On the 14th of June, 1955, an Action Group member of the then Western Region House of Assembly, Honorable M. S. Sowole tabled a motion at the sitting of the house.
The motion reads: “I beg leave to move that this house prays Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom to make necessary constitutional arrangements at the proposed conference for a separate state of Benin and Delta provinces.
That motion was in line with the demand of the top leaders from Benin and Delta provinces and it gave a sort of legislative recognition to the issue.
This motion came from a Yoruba member of the House, not because the Yorubas didn’t like the Midwesterners and wanted them to leave but because the leaders of the Midwest had offered compelling arguments in favour of the creation of a Midwestern state on the floor of the house.
The agitation for the creation of Mid- Western region began in 1948 with the formation of the Benin community under the leadership of Oba Akenzua II of Benin.
The organization had demanded for the creation of a Benin- Delta or Mid- Western region. In 1951, Chief Anthony Enahoro, a member of the Action Group called a meeting of Mid- Western leaders at Sapele on the creation of the proposed state.
On April 4, 1961, history was made when the federal House of Representatives, unanimously endorsed the demand of the people of Mid- West areas for a separate region of their own.
The people of the area were overjoyed, parties were held and traditional dances were staged to mark victory.
The Midwest region was later renamed Bendel State and broken further into Edo and Delta States.
All of these happened without Oba Akenzua or Enahoro calling Nigeria a zoo and threatening to kill every living thing in the ‘zoo’ and burn it down.
None of the agitators from the Midwest abused the other regions and ethnic groups in Nigeria or labelled them traitors.
None of the agitators abused pastors, political leaders and called their own kinsmen ‘efulefu’ for not supporting the calls for the creation of the Midwest.
The agitators didn’t even need to form a secret service or make threats of having a private army.
They simply took advantage of the laws and institutions available in the polity.
We have consistently admonished IPOB to channel their agitations through the same institutions within the purview of the law.
For this harmless and progressive suggestion, we have been labelled Igbo haters.
The Southeast has representatives in the two arms of the legislature, in the executive and in the judiciary who are powerful enough to champion these agitations.
The Ohaneze Ndigbo and other sociocultural groups are influential enough to champion anything that is dear to the heart of Ndigbo.
Why haven’t all of the five state houses of assembly in the southeast passed resolutions in support of IPOB’s agitations?
Why haven’t Ike Ekweremadu and co raised a single motion in any houses of the national assembly to lend their voices to these agitations?
Why haven’t the five state governors lent their voices to these agitations?
Why haven’t the southeast intelligentsia taken a resounding position on these agitations?
Is it really that difficult to speak out in favour or against these agitations? Something is not right.
Unfortunately, by maintaining a stoic silence, Igbo political elite, intellectuals, traditional authorities and leaders of thought are aiding and abetting a gradual descent into a repeat of an unfortunate era in their history that is not savoury to remember.
If the impending danger must be averted, the agitations must be done officially and rightly through the institutions established by government as was done in the Midwestern example.
President Buhari has challenged all aggrieved Nigerians to channel their grievances through the national assembly and the council of States.
The Igbo nation should accept that admonition and do the needful. Even if the Nigerian laws do not support their position, the laws are not cast in concrete.
The laws are reviewable añd amendable. That’s why Ike Ekweremadu and co are there.
Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past. A stitch in time saves nine.