Igbophobia: the Bane of Nigeria’s Unity, Peace and Progress (2)

By Chuks Ucheagu

Nigeria imports what they have and exports what they don’t have. While the Igbo Apprenticeship System is getting international recognition and accolades daily, the Nigerian government still fails to appreciate it or recognize it and includes it in its educational curriculum at the appropriate level. Already prestigious and first-world universities like Harvard have already started teaching it in their Business Schools. But how can it be recognized when the same people who jeered and accuse Igbo people of enslaving their own people while pretending to redistribute wealth are now raising the roofs about domination?

The Igbo have been accused of not accommodating other ethnic groups in their region, while they are accommodated wherever they sojourn. It is reported that the prejudiced DCP Ibrahim Babazango also referred to that while abusing and threatening Mr. Vincent Umeh, who bought his neighbour’s property. The lie of Igbo not being accommodative has been challenged and found wanting: no evidence anywhere shows that a Nigerian was denied a sale of a piece of land or property, for private or public use, in Alaigbo.

Other Nigerians abandoned the South East because it was deliberately planned and orchestrated to be a barren region, stripped of federal presence and other attractions that make it a hub for urban settlement and for green-pasture seekers. Except, perhaps, the security agencies, especially the police (and now army), seen everywhere extorting, intimidating and harassing the people. It is a well-known phenomenon that ants gather where there is sugar. Before the war, Enugu was a cosmopolitan city that all the citizens of the then Eastern region, and other Nigerians converged and settled there. The City’s mayor was AlhajiUmaruAltine, a Fulani.

Thank God for social media which has helped immensely in placing paranoid and twisted theories like this in proper perspectives. It has acted as a veritable source of info to present facts as it is and help in curbing falsehoods, like the one a disappointing Pastor TundeBakare peddled in his shameful politically laced speech (or sermon?) to his congregation.Bakare lied about what he thought happened during the assassination of Prime Minister Balewa, which took place when he was 11 years old. There’s no known story in history to corroborate his lie of the coupistspouring wine on Balewa’s head and forcing him to drink it, and the curse that followed the unfortunateincident.  The recent declaration for President by Bakare confirms he told that lie out of malice. Over all, Social Media has debunked the age-long, false claims that every problem in Nigeria was instigated by the Igbo. Ndigbo are gradually being vindicated as truths bare definitely.

Another lie is that Ndigbo do not love themselves. Unfortunately this fallacy has been accepted by some misguided Igbo who repeat it at any given opportunity. By 1954 the Town Unions (now Town Development/Welfare/Progressive Unions) had been founded by

the Eastern Region government. A region comprised ofhateful people cannot experience economic growth before and after independence from Britain. In fact, Eastern regional economy was the fastest growing economy in the world. Today despite losing a war of attrition and literary ostracized from government at the federal level, Ndigbo have been pushed beyond limits to survive, yet they survived and are strong.

Samson Abanni captures it in his poem WE ARE IGBO thus: “we have bought every piece of land in tomorrow. The future is our tenant… It is ok if we frighten you; we also frighten fear. For like air we are everywhere – ask the sun where he spent the night.” He thus affirms: “we are Igbo – the eagles nesting in a rising sun. We are shrubs that grow in rocky cracks… [So] don’t flood your land to sink us – for we will rise. Not done, he pleads: “pardon the noise, the heart can’t beat in whispers.” And finally submits: “the sky’s a rented canopy – we are the event. We are the sea – we visit shores. We are merchants – we traded with death. We are Igbo – the soul of the earth.”

So they are afraid of everything Igbo: when their songs are sung in churches as members; when their language is spoken in market places as stakeholders; when their industry and business acumen manifest in near-impossible situation and turn it around; whey they survive economic emasculation, political marginalization and disenfranchisement so that they cannot be a power bloc in a tripod-power arrangement; but come off better empowered and position. The fear of the Igbo like hay fever has gone up to alarming temperature: because they want to produce the President in 2023

More baffling is the irony that Igbophobes are in the forefront of scuttling the self-determination of the Igbo. Puzzled that in Nigeria people fight ruthlessly and kill mercilessly to keep what they despise, loathe and hate. This absurd can only be possible in Nigeria – a notoriously risible and implausible country. A country her citizens would pray to God for success before they commit crimes and come back to give thanks for a successful heist. A country that would promise its youths of tomorrow’s leadership but turn around to stifle their destinies and dreams through mortgaging their future with debilitating debts with zero savings, disruptive educational system, appalling health care system, frightful level of job loss, and egregiously unacceptable and lamentable poverty.

So why is Nigeria still a country in spite of the oddities? Though quirky and plausible, one can conclude that the fake unity is because of the Igbo. Apart from defeating their ‘common enemy’ in a genocidal war with foreign help, most ethnic groups will reach a common ground and coalesce on anything Igbo, because of the unfounded nonsensical fear of Igbo domination. Though, on hindsight, some have come around to say that Gen. Yakubu Gowon would have allowed the Igbo go in 1967.

The whole of Alaigbo and Igbo speaking areas of South Eastern region are in the same latitudes with Edo, Delta, Ondo, AkwaIbom, Cross River, and River States, but Nigeria excised them from the Niger Delta. Even when it is clear to the blind that they are people of the lower River Niger Basin. Having physically landlocked them and given them lesser states than other regions, there seem to be no known policy of the central government that does not appear to cheat the Igbo.

Acrimony is also prevalent with the Igbophobes who surround them as neighbours. Yet it is not recorded in history that Ndigbo had fought or conquer any nation, or was conquered by another. Though itinerant, they are peaceful sojourners in their host communities. They develop their host communities and bring prosperity to them as they also prosper. They do not meddle but rather respect their hosts’ religion, culture, tradition and politics. So why should such progressive and neighbourly people feared?

Apart from the acrimonious neighbours, the deadliest group of this narrative are the few brainwashed Igbo who over time become victims of perpetration of this abuse, have come to unfortunate acceptance that Igbo or being Igbo is the problem. They re-echo the lies that Igbo do not love themselves; how they can’t unite in pursuit of common cause like producing a President; how they lack cohesion because they do not submit to traditional and constituted authorities. Lies. We all know that highly migrant people do not possess those negative traits, else they will not survive or make it in foreign lands to seek to sojourn.

I spoke in my earlier article “Before the South East Goes to Grief” in this space and referred to the South East as the fastest growing economy in the world in 1958. That growth was instrumental in the creation of Industrial Corridors, Research and Biotechnology, Oil Exploration, University of Nigeria, Grants to Town Development Unions to facilitate the building of Primary and Secondary Schools in their domains, and Emporium to drive retail trading. Dr. Michael Okpara was the Premier and Sir Louis Philip Odumegwu Ojukwu was both Chairman of Eastern Nigerian Development Commission (ENDC) and Eastern Nigerian Commodities Board (ENCB). Both in conjunction with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe were the architects that designed the modern infrastructural development in Alaigbo. Unfortunately the civil war that ensued nine years later truncated what would have been Africa’s Pride-land. So “in Biafra, Africa died.”

The crooks that run Nigeria are only interested in the oil in Niger Delta, and an unfettered access to the public till. Reason why Nigeria appears to be one. And reason those humans are embroiled in mindboggling prebendalism. Then for the consequences of their corrupt practices and infamies, they make Ndigbo scapegoat. So the Igbophobes allude that the problem of Nigeria is Igbo. The conspiracy is to blame the Igbo for any atrocity committed by the enemies of Nigeria.

Having run it aground by its ruthless enemies, Nigeria wobbles precariously on the precipice, like a drunk on the ledge at the top of a skyscraper. The leaders and people, including the so-called and overrated owners, of Nigeria should give the Igbo a chance to save the day. Leaders from other regions had done their best in the past and Nigeria is still inching defiantly and foolishly to the tipping point. The country is on a suicide mission as it seems and the Igbo parade a coterie of charismatic, vibrant political leaders and seasoned technocrats who had distinguished themselves in life-saving situations in the past and are now offering themselves for the ultimate national service. Therefore, if the leaders and the people do not deal with their Igbo phobia effectively and allow prejudice to obfuscate their reasoning and action inemploying the right rescuer at this perilous moment, Nigeria will fall. And what a mighty and thunderous fall that will be.




Chuks Ucheagu, a social scientist and commentator, writes from Abuja.