The Igbo welcome visitors. They also welcome strangers. This is epitomized in Igbo proverb, Oje mba enwe iro, a traveler has no enemy. The Igbo also travel a lot. The Igbo can go to any length to make his visitor happy. The visitor must be given kolanut and alligator pepper first.
This can be followed by food and drinks including the palm wine. The Igbo will never despise a visitor or assault one. He can also be entertained with stories and songs. Even if the visitor did something bad in the past, he should be well treated. The Igbo world view does not support mistreating a visitor or subjecting him to assault.
Besides, the Igbo show respect to elders. Despite the republican nature of the Igbo, they show respect to those that have made some achievements in the society. Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart was accorded such respect on account of his bravery, social standing and wealth. The Igbo despise laziness and poverty hence Okonkwo loathes his father, Unoka, in the novel under reference.
It is therefore surprising the shameful welcome given to the former Deputy Senate President who is now a serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu, in Nuremberg, Germany, by some angry youths who are members of the separatist movement, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) led by Nnamdi Kanu.
What IPOB did to our revered senator was unIgbo, unNigerian and unAfrican. There are better ways to receive a visitor. And what they intend to do to notable Igbo figures should they be found in Europe and other such countries is never in the character of the Igbo. There are polite ways of disagreeing with someone even if you do not like his face.
Shoving, shouting and pelting edible objects on the visitor is very disgusting. It is never a sign of good breeding which the Igbo are known for. What IPOB did to Ekweremadu is not even good for the enemies of the cause they said they were fighting for. The video clip of that shameful welcome which has gone viral underscores the disconnection between the Igbo elite and the other Igbo.
It also shows the disconnection between the Igbo in Nigeria and the Igbo in Diaspora. There is a yawning gap between the Igbo elite and other Igbo. This problem is everywhere in Nigeria. It is not limited to the Igbo alone. Nobody or group should make capital out of it. What are the sins of the senator as alleged by his attackers?
They alleged that he supported the proscription of IPOB. They alleged that he did not do anything to stop the Python Dance. That he had not done anything to stop the insecurity in the Southeast among others. These allegations are false. Ike Ekweremadu helped to negotiate the release of Nnamdi Kanu. He has spoken against the marginalization of the zone and has condemned the attacks on the zone by killer herdsmen.
They may have other grouses against the senator which they did not let the public know. Senator Ike Ekweremadu is an eminent Igbo and a good Nigerian. He is never an ordinary person. An attack on him is an attack on Igbo and Nigeria. This is probably what the Nuremberg attackers did not know. The Nuremberg mob failed to use the visit of the senator to even present their grievances against Nigeria and other Igbo leaders to the senator.
Alas, they missed the chance. They missed the chance of parleying with a big man. They should have welcomed him well and then tell him certain things they think he can do or change. That was never to be. They missed a golden opportunity to dialogue with an experienced elder. They lost a big chance of reaching out to the government to press for the de-proscription of their organization.
Instead of threatening other prominent Igbo with the Nuremberg treatment, they should show remorse. They should apologize. They should emulate other agitation groups in the country and how they relate with their political elites. The Igbo republicanism is never a licence for undue rascalism.
The strength of the youths should be deployed to useful purposes. There is time for everything under the sun. There is time for war and there is time for peace and reconciliation. There is time for jaw-jaw and time for disagreement. The Igbo have fought a war. The scars of the war are still there. The Igbo have reconciled with the rest of the country. The Igbo are not interested in another war. Nobody should lead the Igbo to another war.
The Igbo situation in Nigeria may not be the best. But there are ways to resolve all human problems. War is not one of them now. The Igbo need peace to thrive in Nigeria and elsewhere. The Igbo believe that being in Nigeria and participating in its politics will enable them address some of the problems now facing the zone such as bad government in some states and the rising insecurity in the zone and the joblessness in the zone that make the Igbo youth to troop out en masse to foreign countries.
If things were okay at home, those Nuremberg youths asking for the head of Ekweremadu and others should be busy doing one thing or the other. Some of them went abroad in search of greener pastures and upon reaching there they were disillusioned. They could not find the greener pastures. The Eldorado promised them was never in sight. The dream of making it big in Europe and America has since evaporated.
Going forward is as bad as coming home. Going abroad is easier than returning from the journey. Some of those that gave Ekweremadu the Nuremberg welcome may be frustrated. They may be facing hard times. The senator alluded much to this notion. They need help. They need some historical lessons as well as leadership lessons.
It is good that the senator has forgiven his attackers for they do not know what they were doing. He has a large heart and a forgiven spirit. IPOB should reciprocate such fine gesture by withdrawing its threat to other Igbo leaders. Igbo problems can never be solved by insulting Igbo leaders in western cities or anywhere in the world. It does not really make sense.
However, our political leaders should carry the people along. It is not only during election that a politician should visit his people. Igbo politicians should work for the interest of Ndigbo. They should remember their base always. They should understand that home is still the best. In their politics, they should think Igbo. Some of them are already doing so. The remaining ones should emulate them.