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

By Chuks Ucheagu

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. – Marcus Garvey

Early this year, a certain Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo from another ethnicity in Nigeria flared up in his “Church” one fateful day and accused the Igbo members of his group of being stingy with offering. Allegation was incredulous and certainly unsubstantiated. It passed. Soon afterwards a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ibrahim Babazango, verbally abused and threatened the life of an Igbo man for owning a property next to his in a town in Adamawa State. Meanwhile, he is serving in Lagos State in southern Nigeria and living among the same people he vowed never to be neighbours with in his northern state. It is called prejudice. Again, as if not enough, a Catholic Priest, James Anelu, who is from another State and ethnicity shouted down on the congregation and stopped a chorus because it was being sung in Igbo. He was sent on an indefinite leave in a jiffy by his Ordinary for act related to bigotry. He had since been recalled.

While we await the verdict of the Nigeria Police Force on the folly of their ethno-schizophrenic officer, it is instructive to note that ethnic profiling of the Igbo has been as old as Nigeria. Let’s ignore the crises in the Northern region in the 1940s and 1950s (protests against motion for Independence from Britain which they accused Igbo of supporting, which saw to the killings of hundreds of Igbo people), and begin our discourse with modern Nigeria. Sir Ahmadu Bello accused the Igbo of dominating in all walks of life with an analogy and how he preferred working with expatriates to the “domineering Igbo” -just a few days after the country’s independence ceremony from Britain in 1960. With such prejudice, stage was set for continuous vilification and castigation of the Igbo.

Preachers of one Nigeria have no love lost for the Igbo. Nigerians who think they have an axe to grind with the Igbo do not know why they begrudge them. If you ask the confused prevaricators, they won’t have a ready answer. Or they will simply tell you: Igbo are the problem with Nigeria. If they don’t say that the Igbo are clannish, they will say they love money too much. If they don’t brand Igbo ritualists, they will say they won’t stay in their territory.  Some religious bigots will surmise that Igbo are stopping the spread of Islam in Nigeria, which they believed would have ushered in a peaceful and prosperous nation under Sharia law. Others will avow that Igbo planned 1966 Coup and started a war. More will say that they are fraudsters: dealers in fake, substandard and adulterated products. Or that they love money too much. Come on!

Ironically Chinua Achebe summarised the problem of Nigeria as a failure of leadership. He did not fail to point to the fact that other Nigerians seem to get orgasmic kicks and settle on any matter regarding the Igbo, and so will gang up conspiratorially to make them scapegoat of anything  that goes wrong in their country.  Other ethnic groups want the Igbo in the entity called Nigeria, but will not allow them be in Nigeria where there is equity, justice and peace. If Ndigbo say no to injustice and marginalization, they call them trouble makers and the trouble with Nigeria.

Let’s go back to the 1960s, it is their lies about domination that fuelled the fratricidal war where other groups wanted to annihilate a special people from theface of the earth. It was a war of hate, filled with the bombings and killing of civilians.The policy of total blockade and starvation helped in killing the remaining hundreds of thousands of women and children: those that bombs and bullets didn’t kill.

For those who escaped the war, ill-motivated economic strangulation and abandon-property policies were slammed on them, and the failure by Nigeria to reintegrate them in government and civil service became their lot. The divide-and-rule tactics turned Ndigbo speaking a given dialect against their people: to renounce their Igboness and severe cultural ties. However, despite all the inhuman strategies designed to keep Ndigbo down, they still rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the genocide to assert themselves in a country that perennially fails them. Rather than applaud these incredible feats beating every human permutations on economic disempowerment, the Igbophobes still accuse Ndigbo of hegemony, greed and avarice.

If you look at it critically, you will be shocked to discover that most of the policies formulated and being implemented in Nigeria till now were done to ensure that the Igbo did not dominate – even at the cost of the progress and development of the country.

Ndigbo have a different criteria in gaining admission into the Unity Schools across the federation. JAMB is another anomaly in gaining admission into all the Universities in the Country. A university should conduct its admissions without state regulations on that part. JAMB has impeded tertiary education development, especially now that they lowered the bar for cut-off mark. Another is federal character commission. We know there is no character in any federal ministries, agencies and departments’ appointments in the country. Quota system is another phenomenon to keep everybody at the same level, like dictating the progress in the movement of a herd.

Now talks are ongoing about zoning of the Presidency between North and South. So it is obvious that Presidency should be zoned to the South and ‘microzoned’ to the south East, because it is – just and rightly – their turn. There are different opinions and divergent views from the camps of other ethnic groups; they have suddenly realized that zoning (federal character and quota system) is not captured in the constitution. Presidency, the Igbophobes now uphold, should be thrown open so that whosoever wants to be President can throw their hat in the ring. Igbophobia.

The Igbo say that ojimmadun’alajionweya (you ultimately hold yourself hostage when you think you are holding another down). Because once you extricate yourself from the bondage, the victim will also be free. So Nigeria is stuttering, loafing and wandering because Igbophobes want to keep Ndigbo down and under check so that they won’t “dominate” other Nigerians. Such surmising is rather puerile and preposterous.

Recently the Yoruba formed an alliance with the North in a never-have-seen-before political manoeuvre. They were no longer comfortable with the Igbo recovery and rising profile in Jonathan Administration. They feared that Ndigbo would continue to dominate if allowed in the political system. So they plotted their removal. Then they did not mind if they were biting their nose to spite their face by endorsing a lacklustre, incompetent, out-of-touch human to be President. It unfortunately depicts the false feeling of being on top when holding another down.

They did not care if the country burned, provided Ndigbo were out of the equation. They realized their folly though, but were still blinded by the fear of this domination. So instead of rising up against Gen.Buhari in 2019 for total failure, they reinforced it. With their tail tucked in their butts, they cowered in national agitationto change a loathsome and failed government. The Igbo phobes recanted that Atiku Abubakar was Omo-Igbo. Therefore, a vote from them for Atiku was a vote for Igbo empowerment and continued domination. So booting out the effigy in Aso Rock meant helping bring Ndigbo back to political power, exposure and relevance at the federal level. Cowards!

Now they are at the forefront to stop a President of South East extraction, knowing fully well that it is the turn of the South East to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023. Rather they want another shot at the Presidency after appropriating eight years of Obasanjo’s presidency and another eight years of Osinbajo’s vice-presidency. The latter had just declared to run for President to continue from where his clueless and callous principal would stop.

The South East supported the South West and voted massively for Obasanjo Presidency. They extended same support for North West and South South in the coming of Yar’dua and Jonathan. They voted overwhelmingly for Atiku’s usurped Presidency in 2019 which was the turn of the North East. So the South East Igbo had shown dedication and loyalty to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Therefore, it is fitting that PDP reciprocates the uncommon gesture, because one good turn deserves another. It is ironical that PDP is allegedly throwing the contest open instead of zoning it to the South East as it has been the practice. Why is it that the rule of the game changes or does not apply when and where it concerns the Igbo?


To be continued.


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