ISI-UZO LGA: THE MOST POLITICALLY OPPRESSED PEOPLE IN THE HISTORY OF ENUGU STATE -By Jeff Ejiofor

One of the foremost Greek philosophers, Plato said that, there may be times we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. 

The above quote by the great Plato captures the plight of Isi-Uzo people of Enugu State who obviously have been marginalized in the scheme of things since the inception of the current political dispensation but have remained calm in the face of such outright injustice. I am of the imperative opinion that the time for self appraisal tailored towards achieving political liberation and justice has come. 
 
Isi-Uzo is one of the six local governments that constitute the present Enugu East Senatorial Zone of Enugu State. Though Isi-Uzo was formerly under Nsukka Zone in the old political order, the creation of Ebonyi State in 1996 made it politically exigent for it to be included in what is known today as Enugu East Zone for senatorial balancing in the state.

For a better understanding, it will be recalled that before the creation of Ebonyi State, Enugu had Nsukka, Enugu and Abakiliki zones in its senatorial structure. In that arrangement, Isi-Uzo was under Nsukka Zone. However, when Abakiliki left in 1996, Isi-Uzo was carved out from Nsukka to form Enugu East Senatorial Zone with Nkanu and Nike people at the behest of the elders of Nkanu land owing to their cultural/historical affiliation which predates the advent of colonial government. As a result, the other remaining part of old Enugu zone formed what is today known as Enugu West Senatorial Zone. Currently, Enugu stands on political tripod, Enugu East, Enugu West,and Enugu North.

Unfortunately, this new order signaled the begining of the current ordeal of Isi-Uzo political marginalization.

Considering a gentleman agreement reached by the stakeholders of Enugu State on sharing of political offices at various levels, the three new senatorial structure was adopted as the formular for positions involving the state as a whole.  Federal constituencies in each senatorial zone became the basis within which offices are zoned, while LGAs rotate offices due for them at the federal constituency level. This sharing formular continues up to the community and ward levels to gaurantee equity, justice and fairplay in the system.

Having provided the background information on the genesis of the current political structure of Enugu State vis a vis sharing of political offices as agreed upon by the elders of the state in principle, I would narrow my contributions in this article to Enugu East Zone as it affects the Isi-Uzo question. From the above explanations, Isi-Uzo people no doubt are bonafide members of Enugu East Zone, and therefore are qualified to aspire to any position zoned to the senatorial district. Whatever political aspirations by Isi-Uzo people must be within the confines of Enugu East  senatorial zonal structure which is their constitutionally recognized senatorial zone.

Unfortunately however, these rights of Isi-Uzo people have been flagrantly trampled upon over the years, right from the inception of the current political dispensation in 1999. All offices zoned to Enugu East Senatorial District had eluded them in an orchestrated manner designed to perpetually keep and relegate them to the background for coming from a different political structure in the past. Eventhough it is on record that the cultural/historical ties between the Nkanu/Nike people and Isi-Uzo predates the advent of colonialism, these later days political naysayers within the senatorial zone, out of mere mischief, had always thrown up the inclusion of Isi-Uzo in old Nsukka zone for administrative convenience as an excuse to deny them political opportunities currently. The promoters of these oppressive tendencies have forgotten the genesis of Isi-Uzo joining Enugu East zone which was at the behest of Nkanu elders who said they were their brothers in diaspora.

Nonethless, whichever way anybody wants to look at it, Isi-Uzo currently belongs to Enugu East Senatorial Zone and must be politically accommodated in all facets of political engagement. The divisive narratives usually propped up against them by some some political merchandizers do not have any place in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. Isi-Uzo people are not lesser political beings in their father land, Enugu State, and must have equal opportunity in the scheme of things within their constitutionally recognized zone and the state at large for peace and justice to prevail. Turning the LGA into a political orphan that cannot represent its zone in any capacity of governance is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.

The current situation where Isi-Uzo is the only local government in Enugu East Zone that has not represented the zone in any government capacity is quite unfortunate. It is a statement of fact that all other local government areas in the zone have represented the senatorial zone in different capacities. Nkanu West has produced governor, senator and minister, Nkanu East has been deputy governor for 8 years and even produced a minister. Enugu South had senators and even a governor in the past, while Enugu North LGA, with a predorminantly non native population has produced a minister and a governor as well. Enugu East on its part produced a senator for 8 yrs, speaker of house of assembly, chief judge of Enugu State and ESUT VC for 5 yrs respectively. It is only Isi-Uzo LGA that has been left in the political wilderness till date. 

The height of this oppression came into fore in the case of Professor Denchrist Onah, an indigene of Isi-Uzo who sought to be VC of ESUT in 2010 when it was zoned to Enugu North Senatorial District, but was told to wait for the turn of Enugu East where he comes from. Ironically, in 2015 when it was the turn of Enugu East Senatorial Zone to produce the VC, Prof. Denchrist Onah re-applied and emerged the best of all the candidates that went for the interview, and his name was announced as ESUT VC designate. Surprisingly, overnight, the same forces bent on denying ndi Isi-Uzo their rights, prevailed on Mr. Sullivan Chime to replace him on grounds that he is of Nsukka extraction. It was a disappointing outing by Sullivan Chime which was condemned by all well meaning citizens of Enugu State.

What an irony! The person previously denied opportunity to contest because he is from Enugu East Zone was replaced after winning on account of his Isi-Uzo origin. What can be more wicked and divisive than that? Are Isi-Uzo people not equal stakeholders in their fatherland again? Are they not Igbos of Enugu State extraction? As I write this, no Isi-Uzo man has till date, been allowed to occupy any tangible position under the current arrangement in Enugu State. No Isi-Uzo man has been found worthy enough to occupy the position of governor, senator or any office of equal status zoned to Enugu East, in a state collectively owned by all of us. Even party chairman given to Isi-Uzo was fiercely contested by those who felt their sense of entitlement should not be challenged.

As a matter of fact, no article can contain the list of complaints arising from the marginalization Isi-Uzo people are currently going through in Enugu East Senatorial Zone. They are too numerous to mention, hence, I would like to pause here, and appeal to all men of good will in Enugu State to come to their rescue and look into the matter with a view to addressing it once and for all. Let us remeber that injustice to one is injustice to all. We cannot be talking of equity, justice and fairplay while we're folding our hands and watching a particular section of our society go through the worst marginalization in the history of Nigerian politics. What the people of Isi-Uzo are being subjected to is simply akin to political annihilation. A situation where the people are not allowed to aspire to any political position outside the confines of their local government is the height of injustice, marginalization and political wickedness. 

In conclusion, this political exclusion should not be allowed to continue if Enugu people are interested in peace and stability. It has to be addressed before it gets out of hand and attracts severe reactions from other sections of the Igbo society. Making Isi-Uzo look like a political bat  that belongs to nowhere is unacceptable. Isi-Uzo is a lawful part of an existing political structure under Enugu East Senatorial Zone. The narrative of core Nkanu, periphery Nkanu or whatever they concort to whip unnecessary sentiment against Isi-Uzo is baseless and has no place in Nigeria's political structure. 2023 should be a golden opportunity for men of good conscience in the senatorial district and Enugu State in general to right the wrong and give all sections of the society a political sense of belonging. According to Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a kingdom founded on injustice never lasts. Elders of Enugu State should preserve the current chater of equity embedded in zoning of political offices for peaceful transition of power in the state and adress the plight of Isi-Uzo people now. 

A stitch in time saves nine.




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