Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Eastern Region Nigeria and the truth, pt.6: Scholarship Selection Board members

Written by Chibuzo Ihuoma

There have been claims that "the Igbos" were only awarding their people scholarships during the days of the former Eastern Region Nigeria. Many of these claims are made till date by Igbos who try to take any opportunity which presents a means to dissociate themselves from the larger Igbo family, non-Igbos who try to take any opportunity to use as an excuse for their hatred and jealousy, and by others who were simply weren't told the truth and didn't have access to resources for proper verification. Henry Willink's 1958 Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the fears of Minorities and the means of allaying them established that the Eastern Regional Government, and by extension the Igbo, didn't discriminate against minorities in the awarding of scholarships. Here are exact excerpts from pages 40 and 41 of the report:

 "12. The award of scholarships, as in the West, is a matter which arouses the keenest interest, and we considered the working of the Regional Scholarship Board in some detail. Here, as in the West, secondary scholarships are given in the first place on a Divisional basis, that is to say, so many are awarded to each Division. This leaves a surplus which is awarded on the basis of compensating the more backward Divisions. The same applies in the case of post-secondary scholarships, 70 per cent of which are allocated on the basis of Divisions and 30 per cent only purely on merit. Where a Division is unable to find a candidate of suitable quality for a post-secondary award, three secondary awards in addition to the usual quota are given to that Division. If this procedure is open to criticism, it is certainly not on the ground of discrimination against minority areas."
 "13. We noted that in the five years, 1952 to 1957, from a total of 412 secondary scholarships, 216 were awarded to persons living in the COR area, while the figures for post-secondary scholarships were 211 out of 623. The latter is about the right proportion of one-third, the former considerably in excess. It was suggested that the scholarships awarded to non-Ibos were of an inferior kind and that the best scholarships went to Ibos, but we were unable to see that this claim held any validity. On the evidence before us, we conclude that the allegations of discrimination in the matter of scholarships are unjustified."

Although the report proved that it was untrue that the Eastern Regional Government, and by extension the Igbo, discriminated in the issuance of scholarships, I think it very important to make known the individuals the Eastern Region Scholarship Selection Board consisted of and their ethnic backgrounds so as to show how ridiculous such claim actual was:

The Eastern Region Scholarship Selection Board
1. J. A. Wachuku [Igbo]
2. I. A. Kanu [Igbo]
3. I. U. Akpabio [Annang]
4. F. A. Archibong [Efik]
5. D. I. Nwosu [Igbo]
6. Francis Ibiam [Igbo]
7. J. C. Kangsen [Cameroon]
8. E. Wolseley [Ijaw]
9. George C. Nkemena [Igbo]
10. P. M. Kale [Cameroon]

From the list of the 10 board members we can see that the seats were split equally between Igbo and non-Igbo. This alone rubbish the thought that the Igbo had any ability to distribute scholarships in their favor. But if I am to be more open-minded I would argue these claims may have been as a result of mutual suspicion between groups and a lack of transparency on the part of the government. Whatever the case, it is closed now.

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