We are all too familiar with both biblical and modern story of the Jews. Admirably, no line of their story lacks faith, courage, unity and brotherhood, common goal, focus, selfless service, and determined will to be successful in the face imminent danger to their lives and properties. Many of them paid the ultimate price; they paid with their lives so that the generations to come would not experience what they went through. Also, they experienced some obstacles on their way, yet they never took eyes off the prize. They persevered in the face of looming peril .
What was the driving force? In fact and so deservingly, the Jews were driven by the fighting spirit to exist engulfed with tenacity. Piqued by the atrocities committed against them, the Jews fought back with ferocity for their existence. I sincerely admire the Jews for their resolve while I try to maintain, with venerate of course, that the Jewish situation, in some instances, is analogous to the Igbo situation in Nigeria.
It may seem impossible to exterminate the Igbo physically, but in spirit we are doomed because of the attitude of the federal government and its policies toward the Igbo. What E. C. Schwarzenback and Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote decades ago seem to have been directing the policies of the federal government toward the Igbo. “…The war [Referring to the Nigeria-Biafran War] aim and [absolute]solution properly speaking of the entire problem…is to discriminate against the Ibos and in their own interest. Such discrimination would include above all the detachment of those oil-rich territories in the Eastern Region… in addition, the Ibos’ freedom of movement would be restricted, to prevent their renewed penetration into other parts… leaving any access to the sea to the Ibos… is quite out of the question…” (Federal Nigerian Minister to E. C. Schwarzenback, Swiss Review of Africa, February 1968).
Conor Cruise O’Brien’s article entitled, “A Condemned People” published in New York Review on December 21, 1967 concluded, “Unfortunately, … a Lagos police officer was quoted last month [November, 1967] as saying that the Ibos must be considerably reduced in number.” Dr. O’Brien cited a UNICEF representative as saying, “Among the large majority hailing from that tribe [TheYoruba Tribe] who are most vocal in inciting the complete extermination of the Ibos, I often heard remarks that all Nigeria’s ills will be cured once the Ibos have been removed…” While these were spoken over three decades ago, yet the same attitude and feelings seem to prevail in today’s Nigeria.
Though the policies of the federal government— past and present—are designed to keep the Igbo in a perpetual subsistence existence in Nigeria with the acquiescence of some of the Igbo in the corridor of power and their uncanny reticence, yet we must not relent in our collective effort in pursuit of equitable power sharing in Nigeria. The Igbo have suffered enormously in the hands of the federal government. To buttress this fact, we do not have to look far for the evidence. The lingering bad roads in the South East are not only causing loss of lives through road accidents, but also they are inimical to business activities in the area. It is a callous act on the part of the federal government not to repair the deplorable federal roads in the South East Zone considering the economic cost of the conditions of those roads to the region. The federal government has refused to dredge the River Niger. The dredging of the River Niger would increase business and economic activities in the zone, but that does not seem to be the priority of the federal government.
While other zones are enjoying the abundance of federal presence, the South East Zone has been relegated to gnashing of their teeth in disgust to dilapidated infrastructure, poor health facilities, un-funded primary and secondary education, etc. Additionally, sense of insecurity and despair has engulfed the entire zone. Also, you may want to know that statistically speaking, the Igbo are not adequately represented in the federal employment. The Federal Character Principle is not being implemented to the spirit and letter .
Ecologically speaking, the theater of operation has changed thereby demanding the redefinition of the weapons for the fight. The instrument and those charged with the responsibility will no longer be the same if the Igbo seriously want to reclaim their heritage. If we do not fight for our rights, we will be begging for precipice for generations to come. The Igbo should not beg for crumbs. We deserve better than that! However, it takes action to accomplish things. This is not the time for inertia or lethargic attitude. It is rather a call to duty that involves courage and tenacity.
The Igbo must mobilize resources from the Diaspora and efficiently utilize that which is available in Nigeria to build a viable economic base that would empower and sustain the Igbo. We must first of all build trust among the Igbo by purging ourselves of dishonesty and mistrust before we can assemble our resources together for a common purpose. Let start today to sluice ourselves of selfishness in our dealings with each other for a greater good. The virtue of character, impeccable character should reign supreme in all our activities. It is inherently important that people in Diaspora must work in partnership with those in Nigeria in order to effectively emancipate the Igbo from both economic and political ruins. To win this fight, the Igbo must fight in all fronts. The Igbo have to identify and utilize various individuals endowed with various talents and skills. Imperatively, the effort and ideas driven by ideology should not only be collective and actionable, but also they should be concerted.
Unfortunately, they have too often relied on Igbo oligarchy, a group of Igbo leaders, to bring beacons home, but to no avail. Surreptitiously, the Igbo oligarchic group claims to be serving the interest of the Igbo while in actual fact the individuals in the group serve their own interest. These people expend their energy amassing wealth while maintaining reticent attitude to the agony of the Igbo in Nigeria. Regrettably, it is not a hidden fact that most of the Igbo in public offices, including those in leadership of Igbo organizations, are not serving the interest of the country, particularly that of the Igbo. They are mostly preoccupied with personal or venal interests. They are bent on nixing the treasury for the Igbo. As a result, we can no longer trust them; we cannot afford to mortgage our future in their hands. The Igbo oligarchic group lacks probity and in my opinion, we should have the temerity to not only fight for our rights, but also ostracize those individuals that betray the collective interest of the Igbo.
Undoubtedly, the Igbo need new crop of leadership from a pool of foreign- and home-trained leaders to work indefatigably to restore our dignity. We cannot afford to rely on old ways of doing things and obsolete Igbo leadership to redeem us from our unsavory situation. There is a place and a role for everyone that wants to genuinely work for Igbo interest. In that light, it is the responsibility of the current leaders to continuously groom effective, reflective, and selfless Igbo leaders.
Dr. Acho Orabuchi, a columnist for Daily Sun, lives in the United States.
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