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Trends of Migrant Political Organization in Nigeria

Eghosa E. Osaghae

IV. IGBO Migrant Ethnic Empire: The Eze IGBO

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1On 1 June, 1993, Barrister Ogbonna Tennyson Nnadi, lawyer and businessman, who has lived in Kano since the civil war ended in 1970, was chosen and proclaimed Eze (Sarkin) Igbo of Kano. He was the third Eze Igbo or ‘king’ of the Igbo. The first was G.C. Nwalosi, businessman, who was crowned in late 1987. He was succeeded on 21 October 1989, by David Obi Okonkwo, also a businessman, whose ‘reign’ was brutally terminated when he was murdered on 28 September, 1990. This chapter examines the emergence of the Eze Igbo, the implications and effects on associational ethnicity amongst the Igbo in Kano and how and why the Eze Igbo idea evolved? Were there aspects of associational ethnicity which the ICA lacked that necessitated the emergence of the Eze Igbo? What are the functions of the Eze Igbo and how do these stand in relation to those of the ICA? Is there a role conflict? Has the emergence of the Eze Igbo led to any significant change in Igbo ethnicity in Kano? Has it facilitated inter-ethnic harmony? Or, in all these, is the position of Eze Igbo of only symbolic importance? These questions cannot be answered nor, specifically, can the evolution of the Eze Igbo be understood, except against the backdrop of the changing character of Igbo settlement and associational ethnicity.


2In chapter 1, we saw that according to Green’s classification (1974), contemporary migrations in West Africa have been in two phases, namely colonial and urbanization. Although a lot of continuity exists between the two phases, in a sense urbanization migration engenders slightly more permanent migrations than colonial migration does. Conceptually, to distinguish between temporary and relatively permanent migrations, it may be more appropriate to refer to migrants in the latter category as settlers, a term which best describes the situation of Igbo migrants in Kano today. In spite of the disruptions caused by the civil war, which served as a watershed in Igbo migration to Kano, many Igbo have lived in the city continuously since the 1950s. Up to a quarter of the youths, including those in their mid-thirties and early forties, were born and bred in Kano, and many of these youths have no better than a stranger’s knowledge of their home towns (the civil war period being the only time some of them ever stayed at home). For these, Kano is home. Moreover, unlike in the past, when everyone went back home to take a wife, there is a significant increase in the number of those who meet their spouses and marry them in Kano, complete with all the necessary traditional observances. In the area of marriage there has also been an increase in the number of Igbo marrying from other ethnic groups in Kano, though marriages in the city between the Hausa and Igbo have remained few and far between.

  • 1 Nevertheless, most old settlers insist on being taken home for burial.

3There are important changes in other areas. Some of the traditional festivals and cultural activities which took people home in the past, notably the Iriji (new yam festival) are now staged and observed in Kano, with no loss of ritual. The summary of all that has been said so far is that there are several Igbo today who were born in Kano, have lived there all their lives and have died and been buried there,1 while others who came as fresh migrants have settled there almost permanently. This is unlike the past, when the period spent annually at home in the east and that spent in Kano were equal. The most home-minded settlers today spend, on the average, between one and two weeks of every year at home, usually during the Christmas/New Year festivities (Guder, 1971). To be sure, important events like funerals, marriages, and house-building projects still take some settlers home, and in fact, most of the old generation settlers, including some who may have stayed 30 to 50 years in Kano still return home upon retirement. This does not dispute the fact that for most Igbo in Kano today, the city has become home. As we analyzed in the last chapter, this choice has a lot to do with the economics of settlement, i.e., the fact that the Igbo have invested heavily in Kano, with individual investments running into several millions of naira. As one of them put it:

If you have stayed in a place all your life, and have all your investments there, where would you run to (in times of riots, for example). We have now realized that we have a right to settle where we choose. We have chosen Kano as our home.

4It is this growing new perception of Kano as home (it does not matter that many continue to regard it as second home) that has kept Igbo settlers there in the face of recent attacks by religious fanatics and other rioters. In the past, they would have fled, as did the Igbo in other northern cities — Bauchi, Zaria, Kaduna — where riots occur regularly, still do. In Kano, as they demonstrated in 1991, they would rather resist any attack aimea at forcing them out of the city because of the high stakes they have in the city.

5The foregoing description of the new phase of Igbo settlement in Kano contrasted sharply with Gugler’s (1971: 405) description of eastern (Igbo) migrants:

A striking experience when talking to Eastern Nigerians in urban centres is that they will invariably stress that they are strangers in town ... The home community conversely refers to them as ‘our sons abroad’. They are expected to maintain contact, and to return eventually.

6While the latter part of Gugler’s description, about the perspective of the home community remains substantially valid, the point about being strangers is no longer as valid in the case of the Igbo in Kano. Most of them today regard themselves as ‘natives’ of Kano and, specifically, Sabon Gari. This changing status and self-perception have been expressed in several ways. One is in the readiness to protect their lives and property and resist attacks by any means available to them, rather than flee. Second is the fact that more Igbo now own houses and estates in Kano city, even outside Sabon Gari. Third, the Igbo are now more integrated into Kano politics and society, particularly as they now have institutionalized relationships with the Emir-in-Council, the local government and the state government. In 1991-93, for example, C.M. Onyerize, an Igbo, contested and won the election to represent Sabon Gari/No man’s land ward in the Nassarawa Local Government. Also, in addition to influential Igbo who have strong connections, the ICA and Eze Igbo have proved the institutional bases for integration. Fourth, most of the traditional and cultural activities and observances of the home community are now organized in Kano. In fact, there is a situation of cultural revivalism which involves projecting Igbo culture in every way. This revivalism, which we try to account for below, is partly responsible for the emergence of the Eze Igbo.


7The changing character of Igbo settlers in Kano provides the background against which the emergence of the migrant ethnic empire headed by the Eze Igbo can be understood. The fact that they regard themselves as settlers rather than temporary sojourners led them to consider new modes of socio-political organization which could make Kano a real home. Part of the concern in this process was how to preserve their identity in terms of language, culture, and traditions so that the newer generation of Igbo, especially those who had little connection with home, would not lose their roots. It was to complete the preservation project that the idea of an Igbo king in Kano came about. The idea was to ‘import’ the traditional system from home and implant traditional loyalties which appeared to be the missing link in associational ethnicity. Igbo leaders interviewed in Kano also allude to the long distance away from home and the fact that many people were no longer in close touch with home, as being responsible for the ‘nostalgia’ that gave impetus to the idea of an Igbo king. This also probably explains why migrant empire building has become almost standard practice in major northern cities (Jos, Kaduna, Zaria, Sokoto and Katsina). What further validates the nostalgia thesis is the interesting point that no such stirring has occurred in southern towns like Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Benin City, Port Harcourt and Calabar, where there are even more Igbo migrants. The major reasons why empire building has not been considered in these cities are (a) their closeness to the ethnic home area which makes it possible for the migrants to visit home as often as they want to, and to maintain permanent links with home; (b) this proximity engenders the prevalent notions of temporary sojourn held by the migrants, no matter how long they may have stayed in the city; (c) the dispersal of Igbo migrants which makes any central organization of associational ethnicity more difficult in the first place — by contrast, the concentration of migrants in Sabon Gari bred empire notions amongst the Igbo in Kano, as it did amongst the Hausa in Sabo, Ibadan; and (d) the large number of migrants which ensure strong town unions, that even have to be organized sometimes according to the different areas of the town in order to accommodate all the members and function efficiently. Notwithstanding the relative de-emphasis of traditional organization in associational ethnicity amongst Igbo in southern cities, most town unions organize cultural activities and have a diokpa (elder or patron, usually the oldest male member or migrant, in whose house meetings are usually held). This is the closest that such associational ethnicity has come to traditional practice. Okonjo (1967) describes the diokpa phenomenon in Ibadan.

8The emergence of an Igbo migrant empire in Kano, a form of organization which has now spread to other northern cities, cannot be adequately explained in terms of the changes in the character of Igbo settlers or their preferred mode of organization alone. It was not simply nostalgia that necessitated the creation of the Eze Igbo; there were functions and roles that were also envisaged for the Eze. For example, ensuring that the ICA and existing town unions were able to function satisfactorily. Though they were mainly concerned with preserving Igbo traditions and customs as stated by the ICA, the Eze Igbo’s duties also included strengthening the status of the Igbo in Kano through more effective instruments of representation. Accordingly, the emergence of the migrant empire had a lot to do with the perceived efficacy of traditional authority and representation in the highly conservative Kano society, and was greatly influenced by the dominant traditional pattern of authority in Kano. In other words, the migrant empire was one way of conforming to the socio-political organization of Kano, with the expectation that thereby they would enjoy greater acceptance and respect from the host community.

9Indeed, as we saw in chapter 2, Kano is traditionally an emirate which has a well organized system of administration under which each quarter and ward is placed under a traditional leader (or head) responsible for the affairs of the area, both to the Emir and state government. In the 1930s and 1940s, this was extended to Sabon Gari which had an elected Seriki as head. This encouraged the Yoruba, known for their rich traditions of centralized authority and chieftaincy, to appoint an Olori in 1938. This was seen as rebellion by the Seriki of Sabon Gari and led to the initial halt to the building of a Yoruba empire. The Yoruba Oba was finally installed in December 1974, long after the Seriki Sabon Gari had ceased to exist. These antecedents could not be lost on the Igbo, and although the ICA leaders reject any suggestion that it was the desire not to be outdone by the Yoruba that led them to think of having a king, there is no doubt that the traditional milieu of Kano, and in particular, the example of the Yoruba, influenced the decision to have a migrant empire.

  • 2 Ekeh defines emergent social structures as those which evolved from the colonial situation, having (...)

10For one, the Igbo, being largely republican and non-centralized in their political organization, are not traditionally used to the kingship or chieftainship institution; and, for another, there were no other comparable Igbo developments anywhere in the country. This is not to suggest that the Eze Igbo in Kano had or required any traditional antecedents; even the Yoruba Oba, with all the rich traditions of centralized authority in Yorubaland, does not have such traditional roots. To this extent, the migrant ethnic empire, including the post of Eze Igbo, is best conceptualized in terms of the formations Ekeh (1983) calls emergent social structures. Although Ekeh developed this concept in relation to colonialism and social formations in Africa,2 it is useful to our present purpose and we may define it as structures that developed within Kano in response to certain needs recognized by the migrant community, and whose applicability or operation is, to a large extent, restricted to Kano. It is partly to emphasize that this structure is peculiar to Kano that the Eze Igbo is not officially recognized until he has been turbanned by the Emir of Kano (no Igbo king at home requires this kind of recognition, except by the state government). Moreover, any Igboman leaving Kano and relocating elsewhere no longer has any tie or dealing with the Eze Igbo, even if he was a chief in the Eze Igbo’s Cabinet. Indeed, unlike chieftaincies conferred on individuals at ‘home’ (in the east) which continue to be recognized whether the recipient is at home or abroad, those of Kano are not recognized outside the city. This is not to say that governors of an Igbo state, or traditional rulers, or the ordinary Igbo at home do not recognize the Eze Igbo or his chiefs, but to emphasize the point that such recognition is made only in reference to Kano. Even the Eze Igbo himself may not enjoy ‘kingly’ privileges outside Kano and especially at home in the east; whereas, in Kano, visiting Igbo traditional rulers, government officials and non-Igbo visitors including politicians, pay him all the respect due to a traditional ruler. For the period he is king, the Eze’s wife may be accorded respect and privileges due to a king’s wife, but she is not regarded as a queen nor are the children regarded as princes and princesses. All these underscore the point made above that the migrant empire and the Eze Igbo are emergent structures whose importance and relevance are located strictly within Kano.


11The Igbo migrant empire, with the Eze as its fulcrum, is the creation of the ICA. The position of the Eze Igbo was created specially to perform functions in the area of customs, traditions and culture. Although the intention seems to have been to make the Eze a traditional ruler, his powers and authority derived from the ICA constitution. The constitution defines the Eze Igbo as the traditional head of the Igbo in Kano, ‘a member of the Association who has been identified, selected, appointed, installed and recognized by Igbos in Kano according to the Igbo tradition and usages’. The position of Eze is not hereditary. When vacant, it is open to contest by any member of the ICA who has paid his dues up to date, and has continuously been an active member of one of the member town unions of the ICA in the last one year at least. To ensure that this condition is met, the candidate must have the written consent of his town union expressing its support for the candidacy. Other qualifications for an aspiring Eze include (a) that he be ordinarily resident in Kano; (b) that he has a good knowledge of Igbo traditions, culture and usages; (c) that he is not below 40 years old; (d) that he is fluent in the Igbo language; (e) that he has no political affiliations; (f) that he has a visible means of livelihood; and (g) that he is capable of commanding the respect of all the Igbo in Kano. The contest for the vacant Eze position is not entirely open. The constitution states that the position shall rotate among Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Imo States which, in practice, means that candidates from the last Eze’s state will not be eligible to contest, except in the unlikely waiver of their rights by candidates from the other states. This provision, more than anything else, clearly delineates the boundaries of the Igbo who make up the migrant empire. Those from Delta and Rivers states may belong to the ICA and even have their members in the Eze’s Cabinet, but it is unlikely that, strictly following the constitution, they can become Eze.

12According to the constitution, an Eze is to be selected by a joint meeting of the ICA executive committee, the Cabinet and patrons, subject to ratification by a two-thirds majority vote of members present at a general meeting of the association specifically summoned for that purpose. The full process of selection is as follows.

13Upon declaration of the position vacant, nominations which have to be ratified by ICA members from all the four Igbo-speaking states, are invited from eligible candidates. The nominations are then screened and short-listed, if there are many candidates. The ICA executive sends the names of the short-listed candidates to the Cabinet whose members elect the Eze by voting. The name of the candidate with the highest votes is then sent back to the ICA which may interview the candidate and approve his election. Next, a joint meeting of the ICA executive, Cabinet and patrons ratifies the selection, which is then finally ratified by the ICA general assembly. This seemingly complicated process has not, however, had its full impact, largely because all the three Eze’s elected so far have had little or no opposition. In fact, in the case of the first two Eze, probably because of the newness of the position, very few people were interested. But even the third Eze, O.T. Nnadi, was elected unopposed, though in this case, his wealth of experience, especially as acting Eze since the death of Eze Obi Okonkwo in 1991 placed him clearly above all other aspirants. Moreover, before becoming acting Eze, O.T. Nnadi was the leader of the Cabinet, being Onowu or Prime Minister, a position which made him the Eze’s chief adviser and his second in command. Such smooth selection processes cannot be guaranteed for a long time, however, because as people have come to recognize the importance of the office of Eze, so have more and more Igbo leaders become interested in it. Finally, in relation to tenure, an Eze ordinarily reigns until death. But there are specified conditions under which he can be suspended or his recognition withdrawn. These conditions, as spelt out in the constitution are as follows:

  1. the Eze breaches any of the conditions of his recognition
  2. he flouts the provision(s) of the constitution of the Association (ICA) or the decision(s)/resolution(s) of the general meeting of the Association
  3. he is proven guilty of misconduct. Such misconduct is to be investigated by the ICA executive which, acting in consultation with the Cabinet and Patrons, is empowered to choose, among their members those to ‘try’ the Eze, as it were.
  4. he is incapable of carrying out his duties being too old, or physically or mentally unfit, but is nevertheless unwilling to give up the office/post

14So far, none of these rules have been invoked, partly because all the Eze have, so far, enjoyed a smooth relationship with the ICA, Cabinet and patrons. But, as we analyze below, some jurisdictional tensions are beginning to emerge which, in future, could threaten the smooth functioning of the Eze Igbo.

15The major functions of the Eze Igbo include:

  1. acting as the custodian of the culture, customs and traditions of the Igbo in Kano, and advising the Association (ICA) on such matters
  2. taking steps to reconcile disputing parties in civil matters on his own volition, or as may be referred to him by the executive council, town unions or any constituted authority
  3. promoting peace and stability in the Igbo community or any other community in Kano
  4. performing such other functions, as may be assigned and required of him by the Association or other constituted authority, by virtue of his position, provided that in his acts, he shall be in constant consultation with his cabinet
  5. advising the Association on matters considered to be in the best interests of the Igbo in Kano
  6. as Eze, he reigns but does not rule
  7. representing the Igbo generally on all matters.

16From these stated functions, what is clear is that the ICA has made conscious efforts to prevent the emergence of an Eze who would want to usurp the powers of the ICA. As it were, the Eze is an ‘instrument’ of the ICA, deriving his power from the Association and functioning within the constitutional limits and at the discretion of the ICA. Apart from matters of customs, culture and traditions which he is said to be custodian of, the Eze has no autonomy to act on any other matters and, most important of all, he cannot take any ‘executive’ or unilateral action because, as the constitution states, ‘he reigns, but does not rule’.

17The constrained position of the Eze can be said to be consistent with the Igbo republican political culture. But it raises some pertinent questions. Can an Eze perform well with all these encumbrances and, if he ignored these limitations, would his role not conflict with that of the ICA? If the Eze is so encumbered, why was it necessary to create the position at all? Could it be simply a matter of the symbolism? The President and Secretary of the ICA do not see any basis for conflict, real or potential, or any encumbrance on the Eze’s office because, as they say, the Eze takes pre-eminence only on cultural matters. According to the President, since it is the ICA that appoints him, the Eze is subject to it. Indeed, upon appointment and as part of the instrument of office at coronation, the Eze is required to agree to abide by the rules of the constitution. In theory and practice, there is a broad division of powers between the ICA and the Eze. The former deals with the day-to-day administration of Igbo affairs in Kano, while the Eze's powers are in the areas of custom and tradition. None the less, the Eze is expected to advise the ICA on administration and the ICA in turn can advise the Eze on how best to preserve and propagate Igbo culture and traditions. The incumbent Eze Igbo shares the views of the ICA on the broad division of powers and believes that if there was any conflict, it would be amicably resolved at a joint meeting of the ICA executive, the Cabinet and patrons.

18So far, no major crisis has arisen, but the potential for them to arise is palpable. For example, in talking to ICA executive committee members on the one hand, and members of the Eze’s Cabinet on the other, contending perceptions of which body takes final decisions and which is representative of Igbo interests can be discerned. Most Cabinet members interviewed by this author believed the Eze to be the head of all the Igbo in Kano and as such his pronouncements carry the weight of ‘law’. For example, it was pointed out that most decisions of the ICA have had to receive the prior ‘approval’ of the Eze. This may simply be a matter of informal consultation because the constitution grants the ICA executive the power of approval: Neither the Eze, nor a Cabinet member, nor any functionary of the ICA shall make public policy announcements concerning the association without prior approval of the executive’. In practice, this is not strictly followed because informal consultations and approvals by the Eze are made, especially in matters which affect the collective interests of all the Igbo in Kano. Nevertheless, it remains to be resolved whether the Eze or ICA executive, in the final analysis, is the representative of Igbo interests. Virtually all the Igbo in Kano accept the authority of the Eze Igbo as the symbol of their unity, but in their dealings with the state government and the Emir, both the ICA and Eze have been involved, depending on the nature of the matter. In the aftermath of the crisis that followed the annulment of the June 12 election, for example, the ICA represented the Igbo, but election, for example, the ICA represented the Igbo, but the Eze elect and his Cabinet played very crucial roles in persuading the people not to flee from Kano. The point, therefore, is that whatever division of responsibility may exist in the constitution or in the perceptions of the principal actors, the ICA has usually consulted the Eze on major decisions, both as a sign of respect and as a way of ensuring that mistakes are not made. The Eze, on the other hand, also consults the ICA executive and his Cabinet before major decisions are taken.

19This potential for conflict does not however, detract from the rather smooth relationship that has so far existed between the Eze and the ICA. Most Igbo in Kano agree that the creation of the office of Eze has bolstered their status in the city, showing them as a people with an identity and rich cultural heritage. Indeed, since the time of the first Eze, the levels of cultural assertiveness and customary observance have increased considerably. In addition to the Iriji which most Igbos now celebrate in Kano rather than at home, as was the case previously; funeral, marriage and child-naming ceremonies have become occasions for displaying Igbo culture and asserting the fact of a migrant empire. The role and functions of the Eze are not, however, restricted to cultural and traditional spheres. In a sense, the Eze has become the rallying point for Igbo unity and, in the process, he has become the ‘honoured’ representative of Igbo interests in relation to the host Kano community and to other migrant (settler groups). He performs important arbitrary and mediatory functions in disputes involving the Igbo and their town unions. In this regard, as ‘father’ of the Igbo in Kano, he serves as the final appellate ‘court’, as only matters which have not been dealt with satisfactorily by the town unions, ICA and other constitutive groups are referred to him. Finally, although the Eze is non-political, he plays a crucial political role, like other traditional rulers. In representational terms, as already pointed out, he is consulted as the spokesman of the Igbo in Kano. It is as such that politicians visit the Eze to court Igbo support, though such motives are not made public. The two presidential candidates in the June 12 election — Chief M.K.O. Abiola (Social Democratic Party) and Alhaji Bashir Tofa (National Republic Convention) — visited the Eze in the course of their campaigns, and both promised to improve the lot of the Igbo in Kano and in the federation. Gubernatorial candidates, assembly and local government candidates also seek the support of the Eze’ in recognition of the formidable electoral strength of the Igbo community in Kano. The Eze has usually used the opportunities of these visits and others by government functionaries, including governors of Igbo states, to articulate the needs and demands of the Igbo in Kano. The Eze, however, is not expected to be openly partisan, he should support the Igbo cause as it is advanced in political associations, including parties, without becoming affiliated with any of them. In fact, an openly partisan Eze is likely to lose his position, or at least, the respect of the people. For this reason, every Eze has so far consciously pursued a non-partisan policy.

20In the final analysis, and notwithstanding the constitutional limitations and conscious efforts by the ICA to ensure that the Eze reigns and does not rule, the roles and functions of the Eze are largely determined by how educated, influential and wealthy the incumbent is. The first two Eze were wealthy businessmen who were barely literate, which probably explains why the educated elite and tiny middle class did not pay much attention to the institution. But, at least, these Eze launched the cultural revival. By contrast, Eze O.T. Nnadi, a successful lawyer who was once considered for the exalted legal honour of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has attracted greater attention to the position and, as one prominent chief puts it, the position is likely to be more keenly contested for after Eze Nnadi. Eze Nnadi has used his widespread support and respect to initiate bold development schemes which should otherwise have been undertaken by the ICA. The Development and Welfare Committee which the Eze has set up, for example, has a wide-ranging mandate which can, in future, place the initiative for development squarely with the Eze Igbo. It is remarkable that the ICA executive supported the Eze’s initiative, which reinforces the point made about the inter-consultative approach adopted by both the Eze and the ICA. Eze Nnadi also plans to establish primary and secondary schools to meet the needs of Igbo children who are discriminated against in government schools, and to set up a scholarship scheme. These plans are not likely to be resisted by the ICA because the Eze is regarded as an enlightened man committed to enhancing the progress of the Igbo in Kano.


21The Cabinet, in theory, is the Eze’s Cabinet, but it advises both the Eze and the ICA. In practice, therefore, the Cabinet is not the Eze’s, though the chiefs who compose it are regarded as his chiefs and many are appointed by him. In fact, like the Eze himself, the Cabinet is a creation of the ICA and is expected to be ‘answerable and loyal to the Association’. The duties of the Cabinet are stated to include advising the Eze on cultural and traditional matters, and acting for him through the first chairman of the Cabinet in his absence. It is easy to see that the ICA is again taking extra care to prevent the Eze from becoming too powerful. Thus, although the Cabinet is regarded as the Eze’s Cabinet, the ICA determines its membership and appoints members to it, usually in consultation with the Eze. Even those chiefs honoured by the Eze, and becoming members of the Cabinet have to be approved of by the ICA.

22Membership of the Cabinet is regarded as a mark of distinction amongst the Igbo in Kano. Ordinarily, any Igbo man in Kano can be appointed to the Cabinet, as long as he is ‘fit and proper’, and is a financially up-to-date member of one of the town union members of the ICA — he loses his seat ‘if and when his town union for any reason ceases to be a registered member of the association’. The Cabinet can also be likened to a parliament or legislative assembly which is composed on the basis of representing the kaleidoscope of interests. In addition to membership being a mark of honour and distinction, it is also made to be representative of the unions and groups which make up the ICA. Thus, the Delta-Igbo member of Cabinet is believed to be a representative of the western Igbo in Delta State. In terms of composing the important positions in the Cabinet and choosing the Eze, the four Igbo states are taken as the representative units. According to the constitution:

In the interest of fair representation of the four Igbo speaking states that make up the Association in Kano, there shall be four chairmen of the Cabinet to be appointed by the Eze, one each from Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Imo states, provided that the first chairman and the second chairman shall be appointed from the states other than those from where the Eze and President of the ICA have emerged.

23In terms of tenure, apart from four members representing the ICA who have fixed terms of four years, membership of the Cabinet is semi-permanent, as members appointed by the Eze (and ICA) continue to be members even after the particular Eze is no longer in office. The constitution states that ‘No Cabinet member shall be removed, unless on a serious case of disloyalty either to the association, the Cabinet or the Eze or on a serious case of misconduct.’

24The Cabinet is given a free hand to make its own rules, subject to the provisions of the constitution. The Cabinet has, in the spirit of this provision, produced its own constitution which spells out the main functions of the Cabinet, its principal officers and their duties, the nature of its organization through committees, and the conduct and benefits of membership. The principal officers, include the Onowullsi Ichie (first Chairman/Traditional Prime Minister); Osatalu Onowu (Deputy Prime Minister); Secretary; Assistant Secretary; Financial Secretary/Treasurer and the Chief of Protocol. Others are the Chief Provost and Information/Publicity Officer. The Onowu deputizes for the Eze and convenes and presides over all Cabinet meetings. The constitution of the Cabinet also establishes five committees through which the Cabinet performs its functions, namely: ways and means committee; welfare committee; discipline and peace committee; honours and merit committee, and ad hoc committee. The functions of some of these committees may be highlighted. The welfare committee considers, amongst others, ‘the cases of people who often pester the Eze Igbo Kano for help and assistance of diverse nature’, the discipline and peace committee settles disputes and misunderstandings referred to the Cabinet; and the honours and merit committee determines ‘who shall be recognized specifically for certain positions of pre-eminence or conferred with certain honours, titles, etc., among the Igbo in Kano’.

25The other major functions of the Cabinet are advisory. For example, the constitution states that "The Eze shall be assisted in decision-making by the Ndi Ichie’, and goes on to specify some of the areas of this advice:

  1. Ndi Ichie shall consider and determine what invitations ... the Eze shall honour, in order to ensure that his position is not belittled/trivialized and that only invitations from bona fide members of ICA and well-meaning groups are honoured.
  2. The Eze should not honour impromptu and frivolous invitations to events like child naming ceremonies unless properly channelled through and considered by his committee of advisers.
  3. The Eze shall be assisted in decision-making by Ndi Ichie.

26Under Eze Nnadi, the functions of the Cabinet have been expanded pragmatically in line with his development initiatives.

27As noted earlier, the Cabinet also plays a crucial role in the election of the Eze Igbo, when the position becomes vacant. It does this together with the ICA executive and the patrons of the Igbo community.


1 Nevertheless, most old settlers insist on being taken home for burial.

2 Ekeh defines emergent social structures as those which evolved from the colonial situation, having neither been imported from the mother country nor developed from within the indigenous community.

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1994

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