Town unions are associations that are formed by people from the same local government, town or community. There are numerous reasons why different town unions are established. However, they are geared towards the growth and development of a particular community, town or local government.
Town unions are peculiar to the Southeastern part of Nigeria, otherwise known as the Igbos. States from these regions are Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states. Town unions in Igbo land existed before Nigeria got its independence. This stems from the togetherness of the Igbo people in achieving a common goal. There is a popular saying ”when people urinate together, it foams".
Originally, town unions used to be organizations that look out for mostly its members. These days, town unions have grown to be something bigger and better. Many town unions have improved their organization status and undertake numerous infrastructural and development projects.
Therefore, it is safe to say that they act as a local administration organ in Igbo land.
Reason Why Town Union is Important in Igbo Land
Many rural communities in Igbo land have their fair share of poverty, lack of basic amenities, poor education and malnutrition. When you compare the rate of development of these rural communities with their urban counterparts, the gap is so wide.
Many people are always migrating from rural areas to urban areas in search of better opportunities. The establishment of Town unions in these rural communities will not only bring development to these communities but also reduce the rate of rural-urban migration.
National development policies and implementations are dependent on community development. The government cannot do everything on its own. To achieve overall growth in Igbo land, there is a need to improve the cultural, social, political and economic state of the communities.
A better way to do this is by finding out the basic problems that battle community development and solving them. By doing so, the well-being of people in these communities will be improved.
Town Unions Contributions To Community Development in Igbo Land
It has been established that the roles of town unions in community development in Igbo land cannot be overemphasized. This section highlights the various ways town unions contribute to community development in Igbo land.
Town Unions as an agent of Educational development in Igbo Land
Having a sound system of education is vital for any community development. An important civilizing factor for social transformation is western education and many town unions in Igbo land have contributed immensely to this.
There are various instances where town unions renovate primary and secondary schools to improve the learning conditions of schools in the community. Some may even go to the extent of establishing private schools that cater for the education needs of their people. They subsidize the fees to be paid and the quality of education is top-notch.
Some town unions that don't have the budget to build schools may provide school buses that convey pupils and students to their various schools. They also provide writing materials and other educational materials that make learning easier.
Scholarships are also awarded to brilliant students to encourage other students to do well educationally. These scholarships may cater for the student's educational needs from JS1 to SS3. There are also instances where higher institutions' tuition fees are paid for some students who gained admission but have no sponsor.
Town Unions as agent of Peace Making and Peace Building in Igbo Land Communities
In any community where there is conflict, controversies or war, the rate of development is usually poor. Good things hardly thrive there. Town unions understand this very well and have played major roles to maintain peace in the various communities in Igbo land.
Maintaining peaceful relationships between members of the community both at home and abroad have always helped foster the growth of that community. There are various ways they help maintain a healthy relationship between rural and urban dwellers.
Formation of age group association, cultural, social and political associations are highly encouraged. The various groups will have excos that are accountable to the town union.
In conflict management and resolution, the Igbo like to resolve all issues on their own. They don't want to invite an outsider that may likely take advantage of them.
Therefore, they frown at instances where a member of a community involves the police in matters they can easily settle. Issues like land disputes, family problems and even border disputes can be settled by communities via the various town unions.
This way peace is easily maintained by the community as they can comfortably voice out their disputes and have them resolved by their people.
Town Unions as Agents that Promote Cultural Heritage of Igbo Communities
In Igbo land, the culture may be somewhat similar with slight differences. However, some traditions are peculiar to some communities. Whenever these traditional cultures are mentioned, we know the community/communities that are mostly known for these traditions.
Again, there are many festivals that all Igbo communities share but the time at which they are celebrated varies. The town union see the smooth flow of these social and cultural programmes.
The new yam festivals that are widely celebrated in all Igbo land have gained recognition at the international level. Many Igbo people in diaspora participate in the new yam festivals in the various foreign countries they are in.
Many Igbo people also travel from far places to their various communities to participate in these festivals. Most times important meetings are held, and funds are raised to facilitate the development of the community.
Each community will like to make any event they have very special so that they can attract foreigners to help witness their tradition. The town union will see to it that law and order are maintained. The masquerade association for example used to be something most people fear when they hear of them. This can be attributed to the chaos and violence they cause sometimes.
In most communities, these activities have been made to be entertaining and violence frowned at. The town union make sure their activities are supervised to make things easy.
A calendar of events is usually prepared yearly to suit the community. Days are set aside for community members to come together and discuss the plans for the future. This is usually a crucial time for each community in Igbo land. Gatherings are held in town halls with the town unions taking charge of these meetings.
Rural areas in Nigeria are far greater than urban areas. This is also obtainable in Igbo land. To help facilitate the development of Igbo land, the rural areas need to be developed. Town unions have come to stay as their roles as an agent of community development is welcomed.