Thursday, 21 September 2017 22:28

The ideal political structure for Alaigbo

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Fidelis Ekeimo, Eze Paschal, Ikechukwu Vin Ugochukwu, Maiwada Sanusi and others, here is the piece on my conception of how Alaigbo ought to be organized that I promised to send to you folks.  I sent it to you via Messenger and also posted it at Facebook. I look forward to hearing your feedback on it. Thereafter, I will redraft it and forward it to those in a position to decide the fate of Igbos in the coming struggle to restructure Nigeria or dissolve it.  Ozodiobi

 

THE IDEAL POLITICAL STRUCTURE FOR ALAIGBO

 

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

 

       If you examine societies with successful political systems what you invariably see is that their political structure was not imposed on them from the outside but is something that internally evolved to suit the people’s political behaviors.  Such political structures invariably evolved over time and adapted to the peoples changing patterns of behaviors.

       The English unitary and parliamentary system of governance grew from English political development and apparently suits the English character. It really cannot be transposed to another polity unless it shares English history and culture; even then that polity has to make slight adjustments to it to suit their different circumstances, as they did in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

      The French presidential cum parliamentary democracy is an adaptation to not only French history and political culture but particularly to what has been going on in France since the 1789 revolution that  overthrew the French monarchy. 

       The German political system reflects Germany’s long history of having fractured centers of governance (many dukedoms and principalities) before its 1870 unification by Otto Von Bismarck. 

       The Russians have had little or no history of democracy; their history was one of having a strong leader, the Tsar telling the people what to do. It is no wonder that contemporary Russia is ruled by a strong man. Vladimir Putin is probably as powerful as the past Tsars of Russia. Apparently, for historical reasons, Russia’s political culture demands that a strong man be at the helm of Russia’s polity.

     The United States of America began as a group of English colonialists in British North America; the colonialists chaffed under British rule and desired self-rule.  They overthrew English rule in 1776 and embarked on self-rule. The political system they initiated apparently suited their almost two hundred year’s history in North America plus, of course, their carry over British history and culture.  The federal system of government that the founding fathers of the United States of America eventually established (they initially tried confederation) suited the American character as well as the exigencies of the vast territory they acquired in North America.

      With the above thesis that successful political systems are adaptation to their environments in mind we have to ask: what is the Igbo character and environment and what political structure best suits Igbos?

 

THE IGBO CHARACTER

 

     Igbos are individualistic in behavior patterns. They did not have a history of having kings and aristocrats ruling them. Each Igbo person operates as an independent entity and fends for his survival without reference to external others.

      Historically, each Igbo town or village ruled itself. Adult males gathered and acted as the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. The entire group, called Oha, made the laws; the entire group implemented the laws made by the Oha Assembly. The entire group adjudicated issues arising from non-conformance to the rules made by Oha.  While it may be necessary to set up small committees to make suggestions to the Oha Assembly, by and large, the entire group met and ruled themselves.

 

IGBO SUBSISTENCE ECONOMY

 

       Before their encounter with Europeans, Igbos essentially had a subsistence economy. People had small farms on which they produced just about enough food for their respective family’s sustenance and a small fraction was either battered or sold. People took their small agricultural surpluses to their town’s market and sold them to those who sold what they needed, such as clothes, knives, pots and building materials.

       Igbo economy did not develop to pure capitalist system. Capitalism, as we know it, evolved in Europe; in 1776 the Scottish philosopher, Adam Smith, in his now world famous book, The Wealth of Nations, provided a philosophy and rationale for the capitalist economic system. He made persuasive argument that the free enterprise system is a more efficient distributor of goods and services than the then prevailing mercantile economic system in Western Europe.

        Throughout human history, people have always exchanged good and services, either through battering or money, but what we now call the Free Enterprise system is a modern phenomenon; it is less than three hundred years old in the West and less than a hundred years old in Alaigbo.

     Contemporary Igbos, however, grasped unto the free enterprise economy and casual observers may be forgiven if they concluded that Igbos have been practicing capitalism for centuries. It is yet to be ascertained whether capitalism is the best economy for Igbos?

       Igbos define themselves as republican; by that they understand a political economy where each person fends for his self and the government does nothing for the individual. However, they will be first to demand that the government to do this or that for them; by and large, many Igbos are unwilling to pay taxes to generate the revenue with which government does what they demand that it does; it is as if they expect the government to pluck money from thin air and use it to perform services for them!

 

IGBOS HAVE SELF HELP MENTALITY

 

       What we can say for certain is that Igbos have a self-help philosophy; each of them struggles to make it on his own. He works hard and generally achieves what he and his family members need to survive on.

      Unfortunately, the typical Igbo seldom thinks in terms of what is good for all Igbos; he thinks in terms of what is good for him and, may be, what is good for his family and village.  Asked to pay taxes and money generated with which government provides public goods for the collectivity he seeks ways to avoid doing so.

       Igbos do not like paying taxes; paying taxes is an alien phenomenon for Igbos. They rebel against paying taxes, such as the 1929 Aba women’s riots. Here, Igbo women went on a war path when the British colonial administration tried to initiate some sort of taxation with which to run the colonial administration. 

       Paying taxes is seldom liked by human beings but in long standing and well organized societies people have been gradually socialized to accept paying taxes and in so doing generate revenue with which their governments are funded. 

      Over time, there is no doubt that Igbos, too, will be socialized to internalize the necessity of paying taxes; they will eventually embrace the logic of paying taxes; however, in the present, Igbos have antiparty to paying taxes.

      Igbos antiparty to paying taxes is largely because they did not pay taxes in the past; they had small village governments that did not require large funds to run them. The entirety of the people did what they needed to do and did not have to hire professionals to do work for them; for example, the villagers gathered to construct and or maintain their village roads but did not have to hire and pay professionals to build and maintain their roads.

 

IGBOS DID NOT HAVE IGBO WIDE GOVERNMENT

 

      Before the advent of the British in Alaigbo in the mid nineteenth century, there was no such thing as Igbo wide government. Anthropologists categorize Igbos as a stateless people; that is, a people that did not evolve nation-wide government.  Each Igbo village pretty much ruled itself.

      It was the British that placed all Igbos under one political system (Eastern Nigeria and Nigeria). The British exposed Igbos to a political structure with a centralized point that made decisions that affected all Igbos.

      The British gave Igbos their first political framework that is not rooted in the village but that encompasses all Igbos in one political structure.

      Because of their original fractured political system where just about every Igbo village ruled itself, larger political systems are strange to Igbos; Igbos have not learned to effectively operate within large political frameworks.

     This lack largely accounts for Igbos tendency to be losers in Nigerian politics; Hausas, Yorubas, Edos, Fulanis etc. before the advent of the British had large political frameworks; they had kings and other institutions found in feudal political systems; more importantly, they had learned to operate within large polities and learned and accepted the necessary reality of obeying those in political power over them.

       Igbos seldom obey those in political power; each of them wants to be on his own boss and do his own thing. Every Igbo is a chief in his own eyes!

      Igbos are not yet used to obeying centralized authorities and those manning those authorities’ means of effecting their rule, bureaucrats.

       The Igbo does not do well in large bureaucratic organizations. He generally does well when he does things alone. He wants to be his own boss.

       In the economic sphere, the Igbo are at his best in sole enterprise type business; he finds it difficult to form partnerships and or corporations. Igbos thus lose out from receiving the known advantages of corporate forms of governments; they receive the disadvantages of sole proprietorships, business that tend to die out with the death of their founders and do not have access to large capital with which to undertake large business ventures.

        Just as he does not do well in large governmental systems and their bureaucracies he does not do well in large corporate bureaucracies. Those Nigerians who have had experience with larger political structures with bureaucracies tend to do better than Igbos in Nigerians bureaucracies, governmental or corporate. Yorubas, Edos and Hausas general are savvier in engaging in bureaucratic politics than Igbos are.

 

NO HISTORY OF IDENTIFICATION WITH ALL IGBOS

 

      At present the typical Igbo does not identify with all of Alaigbo; he tends to identify with his clan. Many writers have pointed out that it was actually the colonial administration and its creation of Nigeria that gave Igbos a sense of nationhood. Igbos spread to all over nascent Nigeria and in their new abodes heard other persons speaking Igbo as opposed to the local language of the people in whose land they lived at.  They thus realized that they are different from the local people.

      Moreover, Igbos were treated uniformly by non-Igbos and that gave them a sense of solidarity and oneness.

      In Northern Nigeria Igbos were sometimes maltreated by the local population; that led Igbos to developing a feeling of persecution and, more germane to our present discourse, led Igbos  to form a sense of being a people apart from other ethnic groups in Nigeria.

       Igbo people have clans; each clan has an identifiable dialect of the Igbo language.  There are many Igbo clans but the most familiar ones are Owerri, Onitsha, Asaba, Agbor,  Anambra, Wawa, Enugu, Ikwerre, Nkwerre, Orlu, Okigwe, Umuahia, Bende, Ohafia, Ngwa, Mbaise and so on.  People from other clans may or may not understand the Igbo spoken by a person from a different clan.

       For example, an Owerri person does not necessarily understand an Umuahia person or Ikwerri person. Regardless of their clans’ dialects most Igbos understand Owerri dialect for Owerri is the most central Igbo dialect.  Owerri is the heart land of Alaigbo.

 

IGBO LANGUAGE IS THE IDENTIFIER OF WHO IS AN IGBO

 

      Igbos lack shared history of operating as a political unit hence do not derive a sense of oneness and unity from common historical experiences. What identifies Igbos more than any other factor is their common language.

 

UNIFIED IGBO CULTURE

 

      Regardless of their location, astonishingly, all Igbos have the same culture, with minor sectional differences. For example, all Igbos have four market days in the Igbo four days of the week: Nkwo, Orie, Eke and Afor. 

       Considering the fact that until the nineteenth century many Igbos did not know about other Igbos it is really amazing that all Igbos share the same culture. Perhaps, in the distant past all Igbos lived in one town and from there spread to wherever they are today? This subject needs to be examined some more but is hardly the subject of our present preoccupation.

       Anambra Igbos tend to be good at trading; Owerri Igbos tend to be good at working within bureaucracies.

      As Max Weber reminds us, there is such a thing as the bureaucratic personality, as opposed to the mercantile personality and the political personality.

 

IGBO CHARACTER AND SMALL GEOGRAPHY RECOMMENDS UNITARY, PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY

 

       As pointed out above, Igbos did not evolve into a unified polity with Igbo wide political structure, as is the case with, say, the British. 

      We thus have to use pure thinking and observation to decide what would seem the best political structure for Igbos; we cannot go to history to help us decide that question for us. Talking about history, Igbos did not have written history.

       Igbos did not develop writing (the Efik, Igbos neighbors to the south, had an incipient form of writing called Nsibidi and this, apparently, somewhat diffused into those parts of Alaigbo close to the Efiks?).

       For our present purposes, we can safely assert that Igbos did not have writing and, therefore, did not write their history down on paper. Since it is not written down on paper we cannot go and read it and ascertain what is Igbo history or not.

      Much of what we know for sure about Igbos dates to the nineteenth century when Christian missionaries established mission schools in Alaigbo and began teaching Igbos how to read and write.

      Secondary schools were not built in Alaigbo until the 1920s. The first university in Alaigbo was built in the late 1950s.

      Simply put, Alaigbo is new to history writing and scholarship in general. Whatever we call Igbo history is inferred from the Igbo culture of today and from the scant written information left by European slave buyers, missionaries and in the twentieth century material written by British officials (the British established Southern Nigeria Protectorate in 1900).

 

SMALL GEOGRAPHY

 

       Geographical size plays a role in the type of political structure that exists in a human polity. Igbo land is very small, geographically.

      From one end of Alaigbo to the other, North and South, West and East the distance seldom exceeds 150 miles. From Igwe Ocha (renamed Port Harcourt by Lord Lugard in 1912) to Agbor in present Delta State is no more than 150 miles; from Arochukwu in the south to Nnsuka in the north is less than 150 miles.

      Simply put, Igbo land is a small place.  A person can drive around Alaigbo in a single day!

     Given its small size and cultural unity it is obvious that Alaigbo is not suited for federal structure of government.

      Federations tend to be suited for large geographical expanses, such as the USA, India and Brazil or where different nationalities occupy a political unit (such as the situation in small Switzerland, a country with three distinct nationalities: French, German and Italian, hence a confederal political structure seems called for it).

      Given Alaigbo’s small area and cultural affinity the type of polity that best suits Igbos would seem to be a unitary polity; the type of government best suited to Igbos would seem to be parliamentary democracy.

 

THE PROPOSED POLITICAL STRUCTURE FOR ALAIGBO

 

     All things considered, the ideal polity for Alaigbo is unitary, with parliamentary democracy. The Parliament would be at the Igbo capital, Owerri (Owerri is the heartland of Alaigbo); the Parliament should be elected from all over Alaigbo. 

       Alaigbo should be divided into counties (which may also be called districts or local government areas).  Alaigbo is small and, as such, probably does not need more than 100 counties. 

      If population is used as criterion for determining electoral districts for the central parliament then Alaigbo should be divided into about 100 electoral districts (constituencies), each electing a person to the central Parliament.

 

UNICAMERAL LEGISLATURE

 

      Given the small size of Alaigbo it does not need more than one hundred law makers at the center. The parliament should be unicameral. Here, legislators gather and make laws that affect the entire nation. A second house of legislation is simply superfluous and is a waste of the tax payers’ money.

      The legislators are to be elected for five years; to avoid producing professional politicians, there must be term limits; there should be four terms limit for electoral offices (that is, each legislator is to serve no more than twenty years).

      Igbo land is too small to separate executive from legislative roles. Moreover, it is too costly to operate presidential systems. Thus, Parliament ought to have both legislative and executive powers.

       As in the British House of Commons, after each election, the party with the largest seats (out of the 100 seats) forms the government; it selects ministers, not to exceed twenty two ministers, in its cabinet. The government is led by a Prime minister or as in Canadian provinces is simply called Premier. 

     Whereas democracy allows any group of individuals to form political parties and through them articulate the aspirations of persons of like-minded political ideology but the fact is that in Alaigbo people are prone to excesses of pride, vanity and narcissism. Many of Igbos will form political parties not to champion any political or economic ideology but as a means to serve their egos desire for attention, as mechanism for growing personality cults.

      Therefore, it may be necessary to limit the number of political parties to only three, those representing the salient economic approaches in the modern polity: capitalist, socialist and mixed economic parties.

      The judiciary is to be independent of the legislative and executive branches of government. The judiciary is to be headed by a Supreme Court of no more than thirteen justices, one of whom is the Chief Justice.

      The justices are to be elected by the people for a ten years term, serving no more than two terms; that is, twenty years maximum time on the highest bench in the land.  The Supreme Court supervises appellate and district courts.

       The judges in the county and town courts are to be elected (from a pool of qualified lawyers). They, too, are elected for ten years and could serve a maximum of two terms or twenty years.

       Legislators are to be part time. In the USA, generally, state legislatures are in session for no more than six months during the year (generally, from January to April).  They meet and pass the annual or biannual budget and make laws and then go back home to carry on with their individual careers. They are paid very minimally to make it unattractive for those whose motivation for public service is money.

      The typical legislator should not make more than the permanent secretary of a ministry makes; cabinet members may make that salary and half; the prime minster may make twice what a typical permanent secretary makes.

      The central government has to have a police force, a force necessary for enforcing the laws made by the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

       Counties are to have elected county councils of no more than thirteen persons; each councilor serving five year terms and with four terms limits maximum.  As at the central level the county council acts as the legislative and executive branches of government. Professional managers manage each county department (ministry) and county councilors supervise them.

       Each county should have its own county court with county judges (the number of judges as needed by the case load in the county).  Each county should have a county police.

      Towns/cities are to have town councils of no more than thirteen members; they are elected for five years with four terms limit; as at the county level, the councilors make laws (ordinances) and execute them through town departments (performing what typical  town  governments perform, such as departments of roads, sewage, electricity and water, public health and so on).

 

MIXED CAPITALIST AND SOCIALIST POLITICAL ECONOMY

 

       In terms of political economy, Alaigbo does not need to reinvent the wheel. Clearly, the options available to most polities are capitalism, socialism or a mixture of both.

      Experience shows that most things are best done by the private sector but there are certain things that must be done collectively. Thus, the ideal political economy is a mixed economy, a mixture of capitalism and socialism. 

      The public must provide all children with publicly paid education, from kindergarten to university and technical, vocational colleges (paid with tax dollars).

      The public must provide the people with publicly paid health insurance and provide the people with a few other things; beyond those the economy is probably best left in private hands.

        A judicious mixture of capitalism and socialism is just the only rational economic option available to most human polities at this time in human evolution.

 

MODERNIZATION AND INDUSTRIALIZATION

 

     The government and people of Alaigbo must embark on developing the land, modernizing it, industrializing it and bringing it to the levels of developed and industrialized economies. This can be done if the public and business cooperate (Japan and China practice corporatism, here, the business sector and public sector work in cahoots in developing the economy).

      With single minded devotion there is no reason why in a generation (33 years) Alaigbo should not be operating at the level of China.

 

INDIVIDUAL INCOME TAX, CORPORATE TAX, SALES TAX AND OTHER FORMS OF TAXES

 

      People desire governments that serve them well. Governments must be paid for. Generally, the way modern polities pay for their governments are through taxes.

     In many third world countries, such as Nigeria governments derive most of their revenues from whatever natural resources there is a great market (demand) for, such as Gold, Diamond, Iron, Uranium, Copper, Zinc, and Petroleum and so on. These resources are exhaustible and no rational government can afford to solely rely on them as perpetual means of funding its operations. Thus, whereas it is useful to talk about revenue from natural resources we are best served if we limit this discourse to traditional means of funding governments, taxes.

       There are many forms of taxes; the major ones are individual taxes, corporate or business taxes and sales taxes, Value added Taxes (and licensing fees).

       Individual income taxes are generally effected either through progressive taxation, where the individual’s rate of tax is dependent on his annual income, or through flat taxes.

       Russia taxes its people through 17% flat tax. Russia derives a lot of revenue from oil so it can afford such a low rate of taxes.

     Ideally, Alaigbo should have 20% flat tax paid on each individual’s annual income. There should be 20% tax on corporate profits and about 10% sales tax on non-food goods and services.

 

KINDERGATEN, ELEMENTARY, SECONDARY, UNIVERSITY AND TECHNICAL SCHOOLS

 

      Educating the child is now an obligation and a right of every child. Any society that does not educate its children is simply not going to produce the type of workers it needs to compete in the global economy.

      The public must pay for all levels of education: two years of kindergarten (age three to five), six years of elementary schooling (age six to twelve), six years of secondary schooling (age twelve to eighteen), four years of university (age eighteen to twenty two) and for those who cannot benefit from university four years of technical-vocational schooling (two years in classes and two years on the job...like the German vocational training system).

      All children must be in school through age twenty two. Graduate schooling is for the talented ten percent of the population, the best and brightest. Graduate school should be four years, after which students take the doctoral examination and leave and go get jobs and write their doctoral dissertations in the future.

 

DRACONIAN APPROACH TO CORRUPTION

 

      At present corruption is part of the culture of Alaigbo and its neighbors. Corruption exists where illicit money exchanges hands before things are done, such as bribing government officials before they do their jobs.

      Regardless of the form it takes, corruption can be stamped out in a hurry. Line anyone who steals government funds against a wall and shoot him to death.

      People are afraid of death so kill some of them to strike the fear of death into the minds of the rest of them.

       Kill anyone caught stealing, taking bribes and generally punish anyone who does not do things by the book and in a generation the word corruption would no longer be in Igbos vocabulary.

     Unless Igbos get rid of corruption from their land obviously no economic development would take place in Alaigbo.

 

CONCLUSION

 

      The political structure sketched in this paper does not recommend whether Igbos should be in Nigeria or separate from Nigeria. The paper simply states what seems the ideal way to govern Igbos.

       Clearly, Igbos can be in Nigeria or outside Nigeria but regardless of where they are they must have a suitable political structure and political culture that governs the land well. There must be political parties, interest groups and the usual ways of having governments and influencing governments.

      Political recruitment must strive to have only persons of probity in government. There are too many corrupt crooks in the land and these must be scrupulously weeded out of arenas where decisions that affect all the people are made.

     Finally, needless to say that one person does not determine  a people’s political constitution; the entirety of the people do so; however, the individual has a right to submit his views on how his people’s polity ought to be structured and then leave it to all the people to decide what structure they settle on.

       In this paper I have submitted what to me seems the best way to structure and govern Alaigbo. Igbos should make of it what they like.

 

Ozodi Thomas Osuji, PhD (University of California)

September 21, 2017

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(907) 310-8176

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176