• Thursday, February 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Igbo agenda and tribal issues in Nigeria

Anything noble in the Igbo’s culture of developing their host communities

By the time the British invaders came across the Niger River in 1927, they were astounded by the civilisation, development and aggressiveness among the Igbos. They could hear pidgin English here and there; and the people came back to their shops everyday whether they made sales the previous day or not. This was far more civilised than what they witnessed in the North even at Lagos at their entrance. The three major tribes in Nigeria are: Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba but there are hundreds of ethnic groups in the same country. If there is anything like strength, entrepreneurial, enterprising, resilience, communal and industrious; it is the Igbos. Some have mimicked this by saying that any part of the world you did not find an Igbo is usually dangerous or may not be safe.

Therefore, we may have to talk about the Igbo agenda more strictly and peculiarly after an Igbo man vied for presidency in the February 2023 general elections and lost out after the massive support and projections by the ‘Obi-dients’. It is also pertinent since the revered leader of Igbo socio-political organisation – Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, was abducted from Kenya in August 2021 and has been in DSS dungeon despite several legal battles to grant him bail. Certainly, there may not be anything like an “Igbo agenda” but the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba political affiliation since 1970, excluding the Igbos completely from every political decision in Nigeria has made it contrived that the Igbos have an agenda.

Painfully, millions of Igbo youths trooped out en masse in I967 with the declaration of Republic of Biafra by Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to fight the British-backed Nigerian government with just machetes and guns. Millions of lives of young people were lost just by mere camera surveillance and a command issued for the release of high machine guns (HMG). In 1945, Charles Onyeama had prophesied that one day the Igbos might not be in control of affairs in Nigeria. This notwithstanding, the Igbos do not have a match, an equal nor a challenge whether in the pre-colonial, colonial, post-civil war achievements and remarkable limelight feats.

Interestingly, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe sent as many Igbo sons as he could to Lincoln University but human character, political interests, diverse personalities tore the Igbo race apart and made unity in Nigeria very difficult. Some of the political leaders Nigeria have had, do not believe in the amalgamation, unity and peace of Nigeria, rather they went upfront playing tribal politics and underdeveloped the country. Presently, Nigeria is a failed state waiting to collapse but held together by the sacrifices, crushing, squeezing, pummeling, over-taxation of poor Nigerians. Since 1970, the Igbo man has never qualified to take sensitive posts in the political structure of Nigeria like Controller-General of Customs, Inspector General of Police, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Vice-President or even the President.

The Igbo agenda strongly emphasises Nigeria’s development, yet some selfish Igbo politicians undermine initiatives for personal gain. Respected figures like Professor Chike Obi, Chinua Achebe, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Sam Okwaraji stand out nationwide. The Igbo people face opposition not due to hatred but because power holders resist positive change, hindering progress. Some Igbo politicians contribute to corruption, conspiracy, and marginalisation, preventing the transformation and growth of Nigeria for the benefit of the masses.

Surviving Igbos and the younger generation post-Biafran war envision a dream of reaching their promised land, whether named Biafra, Igbo land, or the land of freedom. Amidst widespread corruption and negligence, many citizens foresee Nigeria’s potential collapse or breakup. The losses of over 3 million lives during the Nigeria-Biafran war led to promises of reconstruction, rehabilitation, and reconciliation, yet scepticism remains regarding the fulfilment of these commitments and the nation’s future.

The Igbo people face perceived threats from the dominant Hausa-Fulani, yet violence and insurgency are not part of the Igbo agenda. Despite security challenges in the North, the Southeast experiences militarisation, sit-at-home orders, and market sieges. While some claim the Yoruba and Hausa Muslims unmask poverty, resource control in Nigeria originates from the North. The Igbo pursuit of wealth doesn’t equate to poverty for other Nigerian tribes.

Furthermore, this exposition aims to highlight challenges and opportunities for a more inclusive Nigeria, not to incite violence. The ‘Aburi Accord’ could have averted conflicts with understanding. High ethnic tensions, historical grievances, and marginalisation in Nigeria result in violence and destruction. For over 50 years, the Igbos, dispersed below the Niger River, live in Nigeria without a political struggle, emphasising there is no unified Igbo agenda. Despite past targeting, their resilience and communal spirit endure.

In conclusion, there is inequality everywhere but it is what counts for an Igbo man. The voices of the Igbos do not rotate around marginalisation but a perspective on how to build a great country and attract the diasporas back to their home. Beyond the headlines, the majority of the Igbo egg-heads have emigrated to Europe and America which signifies that justice to the Igbos is the betterment of Nigeria. The exclusion of the Igbos is the sidelining of equity and fairness in the governance and leadership of the country.

Finally, we do not have to be afraid no matter where we are. In a world overflowing with threats and dangers all around us, we all need something else to arrest our attention. Not just a mere mental distraction, we mostly need to fasten our minds upon a reality more powerful than all our fears. Hope is a positive expectation that something good is going to happen because of who we are, where we are and what we have. It is not a wishy-washy, wait-and-see attitude, but a mindset we must choose on purpose each day.

Obiotika Wilfred Toochukwu; St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Awgbu – Nigeria.