•If Igbo was the Igbo of the 40s 50s and 60s how would the elders keep quiet while the youths run around aimlessly in search of destruction?
•When did a people with enviable commercial instincts learn to forget to do simple cost benefit analysis before frolicking let alone taking deep plunges like flirting with violent secession?
By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
“Igbo enweeze” ( Igbos have no kings) pays tribute not to disunity but to the independent mindedness of Igbos and their republican spirit. Igbos rightly believed that when the community ruled itself then arbitrariness and inequality that kings epitomized would not afflict them. ‘Igbo enweeze’ therefore is the enthronement of not just consensus and equity but also industry and meritocracy. Monarchy and feudalistic structures , despite all the historical sophistication ascribed to them , enthrone not mediocrity but also servitude. But the political docility that has beset Igboland now is startling.
The colonialists came and , in the name of civilization, adulterated Igbo culture. When they left, the legacy of messengers and headboys gave rise to a multiplicity of pseudo kings and contrived kingdoms , serviced by the logic of ease of administration. Autonomous communities proliferated supposedly to bring governance to the grass roots but, in reality, only allowed many maniacs become Ezes.
Now even Igbos in places far flung from Igbo land, who have come by some money, would not be left out in the craving for a whiff of royalty in that artificiality – ‘Ezendi Igbo’.
Ezendi Igbo, a potentially useful instrument for community organisation soon became a bogus social contraption for vainglory. Often bought , borrowed , usurped, snatched or stolen , that title is now emblematic of a much deeper rot in Igbo culture. Let’s ignore the Deji of Akure.
Despite a slower start, by the early 60s Igbos had established themselves through giftedness polished by hard work in the top echelons of all aspects of national life. Dick Tiger had become a world boxing champion , Kenneth Dike was vice chancellor of university of Ibadan while Eni Njoku headed the university of Lagos. Envy could not be excluded from what befell the Igbos.
After the civil war , Igbos , stripped to bare bones , faced institutionalized discrimination. Participation in government was curtailed, so individuals embraced industry and innovation and communities practiced communal self help and “onyeaghalanwanneya” ( be your brother’s keeper). With the determination that Enugu Rangers once represented, Igbos and their stock grew.
There were days when Igbo businessmen were known for frugality rather then exhibitionism. When they lived as tenants in one or two rooms till they owned more than 4 or five houses. Not because they lacked in refinement but because conservation was given priority and the flaunting of wealth was still obscene .
Those days when the worth of a man was measured by his nobility and his success by how many lives he had touched positively. And philanthropy was moral duty rather than a vehicle for personal aggrandizement and positioning for public office. Businessmen grew organically and their wealth could be explained.
The second republic came and Igbos returned to some reckoning. The northern establishment courted Igbos with the vice presidency and more. The days when Azikiwe won elections in Igboland because he was one of our finest and could easily lead Africa . And Mbakwe didn’t need billions or rigging or ballot box stuffing to win against the ruling NPN. And even the moneyed ones deferred to some tradition , and delegates weren’t available to be traded like ‘kulikuli. It is true that corruption has always been rife in our politics but politics then was not the commercial enterprise we have now.
That was before ‘419’ came and upset the order of things. Serious crimes lost moral pungency and lost that ability to attract opprobrium. Well known advance fee fraudsters and drug dealers reveled in fame and became the envy of Igbo youths. They and their philanthropy undercut the industry and took away whatever virtue was left in patience. Then many businesses left Onitsha and headed to Lagos where things could be conjured and decades could be reduced to days. The decadence was general but it would appear that Igbos with their innate cleverness were the masters of both the good and the ugly.
‘419’conmen assumed newly minted traditional stools in Igbo land where honesty and hardwork had always ruled. The commercial instincts of the Igbo youths became perverted and male school enrolments dropped drastically amongst a people who once nostalgically sang “ …….amataramsoroibemgara school, amataramsoroibemoo…” ( I wish I had followed others and taken to education) .
School and education became redundant nonsense as ‘ get rich quick ’ moved from being a mantra to being a religion. Graduate unemployment rose and left many of those who chose education and ended up as bus drivers inconsolable. Many became more certain that education was acostly superfluity.
When democracy returned in the 3rd republic, some other regions began reviving political cultures and structures while money took hold of Igbo politics. Igbos played peripheral shortsighted politics. And were very easily and cheaply bought. Semi literate businessmen became political godfathers. Elections were all about rigging and sane people left the show for thugs.
Some fraudsters became governors and legislators and made a mockery of democracy and all that Okpara and Louis Mbanefo had envisioned. They fended for their personal ambitions and their pockets while the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches quibbled, continued with their primitive political rivalry which would amuse Irish and English clergies. Nominal affiliation with a denomination by reprobates mattered more to priests whose endorsements many unfortunately relied on.
When a people lose the courage to condemn evil, let alone check it, they regress. But Igbo communities didn’t just stand aloof, they also valorized ill-gotten wealth and sanctified criminal careers in the worship of money. Neither drug trafficking, nor advance fee fraud was evil enough to be openly condemned by communities. Criminals were celebrated and atrocities became banal.
Survival of the fittest has always underlined the healthy competition and rivalry prevalent amongst Igbos of the old. But that sort of competition had the virtue of the recognition of abomination and sensitivity to sacrilege. It was once condemnable to abandon a brother in need. It was once obscene to brag about wealth let alone exaggerate ones achievements. It was once a sacrilege in Igbo land to steal because future generations would be tagged and smeared as Igbos believed that, like madness, stealing was transmitted along bloodlines. Times have really changed.
Little wonder Kidnapping came and found a foothold. All the bulwarks against the sort of moral degeneration that would permit the thriving of such evils have long been dismantled. Priests, by their conspicuous unrighteousness, trivialized priesthood and kidnappers showed no reverence. Churches have replaced shrines but they didn’t replace the deterrent dread of ‘Ala’ and ‘Amadioha’ and the immediacy of their retribution with anything comparatively exacting and decisive.
The priests are not wholly to blame for this, their God is a merciful one. The secular police the missionaries relied upon to maintain law and order have been made unreliable by corruption. Taboos have been demystified, the society is now naked. We are relentlessly emptying ourselves of content and the tradition.
Before tragedy befell Igbos, an Nnamdi Kanu in the throes of the most intense of hallucinations will not pretend to the leadership of Igbos. But he is not to blame. ‘Nkaramanya’ ( ‘open eye’ ) has displaced reason and decorum. You look at some of the persons who have become governors in the south east today and you struggle to hold back tears. NCNC was a phenomenon, NPP held the south east and had plateau and parts of Rivers and was forging national coalitions. 0ver 30 years after, the trademarks are now the disorderliness of a moribund APGA and the running of errands in the PDP? Igbo politicians now lack stature, lack vision and are extremely greedy.
If Igbo was the Igbo of the 40s 50s and 60s how would the elders keep quiet while the youths run around aimlessly in search of destruction? I know things have degenerated and courage has fled with morality but when did Igbos start to lack even prudence? When did they come to be associated with the sort of foolish risk taking that IPOB epitomizes?
When did a people with enviable commercial instincts learn to forget to do simple cost benefit analysis before frolicking let alone taking deep plunges like flirting with violent secession? Igbos are not cowards but they are not frivolous. If the events of 1966/1967 repeat themselves they will rise and defend themselves more robustly. But this inculcation of violence and hate in our youths by a shallow and intellectually wretched IPOB and other such groups is poisonous.
Some have suggested that if Buhari doesn’t handle Nnamdi Kanu’s matter well he could end up a Yusuf ( late founder of boko haram). And they implied that something more savage than Shekau will rise and IPOB and its deluded youths will become more barbaric than Boko haram. Buhari therefore should fret , perhaps cry. It’s a good cautionary tale. And I want the president to pay serious attention to the agitators.
But that reading of that cautionary tale lacks perspective. The tale bearers can’t understand that if IPOB becomes Boko haram then Igbo land will become worse than the desolate northeast. Why would anyone sufficiently this paranoid leave it to his ‘oppressors’, from whom he expects mischief and malice, to save him? Why wouldn’t Igbos then take their destiny in their hands and stop IPOB and other groups and their gospel of violence in the interest of Igbos.
Why are the churches quiet? Why are they so aloof even when Nnamdi Kanu has ridiculed Jesus Christ? Don’t get me wrong, if they wont act out of morality or civic duty, why won’t they do so out of prudence, self preservation?Why are the Bishops silent , why have they left it all to Father Mbaka to speak? Nnamdi Kanu may not be an anti Christ but he wants a Biafra, where Jesus is treated as a farce. He is entitled to that position but why would avowed Christians consider him sane let alone a freedom fighter ?
We know the traditional institutions have been bastardized but we still have a few respected traditional rulers. Igwe Nwokedi has spoken but why are the others sitting on the fence? If they support the position of violence and hate canvassed by IPOB they should be bold and say so.We know Igbo politics is largely “ cash and carry” but we have governors on whom the constitution has invested legal duties.
Why is it only Rochas Okorocha that has made a categorical statement? When did Igbo leaders become so cowardly? Igbos can be accused of brashness but not timidity. If Biafra is an immediate necessity why don’t they say so and give reasons? Why can’t we relocate the discourse from the streets to town halls and village squares so that reasons will be separated from emotions?
‘Igbo amaka’ shouldn’t be a mere chauvinistic slogan , it should be a call to the restoration and preservation of Igbo values , culture and interests which materialism has set ablaze.