Op ed

A monument as igbo symbol of unity

The advent of democracy in Nigeria has propelled among others, freedom of expression and association. With that emerged a new breed of pundits speechifying among others the marginalization of the Igbo people of the southeast of Nigeria.

The question therefore is: are the Igbos maginalized or are they victims of their own making? This thesis holds the opinion that the Igbos are not marginalized, rather that they have lost the sense of who they are and their capability to turn vice into venture. This downward slope of the Igbo people started after the Nigerian civil war that ended in 1970.

None of the articles in circulation has one iota of a solution on how the Igbos can emerge from their abysmal position in the Nigerian society. Perhaps, like in every disease, one have to admit that there is a problem. Then, proceed to find appropriate diagnosis. Without proper definition of what constitutes the problem, any discussion and recommendation is invalid. We, the Igbos have for too long been caught up in pursuit of money (not that there is anything wrong with money) but the problem lies in the fact that when you loose sight of your identity, then there is a problem.

Maginalization is quota system pure and simple. It does not matter how you attempt to dress it. This article intends to explore a panacea by which if properly pursued and implemented, will pave the way for the Igbos to regain there self esteem, thereby regaining not only their lost glory, but also their proper place in Nigeria. This article will propose the use of a symbol as an avenue to whip together the Igbo people under one umbrella.

What is a symbol? According to Webster dictionary, a symbol is defined as ” something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance.” A good analogy of the significance of a symbol is the use of a flag. For instance, the American citizens are so attached to their flag to the extent that some United States lawmakers are proposing a jail time for anybody found guilty of United States flag desecration. Or perhaps, we recognize the value of symbol during the Olympics where winners are allowed to parade their country’s flag.

This article propose that the Igbos erect a monument to recognize those brothers, fathers and uncles that died in search of freedom and to protect us from the Nigerian federal slaughter house. A monument that recognizes the Igbo pregnant women whose wombs were cut into piece by some elements that pursued hates instead of harmony in the 1960s. This monument will serve as a starting point. The success of this private venture will be dependent on leadership. A leadership by example and not by self-proclamation and aggrandizement.

It is safe to argue that one of the present state of Igbo predicaments is due to lack of real leadership. Most of the so called Igbo leaders of today either suffer from low self esteem, and used their wealth as a means to cover up, or are sellouts. They dance to the tune of any drumbeat. For example, they were quick to jump on late M. K.O. Abiola’s bandwagon. When that attempt failed, then Obasnajo emerged and without hesitation, once again they jumped on his bandwagon. They have no principle yet we allow them to parade themselves as Igbo leaders with some fancy title (chief this and chief that or Dr. this or Dr. that) where most of them did not study beyond First School Certificate or GCE.

Perhaps a reminder of who the Igbos are is appropriate at this juncture. At the end of the British colonialism, Igbos dominated Nigerian economy, thereby exercising indigenous colonialism. The Igbos are instrumental in the development of almost all the major cities in Nigeria, namely Lagos, Kano, Calabar, just to mention but a few. These are boisterous cities of modern day Nigeria located outside the realm of the Igboland. We have done enough for others and now the chips shall fall and permit charity to start at home so to speak.

My fellow ndi Igbo, our pitfalls can be validated to partial marginalization but almost wholly on our indifference to the need and survival of our people and, cherished culture and way of life. If the Igbos have any doubt of what they are or how they behave, perhaps Professor Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” needs to be revisited, especially, the character portrayed by Obi Okonkwo.

In a contemporary world, knowledge acquired over a long period of time always serves as a guiding light for the future. I therefore propose that a monument to honor all the Igbos that perished during the brutal slaughter of the Igbos from 1967 to 1970 be erected. This monument will be a guiding symbol that will unify the Igbos and also serve as a starting point for a strong Igbo unity and identity. Each year during the celebration of the Unknown Soldier by the Nigerian government, the Igbos will be remembering their Known soldiers.

The question therefore begs: how do we pursue this intricate venture with harmony and enthusiasm? I propose that a committee known as “Igbo Remembrance Committee” (IRC) be formed. The committee will lay down a guideline through which all activities of the association will operate. It should be devoured of politics or individuals that may want to use the association as a springboard to lunch political activities.

The Remembrance Committee’s primary objective will be to raise funds. It will comprise of an agreed number of people as long as it is not dangerously bloated as to impede decision-making process. Membership to the committee should be drawn from all the Igbo speaking States of Nigeria namely: Abia, Anambra, Ebony, Enugu, Imo, Rivers and Delta. The committee will keep open accounting of collection of funds and its disbursements. Of course, the membership will be voluntary. However, any activity outside of the realm of the membership that will generate revenue may have to be borne by the association.

There should be a sub committee known as Monument Implementing Committee (MIC). MIC will function as the implementer of day to day activities of the association. For instance, if it is agreed upon that mini monuments are to be built at each of the Igbo State capitals, the MIC will over see the construction and maintenance of the structures. It will also assume any other assignment given to it.

The most tedious and challenging of this proposal is the collection of a list of all those that perished at the hands of the Nigerian government and the location of the monument. Unfortunately, we do not have a list of all the soldiers, militias and the Boys Company. However, if such list exist, this will be the time to make them available and be recognized for it symbolizes bravery. The names will be engraved on the monument. It could be done according to state of origin. Alternatively, the monument will be erected at one location thereby becoming the Igbo venue for pilgrimage.

Another significance of this monument construction is finance. This venture will generate money through tourism. It is about time that our people start thinking of other means of generating money after the oil dries up. What goes up must come down. This venture should be strictly private. Any government influence should be discouraged. However, any donation made by any of the Igbo speaking State governments should be acceptable as long as it does not obscure the independence and main purpose of the venture.

Finally, I will conclude by saying that the Igbos that I knew and loved were proud and adroit in whatever was their pursuit. The Igbos of today have degenerated into abyss, mercurial, feckless panhandlers begging for either leftovers or handouts. A proud people envied by all and welcomed to any land not because of what they can get, but for what they can give – God given talent. After the Nigerian civil war, General Yakubu Gowan declared “no victor, no vanquished” What followed the end of the Nigerian civil war was a systematic disenfranchisement of the Igbo people. That did not prevent the Igbos from blossoming.

My dear ndi Igbo, it’s about time that we take care of our own. Compassionate individualism – yes, selfishness, cut throat competition should not have a place in the heart and soul of the Igbos. This is a part of destruction. Pointing finger at people for the Igbo malaise is not the answer. Action speaks louder than an empty vessel. The proposal laid forth in this thesis by itself can not be the ultimate panacea to the current state of Igboland; however, it may serve as a starting point.

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