Dominant ideas in Igbo religious philosophy -Chp 4

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ACHIEVEMENT – ORIENTED VALUES

It is important to notice that the history of Igbo origin as legend has it, reveals that the word ‘Igbo’ refers to ‘forest-dwellers’. We are aware that at this time the primitive Igbo lived a hazardous wandering life of the hunter-gatherer of wild edible plants. The Nri myth which preserved for us how agriculture came meant that the Igbo became ‘farmers’ who had to be directly dependent on the land for their livelihood. Definitely these kinds of job descriptions will require among other qualities – strength and intelligence.

The implications that right from the Igbo genesis, the Igbo man was born into a tough world that demanded him to be rugged, courageous, fearless, determined and hardworking to survive. Thus I will agree with D.I. Nwoga (1984:48) who said:
…the .most prominent aspect of Igbo concept of man is that of a struggler for survival, a hard and determined person in confrontation with the environment to force out of it a means of sustenance.
Luckily enough, this Igbo nature of hard work had been acknowledged right from the pre-colonial period. It is reported of Igbo slaves in Haiti that they were… excellent for work in the fields yet difficult to manage. They kept a strong sense of their Igbo identity and gave help, care and instructions to new arrivals from Igbo land. (Isichei, 1976:44; Herskovit, 1931:20-21; Uchendu, 1965:37).

Even in the New World Igbo slaves were outstanding for their hard work and intelligence. Igbo slaves became much more productive than the other slaves, by exhibiting higher degree of intelligence, honesty and craftiness. Nwosu (1983:7) argued that the Igbo slaves showed an uncommly greater degree of brotherly 1ove among themselves, which was lacking also in slaves of other nationalities. This discovery made the American Masters of Igbo slaves to become more productive, and wealthier than their counter-parts in Cuba and South America, Igbo slaves there became more expensive than others. Admittedly, this Igbo achievement orientation as an important aspect of Igbo life is one area in which the Igbo have been badly misunderstood and misrepresented.
Many non-Igbo use it and argue that the Igbo are materialistic.
Interestingly enough on this kind of accusation (Jordan, 1971:115) reported that Bishop Shanaham who had worked in Igbo land for years had come to the conclusion that:

The average native was admirably suited by environment and training, for an explanation of life in terms of the spirit, rather than of the flesh. He was no materialist. Indeed nothing was farther from his mind than a materialistic philosophy of existence. It made no appeal to him.

This was several years ago and I wish to categorically state that the Igbo do not cherish money more than the other ethnic groups. In fact, if money has today become an Igbo problem, it is a problem which Nigeria created for them. So it is a Nigerian problem. This achievement orientation has been found in their industry, courage, determination and in itinerancy in search of adequate means of livelihood in all nooks and crannies of the world, in all human endeavours. The dynamism of the Igbo is found in their history and in the psychological structure of the Igbo man and his society. In other words, it is a reflection of the Igbo perception of ‘self.’ First, the Igbo is afraid of failure in life. He believes that nature has endowed him with the ability to subdue his world and succeed and therefore had to do just that. Definitely the mandate to control the land is a mandate to be successful. This position is well-supported and articulated by Afigbo (1974) when he said:

It is thus quite clear that the Igbo saw failure in his world as a terrible calamity which implied damnation and so did every thing possible to avoid it. It is this fear of failure, this drive to succeed here, and attain the status of Ogaranya (a rich man) which he could carry across to the next world, which helped him to account for the economic drive of the Igbo man, as for the high score and prestige set on hard work, resourcefulness, foresight, and rugged individualism.

Second, the Igbo is not prepared to attribute any failure to his personal ‘chi.’ Thus the Igbo saying that onye kwe chi ya ekwe locates the Igbo in the context of determination and faith to succeed. It is for this reason he has to get all forces on his side. The achievement orientation finds the Igbo in reverence of Ikenga, the cult of strength, a symbol for personal achievement, heroism and success.

The Igbo people love to be rewarded and recognized after having worked hard. Thus recognition for achievement is well entrenched in Igbo life. For instance, far from despising manual labour, the Igbo esteem the successful farmer. Some parts of Igbo land award them the titles of Eze ji (King of yam), Oko ji (yam planter). There is an Igbo saying:

egbuwa ọfịa a hụ akụ

When you clear the forest you see wealth.

The Igbo people believe so much in the dignity of labour (work) probably more than any other ethnic groups in Nigeria, and it is for this same reason, the Igbo are also hated. Everywhere in Nigeria you find the Igbo working for his livelihood. It is a new phenomenon seeing an ‘Igbo’ begging for alms. We know as Oluadah Eouiano wrote centuries ago, that begging was unknown to the Igbo society. The only circumstance that begging was probably accepted was rather than being a thief (Onye arịrịọ ka onye oshi mma). Stealing was a terrible crime in traditional Igbo society and its punishment could be death, at times.

Creating wealth is based on hard work and intelligence. It is just recently we started seeing people who do ‘nothing’ but we find them building ‘estates.’ It is only recently we find people who do nothing and yet become leaders. In traditional Igbo society, you can’t lead without your being an accomplished person, having something doing. We have what is called the British pride, the American pride; we also have from time immemorial what is known as the ‘Igbo pride’ which some historians refer to as ‘Igbo identity’. Precisely, handworker as an important philosophical Igbo idea is centered on Igbo pride. This ‘Igbo pride’ is that Igbo spirit, that Igboness in every Igbo person, that courage, that determination, that fearlessness, that self-confidence in every Igbo person. He knows that he is not judged by what his father or relations have but rather by what he is able to achieve by himself for his community.

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