Society and Culture

This “igbo Enwe Eze” Syndrom Must Go

On the issue of monarch or “Ezes” for the Igbo societies, much as I respect this viewpoint because every society strives to build its own unique socio-cultural society based on what is akin to its development, I strongly believe that in today’s world where both small and large group of people are fast moving towards identifying with well organized societies under able leadership of individuals with wherewithal. One of the traits upon which a society is built is, is the ability to make adjustments whether in form of gradualism or radicalism. From time immemorial societies in form of city-states, empires, kingdoms, countries etc have taken the recognition that group of people with defined population and area must be politically organized under a strong vibrant, focused and charismatic individual called a “leader”

This was what the British found amiss when the indirect rule was introduced in Igbo land by the British as it failed to find the solution upon which it was intended but this is not to say that our Igbo society at large failed to realize that monarch was paramount if our society was to exist. Today, we can adduce evidences to suggest that monarchical system of government was not strange to the Igbo whether in the Imo, Anambra, Enugu , Ebonyi, Abia, Delta, Rivers, Cross-Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Benue or anywhere else. To say that Monarchs or “Ezes” never existed in Igbo land will fearfully amount to mendacity because we know that many of our people have been ruled by “Ezes” or “Obis” for longer periods than we can remember. Everyone is familiar with the word “Igwe,” yet it is not a recent word, and it will amount to a real stressful research exercise if we are to trace the etymology of that word, because it is older than us all living today.

Before the birth of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, the children of Israel had realized that societies under the leadership of monarchs oppressed by because they seemingly possessed certain advantages which they ( Israel ) lacked, for this reason Israel implored Samuel to prevail on God to give them a king. The hesitant Samuel who felt that they were asking for too much attempted to discourage them but, because as we know in life, everything with advantages must be accompanied with disadvantages, God only made Samuel read out the disadvantages to them. For centuries, they possessed kings, from Saul to David, and so on. Before this time there were Moses and Joshua, and even judges who led them. Today, Israel is headed by a prime-minister.

The Holy Bible describes any society with a ruler as a flock of sheep with without shepherd. The larger group of Igbo society cannot be described as a flock of sheep without shepherd because monarchs have existed in the society longer before they existed in Europe . Historically, we can adduce strong evidences to suggest that the British merely concentrated the indirect rule system only on the part of Igbo land with republican system where trade boomed only for their own benefits. Why will any historian hurriedly conclude that “Igbo enwe eze” when Onitsha has been part and parcel of Igbo land shortly after the Anioma lost the Ekumeku Wars, and the town had to be annexed to the Eastern province to reduce the military prowess of the Anioma people even if it traces its origin to Iduu (Benin) ancestry.

Some Igbo societies like Asaba, Ibusa and Ogwashi-Uku have evolved monarchical ideas aimed at resting the affairs of the communities on able single individuals because they have come to the realization that Governments, NGOs, foreign investors and indeed International organizations wishing to bring about developments begin their journeys in the palaces of leaders with legitimate mandates to speak for the people. Asaba is today headed by an “Asagba” Ibusa by an “Obuzor” and Ogwashi-Uku by an “Obi” We have also noted that societies without identifiable leaders are most times left to rotten in obscurity. The non-dynamic leadership status of many Anioma towns makes the region vulnerable to marginalization when challenged by better organized ethnic-groups.

When confronted by other ethnic-groups especially the Urhobos, Ijaws, and Itsekiris in the present Delta State with better organized under able leaders, the Anioma people collapse like packs of cards. Have you also noticed that where there is no leader to speak for the people, what is witnessed is identity problem? Ancient Empires as tiny as Benin , Oyo, Asante , etc conquered because they were united under great rulers who commandeered them to actions and achievements, wining the territories of other empires

The people of the western world were able to make copious achievements because they were organized under able rulers who dictated programs, some of these leaders may have been bad while others may have made greatly impacted on their environments but no nations compares today with those of the western nations.

An “Eze” or Monarch may in today’s language mean a respected spokesperson with the possession of very strong influence on his own ethnic group. This “Monarch” is seen as well intentioned and a “commander” and advocate of his people who is seen before his people. Any good Political Science scholar will readily agree that any society without a leader will speak with discordant tunes, this is what is happening to the Igbo of today. We can demonstrate this as the major challenge confronting the Igbo society if we must not deceive ourselves. Some of these challenges are seen in the Ohanaeze, inability of Ndiigbo to speak with one voice when it matters most, inability to adopt a single state for creation by the Federal Government of Nigeria, present crisis rocking the Ohanaeze Ndiigbo. Personally, I do not share any opinion with Col. Achuzie (Rtd) if he does not remember that power resides with the people thus must be returned to people.  No matter what has happened, the simplest solution to it all was to have resigned; this is what our people need to learn from the developed nations of the world.

If the present trend which finds expression in “Igbo Enwe Eze” is allowed to continue simply on the basis that we do not want to be seen as having made some mistakes then it will be difficult to produce a president of Igbo extraction for the nation, even though we know that we have befiting individuals who can ably pilot the affairs of the nation. why do we always settle for left-over appointments like Budget and Planning, works and Housing when others rule over us as Presidents? Do we feel content planning for others to take the glory?

We must tell ourselves the truth. The situation of Arewa and O’odua, with the ability to amicably nominate a presidential candidate to represent their regions, while we operate on individualistic manners defying orders from respected authorities will end up fetching us division of votes where it counts. The present situations of APGA and Ohanaeze are testimonies of this. The Igbo society apparently is too fragmental, we obviously need to formidably come together and re-posses our once-upon-a-time honour politically because we built Nigeria and must not allow others to harvest what we sowed.

Any Igbo man would feel honored in the achievements made by the Igbo before the civil, which was not even lost during the war that raged for three years. Incontrovertibly the Igbo were the vanguard of development in the country, occupying every sector of the country. This was made possible by the fact that the Igbo found leadership in the great icons of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Dennis Osadebe, Akanu Ibiam, Chief K. O. Mbadiwe, Chief Odimegwu Ojukwu and others. It is with great sense of pride that I state that the most formidable unity of Ndigbo was achieved under the leadership of Chief Odimegwu Ojukwu, carrying along other peoples who in today’s Nigeria see themselves as members of ethnic groups separate from the Igbo race. This can still happen today, personally I believe that if Ohanaeze does a re-engineering of the people creating unity that must cut across the entire Igbo land, the Igbo will fare better than others because the Igbo whether from the hinterland or across the River Niger have what it takes.

Finally, on the issue of monarchical leadership for the Igbo, if the United Nations Organizations, countries, football teams and others have leaders why shouldn’t any society rally around a leader for the much desired improvement? No leader can give it all but most times they do their best, organizing the youths and elders, literates and illiterates who must make a noise to get what they want. Who does not know that the South-West wrestled an eight-year term from the entire North out of sympathy and chiefly because of series of organized  threats issued by Afenifere and  NADECO and other Yoruba groups whether declared legitimate or illegitimate? Better still, leadership voices were heard from Abraham adesanya and others. Yes, the Igbo need “Ogas” to move forward. A youth must bow to a respectable elder, it has always been in our character.

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