3RD Prize (N20,000)
NAME: MICHAEL ANAYO JAMES
SCHOOL: COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN
READ MICHAEL’S ESSAY BELOW
THE IGBO AGITATION: A ROAD MAP TO REGAINING OUR PRIDE OF PLACE IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS IN NIGERIA. DISCUSS!!
Nigeria is diverse. With more than two hundred and fifty ethnic groups, spanning the six geopolitical zones of the country. However, it is widely agreed that Nigeria is a triumvirate of Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo; the major tribes of the nation. Therefore, the assertion that Nigeria is a tribal nation is only a deductive from the above statements.
Of the triumvirate, the Igbo race stands out. This on one hand can be affirmed to be from her economic prowess which predates the birth of Nigeria in the colonial era, despite her being the smallest in population among the three ethnic groups. On the other hand, she has passed through a war which was declared to be “no victor, no vanquish”, that war experience left her better described as a caricature of her former self. Nevertheless, she rose up triumphantly when least expected, to be a par with her peers in the indivisible triumvirate, and even surpassed in aspect of nationhood like education, business and economic-related ventures.
Equity, fairness and justice are natural rules and values which have long guided humanity to maintain harmonious fellowship with one another especially in a confederate. Sensing an abrogation to the ideals of these human values in the nation, the Igbo people began seeking, speaking and canvassing for inclusion and recognition of their pride of place in Nigeria. This led to “the Igbo Agitation”. The rise of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, an Igbo socio-cultural group, in 1976 (Thompson OO, et al. 2016) attest to efforts to achieve a common voice for the Igbos, despite the suppressive actions of the men in khaki and boots at that time. It was not until the return of democracy in 1999, that the agitation finally got voiced widely and penned boldly, witnessing the birth of more organizations like the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Igbo Elders’ Forum, Biafra Zionist Movement and the now proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Reasons for the Igbo agitation over the years have not changed; they include but not limited to inadequate holistic socio-economic development in the landscape of the Igbo-dominated South Eastern Nigeria, infrastructure and resource allocation imbalance, prejudice in employment, corruption in high offices and chief among them, is the recurrent discrimination of the Igbo people in the nation’s political space. However, these are still in existence despite aggressive actions by some of the aforementioned pro-Igbo groups, fueled by frustration and complaints of selective discrimination.
The aggression-frustration approach of the Igbo agitation since 1999 has left very little accomplishment when put side by side with the resultant detriments, especially those witnessed in recent times, majorly associated with MASSOB and IPOB. These actions have resulted in economic destructions and loss of lives of promising Igbo youths. In 2016 alone, more than 146 persons were acknowledged to have died to from clashes attributed to this aggression-frustration approach (Ekpo CE, 2019).
It is time to do away with futile approaches. To turn the Igbo marginalization cliché to Igbo domination, we must adopt an uncommon path to agitation, through novel and peaceful yet tactical steps.
Unity of purpose: Harmonious co-operation in pursuing our common purpose among Igbos is pivotal to achieve our rightful place in the socio-political stratosphere of Nigeria. It is a reality that the Igbos in recent times has been a divided house that cannot speak with one voice on national issues of interest. For example, in November 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari promised an extra state for the South East, but inability among statesmen and leaders in the region to agree on one state to present with a common front among the six state options tendered led to gradual death of the state creation effort (Vanguard News, 2020). Therefore, all and sundry of the Igbo people must put heads together and come up as one body. Personal interests must be readily shelved for the progress of the constituent whole of Igbo. Across political affiliation, supports must be provided for qualified Igbo sons and daughters aspiring for positions of national importance. Socio-economic, infrastructural and human development projects meant for Igbo land must not be looked at with political eyes; it is for the benefit of us all and above all sentimental affiliations, Igbo leaders and persons of influence must see that such projects are not only completed but are of best standards.
Developing our potentials: It is not trite to say that the Igbos have virtually all needed resources to place them numero uno. Among these resources are natural minerals, fertile soil, large land mass and virile human resource; their strategic development and utilization holds immense benefits. Sadly, the enabling environment and inter-state policies to harness these resources are grossly inadequate. We must adopt inter-state partnership, encourage uniform business and economic policies across all Igbo states and embark on massive capacity building for existing entrepreneur to adopt cutting edge technologies in their business and production process. Undoubtedly, Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) are shaping the future; hence we must take lead and establishing a technological revolution powered by collaborative partnership, massive technological/manufacturing skills training and political support. Concurrently, such tech-drive and policies will attract foreign investment; place the Igbo as a pivotal contributor to the economic success of Nigeria, and as a major player in all affairs of nationhood—for he who pays the piper calls the tune.
In conclusion, the ideals of Igbo agitation is feasible and of importance to all Igbos. It must be re-orientated, reinvigorated and uplifted in unison by all Igbos. Howbeit, this time in a different approach, in perspective of current realities of this century and having realized that a change would not come from above but from within and among us. Let our indefatigability resonates in our common pursuit to affirm our pride of place in Nigeria.
Ekpo CE. (2016). Explaining the Resurgence of Biafra Radicalisation and Nationalism in South-East Nigeria. African Journal of Terrorism: 8(1). pp.92-121. Available on https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338956021_Explaining_the_Resurgence_of_Biafra_Radicalisation_and_Nationalism_in_South-East_Nigeria.
Thompson OO, Ojukwu CC, Nwaorgu OGF., (2016). United we fall, divided we stand: resuscitation of the Biafra state secession and the national question conundrum. JORIND: 14(1). Available on https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321107302_UNITED_WE_FALL_DIVIDED_WE_STAND_RESUSCITATION_OF_THE_BIAFRA_STATE_SECESSION_AND_THE_NATIONAL_QUESTION_CONUNDRUM.
Vanguard News (2020). Creation of another state for South East – Where does Ohaneze stand?. Available on www.google.com/amp/s/www.vanguardngr.com/2020/04/creation-of-another-state-for-south-east-where-does-ohaneze-stand/amp/