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From Chuks Onuoha, Umuahia
Members of town unions in the South East recently gathered at the multi-purpose hall of Umuahia North Local Government headquarters to witness the inauguration of the newly elected officers of the Association of South East Town Unions (ASATU), Abia State chapter.
National President of the association, Chief Emeka Diwe, who performed the inauguration, said the chapter was the last to be conducted in the zone and charged the new officers to strive to become the best.
Diwe also thanked those who assisted in one way or the other to ensure that the inauguration ceremony in the state was smooth.
“Anambra State has the best of the town unions that is registered with CAC, followed by Imo, with strong leadership and structure and Enugu State, plus Ebonyi. I am happy to announce that today, Abia State has a structured town union and at their own time they will pursue all the necessary registrations.
“The Igbo are known for embracing town unionism, they are known for their republican instincts, which go to show that they don’t leave their brothers behind. Nobody lords it over the others in Igbo land and that is why some people say that Igbo don’t have a king. Actually, the Igbo brought democracy to Nigeria before the white men came. The town unions existed before the coming of the white man and it was exhibited through the practice of age grade system that does most of the jobs in the communities,” he said.
Diwe also said that Umuada in Igbo land is structured into the town union, stating that they were the ones that carried out the Aba riot of 1929.
“At this stage, we want it to be organized in such a way that it will be strong and well coordinated. Nobody here can lay claim that he knew when the town union started, including the bishops here, we were all born to see it.
“One thing that is significant in town unionism is that one person does not appoint people to its positions, and you don’t impose yourself or buy it with money, the leadership is done by election.
“Town union looks at integrity before electing it leaders and not by the amount of wealth you have acquired. Town union is the only thing that can bring credibility, honesty and development in Igbo land. There was development brought by town union in Igbo land, for instance, all the hospitals, schools, and churches, were brought by town unions. Immediately after the civil war, it was through the instrumentality of the town unions that Igbo land was restructured to the amazement of many because they had good leadership,” he said.
Giving insight into the making of the group, Chief Monday Ikeokwu, who was the master of ceremony on the occasion, said that ASATU is the registered umbrella body of all the town unions of all the autonomous communities in the five states of the South-East.
Also speaking, the Chairman on the occasion, High Chief Eke Onukaogu, who is also the vice chairman of the association, but was co-opted to direct the affairs of the inauguration, expressed joy over the turnout to the event.
He charged the new officers to work with open mind to ensure that the association takes top position among those before them, adding that as their state is number one in the country, they deserve nothing less than number one in all that they do.
He assured them that they would not regret being part of the association, stating that the union has come to Abia to show good example.
In his acceptance speech on behalf of others, the President General of the association, Chief George U. Mgborukwe, thanked the national president and his executives for finding time to come into Abia to inaugurate the the state chapter of the union.
He promised that since they have been inaugurated, the union would take off like the other states in the South East region.
He promised that his regime would put God first before any other thing in all that they do as that would be their greatest weapon.
“We will serve with the fear of God, carry everybody along with equity and fairness. I promise all Abians that I will never betray their trusts as town union is not a political party or prifit-oriented organization. It is for a service for our father land to ensure that there is equity and fairness in our various towns and villages. We will serve God and humanity, support our governor and all leaders with prayers,” he promised.
He said that town union is the oldest organization in Igbo land which has the largest membership.
“When you are born in a town and you grow into adult, you automatically become a member of the town union.
Bishop Godfrey Agupusi of Umuahia West Diocese of the Methodist Church, who blessed them after the inauguration, said that he was aware that allocations are not given to town unions as was done in the state, but that those who work hard would surely reap the fruit of their labour.
He quoted the book of John 12 vs 16, which he said was what Jesus told his disciples that they did not choose him but that he chose them.
“When God chooses anybody He has a purpose and if you are going to spend one year or two without achieving the purpose for which God chose you, you are a failure,” he said, adding that if they fail to achieve the purpose of God they would have failed Him.
He pointed out that so many people are as qualified as they, “but that God has a reason for choosing them among others to lead the unions.”
He told them that if they work according to the will of God, they would bring development to the communities.