About a year ago, I wrote an article titled “Biafra is a Challenge, not a Solution”. In that article which was published in my regular columns in the 28 November 2015 edition of Modern Ghana and The Nigerian Voice newspapers, I partly touched on the reason why the Igbo seem controversially trapped in a social circle that many of their young ones strongly feel should not be the portion of their generation.
|Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)|
“If you ask me though,” I wrote in that article, “I think the position of the Igbo in the entire Nigerian experiment is very straight forward. Either they are truly One Nigeria or they are not. And if they are not, they should be allowed to go. That is it.
“For the Igbo, being truly One Nigeria implies that ethnic chauvinism has to be expunged from the Nigerian national dictionary. It means that any Nigerian child born in any part of Nigeria has legitimacy of citizenship of his or her place of birth. It means that any citizen of Nigeria can live, work and help develop any village, town or city in Nigeria where he or she feels comfortable to live in, without being constantly reminded by those who claim to own the land that he or she is a foreigner in his or her own country.
“But whether the Igbo are coming or going, there are fundamental issues to be addressed.
“First and perhaps most importantly is the fact that although the Igbo are the ones now being hounded for agitating for the actualization of the Biafra nation, they are also the ones for whom the unity of Nigeria means so much. They are the ones who have made the most enormous sacrifices to keep Nigeria together. They are the ones who have invested their money and skills in the development of Nigerian villages, towns and cities other than their own. These facts are incontrovertible.
“Secondly, it is obvious that the creation of Biafra can never be a solution to the problems of Ndigbo in Nigeria. At best, it will become their challenge.
“There is simply no reason for anyone to convince himself that once Biafra is carved out from Nigeria, all the problems of the Igbo will vanish. Not by any stretch of the imagination!
“We Igbo still have a long way to go. The Igbo of today are so far in quality from the Igbo before the Nigeria-Biafra war. Before the civil war, an Igbo was his brother’s keeper. Since the end of the war, an Igbo has become his brother’s betrayer. Before the civil war, the Igbo were united and spoke with one voice.
Today, they can no longer speak with one voice. Even in the face of the current agitations for Biafra, the Igbo are not speaking with one voice.
“The leadership of Igbo in those days which consisted of Igbo elders was known and unanimously recognised and no one argued about the hierarchy. Today, leaderships of sorts have sprung up from every nook and cranny of Igbo land. Everybody wants to be seen as an Igbo leader. The Igbo are still dancing the discordant tune of “each man for himself, God for us all!” The Igbo of today will be ready to betray each other because of money. Only a generation ago, it was unheard of. It was taboo.
“It is also important to note that the Igbo were highly regarded by most of the other Nigerians before the Nigeria-Biafra war. Despite the negative impression of being domineering, which some Northern leaders had about them, most Nigerians trusted them. If an Igbo told another Nigerian “this is black or white”, and that Nigerian turned it over and over, it couldn’t be different. The fact that they were trusted by the other Nigerians made the Igbo proud of themselves. It was that pride that bestowed on them their unflinching sense of unity.
“However, somehow, the Igbo fell short of expectation during the war. The story was that an Igbo who pretended to be dead would jump to his feet at the sudden clatter of coins. To other Nigerians, that meant that the Igbo loved money even more than their lives. Once it had become generally touted and people believed that Ndigbo are greedy and uncompromising with their love for money, political manipulators took advantage of their “weakness” to deal them a devastating and sustained blow from which they are yet to recover.
“Nigerian leaders tried to settle the Igbo by giving them the opportunity of becoming the Senate President. It was hoped that from that legislative angle, they would be able to effect the necessary changes that would keep Nigeria firmly united and bring the Igbo back on their feet. But they bungled those opportunities.
“Soon after a democratically elected fourth Republic was inaugurated, Evan Enwerem, an Igbo who hailed from Imo State became the first Senate President. He did not hold the post for long. A Senate committee investigated him for fraud, part of the allegation being that he falsified his name. He was removed from office on 18 November, 1999.
“The next President was Dr Chuba Okadigbo, another Igbo from Anambra State. Okadigbo was relieved of that office in less than one year, on 8 August, 2000. He was accused of fraud and misappropriation of funds.
“He was succeeded by Pius Anyim, yet another Igbo from Ebonyi State. Anyim presided over the Senate for close to three years, from 2000 to 2003.
“In 2003, another Igbo from Abia State, Adolphus Wabara, took over. Wabara was there for two years from 2003 to 2005 and gave way to Ken Nnamani, yet another Igbo from Enugu State.
“Nnamani presided for two years from 2005 to 2007 when the Presidency went outside Igbo Land, to the Middle Belt.
“David Mark was elected Senate President on 6 June 2007. He completed his tenure of four years and was re-elected in April 2011 for another four-year term. The Igbo had to make do with second positions as Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives because they could not hold their ground.
“All this shows that Ndigbo need to look themselves up inwardly. They need to address their own peculiar problems. They need to ask themselves pertinent questions. They must recognize that they are so important in the economic stability of the country that many Nigerians would not want to lose them”, unquote.
Recently, elder statesman and former Vice President of Nigeria, Dr Alex Ekwueme, very eloquently echoed this same problem with these same people who I would prefer to call the “New Igbo.”
Dr Ekwueme who was addressing a Traders’ Summit in Orumba North Local Government Area of the state noted that one of the most important attributes of Igbo people which anchor on their trust for each other had gone with the winds since the end of the Nigerian civil war and warned that once the Igbo lack 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 creations, after “the white man!” God had a very soft spot in His heart for the Igbo and endowed them with great intellect.
Before the civil war, the Igbo were all over the country as teachers, traders, businessmen and women, bank officials, pub owners, shop owners, farmers, doctors, lawyers, transporters and so on. They were to Nigeria then, what Asians are to Britain today. They were all over the place, manning all the sensitive positions. And nothing went wrong because they trusted themselves and had confidence in their capabilities. But today, the Igbo “find it difficult to trust themselves”.
Dr Ekwueme wondered at what point Igbo people went wrong.
“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 Igbo was the reason apprenticeship became popular with the Igbo. 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.
“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 sale because of the trust that existed. But lack of trust has diminished that age long cooperation between the master and his former apprentice, which is very worrisome.
“The main problem of the Igbo today is lack of trust. If we can rebuild the trust among ourselves, our people will be better for it.”
Perhaps, this is why Igbo elders have found it difficult to take sides with the younger generation in agitating for a Biafra nation. Otherwise, the Igbo have people, eminent sons and daughters like Dr Alex Ekwueme, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, Jim Nwobodo, Ken Nnamani, Edwin Clark, Pius Anyim, Andy Uba, Professor Nwabueze, Emeka Offor, Emeka Ihedioha, Ike Ekweremadu, Anyim Ude, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Bishop Anikwenwa, Archbishop Anthony Obinna, Chief Nduka Eya among so many others who could simply walk into the United Nations Assembly and make a very strong case for Biafra. But they have not done so, and now the reason is obvious.
Having learnt all this from elders of Igbo land, it is now left for the younger generation who were born during or after the Nigerian civil war and who are now agitating for the resuscitation of Biafra. They might still find a clue to their demand if they deeply reflect the question: what, or who in fact is killing Biafra?