You Don’t Fall And Remain Glued To The Ground For 50 Years


In the last 10 years or so that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu brought the plight of the Igbo in Nigeria to international limelight and thus intensified the Igbo struggle for self actualization, I had taken great interest in studying why even in the face of their acknowledged resilience and hard work, the Igbo seem helplessly trapped in the contraption of a union which their youths find most difficult to accept as their ideal vision of a country.

The truth we must accept is that when two cultures clash, the weaker culture gives way to the stronger culture which invariably assimilates it. Before the civil war, the Igbo were highly revered because the other tribes saw them as very enterprising, very successful and very unassuming. The other Nigerian tribes had a level of respect for the Igbo that almost bordered on fear. Some Nigerians who were not of Igbo extract loved them and wanted to be like them. But our Igbo cultural heritage fell apart when our people were forced to surrender to Nigeria on 15 January 1970 in order to forestall the massive suffering of Igbo women and children, many of who were dying daily from starvation and kwashiorkor.

The then Finance Minister, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo added his own punishment on the Igbo by decreeing that every Igbo who participated in the civil war on the side of Biafra would be entitled to only £20 of his money, no matter how many millions he had in his bank account. That was deliberate wickedness and one that set the ball rolling for Igbo downfall. All Nigeria knew that the Igbo were hard working and that no matter what the conditions were, they would always find a way to survive and excel. And perhaps, Awolowo knew the collective damage his decree would do to the psyche of the Igbo race. It is difficult to think he didn’t plan the downfall of the Igbo race in an attempt to please his masters who made him the finance minister. But even at that, the Igbo survived and resurfaced. So, what is it that has kept them down, still agitating to be set free, still struggling for self actualization more than 50 years after the civil war?

When Igbo was Igbo, they had laws that defined their culture which every Igbo man, every Igbo boy, every Igbo woman and every Igbo girls obeyed to the letter. I think that the children of nowadays were not taught those lessons by their parents or they were deceived by their peers not to take those laws seriously any more. Whatever it was, there is a need to revisit some of these laws for the sake of those who did not know about their existence and those who do not understand how little drops of water can make a mighty ocean. And I think that what everyone who loves the Igbo should do is to circulate this message to get to as many people as possible.

In my days, a lot of premium was placed on trust. The Igbo should recognize that for them to make sense of their struggle, they had to trust each other absolutely – and I mean absolutely. That would pave the way for them to be trusted as a people. Just before the former Vice President of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme joined his ancestors at 10 pm on Sunday 19 November 2017, he very eloquently echoed this problem with the new generation Igbo. Dr. Ekwueme noted that one of the most important attributes of Igbo people which anchored on their trust for each other had gone with the winds since the end of the Nigerian civil war of more than 50 years ago. He warned that once the Igbo lacked trust among themselves, it would be difficult to make progress. Dr. Ekwueme recalled that Igbo people prided themselves on their level of unity before independence and immediately after independence. He extolled the Igbo man as the most important of God’s creation “after the white man” and explained that God had a very soft spot in His heart for Igbo people and endowed them with great intellect.

Dr. Ekwueme said that when Igbo was Igbo, there was so much unity, such that once Igbo leaders met and took a decision, every Igbo person would abide by it. The trust among the Igbo was the reason apprenticeship became popular with them. The result was that parents would allow their children to stay with an established Igbo man to learn a trade for periods ranging from two to five years after which the apprentice would then be “settled” to start his own business. But even after the settlement, the newly settled young trader would continue to get goods on credit from his former master and return the money after sales because of the trust that existed.

Today, lack of trust has diminished that age-long cooperation between the master and his former apprentice, which is worrisome. Towards the end of the apprenticeship period, it is either the apprentice absconds with huge sums of money belonging to his master, or his master trumps up lies against the apprentice that he stole his money. He would then send the young man home with empty hands in order to avoid settling him. “The main problem of the Igbo today is lack of trust. If we can rebuild trust among ourselves, our people will be better for it,” Dr. Ekwueme said. He wondered at what point the Igbo went wrong.

It is easy to trace at what point the Igbo went wrong when we articulate what defines Igbo people in the first place. One of the fundamental laws that distinguished the Igbo and their tradition and culture was respect for an older person. It had nothing to do with money. It was a general law that affected every Igbo because everyone is normally older that someone. So, even if that person was older with one week or one month or one year, he or she had to be accorded due respect by anyone younger than him or her. It was a culture our people valued so much because it tallied with the republican nature of the Igbo people’s social life.

That culture was jettisoned immediately after the civil war after Chief Awolowo decided to impoverish the Igbo. The psychological result of Awolowo’s decree was that today, Igbo people tend to respect anyone who has money more than anyone who is older but poorer than them. So, unless that culture of respect for older people is revived and invigorated that every Igbo man or woman, boy or girl must show due respect to his or her older Igbo, believe me the Igbo will find themselves still glued to the ground fifty something years after their fall, especially as the North and the West generally show a lot of respect to those who are older than them.

Another area the Igbo have to look into is the role Igbo women play in all of this. Today, Igbo women seem to be the ones at the forefront of the quest for money, no matter how such money was made. In the process, they trade their pride for money. But let us not make any mistake about it. The success or progress of any people to a huge extent depends on how proud and reserved their female citizens can be. Before the Nigerian civil war, it was very difficult for people from other Nigerian tribes to have Igbo girlfriends, not to talk of marrying them. It was a status symbol for a non-Igbo to marry an Igbo girl, just as a black man marrying a white woman in those days was a status symbol. You had to be a top doctor, engineer, architect, military officer or a top lawyer to be even able to talk to an Igbo girl. But today, Igbo women have lost that pride that once defined the Igbo nation because of their inordinate ambition and quest for money they no longer care how it was made. And not until they come out of the woods and reverse this trend will the Igbo struggle have meaning.

The third an equally important area the Igbo have to look into is the stupid habit they learnt from other Nigerian tribes of spraying money during events. That is not Igbo culture by any stretch of the imagination and it portrays the Igbo in very bad light in the eyes of the international community. The international community knows that no one who suffered and genuinely made money can afford to dispense with it the way our people do these days. The very unsettling idea negates everything the Igbo man stands to be counted for – hard work, resilience, frugality and accountability. In civilized societies, if anyone wanted to make a gift of money to another, the one would simply draw up a cheque in the name of the recipient, or put the money in an envelope addressed to the recipient and hand it over privately. That is what civilized people do. They don’t spray bundles of money in a nonchalant display of affluence that only gets minions applauding them hysterically.

Perhaps, those Igbo who indulge in this suspicious practice do so because of their egocentrism, because they want to be seen in public as the wealthy ones. It just doesn’t make sense to any civilized person and the Igbo are known to be civilized. We need to stop this attitude of spraying money and adopt the more civilized attitude of writing cheques or enveloping the money we offer as gifts to our beloved friends and family. When we start with these three laws, we will notice changes in the struggle.

The Igbo should stop mourning and take their destiny in their own hands. And the leaderships of Ohanaeze and IPOB should take note of what to do. You don’t fall and remain glued to the ground for more than 50 years. Ndigbo need to put their acts together.