Once a very distinguished political scientist mentioned that Nigeria has what he tags "Igbo problem". No doubt, every ethnic group is something of a problem for our dear country to easily achieve a cohesive nationhood. But some saw the Igbo ethnic stock as a particular irritants as they seemingly constitute a special thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian body-politic.
Nigerians of all other ethnic groups will most probably achieve a consensus on no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbo. They all describe the Igbo man as clannish, greedy and arrogant. Some might even add grasping and aggressive.
The civil war of 1966 - 1970, gave a perfect excuse for many to cast the Igbo in the role of a treasonable felon, one who wishes to wreck the Nigerian nation. To forestall any further attempt of secession, the Gowon regime through the then Federal Commissioner of Finance, Chief Awolowo conceived a banking policy that nullified any bank account which had been operated during the civil war. This had the immediate result of pauperising the Igbo middle class.
With the seeming resentment against the Igbo group, had they been a minor ethnic group of say, a few thousand, their menace might have been effectively and quietly contained but alas, they run into millions!
I do not doubt the fact that there is a strand in modern day Igbo behaviour which can offend by its overtly noisome exhibitionism and simple disregard for humility. If one walk into any crowd, you'd unsurprisingly hear one man's voice high over a subdued and despondent multitude. The chance that he is one Igbo man who has made it and is thus desperate to be noticed is almost 100 percent.
You know, the Igbo man has always been accused of being clannish as he unduly favours his kindred and always runs to their defense. Perhaps, the Nigerian society expects him not to have a tribal caucus where decisions are made and conspiracies hatched to advance his interests and that of his kits and kin. Whenever he gathers his people say to advance his aspirations, the other ethnic groups begin to look on with suspicion and so would want to scatter them.
This resentment for Igbo unity maybe is what has made it difficult for the Igbo man to be elected as president of his country despite his many contributions. Apart from the ceremonial president role played by Owele Nnamdi Azikiwe between 1960 - 1966 and the six months Gen Aguiyi Ironsi held sway as Head of State also in 1966, the Igbo man has not neared the seat of power.
Perhaps, the real issue with the Igbo is precisely the absence of a centralized leadership which the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani have. This lack has left them open to be self seeking and opportunistic at the slightest chance. But the lack of leaders did not start today as it dates back to precolonial times.
It was to solve this problem that the colonial masters appointed some ruffians in the communities to act as warrant chiefs. And maybe it was to solve this problem that the Igbo jettisoned their traditional republicanism in favour of mushroom kingships and chiefdoms. From having no kings in their recent past, they now have over a thousand kings. Interestingly, most of them are traders in their stalls by day at Alaba, Upper Iweka and Ariaria markets and monarchs at night; city dwellers five days a week and traditional village rulers on Saturdays and Sundays. To even think that to sustain this new found "royalty", they adopted traditional robes from every land, including the ceremonial regalia of the mayor of London.
The extent of travesty to which the Igbo man is apparently ready to reduce his institution in his eagerness to measure up with others can be truly amazing. At first sight, this weakness might appear only as private problem of the Igbo group but an indifference to nonmaterial values which it portrays might easily spill over into a carelessness and a disregard for the feelings of sacredness which others might hold for their own institution. And there is a danger of social friction in this. So it becomes necessary that while Nigeria is at the delicate, 'touch and go' stage of national evolution, the Igbo must learn less abrasiveness, more shrewdness and tact and a willingness to grant the validity of less boisterous values.
Having said all that, there is no doubt in my mind that the competitive individualism and the adventurous spirit of the Igbo are necessary ingredients in the modernization and development of Nigerian society. It is neither necessary, nor indeed possible to suppress them. Nigeria without the inventiveness and dynamism of the Igbo would be a less hopeful place than it is.
Conclusively, the policy of overt and covert exclusion and discrimination of the Igbo group since after the end of the civil war has had its day and must now end in the interest of stability and progress. The Igbo ethnic stock must be allowed to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023. All those warming up and those planning to continue to perpetuate their region in national governance should discontinuance such scheming as that would plunge the country into unfavourable waters with the Nnamdi Kanu led IPOB gaining wild acceptance both locally and internationally. Everything must be done to make every part of the country have a sense of belonging.
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