Anambra or to create a new amalgam of Ideato, Aguata and parts of Mbano in a new Senatorial zone. This is partly because Ideato is contiguous to two other senatorial zones besides Orlu -one in Imo (Okigwe), the other in Anambra (Anambra south). Ideato people can co-exist anywhere in Igbo land in any new political union, so far as they can find common boundaries with their new political relatives. Okigwe zone has always shared common boundaries, cultures, dialects, markets, rivers, intermarriages, etc with Ndi Ideato from the beginning of time. So, to now call Okigwe people sub-cultural strangers to Ideato people as if they belong to another ethnic group is to fan the same embers that have held Igbos divided for too long. If Maurice Iwu/INEC, who are constitutionally mandated to conduct constituency delimitation deem it fit to bring parity to the three senatorial zones in Imo State by moving Ideato to Okigwe zone, it is only fair that such move be supported by everyone who believes in the principles of equity, fairness and geographical balancing.
Now coming to the issue of creation of an additional state in the South East, political calculations demonstrate that other Nigerians and majority of Ndigbo will most likely support only a new state that will include contiguous territories from all the present five states of the South East. Recall that creation of an additional state in the South East was conceived on the basis of equity to all Ndigbo as a whole, and not as a means of compensating Orlu people (by creating an Orlu or Njaba State); Nsukka people (by creating Adada State), Oguta people (by creating Orashi State), Ngwa people (by creating Aba State) and so on. So, it rankles that an unpopular group of politicians from Orlu is now maneuvering to garner the new state exclusively for their local area, to the frustration of the collective aspiration of the Igbo race – best represented by a new a state that will comprise of portions of Imo (Ideato, Mbano and Okigwe); Abia (Isuochi and environs); Ebonyi (Ohaozara/Ivo and environs), Anambra (Aguata and environs); and Enugu (Awgu and environs), all in a new state with its capital located in the virgin lush lands, stretching from Arondizuogu to Okigwe/Mbano and the outer portions of Ishiagu, the Lokpas, Umunneochi, Akokwa, Awgu and portions of Aguata. A satellite view of this vast area shows that it harbors sufficient mass to actualize a new Mega City as its capital and one that will be built from the scratch to rival any modern city anywhere in the world and become the place where all Igbos will have a sense of belonging. That is the vision and mission. Therefore, as far as the law of ‘unintended consequences’ go, if moving Ideato to a new political unit will assure it a pride of place in this new state, then Ideato people need to show some gratitude to INEC Chairman, Prof Maurice Iwu, instead of sitting on the fence while a confused minority of fringe elements run wild with advertorials of distortions and divisive tendencies.
Dr. Irechukwu wrote in from Abuja