Take the simple question of justice and fairness. Half of the villagers are not happy with the Eze on this issue. That’s one reason that the village is a divided house. It is split into two camps for and against the monarch, the Eze Gburugburu of the village. Although our Eze always talks of the villagers as one indivisible people, Nijaba, is in fact, divided into two political groupings.


Last week, my friend Bello and I drove from Abuja to my village near Owerri in Imo State. It was a smooth ride for a while, until we reached the potholes and checkpoints of the South-East.

Bello had never been to Imo State before then. For him, driving to my village was an adventure of sorts. He had never seen so many checkpoints per mile manned by Nigerian Customs officers. He found the resultant stop-and-go more frustrating than the infuriating meandering of the deteriorated roads of Imo State. “So many checkpoints, it’s like a different country; what are they checking for anyway?”, he asked with a tone of exasperation.

“It is more like tollgates, Bello. It looks like they are doing more ‘collecting’ than ‘checking’,” I replied.

Bello calmed down as we entered the dusty roads of my village, passing hardened villagers trekking to some place or the other, barefoot children playing football in a schoolyard, a dangerously speeding okada driver, and well-dressed women driving scooters like pleasure cars. “Home, sweet home!”, I shouted with joy. But what struck Bello was the big houses sprinkled all over the place.

When we entered my own empty compound, he asked, “Why do you people build these huge houses in the villages, only to abandon them for Abuja and other cities around the country? It doesn’t make sense, it’s a huge waste,” he advised. I answered that he actually had a point, but that this had not always been so; “It is a post-Biafra phenomenon.”

During the Civil War, many Easterners abandoned their houses in other parts of Nigeria and ran for their lives to their villages. My uncle, Eme, a successful businessman in Kano, with a huge house in Sabon Gari, was one of them. But he had no house, not even a hut, in our village. He had to share a room in my grandfather’s mud house with his wife and six children. Before the war, my uncle only came home at Christmas or when somebody died. It is because of the Civil War that people from my village, who live and work in far away Nigerian cities, learnt an important lesson: Build your home first in your own village before a castle in Kano, Lagos, and Port Harcourt or even in nearby Onitsha.

“Amazing,” murmured Bello. “It’s really a beautiful place, so quaint, so peaceful.”

“The truth of the matter, Bello, is that this is not a village in peace; in fact, the division is reaching a breaking point into autonomous communities, a situation which the Eze will do everything to prevent.”


I thanked him for the compliments but felt an obligation to add that in my village the look of tranquillity can be delusive. The adjective “peaceful” does not quite describe the reality of my village; it is in no way free of disturbances. In fact, this is a very strange and divided place, mostly because of bad governance.

True, we are blessed with incredibly fertile land harbouring all kinds of natural resources, from limestone to coal and gold; you name it. But above all are our villagers themselves: Some of the best manpower you can find anywhere in Nigeria is here. Anywhere they go, from Aba to Calabar, from Ibadan to Kafanchan, Maiduguri, or London, they excel. But here, all they have are big and empty houses. They do not stay here to develop the place because this village has nothing to offer them. Those left behind don’t do much either, because they have become lazy and dependent on free monies from sons of the soil who live and work in places like Abuja.

“The truth of the matter, Bello, is that this is not a village in peace; in fact, the division is reaching a breaking point into autonomous communities, a situation which the Eze will do everything to prevent.”

Take the simple question of justice and fairness. Half of the villagers are not happy with the Eze on this issue. That’s one reason that the village is a divided house. It is split into two camps for and against the monarch, the Eze Gburugburu of the village. Although our Eze always talks of the villagers as one indivisible people, Nijaba, is in fact, divided into two political groupings.

Today, westerners are effectively excluded from the Eze’s blatant spoils system that has seriously deepened the divide in my beautiful village; pushing it unwisely, steadily into two autonomous communities.


The wards in the eastern part are still steeped in the traditional customs of our fathers that fused religious and political power. The Eze hails from there, where a majority of the villagers support him, right or wrong. They championed his coronation.

The wards in the western part, which settled for a system of separate religious and political authority years ago, did not show up. Many people there do not believe that the Eze was a changed man from the years when his twin brother was the maximum leader of the village.

Today, westerners are effectively excluded from the Eze’s blatant spoils system that has seriously deepened the divide in my beautiful village; pushing it unwisely, steadily into two autonomous communities.

So yes, in my village, all that glitters is not gold. This dominated our conversation on the drive back to Abuja.

Ebere Onwudiwe is a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Abuja. Please send your comments to this number on WhatsApp: +234 (0)701 625 8025; messages only, no calls.