Import of Igbo Enwe Eze in Modern Igbo Way of Life:
As a general practice the Igbo do not have kings as their political leaders. The proliferation of Ndi Eze in Igbo land today is a response to administrative imperatives whose origin is linked to our colonial experience. Because royalty has never been much celebrated in Igbo land the tradition has been bastardized and does not really confer much dignity or respect to the holder of the title. The saying in Igbo land that if you respect or serve a king you will also be respected or served (Onye fee eze, eze erue ya) makes the point that there is no divine obligation to respect a king, talk less of serving him. There is not even a moral obligation in serving a king, outside the illusion that you too may be a king if you serve him.
The Nri tradition is a unique case. It is unlike other cultures and civilizations where the King is regarded as a god and highly revered by his subjects. The modem trend is one of the incongruities being forced upon our culture and it has not sat well with us. On the contrary, elders and achievers in Igboland command measured respect even though not to the point of adulation. The Igbo will always ask the rhetorical question whether you are the one that provides his daily bread: O bu gi na-enye m nri? And when rushed further will want to know if you are God: I bu Chukwu? The inference is that only God, the provider of all good things, deserve adoration.
The Igbo predilection for loose political association, like confederation or true federalism derives from its traditional concept of governance. The traditional Igbo government was highly participatory and democratic, except that it did not promote effective women participation. Otherwise, every grown up was free to participate in discussions that affect the governance of his community.
There is a school of thought that believes that Igbo enwe eze encapsulates the concept that there is a royal blood in every Igbo person; in other words, that every Igbo man is as good as another. This belief promotes the spirit of long life competitiveness, robust individualism, and the desire to excel. It led to ethnic rivalry in the long run and earned the Igbo hatred and envy among other Nigerians.
There were no recorded Igbo empires built through military or religious impositions by an Igbo suzerainty The Igbo never raised any large armies to either defend themselves or impose their will on others. It was not in their character. What was in their character was to achieve peaceful coexistence with their neighbors to enable them carry out their business of trading. This is why attempts by successful Igbo entrepreneurs to impose rulership in Igbo land are incongruous with our political culture and could be self-defeating. Ndiigbo have always governed themselves without surrendering their power to any individual.
The non-existence of strong kingship tradition in Igbo land is not a handicap, even if we judge from this short historical survey. It is a fact well known all over the world that the Igbo are among the most industrious, skilful, and enterprising groups in the world. We have already outlined their successes in education, politics, business, and industry. It is therefore improper to locate present Igbo predicament on the nebulous concept of Igbo enwe eze.
The republican nature of Ndiigbo need not make them leaderless. In traditional Igbo society men of achievement and substance commanded the respect of their peers. But they did not dictate to their societies because of their achievements. Rather they listened to the council of the elders and functioned within defined areas of operations.
The negative connotation attached to the concept of Igbo enwe eze accentuated partly from the events of the war and our handling of defeat. It is all in the mind. The Igbo should stop licking their wounds and re-launch themselves onto the path of cultural, economic, and political recovery. Enough of the mantra of marginalization! Let us invent and raise new slogans that are positive and that would help us to reawaken the Igbo spirit that made us to bridge the gap between the Yoruba and us within a short period of time.