PROFESSOR EKEH'S INTERVENTION ON IKIME/GWAM DEBATE CONCERNINGTHE DELTA STATE
By Uchenna Gwam
For good measure, Prof. Ekeh did not disappoint me but Prof Ikime did. Why? Because Ikime is a scholar of high repute, just as Ekeh, which nobody can take away from him. However, his public commentaries are supposed to be well-measured and well-gauged so that his students and admirers, like me, will not begin to wonder why Prof Ikime should be given to unwarranted outburst especially in matters of public discourse. If Prof. Ekeh had written differently, I will no doubt be surprised. But he did not. I must confess that Prof. Ekeh's balanced response to my rejoinder to Prof Ikime has increased my respect for him. I must also state that my respect for Prof. Ikime as a scholar of great repute still stands. I am proud that such a scholar is not only a Nigerian but from my own dear Delta State. For the records, I only disagreed with the methodology he employed in his write-up under reference.
I agree with Prof Ekeh that we the Midwesterners are used to "ethnic bargaining" and negotiations in fundamental matters concerning the state. This is true. Midwestern Region remains the only region in Nigeria created by plebiscite or referendum. While the other three regions were colonial creations, subsequent states created in Nigeria were by military fiats. The military by its nature does not and cannot pretend to be democratic. This may therefore explain why no credible bargaining or real negotiations took place when all the thirty-six states in Nigeria were created by various military administrations. We are therefore left to ponder or speculate, rightly or wrongly, the reasons why the states were created or why the state capitals were so located.
I must concede to Prof. Ekeh that every Nigerian has a right to his views. However, the truth is that if everyone or group of persons or even each of the 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria are to pursue their grievances or perceived or real injustices in the Nigerian state with vitriol, then Nigeria will be reduced to smithereens. Let me state that Nigeria itself is an injustice and that everyone, group of persons or ethnic group has a legitimate grievance(s) in one form or the other against the system. But in stating these grievances, we should be guided by the greater national interest. We should also be mindful of our language. We should put our case in proper context or perspective. We should state the facts as much as we can. We should avoid issuing threats. And we should avoid passing judgements on others.
While Prof. Ekeh was kind enough to admit that Prof. Ikime is his friend and soul mate in their fight for many causes in the past, I have never met Mr Chris Agbobu in my life. But I have been following his progress in politics. I was only saddened that the impression was erroneously being created that he has no integrity, was a nobody and not fit to be a minister, simply because he hails from the "peripheral or fringe Delta". Of course, I had to debunk these untruths. Mr Agbobu has integrity, relevant political experience, sound academic qualifications and wide horizon to be a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Today as I write, Chris Agbobu is the Minister of State for Agriculture, having passed the senatorial screening. And for the records, Chief Philip Asiodu is not the Presidential Adviser on Petroleum.
I sincerely feel that the only "nationalism" or patriotic
zeal that should envelop us at this moment is the "Nigeria nationalism".
Not "Asaba nationalism". Not "Warri nationalism". Not "Isoko nationalism".
And not "Anioma nationalism". I abhor all these ethnic categorisations
which I see as nothing but the concoctions of the elites to further their
interests. I also abhor the concept of North-South dichotomy, which today
has not only gained currency in the Nigerian state but has gained currency
in each of the 36 states and local government councils in Nigeria. Such
conceptualisation has also been used by the elites to represent marginalization
or the lack of
The truth however is that the problems of Nigeria are much more fundamental than these ethnic or geographical categories of North-South, East-West or even the creation of states or citing of state capitals. Prof Ekeh will no doubt agree with me that neither the creation of more states nor the citing of state capitals have solved the fundamental problems of Nigeria. We should therefore be more concerned with issues of development, the endemic problems of corruption in the polity, dilapidated infrastructures, lack of basic amenities, such as clean water, housing, food, health care, education, etc for the majority of our citizenry.
Prof. Obaro Ikime remains an intellectual of no mean repute. I never intended to diminish that because I cannot. Prof. Ekeh is similarly adjudged and widely acknowledged as such. Anybody reading their write-ups on the issues under reference will understand and appreciate my quarrel with Ikime and admiration for Ekeh. While the former threw all the etiquette of public discourse to the wind, the latter did not. One thing however remains clear. I am proud of both of them. I only disagreed with one because of his tactics but my respect for him stands. He can question a ministerial appointment or the location of the state capital. But he has to do them within the bounds of civility. To ethnically lynch a section of the state for whatever reason was going too far, I think.
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5 July 1999