I remember the late Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who allegedly called Ndigbo idiots. Like any other Igbo, I was also hurt by that unfitting appellation until some years later when I was opportune to meet with the then transport minister and took him up on that.
Poor Maduekwe, he said he never called Ndigbo idiots, but admitted describing some of their actions as idiotic. That is the problem with these too much book people. It did not occur to his accusers that if Ndigbo were idiots, the labeler, Maduekwe himself, would be Idiot number one. Truly, we can be idiotic, sometimes.
So, I get excited when I come across reasonable Igbo men. Being proudly Igbo and a lover of fellow Nigerians too, it titillates when these ‘reasonable’ Igbo men unleash thoughts that stir the spirit of the Igbo, which, in my generation, has gone flaccid and hankering over utopia instead of riding the bull to glory.
Just like some our forebears did, which is what a truthfully and masterfully crafted article credited to Professor Obi Nwakanma is trumpeting.
You will surely, like me, also doff your hat for him after reading. That is, if you don’t belong the moony, wasteful types, ‘waiting for Godot’. Here we go:
Nwanna, Many years ago, the General, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu spoke about the “Biafra of the mind.” Only a few, I think, understood him. Well, they say, only the deep speak to the deep.
But let me attempt here to tease out Dim Ojukwu’s prescription: The greatest proof of Igbo survival and aspiration must be to model, wherever Onye-Igbo stands, the ethos of innovation, excellence, ingenuity, and ability that marked the Igbo endeavour in Biafra. We must also use Biafra as the stepping-stone to a higher vision of the Igbo place in the world.
There is no single proof or evidence today that the Igbo of this generation are capable of transforming any nation to which they lay claim. I have looked; I have studied the Igbo situation, and I have listened to my Igbo kinsmen, and I think something is fundamentally wrong: The Igbo are trapped in a deadening hate, self-pity and nostalgia. It is the kind of nostalgia that is both defeatist and deadly because it continues to romanticise the past while the future speeds away.
The Igbo cannot wait until they achieve Biafra or a separate nation in order to build and secure Igbo land. Soon after the end of the war, Igbo survivors of the war girded their loins and embarked on the work of restoration. With singular grit, they revived the economy of the East, and by 1979, just nine years after the end of the war, were ready to take on the rest of the nation again. We their children are a disgrace to the spirit of those men and women.
The Igbo are today a beggarly nation of impotent, lachrymal people now weeping about “marginalisation” and waiting for Nigeria to collapse or let them go, so that they will go and make something of themselves. This is an over-indulged generation. The last of the Igbo are old and dying; the current Igbo are “inferior Igbo.” They are just waiting for Godot.
Now, you say, the only time the Igbo will work is if power remains in the South. I think this is too simple. Take a look around you, where are those Igbo men and women? Which Igbo today have the sagacity of Zik, or the courage of Okpara, Mbakwe, or Ojukwu, the capacity of Ojike or Okigbo, the fierce pride and stabilising force of the old Igbo women, the organisational acumen of an RBK Okafor, the selfless pride of those Igbo of the last generation, who always rose to the occasion when the Igbo summoned them to great causes, including giving their widows mite without question, for as long as “they Igbo have said…”
Now, what I’m trying to say, people, before I lose you, is that the Igbo have left the land, and the land has left the Igbo. There is incoherence. And an incoherent people cannot run an independent nation, simple.
Bring proof to me that the Igbo have turned Igbo land into an oasis of prosperity different from elsewhere in Nigeria, and I shall agree that the current Igbo know exactly what they are saying. There is no Igbo state with a budget that is not bigger than the budget of the Republic of Ghana. Indeed, put together, the budget of all the states in Igbo land is bigger than the national budget of ten West African states. What have we done with it in terms of rebuilding public services? Creating liveable cities? Developing new infrastructure? Developing the Igbo world.
The North or the West has never run down our schools. They did not dismantle the Government Colleges at Umuahia, Owerri, Afikpo, and the Queens School at Enugu. They did not destroy our hospitals or primary schools.
They did not stop us from building our cultural infrastructure – Community centers; recreational centrer, or building up our libraries; or public parks, or city centres, or trunk B and C feeder roads.
They did not destroy our civil service. They did not stymie the growth of our cities.
They did not forbid the Igbo from creating strategic means of employing their greatest resource – their highly trained manpower- and using them to create a powerful regional economy that would continue to startle West Africa.
The North or West did not say we should not build an efficient trans-regional transport metro system, by jointly developing the old Oriental lines, that would create a network of contacts all over the East and ease the strategic movement of people, or take advantage and rebuild, and expand the rail system that connects Port-Harcourt, Aba, Umuahia, Okigwe, Ovim, Afikpo, Enugu, to Eha-Amufu.
Mbakwe threatened in 1981 that if the FGN did not build an airport in Owerri, he would mobilise and build one. He did it. He threatened that if they did not build the Petrochemical plant in Izombe, he would build one by 1984. The land for the construction of the Imo Petrochemical Plant was already cleared when the soldiers struck on the last day of 1983.
By 1982, there was a marked upsurge and population shift as more Igbo began to leave Lagos and other places to return to Owerri and invest and settle. Nobody told them to return, the conditions were simply made amenable. By 1984, Igbo businessmen, particularly in the North, were moving their money and opening accounts with the Imo state Progress Bank, and the capital was growing for both accessible credit and for capital borrowing for infrastructural development in the East.
I point this to simply suggest that there is nothing the Igbo wish to accomplish in Nigeria that anyone can stop, if the Igbo hold down their lines. But we’ve deceived ourselves for too long – we have now made Nigeria into the convenient excuse for our own failures and self-indulgence. But divisions now pervade the Igbo mind.
Let me now, tell this whole truth: Onweghi onye ji Ndi Igbo, Ndi Igbo ji Onwe ha (no one is to blame for the Igbo predicament but Ndigbo). Those who wrestle with Ala, the Earth goddess, often forget that no one has ever lifted the earth. Ala-Igbo is the earth, Anaghi Apa ala Apa! (No one can lift the earth).
The Igbo of this generation are wrestling with the earth left to them by their ancestors. And they are busy blaming everyone else for their condition.