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Anambra: Are we divided by religion, geographical clannishness?

Chiedu Uche Okoye

Anambra State, which is peopled by the Igbo people, is in the South-east geopolitical zone in Nigeria. The Igbo claim kinship with the Jews, and believe that they both share ancestral heritage. Anambra State’s slogan is the light of the nation; arguably, it is the salt of the nation given that many people who are native of Anambra state have achieved global fame in their respective pursuits.
A State of Commerce, it has the largest market in West Africa, which is the Onitsha Main-Market. Again, there is a huge motor spare parts market in Nnewi, an industrial city. Immense revenue accrues into the financial till of Anambra State government through revenues generated in Anambra markets.
Anambra State achieved distinction not only in commerce; but also in tradition and culture. The Atilogwu Cultural dance group known for acrobatic dance has won cultural awards in global cultural competitions.
The custodians of Igbo culture in the state are still preserving the traditional marriage and burial practices of the people. Chinua Achebe, the author of Things Fall Apart, set his revolutionary and great novels in Idemili Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Achebe’s novels highlight the rich culture of the Igbo of which Anambra is a part. In the novels of Achebe, the royal python is the totem of the Idemili deity, Idemili is a river in Anambra state.
Chinua Achebe, an inimitable novelist of global fame, hailed from Anambra State. Achebe is not the lone star on the Anambra landcape.
The State is teeming with individuals who achieved fame and distinction in their respective fields of endeavours. With her books, Chimamanda Adichie is making people talk about Nigeria in Europe and America.
Adichie is a native of Anambra State. Outside literary writing, Anambra has produced such iconic musicians as P-Square and Osita Osadebe. And, the former African sprints queen of the track, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, is a native of Awka, Anambra State.
In the area of Politics, Anambra parades late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, a freedom fighter; Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, an erudite scholar and colourful politician; Nwafor Orizu, former senate president; Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the first executive vice president of Nigeria; and others.
Although an array of political stars hail from Anambra State, in the recent past, the new Anambra State, which was created in 1991, was thrown into turmoil by selfish politicians. It was wracked with political problems.
The godfather syndrome, which is symptomatic of our political malaise, has become one of the dynamics of Anambra Politics. Mr. Peter Obi, a wealthy man, rode to power on the coat tails of Chie Emeka Ojukwu, who was a folk hero among the Igbo people.
Ojukwu was the Biafran war-lord who commanded great respect, and had large following in Igbo land. “This is my last wish, vote for Peter Obi in the governorship election”, he said. Anambra people granted his last wish. But, Obi’s victory was partly made possible by his appeal to our religious sensibilities. Although there is no statistical data to support the claim that catholic Christians outnumber Anglicans in the State, people believe that members of the Catholic Church are more populous than other Christian groups in the state.
Mr. Peter Obi made capital out of his membership of the Catholic Church, and his consanguinity with a nun and a Catholic Priest in his quest to become the Anambra state governor. Now, in Anambra State, people use religion as an electioneering matter in their bid to secure political power. Religion is a toxic issue that poisons good relationships among people.
A publication in the vanguard newspaper of November 5, 2014 shows that the relationship between the Anglicans and Catholics in Anambra State is rocky and strained.
The piece is titled, “Ifeanyi Afuba: Hallucination in Anambra”. Now, in Anambra State, Anglicans are pitted against members of the Roman Catholic Church when it is time for electioneering and elections. This has already created bad blood and acrimony between the two Christian sects.
It is not only religion that is threatening to undermine the oneness and unity of Anambra people; the issue of politicians’ geographical nativity vis-a vis rotation of political regarding the contest for political offices is a divisive factor in Anambra State, now.
Now, some politicians lay claim to being the only legitimate and morally acceptable persons to contest elective posts on the grounds that politicians from other senatorial zones areas had occupied the posts in the past.
Although rotation of power is not enshrined in our constitution, it is practiced at both national and state levels when it suits the whims and caprices of executive political office holders.
Its advantage is that it offers people from a geographical zone the opportunity to produce political leaders for either the country or state(s). This gives the people a sense of belonging and promotes unity among the people. It has become a feature of our variant of democracy. But its flipside is that it de-emphasizes meritocracy, as it places a politician’s place of nativity above meritocracy and leadership qualities when it comes to the consideration of politicians for elective offices.
And, zoning political offices to an area deepens clannishness and creates division among a people.
Anambra people are homogenous. They descended from a common founder or ancestor according to Igbo history.
Until the advent of white colonizers and Christian missionaries in Nigeria, African traditional religion held sway among us. Achebe’s novels, which borrowed from anthropology and history, buttress this historical fact. So, why are Anambra people divided by Christianity, an imported religion?
Let us rise above the divisive factors of religion and geographical nativity in our quest for political power and distribution of political offices.

•Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi
Anambra State

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