The talk of Ndigbo not loving themselves has been derogatorily used and sustained over time. Weighed against objective realities, this position may well be an emotional blackmail. Or, at best, an exaggeration and poor appreciation of the egalitarian and republican culture of the Igbo people. It may not be hate; it may be the way and manner they love and push progress.
Objectively putting the assertion in perspective has become quite necessary because some people have weaponised it against the ethnic group and are using it politically against its members. To begin with, Ndigbo are republicans. By that nature, they tend towards individualism and atomisation. Whether this tendency is undesirable and tendentious will be examined shortly.
The assertion under reference is the blanket claim that the Igbos do not love themselves. Love is a very strong affection towards a person, place or thing. Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest interpersonal affection and to the simplest pleasure.
Contrarily, the opposite of love is hate. Hate is a strong dislike for a person, place or thing. Those saying that Ndigbo hate themselves actually mean they detest, abhor, abominate or loathe themselves.
So, when one says Igbos do not love themselves, it inadvertently means Ndigbo hate themselves. It means Ndigbo feel strong aversion or intense dislike for themselves, which also implies enmity or malice and possible violent antipathy. So, the question can be put differently: do the Igbos hate themselves?
To answer this question, let us look at some Igbo group behaviours where it comes to love and hate. Members of a group that love themselves look out for one another. They try to help one another and are closely knit and even clannish. There will be no reason for them to enjoy the presence of one another and cannot therefore cluster or bunch together.
Using this criterion, it will be wrong to claim that Ndigbo hate one another when some of the characteristics of the ethic group is considered. Igbos are probably about the only ethnic group in Nigeria that are possibly 100% unionised. Each community has a self-help organisation, headquartered in the hometown with branches everywhere the community members reside, in Nigeria and the world. The main objective of the Igbo town union often captured in their names and the mottos is twofold: security and welfare of members. Typically, Igbo town unions like Abatete Development Organization, Ogidi Improvement Union and so forth are good examples.
Each community has an overall president-general who oversees the economic and political affairs of the town; thus runs the town with a traditional ruler (Eze or Igwe as the case may be), the latter being customarily in charge of culture and tradition and, in Anambra state, as well as security. The branches are run by chairmen and subordinated to the mother union and do all they can to develop their towns since government is virtually nonexistent. This is love, not hate.
The town unions are so effective and generally ensure that no son or daughter of any Igbo community is stranded outside the hometown where the union operates and the individual identifies with his or her people. Igbo unions are so central to the people’s social organization, survival and progress as an ethnic group so much so that individuals may even join Igbo unions of neighbouring towns where they have none for reason of being too few to start one. This is not an attitude of an ethnic group that its members hate themselves as alleged against Ndigbo in Nigeria.
Ndigbo are into business. Even the very educated among them still seem inclined to business one way or another. But that's not the big deal about Igbos in business. Igbo apprenticeship and settlement scheme is a global brand, recognized by the world trade and commerce as a unique business incubation and startup engine. It is driven by love, not hate.
This is how it works. An established Igbo business man takes a boy under his business to learn under his tutelage and gets settled after serving him for a period as his master. Settlement follows after the expiration of the agreed apprenticeship, usually 4 to 7 years. The master offers the graduate apprentice ‘seed money’ to start his own. Some even rent the shop, stock it and hand the graduate apprentice to start.
Most apprentices usually succeed and soon start taking boys as apprentices under them as well. The one once a boy is now a master and the circle is repeated and repeated. This scheme has reduced generational poverty transfer in Igbo land to the barest minimum and ensures wealth redistribution. This is not an attribute of an ethnic group that hates itself.
Unless love and hate have another meaning, Ndigbo are among the ethnic groups that most love themselves. Ndigbo have always paved the way for the members of the ethnic into whatever they are doing in and outside Nigeria. They accommodate the new ones and help them to learn the ropes and assist financially. This is love, not hate. However, typically, Ndigbo will not go out their way to keep helping one who is not showing hunger and promise even if they are blood relations.
There are aspects of public life that may be driving the subjective saying that the Igbos do not love themselves. Igbos since the Biafra war, have been left with too few choices. Most of them are struggling despite obvious successes seen around them. Yet, despite their individual difficulties, they still help not only themselves but people from other ethnic groups.
What is more, they work pretty hard, enjoy hard, and believe in merit. The Igbo man or woman in public service would want merit and will not hand out favours to fellow Igbos who do not qualify as some others do.
Some Igbos who have expected such favours but were denied drive the narration that Ndigbo do not love themselves. Some others who are not Igbos also say this for political reasons, as a way of dividing the ethnic groups; or, out of ignorance. They would want to sustain the narration that Ndigbo cannot present a united front. This is not true. No ethnic group is as closely knit and looks out for each other as Ndigbo do. Such is an attribute of love, not hate. Let those who want unmerited favour or political gains keep their narrative for the gullible. It is nothing but an emotional blackmail that has been debunked. Believe to your own peril.
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