HOW SHOULD ALAIGBO REPUBLIC BE ORGANIZED AND GOVERNED?
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
While welcoming the Acting President of Nigeria, Yemi Osibanjo to Owerri, on February 15, 2017, the Governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha noted the federal absence in South Eastern states; he said that the federal government has not been building infrastructures, industries or anything for that matter in the South Eastern states, aka Igbo land. He decried this neglect of his region and called for Igbo land to be given its fair share of economic projects. The Governor, Indeed, informed us that only one indigene of his state has a high level position in the Buhari administration, a minister of state for health.
Governor Okorocha informed us that his region has the highest level of educated professionals in the country and yet it is shut out when it comes to employment with the federal government whereas states with the fewest professionally educated persons get most of the highly prized political appointments at the central government.
What Governor Okorocha said adds credence to the portrayal of what the Nigerian state did to Igbos propagated by such Igbo separatist organizations as MASSOB and IPOB.
The inference from Governor Okorocha's complaint is that Igbos feel that they are marginalized in Nigeria, that they are given no room to operate and that they feel like they are orphans in the Nigerian polity.
Given this sense of been shut out of avenues of opportunity, many Igbos wonder why they are supposed to be in Nigeria; why do Nigerians want Igbos to be in Nigeria, is it just to make sure that the political map of Nigeria drawn by the colonial masters is preserved or is it so that whatever mineral resources from the South East is taken by other parts of Nigeria while Igbos languish in poverty?
Clearly, an Increasing number of Igbos are asking for independence from Nigeria. Given the evidence of lack of economic development in the East such folks probably have a point. You cannot be in a country where the central government does not care for you.
If fifty-seven years of political independence of Nigeria has given Igbos nothing to show for it they might as well still be ruled by the British, at least, the British built roads in Alaigbo but Nigerians do not!
Let us assume that given the pathetic state of Nigeria, a country where the leaders do not seem to understand that they are supposed to develop the country but instead construe their jobs as from which they steal from Nigeria, let us further assume that Nigeria will, sooner or later, break up and Alaigbo becomes a republic (please let us not ever use the word Biafra for it is a Portuguese word), how would Alaigbo be governed?
Given what we know of Igbos how should Igbo land and its people be governed? This issue must now be taken seriously because before you embark on a journey you ought to know where you are going to and what to do when you get there.
If you do not plan for the contingencies of your journey you are likely to fail. Igbos must plan on how to govern themselves.
This is not 1967 when circumstances forced Igbos to separate from Nigeria and do so without a well thought out set of ideas on the nature of governance that would suit them. Then Igbos were led by an inexperienced man in military uniform, Emeka Ojukwu.
Under the war circumstances he found himself, Ojukwu probably did his best but no one would consider what he did excellent governance. Indeed, Ojukwu often veered towards dictatorship and probably wanted to become yet another African tin-pot dictator who jailed whoever did not accept the direction he was taking the people to.
Indeed, at a certain point Ojukwu apparently convinced his self that only he knew how to prosecute the war and as we all now know the result was his disastrous defeat in the hands of the Nigerian military.
Ojukwu was neither a courageous military general (he ran away when the war was lost, a general is supposed to stay and experience the fate of his soldiers) nor an able political leader. One cannot see any economic pay off from Ojukwu's three year rule of Alaigbo!
Now Igbos must build on what they know about themselves and come up with a polity that they believe suites who they are.
My politics is Africanist; I look forward to the day all of Africa under the Sahara is united into a federation, an Africa federation with each ethnic group a state, a federation pretty much like the United States of America with clearly delineated powers for the states and the central government.
My dream of Africa federation has to wait for a future when African states freely choose to federate. It is probably the case that Nigeria will sooner than later implode from the weight of its corruption and bad governance.
At any rate, it appears that Nigeria's federation is now untenable and, as such, every group in Nigeria must prepare for its short term self-governance.
In this paper, given what I know about Igbos, I sketch how Igbo land ought to be organized and governed.
ALAIGBO NEEDS A UNITARY GOVERNMENT
If you are going to form a government you ask yourself what should be the nature of that government you are forming?
There are essentially three forms of government in our extant world: unitary, confederal and federal governments.
When the founding fathers of America began out they chose a confederal government. A confederation is a country where each of the confederating units essentially remains sovereign and they have a weak center that they use for whatever purpose they desire. Switzerland is a contemporary confederation.
Switzerland is composed of three distinct groups and regions: the Western French region, the Eastern German region and the Southern Italian region. The three groups/regions retain their nature and each governs itself as it sees fit and the three units set up a weak central government to coordinate their national affairs. This system works well for the unique situation of Switzerland. It did not work out well for the fledgling young USA.
The thirteen colonies original Articles of confederation (1781) was replaced with the 1787 constitution that set up today's US federation. The weak central government was replaced with a strong central government and certain powers given to the states. Power was separated into three branches of government, legislative, executive and judicial at each level of governance.
Britain and France have unitary governments. In a unitary government one central government governs the entire country without sharing power with other units of governance although it may delegate power to smaller units (in France to prefectures or departments; in Britain to counties but the central government rules the entire country).
Britain recently devolved some powers to Scotland, Wells and Northern Ireland and could be said to be moving towards federation.
Clearly, certain political realities on the ground influence the constitution adapted by a polity. The large expanse of the USA calls for the federal government the country has. The federalist papers written by Madison, Hamilton and Jay provided the rationale why the founding fathers chose the federal structure as opposed to confederation or unitary government.
Igbo land is a small place; from east to west is no more than one hundred and fifty miles, from south to north is no more than one hundred and fifty miles long. All the people living on that real estate, from Ugwu-Ocha to Agbo, from Aba to Nnsuka, speak the same Igbo language, although they speak it with different dialects. The people have a sense of being a homogenous and unified people.
Alaigbo is best served if it has a unitary government with the central government at the Igbo heartland of Owerri (Enugu is too close to non-Igbo areas and a foreign army, as the Nigerians did, can overrun it in a week or two of warfare; capitals ought to be a bit distant from the border with foreign countries.
The central government should be composed of a unicameral legislature. The legislature should be composed of about 120 members. The legislature is strictly there to make laws. It is elected for five years with four terms limit (twenty years' service to the nation in the legislative area is good enough).
There should be an executive branch headed by a president. The president is elected for five years and has two terms limit (ten years of administrative service is enough for a man to provide for his nation, it is enough time for a person to have done all that is in him to do for his country, administratively).
The third branch is the judicial branch led by the Supreme Court with three lower court of appeals (circuit courts) and twenty district courts. The Supreme Court is to be composed of thirteen justices, one of whom is the chief justice. The justice's serve for twenty years maximum (twenty years of judicial service is more than enough for an individual to give to the people at the Supreme Court level).
The country is subdivided into about one hundred and twenty counties (local government areas). Each county is governed by a legislature (council) of twenty members, elected for five years with four term limits; a county executive elected to serve five years with two terms limits and a county court composed of professional judges.
Below the county level are town governments, each town with a town council composed of eleven counselors that serve five year terms, four terms limits; a town mayor elected to perform the administrative function, elected for five years with two terms limits; and a town magistrate court composed of professional judges.
THE IGBO CHARACTER AND REQUISITE GOVERNMENT
Every people have what we might call their national character; their national character demands that they have a certain government type to deal with their nature. We cannot be sentimental over this matter; we must be excruciatingly realistic for failure to do so results in failed states.
If you have paid any kind of attention to Igbos you probably would have noticed that Igbos have positive and negative character traits. On the positive side, each Igbo is motivated to accomplish something important with his life; he works hard and generally is achievement orientated.
The Igbo will do whatever in his time seems doing it he is seen by his people as an achiever. If it means being a trader and making money he will do so and make money. For a while, in British colonial Nigeria, it was going to school and obtaining degrees that made Igbos seem prestigious so Igbos did that until they realized that professors do not make money so they gave up on education, although they do not mind been called professor to seem knowledgeable, but not to profess knowledge.
These days making money by all means necessary is the Igbos primary preoccupation. If he makes it legitimately, fine, but if not by whatever means he could.
Some of them engage in criminal activities to make money, such as stealing, kidnapping and holding their people hostage until ransom money is paid them, selling drugs all over the world (it seems that every few days some Igbo drug pushers are arrested somewhere in Asia, tried and executed and yet other Igbos are not deterred and still push drugs over there).
The Igbo must make money and how he makes it does not matter to him. He appears amoral in his pursuit of money. He is totally self-centered, opportunistic and unprincipled in pursuit of money; it seems that money is now his god.
This is not really a new behavior habit; in the past when slavery was an accepted trade, many Igbos, especially Aros and their mercenaries, Abam and Abriba, roamed around Alaigbo capturing their fellow Igbos, marching them to the coast and selling them into slavery just to make money.
The Igbo must get money with which he buys the paraphernalia that makes him seem a very important person in his eyes and, he hopes, in the eyes of his fellow Igbos.
Igbo society does not seem to care how the individual made his money; if necessary go and steal it and become rich and Igbo villagers would make one their chief and adore one! Igbo society has become an amoral society, a pathological society (sick because no society lasts long if it approved thievery).
Traditional Igbo society praised moneyed people and achievers in general; Igbo society disrespects those it considers poor (artists, musicians, philosophers, intellectual...as a result Igbo land has not produced even one philosopher or scientist of world stature).
In the Igbo world making it to be like the Jones are all that matters to the people.
Igbo society does not give anything for free to its people. It does not pay for the education of its children. If you want to go to school your parents had better have the money to pay for it or you pay for it by yourself. Nothing is given to the Igbo for free.
The Igbo person knows that his people give him nothing for free and see him as a failure if he does not seem successful. Mindful that his people do not give him anything economically the Igbo, consciously or unconsciously, adopts an exploitative attitude towards his people. The Igbo steals from his people; the Igbo kidnaps his people and sells them into slavery; the Igbo kidnaps his people and holds them hostage until ransom money is paid to him. The Igbo is totally callous and merciless towards his people!
The Igbo has no love or respect for his fellow Igbos because he knows that other Igbos have no love or respect for him and that they give him nothing for free; his transaction with his fellow Igbos is strictly pecuniary.
If the Igbo could he would literally sell all Igbos to make money from doing so, for deep down he has deep hatred for other Igbos for abandoning him and not helping him financially, especially when he was young.
The greatest mistake you would make is if you are an Igbo and you are under the illusion that if you hired another Igbo person to help you run your business that he would work with you and help you succeed. No, he would do everything in his power to bring you down for he does not want you to succeed and be better than he is.
Igbos are jealous of each other's success for if you succeed you get more attention from the people and he does not, so to avert that eventuality he pulls you down. Igbos reap each other off in an incredible manner.
And while they do all these dreadful things to each other they talk to the non-Igbo public as if they are fighting for Igbos common good.
Igbos do not have a love based society; they have no warm feeling for each other (go to a city, say, in the USA, pick up a phone book, look up Igbo names and call Igbos on the phone and they, thinking that you might need help from them, would not talk to you; do the same thing with other Nigerians and some of them not only would talk to you but would volunteer to show you the town, and help you out in other ways).
Igbos live alone; such lonely persons make great criminals; no wonder Alaigbo is now a breeding ground for criminals.
Clearly, if Igbo land is to become a successful self-governing republic something must be done to correct its present asocial malady; it can be corrected if Igbos are re-socialized and made to care for each other.
Igbos must be trained to have social interests and serve public good and not just live to seek individual wealth and talk boastfully about how wealthy they are.
Training in a social ideology that encourages transcending the ego self and serving the collective good will help Igbos change their present self-centered hence self-destructive trajectory.
A form of socialism that requires Alaigbo republic to pay for all her children's school fees, from elementary to university, to pay for all Igbos health insurance and give older Igbos pension is desired.
In Alaigbo capitalism must be mixed with socialism to make Igbos care for each other. If this is not done, if unmitigated capitalism encourages Igbos to pursue only self-centered interests, Igbos will soon be on their way to becoming a collapsed society.
DEALING WITH CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR IN THE MOST DRACONIAN MANNER
The empirical fact is that at the moment criminal behavior in Alaigbo and in Nigeria is unbelievably high. Stealing, kidnapping, bribery, corruption are now all part of the peoples ways of life, their culture. Clearly, something drastic has to be done if this cancer destroying the social fabric and creating mass insecurity in the people is to be stamped out.
We have seen the silly games played by Nigeria's EFCC, courts, attorneys and criminals. The newspapers are replete with horrendous stories of public officials arrested for engaging in obscene stealing (the latest is that of Andrew Yakubu, in whose house over $9 million dollars in cash was recovered) being charged to courts and the cases dragging on for years and at the end of which no one is convicted.
Killers and kidnappers are arrested and supposedly put in police custody and we do not hear what happened thereafter except that they may have bribed the police and are now out killing and kidnapping some more.
The whole idea of fighting corruption and crimes in Nigeria is a charade; nobody is really fighting corruption in Nigeria; Nigeria's name is corruption and criminality.
Clearly, if the Republic of Alaigbo wants to stamp out the cancer of criminality it has to adopt a draconian approach to criminals.
Special military courts have to be established for these crimes. You are arrested for corruption or for kidnapping and other gun involved crimes and you are charged to those courts; the courts must render their judgements within a month. And if found guilty the punishment is death by firing squad, plus every effort made to recover the money stolen.
If we killed thousands of thieves in a month, would be thieves would think twice before stealing. Kill all thieves; don't even bother putting them in prisons where the people feed them; they are garbage and garbage is meant to be thrown into the garbage dump; kill criminals and throw their bodies into garbage dumps.
People want to live and fear death so kill them if they engage in anti-social behaviors and fear of death would make them behave pro-socially.
Even hard core criminals are afraid of death and beg to live (in prisons) so just kill them; no mercy should be shown to criminals.
If within a period of one year thousands, even millions of thieves have been killed for corruption and other criminal activities, criminals who fear violence exercised on them even though they exercise violence on people, would quickly straighten out. But as long as folks play cat and mouse games with criminals they would not change.
If you want an Alaigbo that is relatively crime free just kill criminals; there is no need building prisons and putting criminals in them and feeding them with working people's moneys; just get rid of the detritus of humanity, they have no business staying alive; they pollute the air we breathe with their foul odor. Those that cannot be killed should be sentenced to life time in a kind of labor camp where their labor is used to do backbreaking labor, a kind of Siberian labor gulag.
The desire for prestige and social importance is paramount in the Igbo man's mind. To be ordinary and humble is unacceptable to the Igbo psyche.
Chinua Achebe noted this phenomenon in his best literary work, Things Fall Apart; he wrote how Okonkwo's father was a musician hence an artist who was not motivated by money and how as a result his fellow Igbos looked down on him. Given his father's perceived social insignificance, Okonkwo developed inferiority complex and was motivated to seem important by becoming a rich man. He did indeed become rich but in the process developed that paranoid personality structure that is now the hallmark of the Igbo character.
Achebe was an artist and was not rich; as a result his Ogidi folks apparently did not respect him (I was told this fact by a friend from Ogidi!).
If you assume that people do not change their behaviors just because they form a new republic you would infer that if Igbo land were to become independent that Igbos would transfer their present anti-social behavior patterns to it. In it each person would be on his own, with each person trying to seem rich so that other Igbos would accept and respect him. In that circumstance many Igbos would, as they do today, resort to stealing and kidnapping their people for money; criminality would be sky high, probably more than it is today. Alaigbo would become thief land, a criminals' haven!
Thoughtless Igbos proffer the old nostrum that Igbos are competitive and achievement orientated and that all would compete and make it on their own. That is the old saw that got Igbos to where they are as a nation of thieves.
It is the same Igbo culture that produced folks who captured and sold their people rather massively during slavery times (1500-1900 AD).
Aro Igbos and their Abam and Abriba mercenaries captured and sold Igbos so massively that some have estimated that almost one out of three black Americans are Igbo ex-slaves (Virginia and Maryland African Americans are 80% ex-Igbo slaves). The total population of black Americans is about 45 million; this means that 15 million black Americans are probably descendants of Igbo slaves. And we are not talking about blacks in other parts of North and South America!
Yes, of all the people of West Africa from where slaves came from many of the slaves in the USA and the Americas came from Igbo land. Kudus to Igbos for always excelling at anti-social behaviors!
If Igbo penchant for money and amorality in the pursuit of obtaining it is not corrected, Alaigbo could become something like today's South Sudan or Somalia, a state of lawlessness, anarchy and chaos.
Igbos need to study the various economic and political ideologies (such as liberalism, conservatism, capitalism, socialism, communism, mixed economy, corporatism and fascism) and figure out which would be useful in addressing the Igbo problem so as to prevent Igbos from becoming mass criminals who killed themselves off in their desired independent republic.
Igbos need to retain Igbo achievement orientation but moderate it with mixed capitalist-socialist economy, an economy that does certain things for people, such as give every child publicly paid education at all levels and provide all Igbos with publicly paid health insurance and pension during their old age (age 70 is nice retirement age) and thereafter leave people to fend for themselves.
If these changes are not made and every Igbo is left to fend for his self he would feel that nobody cares for him or helps him and may resort to stealing and killing his people to make a living. Thus, Alaigbo could become hell on earth.
In which case, I pity those who would live in Alaigbo Republic, for their lives would be like what Thomas Hobbes (1651) described in his seminal book, Leviathan, as what life was like in the state of nature: all at war with all and life is nasty, brutish and short.
I am an unabashed Africanist in the mode of Kwame Nkrumah; all my life I have yearned and worked for what I call Africa federation, a situation where all black Africans are united in a true African federation.
In my ideal Africa federation there is a central government and there are state governments. I visualize each of the large tribes a state and smaller tribes packed into additional states for a total of five hundred states in my Africa federation.
The structure of Africa Federation would be like what obtains in the USA with carefully delineated powers between the center, the states and local governments.
Given my goal of a federated Africa, I was opposed to Balkanizing present African countries; I wanted to segue them into the proposed large Africa federation.
I see the future as a world where large countries like Russia, China, India, Canada, the USA, Brazil and the EU would dominate the world's political economy.
This ideal of mine, Africa Federation, remains my long term goal. However, in the short term, I have changed my vision for Nigeria.
Nigeria has had almost sixty years of post-independence governance and all that takes place in it is brazen thievery and corruption. I do not know how long this story of unmitigated highway robbery is supposed to continue before the current rulers of Nigeria (Fulani, Hausa and Yoruba's) realize that what they are doing is antithetical to economic development.
Therefore, grudgingly, I now entertain the thought that maybe we need to splinter Nigeria and let each ethnic group go rule itself and try to modernize itself at its own speed.
Let Igbos, Yorubas, Edos, Efiks, Urhobos, Hausas, Fulanis, Bornus, Idomas, Nupes etc. go their separate ways and let each of them go develop itself.
In anticipation of this eventuality I felt a need to wonder what a realistic Alaigbo Republic should look like. I asked me, if I were ruling Alaigbo how would I structure it. I sketched that vision here.
The sketch that I presented in this paper is a proposal for our collective brain storming on the subject; it is not meant to be the last word on the matter.
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
February 18, 2017