What exactly do the Igbos want?

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What exactly do th
e Igbos want?


(http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2009/nov/221.html, Sunday, November 22, 2009)


Two recent articles on Nigeriaworld.com prompted this rejoinder. The first was “DECIPHERING WHAT OJUKWU SAID,” by Temple Chima Ubochi. I can only wonder what made Mr. Ubochi, who occasionally has his burst of brilliance, write that piece of rubbishy propaganda.

Listen to him: “What Ojukwu meant was that he would be at the forefront of the “legal war” to see that illegality does not stand, through legal means, should the appeal court judges rule in Andy Uba’s favour and not that he would pick up arms or organise people for another battle. He’s now too frail for that, he cannot handle a weapon now; he has no standing army he can deploy easily to any war front. It’s unfortunate that so many people have attacked him viciously for what they did not comprehend, they have taken Ojukwu’s statement out of context.”

Chief Ojukwu is an Oxford-educated person whom we should expect to have sufficient command of the English language and enough intelligence not to need any special deciphering for his utterances.

The second article that peeved me was ‘NDIIGBO – WHAT’S IN A DATE?’ by Mr. Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe. I have read some very tribalistic and jejune pieces on this forum, but this clearly stole all the thunders.

And here is the dilemma: As a pan-Africanist, I hardly waste my time trying to reason with clearly jaundiced opinions that are evidently set out to promote narrow, tribalistic objectives. On the other hand, leaving writers like Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe unanswered will only embolden them in making further provocative and outrageous claims.

Listen to Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe: “They [sic] had the most robust economy in the country in their east regional homeland, supplied the country with its leading writers, artists and scholars, supplied the country’s top universities with its vice-chancellors and leading professors and scientists, supplied the country with its first indigenous university (the prestigious university at Nsukka), supplied the country with its leading and most spirited pan-Africanists, supplied the country with its top diplomats, supplied the country’s leading high schools with its head teachers and administrators, supplied the country with its top bureaucrats, supplied the country with its leading businesspeople, supplied the country with an educated, top-rated professional officers-corps for its military and police forces, supplied the country with its leading sportspersons, essentially and effectively worked the country’s rail, postal, telegraphic, power, shipping and aviation services to quality standards not seen since in Nigeria …”

Really! So the Igbos were doing all these whilst the rest of the Nigerian national groups were sleeping in blissful ignorance! And I, from Ekiti, where there’s hardly a house without a Ph.D holder, is expected to take this sheer nonsense serious?

According to Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe thesis, the rest of the nationalities in Nigeria were wallowing in deep ignorance before the ever-inventive, civilized Igbos shine the light of education and civilization on them! Was that even to be true, the writer clearly does his case grievous harm by the sheer lack of modesty.

But it is clearly a false assertion.

Historical as well as archeological and anthropological evidences attested that The Yorubas, the Binis, the Kanuris, the Hausas, the Ibibios, the Noks, the Fulanis and a lot of the other nationalities all have very High Culture that predates the Europeans’ dastardly intrusion into Africa.  Some of the evidences of this High Culture are still to be found scattered in museums all over the world.

And the truth remain that the Yorubas remain the most urbanized Africans – they mayhaps have borrowed it from the Igbos! I hope that no one will tell me that uncivilized people possess sufficient acumen to build some of the largest cities on the continent of Africa.

Yoruba, Bini and Nok cultures stretched back into antiquity and they still continue to wow people the world over. The traditional political, religious and economic systems evolved by the Yorubas are at par with the best in the world. Their Ifa religion continues to mystify those initiated into its mystery systems. And the democratic credentials of the Yorubas are second to none. The Yoruba language remains among the most sophisticated in the world and its culture is very highly regarded. The Yoruba counting system continue to baffle serious scientists.

I write all these only to point out the falsity of Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe claims.

The writer further alleged that: “These attacks were later expanded to Igboland itself, boosted particularly by the robust participation in the slaughter by the Yoruba, Urhobo, and Edo nations of west Nigeria as well as others elsewhere in the country.”

Maybe I need an education, but I do not recollect a period outside of the sad civil war that the Yorubas launched attack on the Igbos. I will very deeply appreciate it if anyone could provide me with documented (not conjured-up fantasies) information to the contrary.

I say the writer owe us the evidence to support this sweeping, fatuous and obviously false declaration.

And this question ought to be asked by every serious and fair-minded person: Nigeria comprises of some 400 or so national group, why is it that it is only the Igbo that were earmarked for extermination? My mind failed to accept that the 399 or so other nationalities sat somewhere to plan a special pogrom against the Igbos. I once asked another Igbo tribal champion, Temple Ubochi, what makes it impossible for the Igbos to build bridges with their neighbors? Of course, he didn’t answer. Maybe Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe could provide us with an answer.

While Igbo revisionists always hammered on the support Britain gave to the Federal Forces; they always fail to mention that France and Portugal also aided the Biafrans. Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe call on Britain to apologise should have been matched by a similar call for an apology from France and Portugal.

We really need to ask what exactly is wrong with writers like Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe that they cannot make their case for their Biafra without deriding other people? So we have to believe that:

  1. Igbos are the most sophisticated, the most educated, the best scientists, the best soldiers, the best administrators, the best governors in all of Africa.
  2. That the other national groups in Nigeria were inferior species of humanity who should forever be grateful to be parceled together with the superior Igbos
  • That the Northerners just woke up one dusty morning and try to eliminate only the Igbos among all the minorities living among them
  1. That the first coup that wiped out the core of Northern and Western political and military elite did not happened
  2. That 3.1 million Igbos were killed according to Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe. How many Hausas, Yorubas, Binis, and other national group perished?
  3. That advanced Igbo industrial plants were destroyed and it was this destruction that has reduced them into their present state?

I have little trouble with anyone’s attempt to build up a patently false image of his nation, what I object to in writers like Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe and other Igbo revisionists is their attempt to condemn other people in other to glorify their sacred Igbo nation.

In his attempt to build a false importance for his people, the writer quoted a commentator, Sabella Ogbobode Abidde, who opined that: “The Igbo nation ha[s] attributes most other Nigerian nationalities can only dream of and are what most other nations [are] not. The Igbo made Nigeria better. Any wonder then that the Igbo can do without Nigeria; but Nigeria and her myriad nationalities cannot do without the Igbo? Take the Igbo out of the Nigeria equation … and Nigeria will be gasping for air.”

So, Igbos were the oxygen that Nigeria needs to draw its very breath, God have mercy!

In what sense exactly does “The Igbo made Nigeria better?” And what exactly is such senseless statement like: “but Nigeria and her myriad nationalities cannot do without the Igbo” supposed to mean?

So we have to believe that Igbos can do without Nigeria but Nigeria cannot do without Igbo. This is an asinine commentary from a very warped mind. For crying out loud, Igboland is landlocked! Unless our brilliant Igbo cartographers and mythorians (myth-makers masquerading as historians) decide to shift the Atlantic Ocean northward. What this means is that those mindless ‘Biafrans’ disturbing our peace will require permission to trade with any nation outside their landlocked country. Igboland is surrounded by people not particularly well-disposed to the Igbos. And given the vituperations and insults Igbo revisionists spew out daily, one cannot blame them.

My Yoruba people have a saying to the effect that it will reflect well on you if you come from a comfortable home. (Ti ile ba san ni, awo lao ti ri). Another wise saying of the Yorubas is: Eni ti o ba ma da aso fun ni, ti orun e la koko nwo.” If someone promises to buy you a dress, you should first look at what he’s wearing.”

The question beggared by the patently silly braggadocio of Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe is that if the Igbos truly possess all those awe-inspiring attributes, why is it not manifested in any part of Igboland? I do not deny that Igbos (like any other African national group) has quality humanpower, but the question is why are these stupendous brains not utilized it in the service of their community? What exactly is the point if the Igbos possess all those Nobel-caliber intelligence yet they cannot mobilize to stem the erosion ravaging their landlocked land?

The war ended almost four decades ago and the Igbos have, more or less, been in charge of their affairs. Igbo governors, (like their counterparts from the other states), have being collecting allocation from the federal kitty. Shouldn’t Igbo intellectuals like Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe be tasking their own governors to provide services to their own people instead of wasting time and efforts lobbing unwarranted assault on the rest of us?

My Ekiti people say: “Won ni ki a parapo kaje iyan oko, enikan nso wipe oun lagba.” This roughly translates as: They say we should gather and eat pounded yam in the farm, someone is claiming to be the elder.

Another saying of the Yorubas is: ‘Orun nja bo, ki ise oro eni kan.’ That the sky is falling is not the worry of only one man. The various nationalities that made up Nigeria obviously predated the amalgamation of 1914 and there is clearly no reason to suggest that they cannot exist on their own should Nigeria break up. There is no historical evidence to suggest that any of the nationalities were, in any way, inferior to the Igbos. The Western Region was able to adequately cater for the Yorubas including giving them free education and health. That is addition to the myriads of industrial estates that sprung across the region. And we shouldn’t forget the numbers of FIRST IN AFRICA registered by that region – TV, stadium and skyscraper among them!

In conclusion, I urge Mr. Ekwe-Ekwe and other Igbo revisionists to read a very intelligent piece by one of their compatriots, Ossie Ezeaku, ‘THE FRAGILE STATE OF NDIGBO AND UNGUARDED STATEMENTS,’ which was published in this same cyberspace. The author wrote, inter alia, “…That said, the pursuit of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, for example, cannot be realized in isolation or by constant calls for war – be that call real , proverbial or whatever – but with the trust and goodwill of fellow Nigerians. In the same vein, the position of a president and commander in Chief of the armed forces of the federal republic of Nigeria can’t be realized by a group if they are continually viewed as a security threat. Thus, the Igbo should be mindful of their current attainment. They should guard it and equally know when it’s under threat.”

Finally, my Yoruba people say: “Abo oro la nso fun omoluwabi.” A hint is sufficient for a gentleman.


About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and ModernGhana, and Correspondent for the New African magazine, Femi lives in both Europe and Africa, and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

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