It is no longer news that the South-East Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria has continued to be marginalized in many ways. The zone has received the least allocations from the national budget since 1999.
In the area of representation at the national level, the zone has also been under represented in many national structures.
For instance, there are some states in the country whose monthly allocations from the country’s Federation Account are far greater than what is monthly given to the states in the entire South-East put together. Further, while a zone like the North West has 21 senators, South-East has only 15 senators. In the area of state creation, the zone is also the greatest loser. A place like North West has seven states, the rest of the zones have six states while it is only South East that has five states.
Therefore, many analysts have agreed that without prejudice to the rights of other zones to ask for new states, that it is imperative that before any other state is created in the country, one more state be created first in the South East to bring the zone as par with other zones. This many may say is equitable, fair and will ensure that the South East is not cheated out in the ongoing agitations for creation of new states in the country.
Presently, the zone has many areas agitating for additional states. Some of them include the proposed Adada State from Enugu State, Aba State from Abia State, Equity State from the communal region along Enugu-PortHarcourt Expressway, Ugwuaku State, Urasi State comprising some areas from Anambra and Imo states etc
However, a careful and detailed analysis of these state creation proposals from the South East, it seems the proposed Urashi State with state capital at Orlu is the most viable state that should be created to balance the inequality the zone is presently experiencing in the country.
Historically, it is said that like Imo State, the name ‘Urashi’ is from the famous Urashi River. The river is very significant, symbolic and monumental in the country. It starts from Dikenafai in Ideato Imo State traversing many local government areas in the proposed Urashi State before joining River Abua in Rivers States. The area comprises the 12 local government area in Orlu Senatorial Zone of Imo State and Ihiala Federal Constituency in Anambra State.
Many reasons have been adduced for the creation of this state.
One of it is that Enugu State was created out of the old Anambra State while Abia was carved out of the old Imo State. Ebonyi State was later created out of Enugu and Abia States. From the above, it is logical to note that since the creation of Enugu and Abia States out of Anambra and Imo, Ebonyi State has further been created out of the ‘sons’ of Anambra and Imo States being Enugu and Abia. Therefore, many proponents of Urashi State are of the view that it will be more reasonable and equitable to create this equalization state out of the present day Anambra and Imo States which the proposed Urashi State rightly captures.
In addition, one of the criteria for the creation of a new state is that the proposed area must have at least a minimum of 4 federal constituencies. Interestingly, the proposed Urashi State already has 5 federal constituencies which already is above this requirements. These federal constituencies are Isu/Njaba/Nwangele/Ngwere, Orlu/Orsu/Oru East, Oguta, Ohaji-Egbema/Oru West, Ideato North Ideato South and Ihiala. The place has the 12 local government areas in Orlu Senatorial Zone of Imo State and Ihiala L.G.A which is said to be one of the biggest local government areas in Nigeria. Furthermore, according to the 2006 population census figure, Anambra and Imo States constitute about 51% of the population of the entire South East while in land distribution, the two states constitute 55% of the inhabited portions of land in the region.
Another justification for the creation of this state is its perceived economic viability and the need for improved government presence in the area. The area produces crude oil, palm and agricultural produce in commercial quantity. But unfortunately, it is generally posited that the area, just like the South East, has also been facing abject marginalization. This many say is due to lack of government presence in the area, lack of early education and capital flow. Until about a decade ago, the people of the proposed state were finding it difficult to find white collar jobs. Post primary education came very late to the area thereby making it difficult for the people to work in the Federal Civil Service. Therefore, the people resorted to private enterprises migrating to other areas for greener pasture. Therefore, it is agreed that there is need for more government presence to improve the lot of the area which the creation of Urasi State will likely do.
Another factor that seems to favour the creation of Urashi State is the presence of many tertiary institutions in the area. The institutions in Imo axis are the Imo State Polytechnic Umuagwo in Ohaji Egbema L.G.A., the School of Nursing Amaigbo and the Imo State University Teaching Hospital Orlu. The ongoing Imo-European University in Ideato is also in the area. On its own side, Anambra State University Uli and and Madona University Okija and all located in Ihiala Anambra State.
Others things in the area include which include the International Markets at Ihiala and Orlu, stadium in Orlu, the defunct Uli international Airport, proposed sea port in Oguta, churches, hospitals, primary and post primary schools etc.
It is also a common belief that all the communities in the area have common culture and tradition. In proof of this consanguinity, all the communities in the area is said to revere the sacredness of the python snake. Also, a place like Ihiala in Anambra had also belonged to Orlu Catholic Diocese for nearly a century till few years ago when it was severed.
Be that as it may, it must be made clear that though every unit in the South East could raise its state creation movement but the people must not use their myriad of agitations to jeopardize the demand for this ‘equity state’. No matter how sound and convincing the arguments of the various new state agitators may be, what is more important is the entire wellbeing of Ndigbo. Having pointed out the above, it is the view of many that the creation of Urashi State as the equality state should be the first option left for Ndigbo to balance the inequality of states in the area. Thereafter, the people can join other zones to agitate for the so called additional states. It is suggested that it is on this second agitation that other state creation proposals in the South East could be considered.
Therefore, with the current move to create new states by the country’s apex law-making body, the Igbo Nation is again at a threshold of history. Will the Igbo race be wise for once? Will the people aide the marginalization the area has always faced with indiscriminate agitations for new states? What the people need in this task are unity, selflessness, foresight, wisdom and coordination.
Barr. Emperor N. Iwuala