The North and the Igbo nation: A struggle in futility
The ultimatum issued by the youths in Northern Nigeria to the Igbo to exit their domain before October 1, 2017 is most condemnable, annoying, demeaning and stupid from whatever dimension one may want to consider it. No Nigerian has the right to intimidate any Nigerian within the soil of Nigeria. If Nigeria refers to her people based on the label of their geographic zone, it must be for administrative and identification conveniences rather than a mark of superiority of one citizen over another in such locations. For example, a person who is from the South West is so identified, not because he is superior to any other Nigeria from a different zone in South West but because of spatial identity.
Professor Ango Abdulahi who was purported to have lent support to the mischievous youths did not disappoint Nigerians because his antecedent did not portray him as someone who could do better. Those who matter in the North have spoken. This and the assurances of the Federal Government should rest this case while the Igbo community should continue to transact its businesses in its fatherland without fear or anxiety.
The aforementioned is not suggesting that all is well in the nation because all Nigerians should by their utterances, conduct and body language continue to promote peace and concord. The Igbo nation should for once reflect, do self appraisal and ask itself the reason for its alienation by its Nigerian siblings. There is no doubt that there are many fine men and women of Igbo stock but there are also, like in all human habitats, others whose conducts and mien create confusion and instability within the country. In this regard, one would counsel that the confusionists amongst the Igbo should listen to the voice of wisdom and reasons as it is continuously espoused by Joe Igbokwe in the media.
This write-up may sound unpalatable to the dogmatic amongst us but it will nevertheless attempt to put facts in the pigeon-hole of history where the not-so-informed and the sheepish may have the opportunity of picking it up for revision before embarking on a suicide mission. Certainly, some members of the Igbo nation has learnt nothing from history. It is more disheartening when the realisation dawn on a distant observer that the race in question is one of the most resilient, most dynamic and obviously most enterprising amongst the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. The undoing of the Igbo race is that most-times, it becomes swollen headed at the peak of its achievement and unwittingly squander its harvest of successes because of its undiplomatic approach to societal issues. Every plural society like Nigeria must necessarily be bedeviled by contentious issues emanating from desire of each group in the union to optimize the ever scarce resources to its advantage. Otherwise, , a nation that took a wrong plunge in 1967, with catastrophic cost in terms of human and material losses is expected to have learnt enough lessons and not to play an encore of a music whose sound was never harmonious to the ear.
Prelude to 1966, the Igbo occupied enviable position of the Governor -General and later President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and was also a major force in the army and civil service of Nigeria. The mis-adventure of Majors Ifeajuna and Kaduna Nzeogwu in 1966 laid the foundation for its sliding into the tight box it found itself in subsequent years and also gave the other Nigerians, particularly, the North the opportunity to demand for and secure the restructuring of these two sectors of Nigeria and up till today, the Igbo is yet to recover from the loss of those positions. Fortunately, the race directed its energy and resources to other endeavors in Nigeria and gradually took almost total control of the economy. There is hardly any area of the Nigerian economy today, where the Igbo is not leading. On the streets of major cities in Nigeria, the Igbo dominate and handle the steering in trade and commerce. In Lagos State, which is the commercial hub of the nation, the Lekki axis, Ajegunle, Alaba, Oshodi, Ikeja, Lagos Business District, Ojuelegba, Ikorodu and many other epi-Centre of activities in the state swim with millions of young Igbo traders making their livelihood.
In manufacturing, telecommunication, energy, banking and many other sectors of the economy, the Igbo nation is the Nigerian first eleven. Presently in Nigeria, the Minister for Petroleum and the Governor of the Central Bank, two key positions to the economy of Nigeria and many others are from the South East. One expects that the fruits of these successes would be sucked quietly through maintenance of peace and harmony but that is not the case. If the Igbo nation claims to be marginalised despite these advantages, what would the Igala, the Tivs, The Ogu in Lagos State, and many other tribes in Nigeria who are hardly prominent on the national scene say? After all, each of them is also an ethnic nationality despite their limitations in number.The naïve and innocent belief of the Igbo race is that its pulling out of Nigeria would render the country prostrate.
The reasoning here is faulty because, at the end of the day, the Igbo nation would find itself struggling for survival in the remaining part of this generation because of intra communal rivalry which is known to be common within its domain. Most of those following the foot path of Nnamdi Kanu are young, uninformed and largely unintelligent youths who do not know and have never lived in the South East. The rivalry between the various peoples and states s so palpable that if the Igbo nation finally finds itself in the same basket, the implosion will be disastrous.
Moreover, what would be the boundary of the new country called Biafra? It is foolhardy for the Igbo to think that the South South would join it in its aimless mission and it is also doubtful that it would secure the confidence of the Niger Delta. As close as Asaba, Illa, Agbor are close to Onitsha, the people are never proud to be referred to or called Igbo, even if they bear Igbo names.
That a political toddler like Nnamdi Kanu, whose sense of history is empty is being allowed to play a ‘ mosaic’ role speaks volume of the leadership question in Igbo land. The yardstick for measuring freedom and emancipation of a people is so complex to be left in the hands of a ‘neonate politician’ like Kanu. It cannot happen in Yoruba land or in the North because of the realization that the emancipation of a people cannot be based on a defective compass. Where was Kanu during the last civil war? It is unfortunate that the only visible credential that Kanu is parading is his emotion and sentiment and yet, a whole race is leaving her life and future to a driver who has no driver’s licence.
What is the likely attitude of other Nigerians to the secessionist bid of the Igbo? Sincerely, a good number outside the Igbo enclave are likely to see it as a good riddance to a bad rubbish because there are many unemployed youths in the various locations in the country who are on stand-by to take over the businesses that the Igbo nation would leave behind. Unlike in the 1970s, it will certainly be more difficult to reintegrate them, in the event of a return to Nigeria. Hence, it is doubtful if they would ever have the opportunity of dominating the economy again. Once more, they would lose their leadership position in similitude of their portion in the aftermath of the civil war.
Unfortunately, the character of the typical Igbo never engenders confidence in his host. This is where they are different from every other ethnic nationality in Nigeria and unless there is attitude modifications, the Igbo peoples and nation will continue to face challenges wherever they found themselves in Nigeria. The typical Igbo, comes into a community cap in hand but no sooner he is comfortable than, he began to struggle with his landlord for the ownership of the house. He wants to rough-ride over every other person in the community including his host to the extent that the community would have no option than to exhibit hostility to him, at least, to instill some sense of decency and communal rules.
No matter the reception accorded to him the typical Igbo will never employ the children of that community as his support staff. If you got to the clusters of Igbo settlement in Lagos, you would appreciate the extent to which the Igbo community is completely segregated from their host because everybody within the cluster, including food sellers, touts and cleaners are Igbo. The situation is different in the Hausa community in Sabo where there is the admixture of other ethnic nationalities,. For instance, the Hausa sells his goats and allow the Yoruba to do the bargain and also do the butchery. The food vendors in the typical Sabo are not necessarily of Northern stock. The implication of this “winner takes all” disposition of the Igbo is that the youths in the host communities are rendered unemployed and consequently become a nuisance to them and their businesses.
There is no doubt that the challenges to the Igbo nation in Nigeria are multi dimensional but the causes are self inflicted. Ordinarily, an observer of the character of the Igbo may want to premise the outlined behavior on the low education of the traders but nay, the same situation is replicated amongst the Igbo intelligentsia in bigger institutions but with slight modifications. The Igbo in high administrative position favors the recruitment of his own people to the detriment of the plural nature of the organisation. He voluntarily secluded himself by showing that he represents the Igbo interest meetings. As soon as they form a sizable number in the organisation, they begin to exude undue arrogance and pomposity. This automatically spurs reactions from people of other ethnic groups and there begins the hatred.
No ethnic group in Nigeria could claim superiority over others in all ramifications and any group that displays uncanny arrogance is bound to incur the wrath of the other groups. This is natural.
Other ethnic nationalities have their own faults but they are more accommodative, more considerate and more careful when it comes to the feeling of other ethnic groups. To trample and walk around with little feeling for others is bound to engender ill-feelings and negative disposition. The Igbo should forget Biafra and join in building Nigeria. It is too late in the day to secede. If it failed 50 years ago, it is likely to fail now with devastating consequences. For every Nnamdi Kanu, there are millions of Igbo whose preoccupation is to feed, clothe and educate their families and therefore, not interested in a senseless venture that would truncate their livelihood and discharge of responsibilities to their family.It is only a deaf fly that follows the corpse into the grave.
Ojikutu is of the Faculty of Business Administration, University of Lagos.