•We need to revive age-grade system to maintain security —Ozuruoha
•Spirit of brotherhood need be revived, shun divisive tendencies —Obasi
•Federal Government, Fulani herdsmen fighting us for nothing —Anakwe
•It requires a collective effort —Ebonyi monarch
•We need a united Ndigbo to have peace and security —Prof. Igwe
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Peter Okutu, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinedu Adonu, Chinonso Alozie & Ikechukwu Odu
IN the past, Igbo land was known to be a place of peace, unity, security and progress. These factors created conducive atmosphere that enabled businesses to thrive for the people. The issue of insecurity was not pronounced because the leaders then had ways of guiding their children to ensure that they were engaged, hardworking and live in peace.
Today, the situation is no more the same. Igbo land has changed and the situation is no longer what it used to be. Why. Where did Ndigbo get it wrong? What is the way forward for an improved security, peace and harmony in Igbo land?
It is not doubt that every Igbo community cherishes peace and security, which is why there abound local security outfits known today as vigilante groups. In the olden days, some Igbo communities sustained peace and security through the age grade system, where a particular able bodied youthful age grade is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that peace, security and unity of the community is ensured. Rules and guidelines were usually prescribed for so that they don’t derail from the given assignment. They followed the rules and guidelines religiously and achieved results. Peace, security and harmony reigned.
Today, the situation has changed on account of a number of factors. Hence insecurity looms in most communities and some community leaders said things would never be the same again. One main factor identified is urbanization. Also, the fact that police is officially responsible for the maintenance of peace and security limits the much the communities can do.
An octogenarian, Ojinnaka Ozuruoha, from Okija in Ihiala council area of Anambra State observed that most communities can no longer secure themselves because youths are hardly found in the villages, coupled with the fact that most towns have become semi-urban centres and therefore do not require the type of security that existed in the past.
He said: “In those days, almost every youth grew up in the village and earned his living there. These days, those who reside in the villages are mainly elderly people and they cannot do much in terms of security.
“However, the elderly people organize peace and resolutions committees who meet at the residence of the oldest man in the village to deliberate on issues concerning them. Those found to be threats to peace and security are usually fined and warned and if they continue with the habit are excommunicated from the people.
“These social control and order of maintenance no doubt played a great role in the unity and progress of the people especially in pre-colonial times. Obviously, colonialism disrupted some of these conflict management mechanisms. Yet Igbo people still value some of them and, are still making efforts in resuscitating and rejuvenating some of the neglected traditional organs of peace and conflict management.
“In my community, we value such organs as the council of elders, age grades, titled men and women organizations and each group contributes towards ensuring peace and harmony in the town. For instance, it is the age grades that appoint those who secure transformers and protect water installations from being vandalized”.
For Chief Jerry Obasi, an Igbo leader, there is need to revive the old spirit of brotherhood which the Igbo tribe was known for in the past, as such action would enhance peace and security in Igbo land.
According to Obasi, the craze for wealth, politics, land disputes as well as what he described as individualism has created divisions in Igbo communities to the extent that people no longer care for their brothers and kinsmen.
The Igbo now play politics with everything including security and welfare of their communities unlike what was obtainable in the past and called for a change of attitude.
“In the past, the Igbo did things through the communal way. The community jointly tackled issues of community development, welfare, security and even the assistance of the needy ones. But things are no longer the same. We have been driven apart. Craze for wealth, land dispute, selfishness and individualism are now the order of the day. It is like to your tent, oh Israel.
“In the past, the community enforced laws and punished offenders; but today it is mostly determined by which party you belong to in the community. Today, most people are even afraid to visit their communities because of insecurity. In the past, the communities were the most secured place. Today, some people, even monarchs, do embezzle community funds without being called to order.
“Parents now hardly have time to train their children leading to them joining bad company because everyone is pursuing wealth. Many families have bitter feuds about land disputes while community leaders take sides. Many things have gone wrong; we have lost our core values.
“If we must restore our values, people must stop politics of divisiveness and return to the old days where even land and business disputes were settled by the community with no one taking sides. We must revive the old spirit of brotherhood and love for the other person. Those who commit offences must be punished according to the law, no matter their status. Unless we do this, we will still be missing the virtues through which the Igbo were known for”, Obasi said.
He advised monarchs and other community leaders to strive to leave legacies, respect laws, shun divisive tendencies and lead with the fear of God.
According to Chief Ozoh Anaekwe, a community leader and former President General of Onitsha Markets Amalgamated Traders Association, OMATA, the insecurity that is being witnessed in Igbo land is imported. Igbo, he said are known for peace. They are not violent people because they live in peace everywhere. They are seen and if they live peaceful with people in their states and countries, why would they cause trouble and create insecurity in their communities and country?
Anaekwe said that Ndigbo have had peace until the destructive activities of herdsmen started, with the tactic support of the Muhammadu Buhari- led federal government of Nigeria. This gave the Fulani herdsmen the effrontery to take over our forests. We have more than one thousand communities in Igbo land; we are not fighting each against each other. You have not heard that Igbo in the markets are fighting and killing each other. So, the security crisis or what you call insecurity in South East is caused by the federal government and particularly, the Fulani herdsmen who invade our communities, kill and sack people while raping our women and girls.
“They do not want Igbo to live in peace; they do not want South East to live in peace. They first of all planted their men in our forests and then started killing our people. You know what happened in Nimbo community and other communities in Enugu State after their killing of almost 80 in Benue State. Did it happen under Obasanjo, Jonathan and Yar’ Adua regimes? No. That is to tell you who and what is responsible for the insecurity we have now in South East.
“Again the Nigerian federal government and the armed forces deliberately refused to tell them to leave our forests. Instead, they are fighting and killing people who volunteered to protect our forests and farms they are destroying. If they come inside the communities and live with us like before this administration came in, there would not have been any problem. But the present government came and gave them the impression that they are the owners of Nigeria and they became emboldened and started killing and claiming responsibility and nothing was done to stop them and insecurity became the order of the day in Nigeria not only in South East or Igbo land.
“So, in my own opinion, there is still peace in Igbo land, or South East, as I speak today, the only insecurity we have is the military versus the South East, and the Fulani versus the South East. If the military, the armed forces leave Igbo land to go about their normal lines of businesses, you will see that we are living in peace.
“Look at the situation of armed robbery and kidnapping. Since after #EndSARS, have you heard about the activities of armed robbery and kidnapping, have you heard Igbo communities fighting against each other or individual fighting and killing themselves? You can see that police and other security agencies were part of the problems.
“The problem in Igbo land now is the federal government and the Fulani herdsmen fighting us for nothing; the military and the police are protecting and shielding them because they will not act otherwise because of the man at the helm of affairs. The Army, Navy, Police Air force, they are all fighting us because they take orders from above and cannot do otherwise.
“The Army, Navy and others are all on our roads, punishing us, you cannot get to Onitsha from Awka in one hour; it will take you like three and half hours. You cannot get to Onitsha from Owerri in one hour, it will take you four hours, instead of 30 minutes. They are there to provoke insecurity. How many criminals have they arrested while on those blocks?
Army checkpoints have become courts of law; even some military men became (alleged) murderers. So the insecurity you are talking about, if the military and the Fulani herdsmen leave Igbo and their communities alone, you will see that Igbo are the most peaceful people in the world because we abhor shedding blood in our culture.
Like in my place, if you kill somebody you will be excommunicated for seven years by leaving the community and you must pay for it. To kill is an abomination in Igbo land.
Majority of Igbo are Christians and Christianity also abhors killing. Our culture and religion abhor and avoid killing human beings.
“The truth is that the federal government does not want South East to be crime free; they want insecurity to terrify them. Have you forgotten that the federal government ordered all the vigilante groups to submit all their arms and ammunition. Did What does that tell you? They did it so that armed robbers will invade and kill us at will. But when they saw that armed robbers were not invading and killing us, the Fulani hiding under herdsmen took over our land and started killing, sacking us from our communities.
“So as far as I am concerned, the present government and their armed forces are our problem in terms of security; they do not want the South East to be in peace, they don’t want people to say we are living in peace. They want what is happening in the North to happen here. They want war and insecurity in South East.
“In Yoruba and Ijaw land and everywhere including overseas, how many times have you heard they are causing problems? You do not give what you don’t have. Igbo are not violent people and they cannot give violence. They are peace lovers and peaceful people and that is why they give peace anywhere they are. Why can’t they get peace in their communities if violence and insecurity you are talking about are not sponsored?
“The insecurity you are talking about is imported; imported violence, imported killings and those who imported those things know themselves. The media in Nigeria know the truth but some are afraid to say it. Journalist in Nigeria should say the truth about insecurity in Nigeria and save the country. It not about Igbo, it is about Nigeria”, Anaekwe said.
He however noted that “one can equally say that insecurity in Igbo land can be traced immediately after the Nigerian Biafra civil war. Some people that went to the war as military officers started behaving as people that came from war front. Then the Nigerian government aggravated the situation by treating the Igbos as enemies that must be eliminated and are not part of Nigeria”.
The traditional ruler of Ishiagu kingdom, Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Eze Moses Okafor Ngele who expressed displeasure over the level of insecurity in the South East zone, explained that the zone was before now known for collective fight against insecurity and other forms of social vices.
“The situation in Igbo land is quite pathetic. The issue of maintaining peace and security those days in Igbo land is usually a collective effort. While the youths do their bid, the elders do theirs.
“In fact, the issue of security in Igboland is seen as the responsibility of all and sundry. Everybody in the village, especially the elders make it a responsibility to caution youths generally to be of good behaviour.
“That is done not minding the family the child is from. It is believed that once a child is well behaved, he will impact his community positively. But now, parents are unhappy and also revengeful when their child or children are cautioned.
“To complement the current security architecture, the locals set up vigilantes at various levels to checkmate the influx of people in and out of the community. Many things have gone wrong in the Igbo setting. Youths no longer listen to the traditional leadership of their communities. They abuse elders as they are often used to cause mayhem during election and disrupt fruitful gatherings”.
For an academia, Prof. Obasi Igwe, there would be no peace or progress in Igbo land because Ndigbo have allowed themselves to be divided and ruled by corrupt and conscienceless leaders.
Prof. Igwe, who bemoaned how Igbo leaders had abandoned history and accepted ill-acquired wealth, treachery and filthy lucre, disclosed that it is only a radical change of 180 degrees turn around that would bring back the tradition and custom of Ndigbo.
“Disunity breeds insecurity. So long as the Igbo allow themselves to be divided-and-ruled by others or by their corrupt and conscienceless elites, so long would their great customs and traditions lie waste and deteriorating. Igbo youths, emulating their corrupt elders; no more pay attention to what happened in the past which guides what is happening today and considerably determines the direction tomorrow.
“The youths of the past are the elders of today for whom nothing matters except ill-acquired wealth, treachery and filthy lucre, and it goes on and on except a radical change occurs and there is a 180° turn around for the better.”
For the Igbo National Council, INC, government’s involvement in the appointment monarchs and community elections are part of the problem as in most cases, they end up imposing on the people those they don’t want as their choice.
The traditional institution that was used to maintain peace and security in Igboland were coordinated by community governance…. Once the government began to interfere in this process, what it means is that these apparati that have been used for community governance became politicized and it will no longer be effective
According to the President of INC, Chilo Godsent: “The government should remove their hands in the issue of town union elections and governance. They should also remove their hands in who becomes the traditional ruler of any community so that these areas will no longer be politicized.
“The traditional institution that was used to maintain peace and security in Igboland were coordinated by community governance. Once the government began to interfere in this process, what it means is that these apparati that have been used for community governance became politicized and it will no longer be effective.
“But once the government withdraws their interference in the process of town union elections or recognition or appointment of traditional rulers and leave it to the community to do it the way they want, all these things will come back to normal because in the community they know who is who”.
In his contribution, a retired lecturer of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, Charles Ndukaife Chukwudozie, said that traditional Igbo societies instituted personal, collective and spiritual security measures which ensured that law and order were maintained.
The don who called for a return to those security measures, noted that the vices and breach of social contracts and trust seem to be on the increase because the present Igbo societies have abandoned those measures.
On personal basis, he said every traditional Igbo men had personal armaments such as local gun, knife, axe and spear with which they warded off enemies and criminals. He also said that there was a high sense of right and wrong amongst the Igbo of old which helped to protect moral values in communities.
On a collective basis, he explained that communities instituted watch groups and had functional community policing arrangements which guaranteed their security. He equally said that there were laws such as killing of known criminals and banishment of evil doers in the society. He also noted that Ndigbo settled at strategic positions which ensured that the enemies could not encroach into their territories without being noticed.
On spiritual basis, Chukwudozi said that Ndigbo had deities, gods and oracles which ensured that evil doers did not go unpublished, adding that charms placed at border communities equally helped control on crime in the olden days.
He maintained that Ndigbo had internal mechanism through apprenticeship which ensured that everybody had something in the form of handwork or businesses through which they earned genuine livelihood, pointing out also, that there was template for rewarding meritocracy and social recognition such as giving of Ozo titles which encouraged the dignity of labour.