By Douglas Anele
Because most of Chinweizu’s conclusions from the tragic experience of Dr. Izuogu are appropriate and insightful, it is important to continue with his response in this concluding part of our discussion.
Chinweizu affirms that only “a brilliantly naïve Igbo” would believe that a hardened caliphate colonialist like Abacha would deliver on his promise to assist him achieve technological breakthrough. What is on display, he says, “is political incompetence.
Does a doctorate degree in political science necessarily bestow political warrior spirit and skills? Is passing an exam in a subject a sign of operational mastery of the subject? Does having a PhD in soccer make one a Pele or Ronaldo?” Chinweizu continues: “Regarding unconscious incompetence, it has been observed that the more incompetent a person is, the less he realises his incompetence.
Again, that total ignorance of a subject tends to produce supreme confidence in one’s knowledge of it. Consider the Igbo example: since 1830 the Igbo have exhibited an unconscious political incompetence. And since 1940 they have confidently, even boastfully, regarded themselves as paragons of political competence.
Their unconscious political incompetence is the flaw that has reduced them to their present pitiful plight which they blame simply on the enmity of the British, the Fulani and other ethnic groups in Nigeria. However, that a lion wants to devour you is not a problem; that’s just a fact about your situation. What are you and your fellows prepared, competent, and organised to do to escape its hungry jaws?
That is the problem. And life is a daily adventure in problem-solving. Since 1954 Ndigbo have been under the threat, made publicly by Sir Ahmadu Bello, of extermination by their Fulani enemies. We are still waiting for Igbo brilliance to solve this fundamental existential problem.” Accordingly, how soon brilliant Ndigbo address this problem and organise appropriately to solve it is the real issue.
Chinweizu advises Igbo people to learn from what happened to Izuogu and acquire strategic commonsnense, the absence of which crippled his political thinking and behaviour despite his academic and technical brilliance. He uses an analogy from medicine to buttress his argument:
“Lack of vitamins afflicts the physical body with deadly nutritional deficiency diseases – like beriberi, pellagra, rickets and scurvy – whose consequences include blindness, mental confusion, memory loss, delirium with its incorrect comprehension of reality, diarrhoea, softening of bones, lack of coordination in muscles and eventually death, if untreated.”
Similarly “a lack of strategic commonsense [or in local parlance number six] afflicts the body politic with assorted warrior spirit deficiency diseases. The consequences include blindness to threats and dangers, mental confusion about what’s vital and what’s not, memory loss of precious historical and cultural lessons, a delirium of desires based on incorrect comprehension of reality
– like believing that money is the one and only important thing for the good life – a diarrhoea of boasting and bragging, a softening of social bones and binding structure, and loss of coordination organisationally. These combine to bring extinction on the society, if untreated.”
Chinweizu yearns for an “Igbo society that would allow itself learn the vital lesson that strategic thinking ability is more precious than exam-passing or moneymaking ability because it alone can guarantee the safety of life and the protection of wealth.”
Of utmost importance is an Igboland “where the breast milk of every Igbo mother is fortified with commonsense vitamins so that babies grow up without that lack of strategic thinking ability that afflicted Dr. Izuogu in his incarnation that has just ended.”
From the foregoing one can infer that the central message of Chinweizu is that Ndigbo should operationally internalise the idea that socio-political praxis rooted in enlightenment and strategic thinking is absolutely necessary for their own survival.
Every reasonable Igbo like myself who is very disappointed with the condition of Ndigbo and Igboland in general should see Chinweizu’s advice as a clarion call for Igbo people to re-examine their socio-political and economic realities in Nigeria.
The situation of Ndigbo is paradoxical. Without a doubt they contributed more than any other ethnic nationality to the nationalist struggles leading to independence in 1960 and, as the eminent historian, Prof. Tekena Tamuno, correctly noted the Igbo are the makers of modern Nigeria. Yet they are at the lowest rung of the pecking order when compared with the other two demographically dominant groups in Nigeria, the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba.
Now, the biggest mistake so-called Igbo leaders have been making all these years is this: they are so preoccupied with futile lamentations about how Fulani caliphate colonialists in particular have emasculated Ndigbo without recognising that their toxic mixture of political incompetence, greed and stupidity is the greatest crippling disease which has been afflicting Igboland with increasing devastation especially from 1970 onwards.
Of course, President Muhammadu Buhari’s unprecedented nepotism-on-steroids has indeed reinforced the belief that the vicious Fulanisation and Islamisation project formulated by Alhaji Ahmadu Bello shortly after independence is on course. Even so, naïve and unwise decisions at crucial moments by prominent Igbo personalities beginning with Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe actually jeopardised the collective interests of Ndigbo.
It is on record that when Azikiwe was working tirelessly for One Nigeria based on his overconfident belief that Ndigbo were destined to liberate Africa from existential darkness, Mazi Mbonu Ojike warned him about the potential dangers of his unitarist approach. Competent historians of the Biafran war agree that the pogroms against Ndigbo in the north in 1966 and Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon’s treacherous refusal to implement the Aburi Accord the following year were the main proximate causes of that devastating conflict;
they also concur that Gowon, egged on by hawkish warmongers from the north and Britain, brought war to Biafra. But with the benefit of hindsight a plausible case can be made that despite tremendous pressures he was under, including the mandate he received from leaders across the eastern region, Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu probably should not have declared an independent state of Biafra on May 30, 1967 because he ought to have known that Gowon and his northern backers and Britain would respond with full force and that Biafra was ill-prepared for armed conflict.
Put differently Ojukwu grossly misjudged the imperialist determination of the north and Britain to keep Nigeria one just as Viscount Harcourt and Lord Lugard envisioned in 1914.
Furthermore, in spite of my misgivings about the ignoble role of Chief Obafemi Awolowo against Biafra during the war and the shifty character of some prominent Yoruba politicians, Dr. Azikiwe should have teamed up with the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in 1979 rather than with the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the latter being essentially a reincarnation of the extremely parochial ultraconservative Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) of the first republic.
Not to be forgotten is the betrayal by Igbo political chameleons led by Orji Uzor Kalu of Dr. Alex Ekwueme’s meritorious quest to be the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999, a party he (Ekwueme) formed with other notable politicians when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who eventually got the ticket was in prison.
Again inasmuch as the suspicion of a Fulani plot for total political domination is increasingly becoming a reality, greedy and myopic Igbo politicians are actually helping the Fulani ruling cabal to achieve it. For instance, south-east governors are providing settlements in their states for the Fulani encouraged by the Buhari administration to migrate to Nigeria from different part of West Africa and the Sahel.
So one should not be surprised that in the next decade or thereabout there would be emirates across Igboland, a prospect every sensible Igbo must resist. We should also point out the failure of various administrations across Igboland to provide enabling environment for Ndigbo to invest in Igboland rather than elsewhere.
Suffocating federal government’s anti-Igbo policies notwithstanding, governors of contiguous Igbo-speaking states could have established interconnected institutional frameworks and infrastructure to bolster economic renaissance in Igboland similar to the vision and unsurpassed achievements of Dr. Michael Okpara in the old eastern region. Unfortunately, the dominant political class in Igboland is afflicted with the diseases highlighted above.
Consequently, unless these existential ailments are cured, Ndigbo will continue to wallow in the slough of despond and the primary lesson from Dr. Izuogu’s tragic error would remain unlearnt by the very people that need it most.