At the conclusion of its 2015 National Convention in Detroit, Michigan during this year’s Labor Day weekend, the World Igbo Congress (WIC) issued a declaration in support of the 2017 Lower Niger Referendum thus:
“That in line with the UN Resolution 61/295 (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) an excerpt of which reads “Acknowledging that the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, affirm the fundamental importance of the right to self-determination of all peoples, by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”, World Igbo Congress endorses the proposal by the Lower Niger Congress (LNC) for a referendum for self-determination of the people of southeast and south-south zones as a means of forging a functional alliance within the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” – World Igbo Congress Communiqué (WIC), September 6, 2015
As if responding to a prompt from the WIC, the Igbo elite corps comprising individuals from the political, professional, academic, business, religious and traditional leadership cadres held an important closed-door online deliberative session in the first week of October 2015. What was codenamed an eSummit was convened to explore and identify what it would take to extricate Ndiigbo from the slave status to which they and their regional neighbors had been subjected since the promising new nation, Nigeria of our founding fathers, was overnight transformed into killing fields for Ndiigbo. After cleansing Ndiigbo from all parts of Nigeria with recurrent waves of brutal pogroms, particularly in the North, a war of conquest was eventually taken to the Igbo heartland between 1967 and 1970 in order to effectuate the final solution for the “Igbo menace” in some Nigerians’ psyche. The shooting war stopped suddenly on January 12, 1970 but the torment from that monumental mayhem still lingers today, nearly half a century later. The Igbo have been regarded and treated as a defeated people within the context of the status quo which had its origins on May 24, 1966 when the citizens’ right to determine their own fate was snatched from us with the now infamous Unification Decree No 34. In a nutshell, this military decree put an end to the parliamentary democratic federalism of the 1st Republic which was based on the semi-autonomous Northern, Eastern, Western and Midwestern Regions. A unitary command governance mantra was arbitrarily imposed, in its place, on Nigerians without any preceding deliberations about the desirability of such a change, particularly regarding its immediate and long-term impacts on the country’s political economy. Such a summary imposition disregarded the safety and livelihood of ethnic nationalities, like the Igbo, whose indigenes had dispersed far away from their home base in the Lower Niger to resettle in all the nooks and crannies of the country.
Before the Unification Decree No 34 of 1966, Eastern Nigeria, with the limited cash flow available to it then, was able to host the Garden City, Coal City, Enyimba City, Obudu Ranch & Resort, Nkalagu Cement Factory, Oji River Power Station, Golden Guinea Breweries etc as well as many farm settlements that littered the former Eastern Region. Since that decree, our folks have been subjected to ethnic cleansing, war of conquest, financial impoverishment and wicked dispossession of individuals and groups of their ownership of landed properties, especially in Port Harcourt and many Northern cities, through the Abandoned Properties Decree. The masterstroke of them all was the Land Use Decree of 1978; a proclamation which instantly confiscated all lands in Nigeria by the Caliphate-dominated coalition that ruled the entire country from the relative safety of a centralized location which was never anywhere near to the former East.
Also in the post-war era, a deliberate plot was hatched to flush Easterners, particularly Ndiigbo, out of their ancestral home turf and re-disperse them elsewhere far afield. If Easterners are not allowed to congregate at will, due to great distances in between them, they could best be watched in order to assure that they weren’t scheming anything new or different. So the Nigerian Eastern Economic Corridor (NEEC), which had been shuttered during the total blockage of the war years, remains closed till date. Eastern Region, which used to occupy the hub of the vibrant economy gateway to the eastern half of Nigeria in the 1st Republic, was slowly but steadily turned into an economic wasteland by the status quo.
Perhaps, the most devastating burden imposed on the average Igbo since the return of democracy, has been the imposition of political leadership on Ndiigbo from external sources. Financial patronage and inducements have been deployed effectively to create tin gods overnight and a novel Igbo political elite, which are more interested in looking outward than inward, particularly with regards to rebuilding of the Igbo hearth with the meager resources allotted to them monthly from the all-powerful controllers of the country’s purse strings in faraway Abuja. Through these planted surrogates of external powerful interest groups, funds supposedly destined for Alaigbo from Abuja, often end up being diverted elsewhere in Nigeria or even in oversea havens. Worse still, this segment of the political elite often dance to the external tunes which have no nexus at all with popular sentiments of the average Igbo at ground zero.
The 700-lb gorilla out there, of course, is the 1999 Constitution which has been adjudged in Nigerian courts to be fraudulent. “We the people……” did not write that constitution. Why then should the first sentence in the document start with “We the people….? The 1999 Constitution is a compilation of all the errant decrees, edicts and policies which have combined to put Nigeria on the irreversible path to perdition since May 24, 1966. This constitution is the canonization of the unacceptable status quo which has rendered the country’s government as the most corrupt in the world. The 2014 National Conference was convened, at great expense, so as to seek and establish the consensus ways and means to rein in or at least, mitigate the myriad of failings encoded within this 1999 Constitution. Even after the arbiters of the status quo got nearly all their wishes adopted at the confab, the little concessions extracted from the Caliphate overlords were still perceived to be too over-the-hill for those who feel that they are born to rule over the rest of us for eternity. A set of recommendations were finally compiled and submitted to the presidency from where they were later sent to the National Assembly. The incumbent APC presidency and National Assembly have jointly resolved to trash the Recommendations of the National Conference for good without cause. In other words, the status quo can never be tampered with by anyone born of woman, even if very mildly so.
So, let me not bore you to death with the disgust which the status quo engenders in the minds of millions of Nigerians, particularly the indigenous peoples of the Lower Niger to which Alaigbo belongs. Alaigbo has been committed to the trajectory of inexorable decline by the hands that control both the knife and the yam at the citadel of power in Abuja where the Igbo can only enter as court jesters and never as its occupants for the next several generations to come. The Easterners cannot even do anything meaningful to help themselves within their home turf because of the 68-item Exclusive Legislative List in the same 1999 Constitution which bars the periphery from encroaching into the “plum” fields earmarked for the exclusive oversight of the absentee landlord nestled in faraway Abuja. The status quo has contributed immensely in forcing the educated and skilled manpower in the former East to emigrate overseas to the industrialized world or elsewhere in Nigeria and to abandon their ancestral homelands in very large numbers. The status quo thrives when it continues to keep Alaigbo and contiguous territory as an economic wasteland in perpetuity.
The eSummit deliberations called on the Igbo, as a people, to stand together now to say a resounding“NO” to the STATUS QUO after smarting under the burden imposed on our folks for the past 50 years. The first order of business is to rediscover and to reassert who they used to be, as a people and therefrom, resolve to become the real masters of their own strategic interests once more. Self-determination, for the Igbo and their neighbors, shall restore a new sense of freewill and self-confidence both of which had been stripped from the contemporary Easterner since 1966. The summiteers solemnly resolved to relearn how to determine their own future wellbeing and fate by themselves for themselves as all freedom-loving peoples worldwide must do for before they can register any sustainable political and socioeconomic progress. The Igbo and their neighbors must regain their inalienable right to determine their own fate by themselves within the context of today’s Nigeria. They must reject the notion that some citizens are condemned perpetually to be de facto slaves to their fellow compatriots, no matter how much they try and struggle under the status quo.
There was a unanimous resolve to wake up and to realize that it is now time to reject the enslavement of Ndiigbo and their neighbors by the status quo; a repugnant phenomenon which is predicated on dispossessing the indigenous peoples of the Lower Niger and imposing mediocrity, official corruption and divisiveness as the master plan for assuring the relegation of their ancestral home turf in perpetuity. Self-determination shall restore a new freewill and our self-confidence both of which had been stripped from the contemporary Igbo. They resolved to first reach down to their kith and kin at ground zero in order to seek their buys-in and accent before anything else. That first step starts with feeling of the pulse of our kith and kin in the hamlets, villages, towns and cities which make up Alaigbo and contiguous territories in the Lower Niger. The internationally recognized way for ascertaining the true wish of indigenous peoples on matters of this nature is through a grassroots-based Referendum which the United Nations and other world bodies can observe in real time.
Internal and Regional Cohesion and Solidarity Are Sine Qua Non
The deliberations thoroughly reviewed the apparent lack of cohesion and solidarity among Ndiigbo, in particular and across the many minority ethnic nationalities that make up the Lower Niger. It was remarked that whatever schisms that may have reared their ugly heads today were contrived by external interests who have used the divide-and-rule policy to hold down and exploited the indigenous peoples of the territory since the colonial era. Before European colonial rule, indigenous peoples of the Lower Niger lived with their neighbors in relative peace; they were unencumbered by the hegemonic domination of majority groups in the area as was clearly evident in the Northern and Western parts of the country in the pre-colonial era. Because of cultural affinity and their shared Christian faith, the indigenous peoples the Lower Niger have the crucial basic ingredients in place for actualizing a coherent polity that is predicated on freedom, unity and the pursuit of excellence. Besides, the emergent Lower Niger Charter proposes a federation of ethnic nationalities which shall eternally have autonomous control over their own ancestral lands and all the God-given treasures in them as the term of working together.
Practical plans for solidifying internal cohesion within the Igbo Health, in particular and continued cross-cultural good neighborliness among indigenous peoples of the Lower Niger, in general, were identified as the two most important areas to devote more time and energy to in coming years and decades. It was also remarked that maintaining close alignment with the indigenous peoples in the Yoruba and Middle Belt ethnic nationalities is a veritable tool for assuring success of the proposed referendum and other related matters. What remained incontrovertible, however, is the universal resolve to firmly reject the status quo and to opt for self-determination for our folks through peaceful means. The particular extent to which the desirable concept of self-determination shall be positioned in run up to the 2017 Lower Niger Referendum shall remain an object for continued fine tuning and refinement going forward.
Call to Support the Self-determination Movement and the 2017 Lower Niger Referendum
The week-long exclusive eSummit was rounded up with a passionate plea for everyone to join the self-determination movement as the surest and fastest means to free our folks from the imposed status of second-class citizenry to which indigenous peoples of the Lower Niger, as a people, have been subjected since end of the Civil War nearly half a century ago. One does not have to be a member of any particular organization in order to be part of this burgeoning movement for self-determination. Get whatever religious group, association, fraternity, club, caucus, forum, community and even political party to which you belong to rise in support of a more equitable nationhood that is based on the self-determination of all the constituent groups that make up today’s Nigeria.
The LNC-USA, whose raison d’être is to extend the global reach of the Lower Niger self-determination movement, shall formally launch its website, www.lnc-usa.org, at end of October 2015 as the main platform for mobilizing the needed manpower and financial resources from the global community to assist the noble agenda of its parent body in implementing the scheduled 2017 Lower Niger Referendum. Financial and other donations to assist this noble endeavor can be sent through this platform or directly to the LNC leadership inside Nigeria. Financial support can also be channeled through another Europe-based online platform at www.lowernigerreferendum.de.
We shall be reaching out to you soon, privately or as group, to ask your contributions, in cash and kind, toward the real-time implementation of all that shall be required to secure our peoples’ right to determine our own fate by ourselves, without external handholding as is now, in today’s Nigeria.
Paschal Ukpabi, Esq. (Attorney)
Executive Director, LNC-USA