Our drive or our consolation should always be the ethereal optimism, which is our destination. It is inescapably true that our fate lies in our hands.
In fact, I could hear the inherent consternation in the voices and tone of the Igbo in the Diaspora during every discussion concerning their fate in Nigeria. They often reminisced about the pre-civil war status of the Igbo, including all the cultural variables that formed who we were. It was a scintillating feeling indeed. On the other hand, some became nauseated with not only the ailing condition and well-being of the Igbo in Nigeria today, but also with the vivid image of the portentous nature of the survival of the next generation of the Igbo.
I reflected on my New Year message to Ndigbo in the Diaspora in the past, which is aptly relevant today in light of all the recent ethnic tensions in Nigeria. Here are the excerpts:
We are hopeful that a lasting peace would ensue among Ndigbo. At the same time, Nigeria should rid herself of tribalism, nepotism, and corruption because they are inimical to economic growth. I encourage all Nigerians to embrace all the legitimate and prudent reform efforts of the federal government in 2004 . I beseech all
Nigerians to drop their corrupt and venal tendencies and imbibe honesty and accountability in their daily activities so that the Nigerian economy would improve for everyone.
Well, in the mist of ebullient feeling that we are entering a new era, we will be mindful of the fact that the past years witnessed some undesirable mélange of problems for and among the Igbo. We witnessed in the last two administrations series of political miscalculations, deplorable South East roads, political instability in Ala Igbo, disunity among the Igbo, corruption, dishonest leadership, alarming level of poverty, increased level of Igbo marginalisation in the hands of federal government, increased level of resentment of the Igbo by other ethnic groups and the list goes on. It has never been more ominous than now the changing attitude Igbo youths have toward education. The negative impact of this phenomenon on the future of the Igbo in the Nigerian body polity should not be overemphasized. It aches my heart that many of the above problems will continue. However, we have to get ourselves to overcome this malaise by changing our value system in the form of moral regeneration.
Our past leaders, including some of our present leaders, have not only eloquently enunciated our problems, but have contributed a great deal to uplift the Igbo. The following individuals, in no small measure, contributed their own share in the past: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Kingsley Mbadiwe, Dr. Michael I. Okpara, Dr. Nwafor Orizu, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, Major General Chukwuma Nzeogwu, General Philip Efiong, Chief MCK Ajuluchukwu, and others. Similarly, a few Igbo leaders alive have contributed tremendously to uplifting the Igbo.
Our position in Nigeria in the pre-civil war era was admirable. Now, this is a different era and the Igbo are suffering all kinds of discriminatory actions in the hands of the federal government. The Igbo, as a people, have been consistently and systematically marginalized in Nigeria. It would take a whole book to serialize the marginalization of the Igbo and the consequent economic, political, and psychological effects on the Igbo. It is now that some people are beginning to realize that Igbo marginalization is a structured part of the institutional architecture of the nation called Nigeria.
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It is no longer enough to identify our problems; it is not sufficient to cry for marginalization; it is rather a necessity for all well-meaning Igbo, men and women, boys and girls, young and old, to work diligently to reclaim their heritage—to reclaim their past glory and transform it into a common denominator of the current era. However, we must first of all formulate a new direction by deriving a constructive and consensus Igbo agenda replete with ideological underpinnings. Prior to embarking on this exercise, we must enshrine honesty, trust, unity, integrity, accountability, etc. in our value system. In other words, we must change our attitude and behavior individually to focus on collective interest of the Igbo. It would be a fatal mistake to ignore the urgency of the moment. The Igbo are in danger of being exterminated politically and economically in Nigeria. Are we going to let it happen before our eyes? Or are we going to fight against it within the parameters of the law? We have to collectively work feverishly to assert ourselves and reclaim the things that have been taken away from us. We are now placed in a historic position to do something. With this historic position comes a tremendous responsibility of an immense magnitude. It is both our individual and collective responsibility to ensure that Igbo marginalization ceases henceforth. We must demand that all the vestiges of marginalization be obliterated and all the wrongs redressed. I personally and strongly encourage those on the ground to have courage in making public those discriminatory practices against the Igbo so that they can be documented for the world to see.
In the course of having a better Nigeria for all Nigerians, I have spoken on several topical issues in order for the federal government to watch its steps and correct some wrongs. We all have a duty to do what is right and admirable to the Igbo! The call to duty reminds me of what Abraham Lincoln, in February 27, 1860, told the Cooper Union. He said, “Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
I must caution that in this journey of self-rediscovery and institutionalization of Igbo permanent prominence in the Nigerian body polity, we may go through rough roads; we may encounter mountains of despair; there may even be periods when our hope may seem to turn into frustrations and bewilderment. In moments like these, we should stay focused and be courageous. Our resolve must not be shaken bearing in mind that nothing of great value comes ordinarily.
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It is ineluctably true that we have to work harder for the cloud to lift a ray of hope for all of us in general, but particularly for the new generation of the Igbo in the Nigerian body polity. Let us, in our own era, ensure that the future, and most importantly, the present remains the catalyst for the desired goals. No matter what happens on the way, we should never harbor an inkling of a defeatist attitude. Rather our drive or our consolation should always be the ethereal optimism, which is our destination. It is inescapably true that our fate lies in our hands.