As Nigeria decides on how best to address the Igbo question following the countdown to the quit notice issued by the coalition of sixteen Northern youth organizations, I wish to remind Nigeria and those targeting the Igbo that Igbo fate is in God’s hands. Before the North quenches the light and blessings planted in their communities for centuries, let me remind them that at the heart of Igbo agitation and aspiration is the quest for a just society where all citizens are treated fairly and as equal citizens.
The Igbo of which I am a part are not asking for any special treatment from the rest of Nigeria. It’s the Lord’s doing that we are built strong and resilient to compete fairly and succeed squarely. We are not looking for a nation where we will dominate others by raw power but a nation and system fair enough to allow our blessings and light to shine unto others.
When we speak of restructuring, we are simply demanding a constitution drafted by the people for the common good of the people. We the Igbo have no problem with muslims living under the Sharia law, but we must be allowed access to our God given resources so that we will develop at our own pace.
For reasons of the above, I urge Arewa Youths to also embrace the Igbo agitation for fairness and good governance because Nigeria as structured is not assuring anyone of a pleasant future. The northern youths should learn to appreciate the brighter side of our mutual co-existence. They must end their tendency of ascribing every statement or action by any Igbo renegade as the voice of the Igbo.
Rather than hate the Igbo, they should be thankful to the Igbo for without the Igbo Nigeria would have been worse. We effectively built the North and most part of Nigeria. If we are forced out of Nigeria as a quick fix to the irritation of our demand of fairness and justice, Nigeria will be worse as the Igbo nation and people will always rise in triumph from ashes to greatness . We have overtime demonstrated this, and proven that we are not mere occupiers of space but active nation builders. We have contributed in very positive manner and have made tremendous sacrifice towards achieving a strong, prosperous and united Nigeria.
To further set the record straight and without denying the fact that we are proud merchants, we are of course not just traders as our detractors will often say but people with rich heritage. I will write the lines that follow purposely to inspire the current generation of our people of what it means to be Igbo. Simply put, to be Igbo is to be the light of the nation and light unto nations. It means we are to excel in our pursuits and use our God given blessings to shape the fate of Nigeria and make it a better place. The Igbo nation would have been failing in God’s plan if it has not produced sons and daughters who had developed all spheres of industries in Nigeria. For Nigeria to achieve greatness it should unchain the Igbo and stop placing visible and invisible hurdles for them .
Nigeria would have long achieved its full potential if it had allowed merit and fair competition by ending its conspiracy to chain the Igbo down. Frank Ndili an illustrious Igbo son was Nigeria first professor of Nuclear Physics and Chemistry. Professor Frank Ndili earned a Ph. D in his early 20s at Cambridge University in Nuclear Physics and Chemistry in the early ’60s. He made a First Class in Physics and Mathematics at the then University College Ibadan in the early ’50s. But did Nigeria exploit this hot brain? No, it didn’t because Nigeria loves to hate the Igbo.
Many Nigerians will be shocked to know that Mrs. Margret Ekpo the social activist, mobiliser and pioneering woman politician was born an Igbo lady from Anambra State. She was born Margret Obiasulor Okoroafor but was married to Dr. John Ekpo of Ibibio ethnic group in Akwa Ibom State.
Revelations like this is part of the reasons history was yanked off our school curriculum because they don’t want you to know that the Igbo led the way in building and developing Nigeria. But we must not relent. We must teach our children that in spite of the fact that the Igbo came into contact with Western Education 100 years after the Yoruba did, yet the first Black Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan was an Igbo man named Professor Kenneth Onwuka Dike. Dike was also the first Nigerian professor of history.
The first Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos was an Igbo man named Professor Eni Njoku who was also the first Nigerian Professor of Botany. The first Nigerian Professor of Anatomy and Physiology was an Igbo man by name Professor Chike Edozien.
The first Nigerian Professor of Physics was an Igbo man, Professor Okoye who became a Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA in 1960. He was followed by Professor Alexander Anumalu who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Physics three times for his research in Intermediate Quantum Physics.
First Nigerian Professor of Statistics Professor Adichie whose research on Non-Parametric Statistics led to new areas in statistical research was Igbo. Nigerian first Professor of Medicine – Professor Kodilinye was an Igbo– he was appointed a Professor of Medicine at the University of London in 1952. He later became the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria Nsukka. Again another Igbo man Prof Ntukoju was the first Professor of Astronomy– he was the first African to earn a double Ph.D in Astronomy and Mathematics.
Again another Igbo man – Professor Okonjo was the first professor in demographic research. It was Okonjo who set up the first Centre for Population Research in Ibadan in the early ’60s. Professor G D Okafor, who became a Professor of Philosophy at the Amherst College USA in 1953 was the first Nigerian Professor in the field of Philosophy. Dr. Pius Okigbo who became a visiting scholar and Professor of Economics at the University of London in 1954 was the first Nigerian to earn a Ph.D in Economics.
Professor Njoku, an Igbo became the first Nigerian to earn a Ph.D in Theology from Queens University, Belfast, Ireland. He was appointed a Professor of Theology at the University College Zambia in 1952.
The Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) recorded Imo State as at 2014 as the state with the highest number of professors in Nigeria. The list of Igbo first in Nigeria cannot be exhaustive. Igbo nwere mmadu. We are the chosen people, we are the light of the nation.
I will encourage our leaders and elitesto continue to invest heavily in education so as to expand our initiatives in technology, invention and innovations.
If we put behind our constraints and focus on our ability to succeed against all odds we can remain marvellous and magnificent in their eyes. Therefore, we have no reason to be desperate about anything including the desperation in the pursuit of our own independent state of Biafra other than to consolidate our comparative leadership in education, technology, inventions and innovations.
Our ability as a collective to determine to maximize our God given power of knowledge in pursuit of our destiny is what will give us the tools to shape our future—no longer as a defeated and persecuted people of Nigeria, but as a proud people within a magnificent country and distinguish us as a people who always aspire to serve as the light unto nations. This is the realization that makes our foes jittery and the progress and civilization they want to bring to a stop by desperately egging us towards a needless conflict where our land will yet again become a battlefield.