Rationale for An Igbo Party:
At the beginning of this talk I mentioned some of the factors I consider to be responsible for the below-average performance of Ndiigbo in the current economic and political environment of Nigeria. They include hostile federal government policies whose objectives are deliberate institutional and structural marginalization of Ndiigbo. The other is the Igbo propensity to self-destruct.
Institutional and structural forms of marginalization manifest themselves in the attempt to contain Ndiigbo in only five states when they should have not less than seven states and in our absence in key and strategic positions in the country. It also shows up in the negligible number of local government council areas in Igbo land and other Igbo dominant areas of Nigeria. This aberration has led to the inequitable allocation of financial and other state resources, including legislative seats to Ndiigbo using the present state structure without reflecting the demographic content. It has therefore impinged on the quantity and quality of our representation in the National Assembly where policy and fiscal decisions affecting all and sundry in this country are taken.
Institutional or structural marginalization cannot be easily contained without political power. It is my considered opinion that Ndiigbo should form a political party in which they are in control. Such a party will not only control Igbo states, but can also control states, or parts thereof, where the residents or indigenes share the same visions with, or have had similar experiences as Ndiigbo. My considerable travels within this country and my interaction with persons from ethnic groups outside the Igbo convince me that if moves are made in this direction, Ndiigbo could go into alliance with these divergent groups for mutual and rewarding political gains. I submit that the present beggarly status of Ndiigbo in the Nigerian state is a function of our political weakness, and the formation of a powerful, all-embracing Igbo party is one of the sure ways to redress the situation.
Economically, Ndiigbo can still improve their fortunes. The Igbo have survived so far because of their adaptive and creative capabilities. They have been known to have turned hostile environments into friendly abode. Through hard work and thrift they have created their own capital, which has helped them to improve their quality of life and record some commercial success. Yet all is far from being well in Igbo land and outside it. If Igbo entrepreneurs and businessmen can pool their resources together in a cooperative spirit of enterprise we should be able to transcend the limitations of the hostile indigenization policy and the on-going privatization exercise. Being our brother’s keepers implies confidence and trust. You cannot keep somebody you don’t trust. But there is no reason why you should not trust your brother. It means we can pool our resources — financial and otherwise — for large-scale investment.
It is unfortunate that the on-going privatization exercise has found our people lagging behind. Reports have it that our political zone, the South East, has not been able to utilize its allotment shares because Igbo entrepreneurs and governments have refused to pool resources together in order to take advantage of the offer, inadequate as it is.
The future of business does not lie in small, individual or family businesses, but in corporate business ventures. All over the world companies are merging together, not only to protect themselves, but to increase their investible funds in the hope to reap higher dividends in the long term. The imperatives of modern economy should compel the Igbo entrepreneurs in Aba, Alaba, Abuja, Onitsha, and Nnewi and elsewhere to respond positively to these imperatives.
On the nagging issue of the so-called Igbo propensity to self-destruct let me remind Ndiigbo, through members of this Club, that the glorious future, which we wish for Ndiigbo, cannot be achieved through this pattern of behavior. It is a negative trait in our culture which if we encourage will lead to the destruction of the entire Igbo nation. A few Igbo names demonstrate and amply illustrate the wisdom in not pursuing this course of action:
Igwe bu ike;
Onye aghala nwanne ya;
Iwe eru n’ulo.
These trans late as follows:
Unity is strength;
No one should forget his brother;
Enmity should not be carried too far.
Many other aphorisms, and proverbs also support the need for restraint and circumspection when dealing with our own:
Nwanne di uko;
Onye egbula nwanne ya;
Onye ndiiro gbara gburu gburu na-eche ndu ya nche.
These are names and aphorisms which emanate from our culture, which is the totality of a people’s way of life and which expresses their hopes and aspirations. They are words of our elders; they are words of wisdom. These expressions cannot come from a culture that is irredeemably bound to hatred or violence or self-destruction. Every culture has its positive and negative elements. These elements in themselves act as checks and balances to give the culture its specificity and to define its limits. The Igbo culture is not an exception.
The Yoruba culture is probably more atavistic and divisive than the Igbo. We can easily remember the days when Yoruba land was referred to as the “Wild, wild, west” — when the face-off between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola led to a political logjam in Western Nigeria and eventually led to the imprisonment of Awolowo by the federal Government.
The events of those days approximated to a mini civil war. That was between 1964 and 1965. But today there is apparent peace and solidarity among the Yoruba. If they can forget their differences and come together, why can’t the Igbo?
While making these general assertions I am not unmindful of the influence of hunger and poverty and the syndrome of war on the conduct of a group of people. Hunger, poverty, and war syndromes contain seeds that can open windows of opportunities for us to, once more, excel and triumph. Our tragedy should beckon us to unity, should be a source of new strength to us. Such is the legacy left by Germany, Japan, and the Jews to all those who have passed through the crucible of war and defeat.
The greatest poverty that can afflict us is the poverty of ideas. The greatest crisis in Igboland is, perhaps, the absence of a sustainable new thought or idea that can revitalize our political culture. Since the end of the war the Igbo have lost their historical initiative in the area of civilization and culture, and their enviable intellectual blaze trailing tradition. Our rapacious desire for knowledge and learning has also waned. In our present exercise of soul-searching and rediscovery we must therefore remember the primacy of knowledge gained through functional and formal education. It is education that made the Igbo what they were, not commerce or entrepreneurship. Many ideas on the way forward have been canvassed and thrown up like tossed salad without coalescence, without a follow-up, and without strategies of implementation. I hope that the same fate will not be the lot of some of the ideas canvassed in this lecture.