Whenever and wherever the Igbo people are mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is their unique enterprising acumen.
By nature, it is that sheer ethnic gravitas that makes them a peculiar people who can thrive anywhere, and can draw water of success out of the rock of opportunities.
One is not in the least surprised that the Igbo are sometimes compared to the Jews for their similar traits of ubiquity, resourcefulness and resilience.
Indeed, as every race, every nationality, every people have their exceptional innate quality which holds the seeds of their greatness, so do the Igbo. In spite of their historical drawbacks from a civil war and extant challenges of today, the greatness that marks Ndigbo out cannot be dimmed or erased.
Remarkable as ever, these enterprising souls with their undaunted spark of ingenuity are like seeds carried by the wind, taking roots in foreign lands and blooming, not as mere guests, but as architects of prosperity.
That is why, in every terrain and corner of Nigeria, the Igbo can be found thriving. And in every continent across the globe, from the vibrant commercial districts of Accra to the glittering business hearts of Dubai, from the bustling streets of New York City to the tranquil markets of Bangkok, from the dynamic business environment of London to the pulsating economic hub of São Paulo, one could find the fingerprints of Igbo presence and enterprise.
Their businesses are like beacons, illuminating the path to success for many, and their impact resonates far and wide. The Igbo indomitable spirit is reflected in the revered Igbo tradition of breaking kolanut.
Being a symbol of communion and tradition of goodwill prayers, any person praying over the kolanut before breaking it would normally say, among other things,: “May the river not dry up and may the fish not lack water to swim in.”
By this, the Igbo know the strength of co-existence and communalism, and they leverage it to create thriving communities wherever they landed. They form bonds, known as ‘Umunna’, which transcend blood ties, creating networks of support and shared knowledge. In distant lands, the Igbo also embrace diversity, being quite accommodating and learning from the cultures they encounter.
They adapt, not by forsaking their heritage, but by blending it harmoniously with the wisdom of their environments. As centuries, decades and years pass, Igbo businesses often become enduring bastions of success, prosperity and legacy, creating wealth, contributing to their local economies and fostering cross-cultural understanding.
They also acquire, build and own real estate everywhere they are. And through hard work and relentless dedication, they dispel stereotypes and misconceptions, showcasing the true potential of Igbo enterprise and the admirable global colours of their greatness.
But amidst their renowned global success, the Igbo homeland, Alaigbo, seems to be a far cry from development. How could a people be so enterprising and adept at sowing prosperity and development in distant lands, and Alaigbo keeps begging for development?
This has been a growing concern that is now more than a nagging whisper in the hearts of most Igbo leaders and stakeholders.
The homeland is beckoning its own sons and daughters to think homeward. It is like the voice of their ancestors, reminding them of their roots, of the land that had birthed their remarkable spirit. As they say, as the kite flies, so must the eagle fly. With this awakening, Ndigbo are being enjoined to turn their gaze homeward.
It is time to envision a South East transformed, not by foreign hands, but by our own. We know that our unique abilities can shape our homeland’s destiny.
And as we return bearing the fruits of our global endeavours, uniting under a common purpose – the advancement of our beloved land, we must realise that our strength lies in our diversity, to be harmonised and leveraged to build a regional economy and infrastructure that would rival any in the world.
The foregoing informed the recent South East Summit on Economy and Security held in Owerri, Imo State, two weeks ago.
The well-attended summit which had the theme “South East Beyond 2023, Time for a Reset” was facilitated by the South-East Governors Forum and supported by Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide.
At the summit, Anambra State Governor, Chukwuma Charles Soludo, called for the development of a 100-year plan for the development of the SouthEast region.
For someone who revealed that the Anambra State government has developed a 50-year plan called the ‘Anambra vision 2070’, it is Governor Soludo’s well-considered opinion that the much needed development of Alaigbo requires a longer-term vision and plan.
He explained that the SouthEast region needs a long-term plan because without a destination in mind, any road can be explored and any road may lead to an unintended destination.
Declaring with characteristic optimism that a new dawn is upon the South East, the former CBN Governor affirmed that the summit is indeed a good step towards the unity of South East governors that people have been pleading for.
He expressed the unwavering commitment of the Anambra State government to the regional development agenda, stating that his government is already demonstrating its commitment by its diverse reforms in Anambra State.
Of course, other South East governors who were at the summit expressed similar opinions and commitments as Governor Soludo. They all agreed that, in spite of the challenges confronting Ndigbo within Nigeria, the South East deserves to take its place among the most developed economies in the world. All that is needed now is bringing all hands on the plough.
Ndigbo all over the world should be thinking homeward in terms of investment, the state governors should be speaking with one voice, and our leaders should be fostering synergy and partnership with the rest of Nigeria, Africa and the international community to implement the development plan.
Once the right steps are being taken, it is a matter of time before the economies of Onitsha, Aba, Enugu, Abakaliki and Owerri begin to flourish as they should, not just as centres of commerce, but as symbols of a united people’s determination and prosperity.
And so, the story of the enterprising, ubiquitous, dynamic Igbo people can be trending not just in foreign lands, but also from a well-developed homeland prosperity that can stand the test of centuries.
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It will be a tribute to the power of unity and enterprise that could shape destinies of generations. It will be a legacy of not just individual success, but of shared collective prosperity. As the kite flies, so must the eagle fly.
.Aburime is the Chief Press Secretary to the Anambra State Governor.