North's position on Igbo is insulting: CLO chief
The Executive Director of the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, Mr. Ibuchukwu Ezike,has described as insulting and denigrating the position of the North on most of the issues concerning the Igbo nation.
Ezike who is one of the delegates at the on-going National Conference representing South-East civil society groups. Spoke in an interview with Vanguard.
He said that the North's position paper to the National Conference was targeted at insulting the sensibility of the Igbo.
Excerpts: at the confab. Excerpts:
What is your view on the current controversy over the Land Use Act at the National Conference?
My view is very clear and has the support of majority of delegates at the National Conference. I believe that majority of Nigerians who have been affected by the Land Use Act also support our position on what is happening in Nigeria today.
The truth of the matter is that a few people have for a long time cornered the land property and resources of the people for their own selfish interest but they have always claimed to have done so in the interest of the people.
In the first place, I want to emphasize my earlier position that the nation should return to the 1963 Constitution which provided for regional autonomy and retention of 50 percent from the proceeds of regional resources while the remainder is paid as tax to the Federal Government.
During the first republic when the 1963 Constitution was operational, there was visible development and progress in the different regions which made up the country. There was relative peace and harmony among the federating units which constituted the country. Therefore, when the Committee on Land Tenure recommended the expunging of the Land Use Act from the Constitution, it was a reflection of the popular wishes and aspirations of Nigerians.
It was also resolved by delegates that any state or region that wanted to adopt the Land Use Act as part of its body of laws was free to do so but it should be deleted from the Constitution.
What is your reaction to the position of delegates from the South-West that the region must have regional autonomy or nothing from the confab?
I totally support their position. If you recall what I said earlier, I had advocated for return to the 1963 Constitution with regions as federating units.
In the first republic, every region experienced rapid development. Every region developed at its own pace. Returning to the 1963 Constitution would enable the zones or regions to develop. Any region that wants to create a million states and a million local governments could do so. As it is now, if states continue to remain as the federating units, there would continue to be suffocation, disagreements and crisis. This is because the distribution of states is lopsided.
Some people have advocated that the criteria for creating states or local governments should be population and land mass, but what about economic viability?
It is ridiculous for some people to say that the Igbo nation has only 15 million people in Nigeria. Everybody knows that all over Nigeria, the population of Igbos is second only to that of the indigenous population.
For instance, in 2006 Lagos State conducted an independent census and discovered that Igbos alone constituted 43 percent of the population of that state. So, if Igbos in Lagos alone constitute 43 percent of the population of that state, it is an insult to say that the population of Igbos is 15 million.
If you recall what happened during that 2006 census, members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, actually mobilized against the conduct of that exercise in the whole of the South-East. They disrupted the exercise in Igboland. So, this tells you that the 15 million population figure for the Igbos cannot be correct.
Secondly, if you recall the confession of one Harold Smith, a British colonial officer who served in Nigeria during the colonial era; he revealed that the British manipulated census figures in favour of the North.
In Kano which also has a huge population like Lagos, the Igbo population there is only second to that of the indigenous Hausa people. I believe that the population of Igbos in Kano State can't be anything less than 30 percent.
Can you comment on the claims, demands and general content of some documents presented by some groups to the conference?
It is bad when such documents are used to denigrate and insult other component ethnic nationalities in the country. The position of the North on the South-East zone is insulting. In that document, it was claimed that the North possessed 80 percent of the nation's land mass. They declared that before any additional state could be created for the South-East, the South-West should have a minimum of nine states based on their land mass and population.
It was also argued in that document that the North deserved to even get more states.
Although, it is agreed that the North has a larger land mass than the South-East but definitely they don't have a larger population. This is because the Igbos were identified as the single largest ethnic nationality in Africa by 1960.
What is the source of that information?
This information was provided by Europeans at the beginning of colonial rule. We know there was a civil war that was fought in this country. It is very clear that the Northern position paper was produced to insult the sensibility of the Igbo nation. I totally reject the submissions made in that document. The claim that the North has more population than the South is fake.
Secondly, you would recall that Festus Odimegwu, the immediate past Chairman of the National Population Commission, NPC, was sacked for saying the truth that there has been no credible census in Nigeria since independence. He was removed because he was about to expose all the fraudulent census conducted in the past.
You would also recall that during the past census exercises that were conducted by the military regimes, figures were merely allocated to different parts of the country. Nobody can say the Igbos are a minority in Nigeria; it is insulting.