When did Igbos start having town unions?
Igbos had no town unions before the advent of the British. Town unions were formed to protect the interest of Igbos outside Igbo land.
This metamorphosed into the overarching and all-encompassing Igbo State Union, that effectively stemmed Igbo MMM* until the disastrous Ironsi military interregnum.

The naive Igbo General abolished tribal unions, but the informal feudal unions existing in the Northern and Western parts of Nigeria were left unfettered. Those unions,  especially the Northern ones with a Religious coloring, oversaw the killing of Ironsi and enthroned the present system of FULANOCRACY in Nigeria.

The Igbo town unions fostered competition amongst Igbo towns and were not formed to oppose colonialism. Colonialism helped Igbo expansion outside Igbo land by providing “law and order” over the amalgamated country, Nigeria.

Subsequently, the success of Igbo merchants and Igbo professionals provided a pretext for other tribes to develop intense hatred for Igbos leading to continuing Igbo MMM.

The town unions of today are controlled by Igbo Governors, who are controlled by Fulanis in Abuja. The Igbo town unions of yore were semi-independent of the political structure, within and outside Igbo land. They could be classified as benevolent associations.

The British established a feudal system in Nigeria, similar to the feudal system in Britain. Igbo town unions made possible the emergence of Igbo political leaders, since Igbos are republican in nature, without formal feudal systems.
Igbo town unions have helped develop Igbo land by fostering developmental competition between Igbo towns.
Igbo resistance to British feudalism preceded the formation of Igbo town unions. 
However, post-colonial recognition of traditional rulers especially Obas and Emirs in the West and North respectively, opened Igbos to political exploitation by fellow Igbos and non-Igbos since there were no recognized Igbo traditional authorities.
Igbos had to join the trend or risk being excluded from the patronage system.

The Igbo Igweship and Ezeship phenomena took off in the 70s under the Ukpabi Asika Administration, 1967 – 1975. Igbo town unions played major roles in the selection and enthronement of Igbo kings. This has politicalized and religionized the selection process.

Prior to the 70s, Igbos had British installed warrant Chiefs. Prior to the warrant Chiefs, traditional authority rested in the Nze na Ozo Society, Lineage arrangements – Umunna, Ekpe Societies, and other societies. The traditional priests also served as “kings” in some Igbo jurisdictions, an example being Nri.

The statutory recognition of traditional rulers in Nigeria, initiated a stampede for kingship in Igbo land. Before the 70s, no respected Igbo person wanted to be an Igbo king, since warrant chiefs lost respect with the departure of the British.

Political recognition of traditional rulers by post-independence Nigerian Governments, especially after the Biafra-Nigerian War, meant more political power and political authority for Igbo kings.
In some jurisdictions, warrant chiefs became hereditary kings. Towns with such arrangements enjoy a more stable kingship system than towns with “elected” kings.

However, the presence of kings and town unions in the same jurisdiction, have created more political instability in Igbo land. Add “Christianity” and the mixture becomes toxic.
Some Igbo towns have three internal authorities – king, town, and church. Peace always eludes such Igbo towns.

The result of the present political structure in Igbo land is mayhem, which is being exploited by Igbo Governors and the Abuja Fulani Government.

Nowadays, any Igbo criminal can claim to represent Igbo interests at the National level. Armed with the security paraphernalia of Abuja, in the absence of State Police Forces, these criminals become de facto kings in Igbo land. It is not uncommon to have two or more kings in the same town under the new-fangled, autonomous community models.

Igbos went from having no kings to having a million kings. When everyone is a king, no one is a king! A king that can be removed by a Governor is similar to the British Prime Minister removing Queen Elizabeth II!
In Igbo land, Governors remove Igbo kings and Abuja removes Igbo Governors.

The final step would be for Britain to un-amalgamate Nigeria.

*MMM – Maltreatment, Marginalization, and Murder.

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