The problem with the Igbo Nation and their leaders
By Nwankwo Tony Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD
In 1986, just at the sophomore (Second year) level of my academic journey at the Department of History, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, we were greeted with the unfortunate demeaning removal from office of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe as Chief of General Staff leading eventually to his commendable resignation from office and service. As patriotic Igbo students of the University we were not only unhappy with the situation but enraged as much as other Igbo across the nation and beyond. But the question then was who would bell the cat. Even if it meant shouting helplessly like a hen watching her chick carted away by the hawk.
I consulted the two leading radical student leaders of the Campus—Emannuel Ezeazu from Onitsha and Ubani Chima from Ngwaland. Unfortunately, still reeling in their myopic understanding of the Marxist concept of class struggles, they both dismissed my suggestion for a peaceful demonstration in the Campus by the students against the obvious humiliation of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe as involving in the conflicts of the reactionary forces. I left both of them dejected and vowed never to do anything with them in the campus again.
Unilaterally, I authored a release condemning the removal of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe from office by General Ibrahim Babangida and circulated it in the campus and the Press around Nsukka. Few days later, the then State Security Service (SSS) came to arrest me in the campus. The University authority intervened and opted to treat the matter internally. I was subsequently issued a query by the Dean of Student Affairs Mr. D. D. Tabansi from Onitsha through the Dean of Faculty of Arts who was Prof. D.I. Nwoga from Mbaise.
What Prof. Nwoga did was to invite me to his office to know the young man who had the courage to stand up against such injustice against the Igbo at that time and not to punish me as required by University regulation. He said “young man thank you for this courage, your query is my query”, and ordered me to take up my pen and paper and put down as he dictated the answer to the query. After putting down the answer, he called his Secretary who typed it and handed it over to me to sign. He took his copy and directed me to take the Dean of Students’ copy to him, and assured me that nobody would come and arrest me so long as he remains in the campus. That was how he became fond of me till his death shortly after his retirement.
The essence of recounting this episode is to reiterate my earlier position that not every man in Southeast is either a saboteur or a coward, but that they have by their silence and inactivity presented themselves as the minority. And since it is the majority that defines both the course of the history of a people, their character and identity, then they should be satisfied wearing the same toga of saboteurs and political weaklings. I remember the normal joke I often crack with my colleague and friend at the Institute of African Studies from Ukehe in Nsulka. I will often call him “Ukehe Nwodo”, and he would return by calling me “Igbuzo Ajudua”, both in reference to the domineering characters in our respective towns at the town. I remember whenever I bragged to my students that I am from Ibusa, they would all shout “Fred Ajudua”, which signified the domineering character of my town at that point in time. So I solemnly implore my Southeast Igbo kinsmen to accept the stigma of serial saboteurs and political Lilliputs pending when they decide to change by their actions
As the Igbo would say, a tree does not make a forest. There are many Prof. D. I. Nwogas in Southeast today, but they appear to be pitiably overwhelmed by the cowardly and quisling dispositions of their domineering kinsmen of the other moral divide of the political thoroughfare. So it is on the basis of this domineering character of the Southeast Igbo which is founded on the twin political virus of habitual saboteur syndrome and clawless political prowess that the Igbo problem is defined in the context of the overall nationality problem of the Nigerian Federation.
The fundamental problem of the Igbo of the Southeast within the Nigerian Nationality Question is that they see themselves as the most intelligent of all Nigerian ethnic groups, the high-point of economic attainment in Nigeria, and the most sophisticated of all Nigerians in matters of modern Western civilization, yet the least intelligent of those ethnic groups they define as unintelligent confines them to the status of political mendicants, determining the course of their economic development, and re-defining their entire status and image as equal partners in the Nigerian Federation.
They are the most ardent in applying the sophistry of political knowledge, economic craftsmanship, and sophistication of modern European civilization, yet it takes only a stroke of the pen by those whom they class as the crudest in political knowledge, backward in economic acumen, and unsophisticated in modern Western civilization to shut their only international gate-way through air, close the Benin-Nigeria overland border, and impose strict Custom-tariff regulations on their choice imported items just to scuttle their so-called economic dominance of the Federation. As a herd of sheep without courageous shepherds, they only shout, moan, and watch helplessly as the Zaki devours and rampage the mainstay of their relevance in the Nigerian Federation, while shamelessly hiding their decrepit sense of courage and unsubstantiated martial prowess under the cloak of unfounded Amotekun conspiracy.
They do not aspire to build enduring trust and confidence among their neighbours but often dwell on iniquitous endless alibi of one group or the other hating them or sabotaging them during the civil war, without engaging on self-redefinition of character and manners—the very reason of their obtuse image before their neghbours, and the very essence of their perennial political debility in the Nigerian Federation. They are the most proverbial in terms of definition of concepts and circumstances, yet they fail to apply selfsame quality of their proverbial knowledge in judging their recurring unsavory political image in the Nigerian Federation.
The Igbo of the Southeast have the most ignoble penchant towards mammon-worship, putting it over and above the moral definition of the essence of family dignity hence the average Southeast Igbo would go to the extent of sacrificing his entire household in his bid to acquire riches which often do not last beyond his life-time. History is replete with hundreds of such households whose descendants not long after engaging on disputing scramble over their fathers’ primitive accumulations after their death relapse into abject state of poverty and social inconsequence. For this reason moral principles founded on the dignity and spirit of political struggles to emancipate themselves from the slur of political incapacitation in the Nigerian Federation are not there. Yet they want other Igbo subgroups outside the Southeast to be proud parading themselves as the same genre of the Igbo ethnic group.
The proverbial Southeast Igbo courage only lies in the matter of making money no more than no less. He boasts with reckless abandon the amount of perishable estates and money in his swollen bank account without the single sense of cogitation over his sorry debilitating political status and the future of his generations to come under the same circumstance in his nation. Place before the average Igbo a cage of his household containing his wife and children, and another cage containing bags of money, he will tell you that with the cage of money he would get a new wife who will bear him other children, and thus the reason for his choice of the money over his entire household.
The Igbo boast of the most daring armed robbers and highly sophisticated gallant kidnappers in Nigeria today. Yet they cannot utilize the same brain in defending the dignity of their territorial integrity as an ethnic nation. When they formed anti-robbery “Bakassi” Vigilante group, it was turned into a weapon of political vendetta against opponents rather than the objective it was set up for. When Uwazurike came up with his scam Biafra Movement called MASSOB, it became a tool for him to accumulate illicit wealth and instrument for quisling political bargaining chip against the same Igbo he claimed to be defending their cause in the Federation.
Today the Igbo are facing the same political scam of the century called Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) driven precariously by another political opportunist called Nnamdi Kanu—a man extravagantly gifted only with vile Hitlerian eloquence but pitiably deficient in sophisticated political intelligence, elementary history of his Igbo people and the resulting Biafra he claims to be chasing like a wild goose. He lacks a definable ideological focus, the least acumen for generating a framework for strategic advancement of his objectives, and the overall carriage of a revolutionary typical of the image he tends to portray.
He is a man of acute political psychosis whose sense of moral and political judgments begins and ends with his neck-bottled intelligence, often seeing himself already as the “President” of his concocted pet-Biafran nation. Pitiably obsessed by any form of useful advice from those he quite knows are more intelligent than him, and blinded by the hoards of infantile and politically myopic and half-educated adherents, he does not feel the slightest whim of emotion when his so-called followers march empty-handed without arms before soldiers and armed Policemen only to get murdered in cold-blood. He is an expert cartographer in carving out empires for himself only on the pages of websites without the single intent of creating the enablement for mutual understanding between his Southeast Igbo homeland and those peripheral territories—both Igbo and non-Igbo he is so brazenly carving into his “Biafra” without their consent. Indeed to him and like Uwazuruike, his Biafra scheme has become another Estate for accumulating the habitual primitive wealth through conscripted unknowing historically ignorant Igbo.
To crown it all in his con-man journey to the Biafra political mirage, Nnamdi Kanu even subtly converted to Judaism, to give the impression of his fake Igbo Jewishness and use it as a fulcrum to access Jewish financial support and sympathy, making disagreeable and disgraceful unhistorical utterances about Jewish-Igbo historical connection. But the Jews know better than Nnamdi Kanu and his subaltern rudderless IPOB vanguard that it takes more than a faked visit to European Union Headquarters in Brussels or similar fake appearance on the outer-gates of the United Nations Headquarters in New York to achieve the independence or liberation of a nation and its people.
The Igbo claim to be Jews—even to the extent of criminally concocting fake traditions of Jewish origins without proven historical evidence like the case of “Obu Gad” from “Obuga” by Umuezeora village of Aguleri in Anambra State—a group of recent-past immigrant-diviners from Igalaland who settled among the aboriginal Okpu-Ivite village of the same Agulueri. But do the Igbo know what it takes to be a Jew before claiming to be such?
To be a Jew is not a matter of claiming to be so as some Southeast Igbo claim to be core-Igbo today. To be a Jew means first, a sense of deep historical consciousness founded on millennia of suffering and oppression in the hands of successive conquerors and their hosts. To be a Jew means taking a decision over your future and standing by it; the amount of sacrifice involved notwithstanding. To be a Jew means a self-conscious identity encompassing every Jew in the entire globe and not defined by the exclusive man-made geo-political delineation of territories. To be a Jew means to be segregated, discriminated against, stigmatized, mobbed, and massacred at will by their hosts. Above all, to be a Jew means to rise up after falling each time, stand more firmly that before and move ahead to a further distance.
Have the Igbo the liver to stand what to be a Jew is all about? They talk of pogroms as if the concept began and ends with them. Let them go and meet the Jews and be educated on what the concept of pogrom stands for in their history right from the biblical era through centuries of repeated pogroms among European nations to the 1881 Russian pogrom that followed the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. We need not recount the holocaust experience here. Are they still blaming the Russians, European nations, or the Germans for the pogroms and holocaust?
When in 1893 the father of modern Zionism Theodor Herzl witnessed the infamous Alfred Dresfus trial in France and resolved never again shall the Jews be ridiculed for being Jews, he pursued it to its logical conclusion, resulting to the First World Zionist Congress in Basel, in 1897. When the World Zionist Organization resolved that their only hope for liberation out of their oppressed political status was the creation of their own nation out of Eretz Israel they all chested out for it, and it took a single man—Baron Edmond de Rothschild to influence the British King into making the famous Balfour Declaration of 1917. And when after World War II the Jews emerged from the ashes of holocaust to have a State of their own called the State of Israel, they vowed “Never Again”, “Never Again”, and “Never Again shall the Jew….” Can the Igbo of Southeast say “Never Again” like the Jews when confronted with bags of money? Your guess is as good as my.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the territory defined today as Southeast Geo-Political Zone is an island clay-footed political giants and minions of Lilliputs of the Gulliver’s Travel fame, surrounded by gallant political giants of ethnic minorities and their equally gallant followers. It is only quite unfortunate that the biblical expression that “the first shall become the last and the last shall become the first” is being played out before our eyes in the body history of Southeast Igboland.
Nwaezigwe is the Odogwu of Ibusa Clan, Delta State, Nigeria
Institute of African Studies/Dept. of History & International Studies
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
E-mail: [email protected]