2ND Prize (N30,000)
UCHECHI WONDERFUL OKEKE
READ UCHECHI’S ESSAY BELOW
“Salvation and justice are not to be found in revolution but in evolution through concord. Violence has ever achieved only destruction, not construction; the kindling of passions, not their pacification; the accumulation of hate and destruction, not the reconciliation of the contending parties and it has reduced men and parties to the difficult task of building slowly after bad experience on the ruins of discord”.– Pope Pius xii
Regrettably, the Igbo agitation as led by forefront groups such as the proscribed IPOB and MASSOP is not about restoring the pride of place of the Igbos in the scheme of things in Nigeria, but rightly or wrongly, is viewed and often interpreted in very poor light by other Nigerians, as an ill thought out, violent, lost cause of sort, for which they have no interest nor sympathize for.
Many Igbo contend that since the civil war, the tribe has been marginalized politically. They note that no Igbo have been elected to lead the country since Nnamdi Azikiwe’s ceremonial presidency in the 1960s, nor has an Igbo held the position of vice president, since Alex Ekwueme, almost three decades ago. Generally, they claim, there is substance in the argument that federal political appointments are skewed against the Igbo, as are federal government investments in infrastructural development, in the South East.
Assuming for instance that this is the case, one has to wonder how this agitation-approach would proffer any solution to the marginalization? As stated earlier, many Nigerians do not seem to validate or empathize with the marginalization claims. This is perhaps as a result of the nature of the Igbo agitation itself. Often interpreted as hatred for other tribes and an inability or unwillingness to form alliances, or make right political decisions, and instead clamoring to break up the country. Evidently, the Igbo agitation as is, has brought on more negative consequences to the South Eastern region, than any notable benefits. It has caused a pulsating rift between the Igbos and other tribes, including neighbors in the South South, who have dissociated themselves from the Igbo agitation and have been unequivocal about their stand for One Nigeria. The agitation, if anything, has raised much suspicion and distrust that could negatively impact the Igbo in national politics, specifically, as regards holding the position of the president. It is widely rumored that an Igbo president might be involved in orchestrating the breakup of Nigeria by granting agitators a way out.
The Igbo are a thriving people with weighty achievements all over the world. Some of the best professionals across all fields worldwide, are Igbo. In spite of claims of economic marginalization, the South East is a power house of commerce, mainly propelled by private businesses. This has earned places like Aba the nick name “little China”.
Igbo regaining the pride of place in Nigeria are in their own hands:
• First, there is need for more positivity and show of patriotism for Nigeria. A man who climbs a tree and orders for it to be cut down will fall with the tree, become injured beyond repair, if not ending up dead. This is the case with some Igbo, they wish Nigeria ill in one breath, while expecting benefits such as top political positions and heavy infrastructural investment in the region, in another breath. This sends out conflicting messages to other Nigerians. As mentioned earlier, this can also cause suspicion and distrust of the Igbo. Participating fully in and showing a total commitment to the wellbeing and welfare of Nigeria is sacrosanct to the Igbo pride of place in Nigeria. Instead of being regarded as the prodigal child who refuses to return, attitudes and utterances can change to show that the Igbo are bonafide Nigerians and no one can threat them any less, or take advantage of historical events to short change the South East.
• Increase in political savvy: Being politically savvy is a key component to regaining pride in the scheme of things in Nigeria. This calls for an urgent need for the Igbo to understand themselves first, unite within and be open to navigate the political terrain of forging alliances with other tribes and regions for their own political benefit. The Yorubas have always played this kind of politics and have greatly benefitted from it. Apart from forging alliances, the Igbo have to learn to make better political decisions, as a block. Putting all eggs in one basket is not a winning strategy, Igbo must ensure that whichever way the cookie crumbles, it is well represented there. This is also another thing other big tribes do well. To gain more political strength and become more influential in the political arena, the Igbo have to do these things. They cannot continue to expect to rip from political parties they repeatedly overwhelmingly reject in the polls, after the party wins the election.
• Harness strength of numbers: Igbo must use the size of the tribe as a flexible muscle. There are three big tribes in Nigeria. Igbo must stop playing the victim and rise to their pride of place in Nigeria as a member of that class. As mentioned earlier, the Igbo have as much economic power and human capital as other large tribes. The only problem is the lack of political power and failure so far to harness the strength of their numbers to get what they want. It is often said, that no one will give you anything. Sometimes, when in need of something, you have to take it. This does not mean violence or acquiring it by other untoward means. It just means that everything you have should be brought into play to secure what you want. Igbo are everywhere in Nigeria. There are Igbo in every nook and cranny of this country. Ironically, for a tribe stereotyped as having separatist agitators, the Igbo are the most malleable, settling in anywhere in the country they see as good for their family and business. This can be put to advantage as far as acting as goodwill ambassadors all over the country and abroad. Igbo can assuage their numbers to do all kinds of things, including changing stereo types and building new relationships.
Igbo agitation as currently stands is not achieving and is unlikely to achieve any purpose. Igbo need to come together and put forward better ways of getting ahead in Nigeria. Igbo must realize they are not weak and unable to control their own fate, especially politically. They must garner more trust from others, flex their muscles and take their place on the table within Nigeria. This can be achieved by looking within and changing their approach, instead of waiting to be handed any crumbs. Igbo must believe in the peace and unity of Nigeria to have their pride in place in Nigeria, that is the cardinal rule.