Orlu State: To Be Or Not To Be? BY COLLINS OPUROZOR

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The recent legislative move to create Orlu State, carved out from Imo, Abia and Anambra States, has spurred significant debate and controversy. Despite the bill’s progress through the first reading in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the path to actualization remains fraught with challenges. The political division within Orlu itself is one of the foremost obstacles. Different factions are vying for credit for the initiative, resulting in a zero-sum agenda that hampers the necessary consensus-building.

This internal strife within Orlu is particularly detrimental as it undermines efforts to garner wider support. To create a new state in Nigeria, extensive backing is required—not only from the region in question but also from the National Assembly, the Presidency, and a two-thirds majority of State Houses of Assembly across the Federation. Historically, no civilian administration has succeeded in creating a new state under Nigeria’s rigid constitution, underscoring the formidable nature of this endeavor.

Compounding these challenges is the contentious proposed map of Orlu State. The arbitrary division of local government areas has led to significant dissatisfaction. Some LGAs have been split into three, while others remain unchanged, and certain communities have been designated as LGAs despite being smaller. This perceived inequity has ignited vociferous protests from stakeholders who feel marginalized, posing a serious threat to the referendum required for state creation.

The dissatisfaction is not confined to Orlu. In Nsukka, there is a renewed push for the creation of Adada State. This movement, recently reinvigorated by a secret memo calling for a meeting of Nsukka leaders on June 16th with the single agenda of fighting for Adada State, is driven by longstanding grievances and a renowned sense of unity among the “Wawa people.” The Nsukka agenda will likely further polarize the Igbo support crucial for Orlu State, weakening the collective effort needed for such constitutional alterations.

In addition, Governor Peter Mbah’s alleged neglect of Nsukka only fuels their cause. Accusations that he has not made strategic appointments from Nsukka and has avoided visiting the area since taking office have galvanized their demands, solidifying their determination for a separate state.

Meanwhile, in Imo State, the Okigwe people’s renewed discussions for the creation of Etiti State introduce another layer of complexity. For some, this agenda represents a historical ambition, while others see it as a strategic negotiation tool for the 2027 governorship election. Regardless of the motivation, these discussions dilute the focus and solidarity of the Imo political elite in advocating for Orlu State.

A chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, just yesterday, brought a new twist to the debate. According to him, it is in the interest of Ndigbo to go for the creation of Asaba State, which will be part of the South East.

Given these multifaceted challenges, the proponents of Orlu State must prioritize internal unity and minimize divisive rhetoric. Building a broad-based consensus within Orlu is imperative before seeking pan-Imo and pan-Igbo support. Without a united front, the initiative is unlikely to gain the necessary momentum and credibility.

Diplomatic engagement is also crucial. The proponents need to effectively communicate their vision and address the concerns of all stakeholders, ensuring that the proposed state’s creation is perceived as equitable and beneficial. This includes revisiting the controversial map to mitigate feelings of marginalization and injustice.

Securing support from the National Assembly and the Presidency will require deft political maneuvering and alliances. The proponents must articulate how Orlu State will contribute to national development and stability, aligning their goals with broader national interests. This strategic alignment can help in overcoming potential resistance and building a coalition of supporters.

Furthermore, addressing the grievances within Nsukka and Okigwe could help in preventing these movements from siphoning off critical support. Engaging with their leaders, acknowledging their concerns, and finding common ground can foster a more united front for state creation in the South-East.

Finally, the creation of Orlu State hinges on overcoming significant internal and external challenges. The current divisions within Orlu and the simultaneous demands for Adada and Etiti States complicate the path forward. A concerted effort towards unity, strategic diplomacy, and addressing grievances is essential. Only through such comprehensive and inclusive strategies can the proponents hope to navigate the cumbersome constitutional process and achieve their goal of state creation.

*Collins Opurozor is a political scientist.

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