I have a grouse against Ndigbo. I am Igbo, so I have a grouse against myself too. We are fools, by choice.
There is this wild plant, which my limited knowledge of botany fails me to identify properly. However, my people call it Awolowo (I don’t know why) or obiara kara. It grows too fast and speedily occupies any expanse of land where it sprouts. Obiara kara means the one that comes to dominate.
That is where the Igbo foolishness begins. They are obiara kara, who come into other people’s land and begin to dominate. They assume a sense of worth and become overlords in a strange land, expanding to the left and to the right; front and back. They leave their father’s land in tatters and build up other people’s lands.
Strangely, their hosts never invest in anything in Igbo land. They make their money there and go home to invest in their own lands. But not so for the foolish Igbo. He feels at home anywhere he goes, not minding that Nigeria is not home for him. I’m not talking about nebulous Biafra, mind you; I am just saying east or west, home is the best. I am saying nowhere is a man safer than in his father’s house or community.
However, the Igbo go offshore to places like Lagos which they stupidly believe is no-man’s land. They buy up swamps, even rivers, fill them up and build mansions. They maintain their own roads, as deliberately ignored by the host governments . They feel they have arrived and even begin to have weird political aspirations, dictating who rules the area. And, as witnessed in the last election in Lagos, they are given brutal lessons on how not to behave in another man’s land.
There was an outcry in Lagos recently when the Federal Housing Authority, FHA, demolished some property belonging to the Igbo. The reason given is that the buildings were built on unapproved sites or not approved at all.
On the face of it, the demolishers are right. Nobody should build on unauthorised locations. However, the question is where these authorities were when the buildings were being constructed. Where were they when the builders were paying certain bills as regards the building, such as tenement rate?
It would be interesting to know how shops and business places built by government, local or state, and sold to the Igbo are also often demolished as illegal structures. This is not the first time this is happening to Igbo property. Sadly, the foolish Igbo would still pay for the cyclic demolitions, even if they shift to another place.
We need to properly situate one thing. The Igbo are Nigerians, no doubt, but they need to apply common sense like other Nigerians. Part of the argument against the Biafra quest is that the Igbo would lose their humongous investments offshore. This fear is not unfounded even though it is not enough to enslave a people for life. However, the question is if the Igbo really need Biafra to survive and whether Bifara would heal their foolishness, as further evidenced in the destruction of the Biafra economy by locking it down. There is definitely much to think about, as there is no wisdom in burning down the Biafra space they want to enthrone. Is there really no better way to Igbo renaissance than confronting the hyena with bare hands?
The non-discerning spirit of the Igbo makes them vulnerable. They invest heavily in property outside their homeland but are envied by those who sell to them, later lamenting that the Igbo are taking over their land. Thereafter, under different guises, the Igbo are dispossessed of the properties but never willing to learn from history, they keep on buying and losing to the unofficial Nigerian policy to checkmate them economically.
It makes sense to encourage Ndigbo to invest in their lands. The reasons they are not doing so are justifiable fears but regardless of those fears, it is still safer to invest at home.
Contributing to the contentious debate, Chief Pascal Egerue, an insurance guru and president of Nsu Elite Congress, a think tank for Nsu town in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State weighed into the matter.
According to him: “Where aku (wealth) resides depends on return on investment and entry and exit purpose. We didn’t take wealth to these cities but just our brains and skills. For those that have made money, exit strategy is important but should never be a total exit as long as you still have reasonable returns. Convertibility is more important.”
On the clamour for Igbo people to invest at home, Egerue said “it is a risk that has to also be properly evaluated so that you don’t on the altar of uneconomic altruistic consideration lose the little you have.”
He itemised some of the “obvious and hidden risks in investing at home, which need dispassionate discussion as:
The Omonile system whereby the traditional rulers look the other way while the youths in their domain chase away investors through all manners of illegal taxes; property devolution problems and issues and cost of acquisition of property in the South-east, which is far higher than acquiring the same in some places in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt where the appreciation is higher.
He identified the reason cost of land is high to the effects of ‘Ego mbute ‘ (proceeds of frauds) and Diaspora money as well politicians that want to create illusions of industrialisation and employment generation and have the fund to buy off any land in town at irresistibly high cost, among many others.
Egerue also noted some of the hidden risks, most of which we must bear in mind, including urban status of some communities; unfortunate lack of skilled and honest labour in the rural communities; lack of patience and staying power by the youths, who would rather plot their exit from day one by being dishonest in whatsoever assignment you give them because of the notion that the investor has too much money and the opportunity has come for them to take their own; dangerous gossips in the village about any person they consider affluent, heaping everything on the person’s head, such as labeling him a ritualist and cultist or that he has blood money and all manners of idiotic things.
He pointed out that all these would likely get worse, as mkpurummiri (crystal meth) enters the stage, with its attendant disruptions and restlessness, which has laid a siege to Igbo land and unfathomable carnage.
I do not agree any less with Egerue when he said: “We Igbo are most times victims of our attitude. FHA allocated buildings in Festac and made specifications. Our Igbo young men bought up all the buildings and spaces and turned them into eye popping mansions. Why won’t jealousy and vindictive attitude set in to antagonize them?
“The question we need to ask ourselves is this, with all their billions of Naira and dollars, where are the mansions owned by the Indians, Lebanese and Chinese in this country? Most of the time, we Igbo invite what comes to us. It is important that we begin to order very well our priorities. We also need to recover our culture of prudence and humility so that our enemies will look away from us while we burrow into the economy, get much of it and invest in saner climates where ever it is.”
The most plausible thing for the Igbo to do is to soberly reflect on their lot in this country and shorn themselves of all proclivities to loquacious acts that expose them to hate and targeted malice. They should cut down on their investments offshore while we the South-east governors should collaborate on a regional level and in concert with state lawmakers, evolve policies that would make the region investment-friendly.
The security challenge must be addressed frontally and those claiming to be fighting for Biafra must not drive away investors through self-atrophying campaigns. No reasonable person sets fire to the roof of his father’s house and expects his enemy to help him to put it out. Rather than do that, the elated enemy would rather seize the opportunity to pour gasoline on the raging inferno. That is why the Igbo is fast becoming a scorched earth and inclement for investment whether by sons of the soil or outsiders.