FEATURE ARTICLE

Tuesday, May 24, 2022
chigachieke@yahoo.co.uk

EGGON: REBUILDING ECDA FOR UNITY

Dr James Angbazo, Heir to the Eggon Chiefdom Throne

Challenge and Response

mancipation did not translate to prosperity, or even freedom of mind and body, for the American Negro. Cruel capitalism tied him to the apron string of his disgruntled former master who condemned emancipation as ruinous to plantation economy. It looked like releasing the Negro from bondage was a mistake as poverty, illiteracy and black crime coalesced to ravage him.

Two black leaders, Booker T Washington and WEB Du Bois, responded to the Negro's lack luster condition. Agreeing that something must be urgently done to salvage young blacks, they differed in approach. Washington favoured arming them with vocational skills taught in industrial institutes. But Du Bois believed that what young Negroes needed was critical university education as deeper ignorance, not just illiteracy, of self-possibility was the real enemy.

It is important that the two leaders did not limit themselves to "advocacy" but took "practical actions" to change things. Together with Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, Mary White Ovington, etc, Du Bois in 1909 established the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, NAACP.

Washington established the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in 1881 to teach young Negroes carpentry, shoemaking, tinsmithing, farming, etc. Girls were taught sewing, personal hygiene and character building. Within 25 years the establishment taught thirty-seven skills on 2000 acre with 83 buildings. Its live stock and stock in trade valued at 1, 275, 644 dollars; while its yearly intake was 1,500 students. Washington's biographer noted, "Through progress at Tuskegee, Washington showed that an oppressed people could advance."

Royal Angbazo Response

The existential problems buffeting Eggons since antiquity were such that no government could address them in reasonably time. Their hostile geography- hilly, remote and inaccessible, was the challenge. Hospital, school and road could not be built at 1, 500 feet above the sea level. One glaring flaw of the 1957 Sir Henry Willinks Minority Commission was in not designating Eggonland and Angasland as Special Areas for federal intervention; like it did with Ogoniland and Ijawland. This oversight must be addressed.

Independence came and the Big Three of Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba toyed with the destinies of their regional minorities. This provoked the latter into agitating for their own states. Professor Lawrence Ekpebu, in "Cohesion and Fragmentation in African Politics: The Minorities and the Nigerian Crises," explained how marginalised northern minorities came to dominate the army. That it was when all doors of opportunity were closed against the Eggon, Angas, Idoma, Tiv, etc, that these minorities, out of sheer frustration, enrolled into the military; being the only institution the Hausa/Fulani were least interested in.

Mutual distrust among the Big Three led to the 15th January 1966 coup. A counter coup on 29th July brought General Yakubu Gowon, a northern minority, to power. He wasted no time dismantling the Big Three through state creation for the regional minorities. The Igbo, still trapped in the Big Three mindset, would hear none of it. But the Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba agreed out of fear, having realized the infantry was dominated by spiteful northern minorities that hated them for decades of oppression. They aligned with the military to crush the Igbo in the1967-1970 civil war.

Never mind that after the war the same Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba capitalised on the coups of Buka Suka Dimka, Mamman Vatsa and Gideon Okar to purge northern minorities, just as the latter purged the Igbo in the late 1960s, from the army. Things never changed for Eggons as pro-minority General Gowon was removed from office in 1975.

It was at this point that His Royal Highness Bala A Angbazo, the Arren Eggon, positively responded. Like Du Bois, he established the Eggon Cultural and Development Association, ECDA. As the name implies, ECDA had the dual mandate of (1) Establishing normal and industrial institutes for man power development, and (2) Uniting Eggons as a culturally homogenous Jukun extraction of the great Kwararafa Empire.

While the King was young and active, the two objectives received equal attention. The Angbazo Memorial Comprehensive College, Awayi, was built. The academy is largely instrumental in giving this martial tribe its pro-education disposition. Many Eggon professionals were educated in this school.

Originally, ECDA was apolitical and nonreligious. With the Arren Eggon as its Grand Norm Custodian, it waxed under the rallying cry of "Eggon Kyankyen," meaning "One Eggon" or "Eggon United." The ideological content of what it preached in the late 20th Century fired the imagination of young Eggons who saw limitless possibilities in themselves. But this progressive trajectory came to a sudden halt in 1999 as military rule yielded to democracy. ECDA was politicised and Eggon unity shattered. What really happened?

Midway Collapse of Bridal Train

In 1999 the Eggon-born Solomon Ewuga emerged runner up to Abdullahi Adamu in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, primary for Nasarawa State gubernatorial election. To beat the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Ewuga accepted to be the running mate to Adamu. The National Working Committee, NWC, of PDP also gave Ewuga the option of becoming a cabinet minister if the party won.

Ewuga used ECDA headed by Labaran Maku to mobilize Eggons, who constitute 60% of Nasarawa population, to win a landslide. He opted for a ministerial appointment, becoming the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to avoid conflict of interests with Adamu. For a job well done, Maku was made Commissioner for Information. Then things fell apart as two things happened between 1999 and 2003.

Firstly, Ewuga's ambition to use the Eggon vote to become governor in 2003 backfired. Unknown to him, Maku had jumped boats to serve Adamu. Maku also had his own secret ambition of succeeding his new master as governor in 2007. Ewuga felt betrayed as he was left with an empty can.

And secondly, Adamu, like other PDP governors united against Vice President Atiku Abubakar, cut a deal with President Olusegun Obasanjo to return the latter for second tenure in 2003. In this quid pro que, Adamu also got automatic ticket for second tenure. Maku capitalised on Ewuga's downfall to become Deputy Governor in 2003. To realise his dream of becoming governor in 2007, he heavily mobilized his loyalists in ECDA.

Eggonland was heated up with Ewuga using his huge political machinery to crush Maku's renegade ambition. In desperation Maku grabbed ECDA to form political structure around Nasarawa youths. Ewuga responded using his own grassroots structure to further divide the association to stop Maku. Down went Eggon unity.

Then things took a sudden twist. Governor Adamu invited Akwe Doma to join the PDP before handing the latter the gubernatorial ticket in 2007. Doma was elected governor, courtesy of the Sokoto Caliphate. It was Maku's turn to feel like a fish out of the water. Ewuga, ecstatic that Maku got a full dose of his own medicine, took over the ANPP leadership vacated by Doma.

Therefore, by 2007 when Umaru Musa Yar'Adua became Nigerian president and Doma as Nasarawa governor, both Maku and Ewuga, two Eggon politicians entrusted to advance the Eggon interests, had relegated themselves into nothingness. But the ultimate losers were Eggons who saw their golden chance of ruling Nasarawa bungled. Their only eye was Honourable Justice Halilu Envulanza, Secretary of the National Judicial Commission (NJC). His post was part of the power sharing agreement by the Adamu/Ewuga joint governorship ticket of 1999.

The demise of Yar'adua in 2009 provided Maku another chance at power. President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him Minister of Information and Communication as the two were friends. Maku was Governor Adamu's Deputy when Jonathan was Deputy to Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. While Jonathan was president, Maku controlled the PDP in Nasarawa with Adamu and Ewuga moving over to the new All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2015.

However, Ewuga saw to it that PDP under Maku lost Nasarawa in 2011 to the Umaru Tanko Al-Makura-led Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. Al-Makura was reelected governor in 2015. Having defeated his nemesis, Ewuga went to the senate under the APC in 2015. The tit-for-tat between him and Maku made it impossible for Eggons to produce even a Deputy Governor since 2007. But Ewuga must be commended for putting the Eggon nation first facilitating David Umbugadu's 2011 election into the House of Reps under CPC.

Fast forward to 2022, Maku joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. Hearing that his former master, Adamu, had become the APC National Chairman, he made a U-turn rejoining the PDP. Ewuga himself no longer cared. With age weighing heavily on him, he threw in the towel for the younger generation to slug it out among themselves. That ended decades of political misadventure by Ewuga and Maku that sent Eggons and ECDA many years behind their minority peers.

Rebuilding ECDA

If the foundation is damaged the entire superstructure lacks integrity. In its present form and content, compromised ECDA cannot sustain Eggon unity and development. To fix it the umbrella body must be returned to the Royal Angbazo House that fashioned it. HRH Bala A Angbazo should kindly consider, as a matter of supreme Eggon interests, dissolving all ECDA Branch Executives immediately. The Palace should take over the management of their assets and liabilities.

Secondly, the Palace could form a neutral committee to reorganize ECDA and conduct fresh elections/appointments for new executives to man its Branches on behalf of the Arren Eggon. Officers so elected/appointed should answer directly to the Palace, like it used to be. Such officers should also pay Royalties to the Palace for development.

Finally, only after this foundational overhaul could the revered Grand Old Monarch of Eggon nationalism hand over to his worthy heir, Dr James Angbazo, and go to rest in peace with his ancestors.

A rebuilt ECDA should shift emphasis from "advocacy" to human capacity development. Eggons want ECDA to send their brilliant sons and daughters to Cuba and the US to specialise in internal medicine. Thousands could also be trained as technicians if every Branch establishes a one-room training institute. Doing things differently will save this lofty body from past mistakes.

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