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Igbo survival in contemporary Nigeria

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IT IS a truism that practically in every country, human life is sacrosanct. The highest values in every society are accorded to life. In every culture and religion, life is revered and it is a generally agreed wisdom and phenomenon that religions enjoined man not to kill for one of the 10 Commandments puts it succinctly; “Thou shall not kill”. Even traditional religion also forbids the taking of human life.

However, through the ages, man has devised different ingenious means to circumvent this epithet and kill, maim and destroy fellow human beings. In the countless wars that have been fought in history, hundreds of millions of mankind have been slaughtered, sometimes in the most barbaric circumstances.

More than 65 years on, the Second World War still sticks out as a monumental tribute to the insane savagery of man. Millions of people were slaughtered in the battle fields of Asia, Africa, Europe and other theatres of war.

Towards the end of the war, Americans added a chilling chapter to the art of  mass-killing when it  dropped two atomic bombs, one at Hirishima and the other at Nagasaki, Japan; and in a split second, thousands  of people were massacred in a devastating demonstration  of murderous propensity and efficiency.

Outside wars, millions of people have been killed and indeed are still being killed in various parts of the world. A few years ago, the world was treated to the horrifying spectacle of genocide as Huter militiamen systematically butchered a million of their compatriots.

Remarkably, even religious officials like priests and reverend sister participated in that orgy of bloodletting. Totalitarian regimes, especially in the developing world countries and the former Soviet Union, have also wasted millions of human beings.

Yet it is remarkable that in none of these countries or instances has the law recognised any man’s right to take the life of another man. Even in war time, the Geneva Convention provides for the security and wellbeing of prisoners of war. In other words, even the brutal logic of war does not legitimate the killings of innocent people.

This reinforces more forcefully, the primacy of life. The U.N charter on Human Rights provides that no person shall be subjected to degrading or in-human treatment, not even prisoners. The principle underpinning all these provisions and practices is informed by the universal nature of human life and the need to accord it requisite dignity and nobility.

These would then explain the reason why cannibalism is not accepted by any culture in the world. Never mind the fact that some backward people sometimes resort to that. The conventional wisdom all over the world is that no man shall eat another man.

Many religions teach that man is at the centre of creation. In the Christian religion, God is said to have created man in his own image, which translates to mean that man is an embodiment of godly qualities. Indeed, the issue of man’s innate supremacy over every other being is beyond debate.

It is also not debatable that life is indeed sacrosanct, that is why pro-life advocacy groups are becoming increasingly stronger across the globe. In most countries of Europe and even South Africa, capital punishment has been removed from their constitutions.

The argument and reasoning are quite simple; nothing can justify the taking of human life. Not even as punishment for a crime like murder.

But, the situation in Nigeria today is shockingly different and embarrassing. And it is not because of the existence of capital punishment in the country’s statue book, for not even this can justify the wanton and callous destruction of human lives in the country today.

On daily bases, the mass media and those who were lucky to survive the onslaught regale an increasingly unshockable populace with morbid details of killings and deaths. Only in the recent past, the country and her citizens woke up one morning and behold the news was what came to be known as Boko Haram, that was sometime in 2009.

Most people and even the government at that time didn’t take them serious. The thinking then would probably have been that in the past, such groups or cabals didn’t last but recent happenings have shown that Boko Haram is a negative institution that has come to stay with its attendant iniquities that include killing, maiming, raping, burning,

destroying and traumatizing innocent and defenceless people, mostly of Igbo extraction, that today hundreds of Igbos and thousands of other Nigerians that include pregnant women and children have been killed, with many maimed, while property so far destroyed, mostly those of ndi Igbo ran into billions of naira, yet we talk of a united Nigeria.

As if the effects of the dastardly Boko Haram insurgents is not enough, the Fulani herdsmen came up with their own “wahala” and reigned terror in parts of the South-East and parts of the former Middle Belt, especially in Benue State.

Honestly, there is no known country of the world where such casualties have occurred in such frequency and magnitude. Maybe it might be in such strife countries like Iraq, DR Congo, Sudan, etc, that such morbidity could be said to have happened.

The most disheartening of the situation is the seemingly lukewarm attitude of the government to the act best described as man’s inhumanity to man. Government functionaries have also not shown the level of concern they ought to show to this barbaric situation that has become an epidemic.

I make bold to state that the attitude of government (until I am otherwise contradicted) is like when it is Ndigbo, that are at the receiving end, it’s nothing to write home, but when it is other tribe, the government will rise up to the occasion with solutions.

Examples are legion: If it is OPC, the government will negotiate with them; If it is the Niger-Delta militants, the government will negotiate and dialogue with them. Today, it is not a hidden fact that the militants were granted amnesty by the government of Nigeria, built rehabilitation camps for them, had majority of them sent abroad, established Niger Delta Development Commission.

When Arewa Consultative Forum (AFC) sneezes, the government will go cap in hand begging. Even the government recently negotiated and dialogued with Boko haram insurgents, a sect that has killed thousands of people, some of whom were ndigbo.

But when it is MASSOB or IPoB, the leaders will be arrested indiscriminately likewise the members, all will be detained and arraigned in courts on baseless charges by agents of government and the government will look the other way. Reason? Very simple! It is Ndigbo, – the race that must be exterminated; God forbid!

Come to think of it, where was the nation when Gideon Akaluka’s head was hoisted in a stake and used to dance round the dusty streets of Kano, like “a prized trophy in a bizarre festival of blood” (apologies to Tony Muoma).

Ndigbo still remembers with nostalgia, the APO 7 killings and the circumstances that led to their death and those that masterminded their killings. Tell me, are they not agents of government? And up till today, their blood cries from the ground for proper and adequate justice to come their way, but to no avail – simply because they were Ndigbo.

Nigerians woke up on December, 25, 2011, to hear the ugly news of the bombing of St Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, in Niger State, quite close to Abuja, the nation’s seat of government, by Boko Haram, and fortunately, a prime suspect of Boko Haram sect, believed to be the ring-leader, Mr Kabir Sokoto was arrested.

In a twist, the police, which is an organ and agent of government told the nation that the man escaped from their custody. If it was an Igboman, would the police come up with such a sorry story? The answer is quite clear, and it’s capital No”.

Instead, the Igbo man would be killed and the agents and mouth piece of government would come up with concocted multiple explanations why he was shot – whether they are true or not, what is important is that the man is dead.

The story of the dreaded Ogwugwu-Akpu shrines of Okijili in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State is still very fresh in our minds. Tafa Balogun, the then Inspector-General of Police (IGP) who was later “disgraced” authorized the desecration of the shrines on unfounded rumours because the shrines so mentioned are in Igbo land whereas such shrines that are even more heineous exist in almost all parts of the country, including the home town of Tafa Balogun.

If an Igboman wins an election into the National Assembly with a less qualification, say national diploma, the Igboman would be castigated by his fellow parliamentarians who even at that are not his equals academically or certificate-wise but they forgot that Alhaji Shehu Usman Shagari, at the time he was the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, from 1979 to December 31, 1983, before the army struck, was a holder of Teachers Grade II Certificate.

The case of Salusi Ibrahim is still very fresh in our memories. He won election into the House of Representatives and was subsequently elected as the speaker of the house. He took oath of office and allegiance and assumed duties.

But alas, it was discovered that he came into the lower chamber with forged certificate. He was simply eased out and that was the end. But if he’s an Igboman, he would be prosecuted and jailed and that would be the end of his political carrier.

Salusi Ibrahim, as they said, later went back to Toronto University and had his certificate, and today, he is a member, governing council of a university in the Northern part of the country, what an irony?

At the heat of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, ndigbo were castigated simply because Senator Arthur Nzeribe formed Association for Better Nigeria (ABN), an association that supported the annulment, just like people from other ethnic groups of the country,  formed various organisations and /or associations either for or against the annulment, but none of the other groups was antagonised.

Those that fought or antagonised ndigbo forgot that if not for an Igboman, Professor Humphrey Nwosu, who hails from Ajalli, in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra State, the umpire of the electoral body and who refused to bind the rules ordered by the powers that be, and in the process lost his job, the nation nay the world would not have known that the late M.K.O Abiola probably won the election.

During the imbroglio (impasse) as many called it, that ndigbo were called names, only one person came out openly to defend the Igbo. That was when my respects grew more for the man, Duro Onabule. While writing in “Tell Magazine” wrote “Why do we castigate the Igbo in the wake of this annulment? Was it an Igboman that announced the annulment? Is an Igboman the President of the country? etc.

I want to remind our brothers and sisters in the North, that recent past events in the north, where people  from the south-east (Ndigbo) were killed in their thousands was a replica of what happened between 1966-1967, that led to the intractable Biafra-Nigeria war which ended on 15th January, 1970.

The noble laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, while delivering a paper sometime in Lagos on the topic, “the Quest For Justice, Tolerance and Non-Violent Change” agreed that Ndigbo have a right to live and even be independent.

Soyinka, noted that the several industrial action by civil societies and labour uinons that had taken place in the country were necessary struggles for justice and prosperity, also cited the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War as a clear case of quest for justice and equity on the part of the Biafrans, pointing out that although he is not strictly pro-Biafra, that he is against the injustice meted on Biafrans since it is morally right to want to secceed.

I recall vividly what happened around 2002, when Isioma Daniel of “ThisDay Newspaper” had to tender unreserved apologies to Muslim faithful because of an article she wrote. She even went to the extent of resigning from her place of work as a fashion and style writer. The name Isioma is Igbo and she must be punished because of what she wrote.

Just an ordinary article threw her into the employment market, not even the apologies, she and “ThisDay” management tendered were enough to assuage the frayed nerves of the Muslims. It would be adding salt to injury if any Igboman or woman had raised an eyebrow.

Had it been one Audu Ibrahim or Mohammed that wrote the article, the Muslims would defend one of theirs, and the Igbo,  who were injured, would still be killed – a case of “if you wrong us, we will kill you, and still, if we wrong you and you raise any objection, we would punish you the more.” This is exactly the scenarios that exist between ndigbo and other ethnic nationalities of Nigeria.

Ndigbo will not forget in a hurry what they passed through before, during and after the civil crises. After the war, they were given only a paltry sum of 20 pounds no matter the amount each person had in his or her bank account(s) by the federal government with the intention that they would not survive.

Our neighbours, our supposed brothers and sisters of the South-South geo-political zone, took over the properties of ndigbo under the guise of abandoned property; still we, the Igbo, have not thought it wise to fashion the way forward, or are we waiting for the day the Igbo nation will be exterminated and SURVIVORS if any, would be declared “persona-non-grata in their supposed father land?

Ndigbo, it is high time we realised we should take our destinies in our hands and find lasting solution to our problems through our collective resolve to do so. Mr Tony Muoma captured pronto my mind and stand when he wrote, inter-alia, in ‘The Sun Newspapers’, “unfortunately, Ndigbo have continued to be targets of premeditated attacks to exterminate their race.

However, the Igbos are the Jews of this nation, the more they are killed, the more the tribe increases. Nevertheless, a time comes in life when a man has to stand up and say no more. “Enough is enough. That time is now. The on-going carnage in the north, where southerners especially ndigbo, are being hunted down like bush rats cannot be condoned anymore.”

The question that has been agitating the minds of ndigbo is what should be done and how should it be done for the Igbo nationality to be accorded the same status in the Nigerian nation as being extended and enjoyed by other nationalities that make up the entity called Nigeria?

Investigations and discoveries made by me showed that should Igbo not plan for their future, that a time is coming when they will suffer terrible political, economical and social “Tsunami” and the very few that might survive the onslaught will become slaves. So, the time to come together is now. The extensive investigation equally revealed what should be done as a matter of urgency and they, to my mind include, but, not limited to the following:

Ndigbo should return to their culture. According to the late Eze Obidiegwu Onyeso (MFR) the immediate past traditional ruler of ancient Nri kingdom, in his address during the 1007th “Iguaro Ndigbo” held on 18th February, 2006, ndigbo have neglected their culture hence, the multiple problems facing Ndigbo today. In his words, “I urge you to give some pride to the culture that is oldest in Nigeria. Ndigbo, being the largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria and Africa’s third largest nationality, should rightly celebrate this unique and ancient proclamation by Eze Nri.

Ndigbo should not allow themselves to be put down like some Igbo detractors seem to have maneuvered ndigbo into, since 1967. We require socio-logical re-birth. Let the renaissance commence with cultural re-awaking in the Iguaro ndigbo.”

The royal father also noted that ndigbo have lost their cultural mode of dressing, which gives them identity. That is why it is now hard to identify “onye Igbo” in any metropolitan city, as they rather prefer to wear Yoruba aseoke or Hausa gowns, etc.

Professor A. Angulu Onwuejeogwu, in a lecture traced lack of hegemony among ndigbo as another militating factor against ndigbo. This was as erroneously conceived by Lord Lugard in 1911.

In the lecture, he noted  “The Aro and Benin incursions in the 18th centuries into the hegemony had taken its very root when the British attacked Arochukwu in 1902. Lugard had pronounced his anathema on the Igbo saying that Igbo have no institution, it is anarchy.”

However, the Igboukwu archaeological findings of 1959 by Professor Thurstan Shaw and Professor Onwuejeogwu’s ethnographic work of 1981 made it clear that Igbo had institutions and nothing to do with anarchy, for they also had kings that ruled large portions of Igbo land for over 100 years ago.

Therefore Igbo have had kings and Nri is the power base. The importance of this is that the Igbo should go back to their traditional ways of leadership and should not be fooled by the infamous saying of “Igbo-Enwe-Eze”. The Igbos should re-kindle that spirit of “Igbo-kwenu”.

On April, 29, 2006, the apex-Igbo organization – Ohaneze – then under transition and caretaker committee, came out with what it termed “Ohanaeze Road Map”. The document contained what ndigbo should do to move forward.

The apex-Igbo cultural organization called upon ndigbo, wherever they may be to come together for self help and mutual support through their various town unions, churches, professional bodies, traders associations and cultural organizations. Ndigbo were reminded they have work to do to ensure that this all embracing conception of Igbo unity is realized in practice. Ohanaeze also advocated education for the future.

It would be recalled that in 1940’s – 50’s, ndigbo created for themselves through self help efforts the best community educational system in black Africa. These schools enabled ndigbo to catch up with other people who started the process of modernisation a century before them.

These institutions formed the base of the prosperity the Igbos enjoyed in the years past, for while the institutions established have deteriorated, education worldwide have moved forward in both standard and conceptions.

I hereby sincerely solicit that ndigbo would start afresh in conceptualization of funding staff training, in the equipment of libraries, laboratories and recreational facilities. Ndigbo also need to reenergize the inspectorate and the competitive spirit in their educational system.

It is also very important that Igbo town unions as grass-root institutions, should be re-enforced and re-focused, so that they would act as the agents for economic, social and political charges the Igbo are in dire need of.

Therefore, I urge various state and local government administrators in the South-East zone to erect legislation that would empower them appropriately so as to give these town unions the resources to carry out their enhanced duties cum functions.

There should also be a charge in Igbo politics for it is well known nationwide for fractionalisation and extra-zonal sponsorship. For everybody, no matter how eminent, seem to be in the game of politics for private gains. Even the electorate expect to be paid for their votes.

To this end, Ohanaeze decried the situation whereby some irresponsible ruffians now talk for ndigbo and opined that ndigbo must trust in their own internal strength to keep their politics and politicians in line, regretting that Igbos have served Nigeria for more than 50 years as supporters, deputies, cheer leaders and the henchmen presidents chosen by other zones.

In that road map, the organisation further called upon ndigbo both in the country and in diaspora, to be mindful of the fact that the re-building of economy of Igbo land is the major challenge facing ndigbo and urged all and sundry, including the governments of the South-East, the Chambers of Commerce, Mines, Industry and Agriculture, private sector, etc to begin a planned re-capitalisation of the economy of the south-east.

It was suggested that all states in the south east should co-operate, come together and form an economic commission of the south east to pull resources together in order to exploit opportunities that abound in the zone.

This concept of partnership has always been a part of Igbo political traditions and when done well, will help ndigbo build a prosperous and peaceful homestead in the Igbo nation.

In as much as I abhor violence, it is also instructive to note that according to Professor Chinua Achebe, in “Things Fall Apart” that since Eneke the bird has learnt to fly without perching, the hunter will learn to shoot without missing.

Ndigbo have not lost that valour that kept them through that better forgotten war of genocide. The only thing is that ndigbo always believe in dialogue, not violence but, this should not be taken for weakness.

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