Nigeria is composed of many ethnic groups, the number of which is any one’s guess. Some of those ethnic groups are numerous in population; these include Hausas, Fulanis, Yorubas, Igbos, Edos, Ijaws, Efiks, Urobos, Ishikiris, and Tivis. In such a multi ethnic country, if democracy, whatever form it takes, exists folks elected into national offices, such as the Nigerian Presidency, must obtain votes from the various ethnic groups. For a Yoruba to obtain the number of votes it would require to rule Nigeria he simply must obtain votes from non-Yoruba folks. The same goes for members of other ethnic groups. Of course, elections can always be rigged and from what we hear they are mostly rigged in Nigeria.
Rigging notwithstanding, let us assume that a kind of democracy exists in Nigeria. In a democratic Nigeria there is no way on earth that a person from one ethnic group can be elected to the Nigerian Presidency unless folks from other ethnic groups voted for him. That being the case, it follows that all national office aspirants must seek ways to get along with members of other ethnic groups. An Igbo must seek ways to get along with Yorubas, Hausas etc. for he cannot go it alone and rule Nigeria.
In politics you do not have to like folks to work with them. In politics there are no permanent friends or enemies but temporary and pragmatic allies; politicians form allies that serve their present interests and form different ones in the future that serve their different interests. In this light, it serves the interests of Igbos to form allies with members of other ethnic groups in Nigeria. They do not have to like members of those ethnic groups but they must work with them for such is the nature of political realism.
This political realism is ignored daily when Igbos come to the public square and abuse other Nigerians. Just go to Igbo forums or even Nigerian forums and read what Igbos write. Their writing, if that can be called writing, is incessant abuse of other Nigerians. It is characterized by name calling, calling other Nigerians negative names. These abuses of other Nigerians naturally dispose them to not like Igbos. Nobody likes those who insult him.
In Nigeria Igbos routinely insult other Nigerians. Nothing ever comes out of their mouths that praise other Nigerians. Igbos are boastful of their phantom superiority to other Nigerians.
We know why they boast a lot; they do not boast because of their actual superiority, for no human being is superior to others; they boast because they believe that they are primitive and mask it with pretended civilization. As long as they pretend to be better than their fellow Africans they seem civilized. They are not more civilized than their neighbors.
If Igbos ever wish to compete for national offices in Nigeria how on earth are they supposing that those other Nigerians they rain insults on are going to vote for them? Honestly, if I were other ethnic Nigerians and Igbos routinely insult my people I would not vote for an Igbo running for the Nigerian presidency.
Igbos complain that they have never occupied the position of the Nigerian presidency and would like to do so. If they want to do so democratically how are they going to succeed if they keep on alienating other Nigerians by abusing them with their derogatory words? I submit that in a democratic Nigeria, given what we know about human nature….people desire dignity and respect and select as their leaders those that they think respect them…Nigerians are not likely going to elect an Igbo, a person they believe exists to put them down, as their leader.
Other Nigerians have other issues with Igbos. They see Igbos as primarily motivated by wealth, money and search for prestige and power. They believe that the Igbo are self-centered and seeking personal gain at the expense of other people. The general view is that Igbos are amoral opportunists who would sell their mothers into slavery if in doing so they obtained money with which to seem to live well. Give the Igbo money and he sells his brother down the river, is the general perception of Igbos. Igbos are seen as amoral and lacking in any kind of social conscience. Folks believe that Igbos would kidnap their siblings and hold them hostage to be ransomed with money.
Perhaps, some of these negative perceptions of Igbos are exaggerated; nevertheless, that is how Igbos are perceived. Igbos are not the darlings of other Nigerians.
In effect, the Igbo is going nowhere in Nigerian politics. Despite his wish to rule the country he is not likely to be given the opportunity to rule the country. He is not going to be given the opportunity to rule the country because his fellow countrymen perceive him as arrogant and insulting.
The only chance that the Igbo has in ruling Nigeria is if the current dominant political party, the PDP, decides that they want an Igbo to be their figure head president and arrange for him to be elected; that is, rig him into power.
Even then one wonders if other Nigerians would tolerate such an Igbo leader. Given the hatred for Igbos one can see a military coup and other popular opposition to an Igbo leader of Nigeria. The first Igbo President of Nigeria probably would be the first to be impeached by the National Assembly or thrown out of office by the Nigerian military. Why? It is because of the negative perception of Igbos by other Nigerians.
If this is the lay of the land, the reality facing Igbos in the Nigerian political landscape one would think that if they are realistic they would do something to correct the situation. They could begin by presenting themselves as good neighbors so that their neighbors would like them. For example, if Igbos did not insult other Nigerians, say derogatory things about them the chances are that Nigerians would respect them and, hopefully, elect qualified Igbos to political offices in Nigeria.
But, no, taking adult corrective measures is not in their habit; instead, they exacerbate their predicament by keeping on abusing other Nigerians. Observing them insult other Nigerians one could believe that they believe that their insults have no political consequences for them.
Despite being a pain in Nigerians asses, Igbos somehow imagine that Nigerians ought to like them; they believe that Nigerians would see them as the masquerades of supermen they present themselves as to other persons to relate to. Of course, Nigerians are not deceived; they see Igbos for what they are: ordinary human beings who have the negative habit of insulting other persons.
Finding themselves in a no win situation, in a situation where Nigerians are not likely going to offer them the opportunity to rule Nigeria and join the “thieves club of Abuja”, some Igbos seek to secede from Nigeria. They resurrect Emeka Ojukwu’s grandiose efforts to separate from Nigeria.
Alas, these dreamers do not enjoy the advantages that Ojukwu had. Ojukwu inherited Eastern Nigeria, which included Efik and Ijaw speaking people. Those people were placed in Eastern Nigeria by the British, not by their choice or by Igbo conquest. They made it crystal clear that they did not like Igbos and certainly did not want to be dominated by Igbo. To further their course of separation from Igbos those folks sided with Nigerians.
Today those folks have their states. If Igbos were to separate from Nigeria the chances are that those two ethnic folks would choose not to join Igbos.
Igbos would have to fight to get them to join their Eldorado and if they defeated them those people would not be happy campers and would agitate for freedom. All said those folks would not choose to be part of Biafra (a name of a village in Portugal).
This then leaves the “Portuguese Biafrans” with only Igbo speaking peoples. “Portuguese Biafra” would consist of lands from Port Harcourt to Agbo, from Nsukka to Arochukwu. This real estate is less than two hundred miles across.
Alaigbo would be a pretty small place. It would be landlocked and would have to export and import goods through ports controlled by Efik and Ijaw folks.
There is coal and some oil in Alaigbo but beyond that one does not see other economic resources that would make Alaigbo a viable economic proposition.
We are assuming that all Igbos would like to go on this fools’ errand. However, it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that Igbos are a fractured people. Onitsha Igbos claim to be non-Igbo, to be Edo; Ikwerre Igbo claim to be from another planet and not from Alaigbo; Ika Igbo probably would like to join the Edo and not their fellow Igbo speaking people.
That leaves Alaigbo to the core Igbos of Owerri, Okigwe and Orlu. Folks from Anambra are probably going to be resented by Owerri Igbo.
The point is that given the cleavages in Alaigbo it seems that Igbos are not going to easily pull off their dream of having a unified country.
There are other forces working against Igbo independence. One of them is that Igbos did not unify before the white man used his military force to unify them. It took Frederick Lugard and his West African Frontier Army to conquer those he called “the savages of the lower Niger” and place them into a unified polity, Nigeria.
Igbos by themselves did not develop Igbo wide political structures for governing themselves. Each Igbo town was autonomous and ruled itself. The exceptions were those towns close to non-Igbo states and who copied the so-called kingship patterns of their non-Igbo neighbors, such as Onitsha folk having an oba/obi of Onitsha.
Because of their independent streak one does not see how Igbos are going to easily come together and rule themselves in an Igbo country.
What is more likely to happen is that the place would degenerate into clannish enclaves where each Igbo clan tries to go it alone. We are talking Somalia here; folks would revert to anarchy and chaos.
Igbos have no history of being a people and therefore cannot easily look back to an era of glorious Igbo achievements to help unify them.
(Peter Ekeh argued that it was British colonialism that gave Igbos a sense of oneness. He said that Igbos from different clans went to other parts of Nigeria and folks there heard them speak what seems the same language and thus treated them as one people. Moreover, the persecution that Igbos experienced in other parts of Nigeria also gave them nascent sense of Igbo nationality. Igbos tend to put other Nigerians down and other Nigerians hate them for doing so, and occasionally attack and kill Igbos and thus Igbos feel persecuted by other Nigerians. They tend to attribute their persecution to other factors, such as see other Nigerian as envying them for their alleged advancement and progress; that is, they tend to see themselves as innocent victims of others aggression and deny the role of their arrogant insults on other persons in their persecution. The truth probably combines both factors; that is, their arrogance and other peoples envy play roles in their persecution.)
Talking about Igbo past, well, you peruse it and decide for yourself whether it was glorious. Igbos did not develop writing; Igbos did not invent the wheel; Igbos did not develop Igbo wide political structure for their governance. Anthropologists say that they were a stateless people who were at the lowest steps in the developmental process.
Igbos did not have cities; thus if to be civilized is to live in cities, and Igbos did not live in cities they were not civilized.
In the present, each Igbo clan sees itself as different from others. Owerri folk, for example, do not believe that they have anything in common with folks from, say, Umuahia, Onitsha etc. The differences between them are not less than the differences between Igbos and Yorubas, black men and white men.
Of course, a strong man, a dictator could arise and use brute political and military force to unify all Igbos and hold them together. This is generally how other countries came into being. That was how the British put Nigeria together. Politics is not Sunday school or church picnic; it is war by other means.
In sum, those Igbos who do not see a future for Igbos in Nigeria would not have an easier time building their proposed Igbo Republic, aka Portuguese Biafra.
As I have pointed out in several writings, I do not believe that the balkanization of African countries serves us best. I, however, want African countries restructured so that each ethnic group is a state and govern itself and a central government given certain powers over the states (as in the USA). Indeed, I want all black Africa put into an African federation, with one central government, with each of the five hundred or so major ethnic groups in Africa a state.
A close look at contemporary Igbo leaders, especially their governors and Senators, those who conceivably could run for the Nigerian Presidency, shows that none of them has good management and leadership skills; none of them have national status; they are not men of gravitas. Like other Nigerian extant leaders, they are mostly in office to steal from the revenue coming from the oil delta. These folks would only seek national office to continue the pattern of looting from Nigeria not because they want to develop Nigeria. See, they pocked most of the money they got from Abuja given to them to spend on their Igbo states.
These folks are clever rogues; they misappropriate moneys, money given to them for their people, and leave Igbo land underdeveloped. Having redirected Igbos resources they turn around and point accusing fingers at other ethnic groups, and accuse them of being responsible for the underdevelopment in Alaigbo. Since Igbos have an axe to grind, especially from being defeated by other Nigerians during the Nigerian civil war, they easily buy the notion that other Nigerians have it in store for them, that they do not want to develop their neck of the woods. Machiavellian Igbo leaders easily manipulate Igbos into believing that other Nigerians are responsible for the underdevelopment in Igbo land when in fact they are.
At the moment there are five Igbo states; Imo, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra. Other geopolitical regions of Nigeria have more states and to close that gap Igbos are asking for the creation of more Igbo states. On the surface they seem realistic for the money stolen from the Niger Delta is divided among states and the more states a region has the more money they get, so more Igbo states would translate to Igbos getting more money from Abuja (which, of course, would go into the pockets of the emergent Igbo governors and chair persons of local governments).
In light of the fact that Igbos did not have a history of unity and sorely need to be unified and develop a sense of oneness, I submit that they ought to ask to be in only one state. All Igbo land, from Igwa Ocha to Agbo ought to be one state, called Alaigbo state. This would help give the people a sense of unity and reduce their tendency to fracturing.
But, no, they would like every Igbo town to be made a state; the net effect of which is that they are not only economically unviable but are mere counties of a unitary national government. At present it is mockery to say that Nigeria is a federation; what it is, is a unitary government with the counties masquerading as states, all of them taking marching others from the thieves of Abuja.
One of the annoying traits of Igbos is their arrogance and lack of political realism. Igbos generally have naïve views of human nature. They put folks down and expect those folks to like them! How naïve can you be! If you put folks down they want to kill you! And make no mistake about it: every human being has the capacity to kill other human beings if he so desires it. I have the capacity to kill you and you have the capacity to kill me. Therefore, I must respect you and you must respect me if both of us want to live together, get along and not harm one another.
This existential realism notwithstanding, Igbos insult other people; it is as if they are unaware that those they insult could hate and kill them. They do not seem to have the capacity to learn from their sorry history where those they degraded, Hausas, killed them. They are like insane persons: they keep on engaging in the same behaviors while expecting different results.
The fact is that if you insult folks they would not like you and some will not only put obstacles on your path but would occasionally kill you! And you are not invincible despite your childish arrogance; anyone who so chooses it can kill you. You are a human animal who lives in flesh; and like everything in flesh you can be put down; you will die and rot and smell to high heaven.
If you dared point out their political naivety and talk about political realism many Igbos immediately come after you with insulting words. Instead of paying attention to what you said they verbally abuse you. Apparently, in their childish minds if they verbally abused you, call you derogatory names you would cow before them and let them prevail.
For daring to state the truth starring them in their faces, these people have called me every derogatory name in their limited vocabulary.
Instead of cowing me I have actually developed contempt for them. To me they are like children to be tutored rather than taken seriously.
Insulting folks do not make them change their minds. You can call folks every name under the sun but what would help your course is for you to be realistic and deal with them as an adult. As long as you act as a child and call folks put down names they would dismiss you as a fool and leave it at that.
As long as Igbos degrade Nigerians with insulting names Nigerians would continue to marginalize them thus leaving them with empty dreams of Biafra.
One hopes that at some point many Igbos would grow up and recognize that antagonizing folks is not the best way to make them your friends. Folks like me with political and writing skills can actually make it impossible for Igbos to attain whatever dreams they desire. If Igbos were politically savvy they would listen to us and seek a compromise, a meeting ground with us rather than foolishly believing that calling us put down names would make us change our minds.
I certainly will not kowtow to the point of view of another human being if it seems foolish to me. Calling me a put down name is so much water on my skin; it washes away dirt and leaves no mark on me.
Verbally abusing folks do not change reality. What would change Igbos political reality is for them to work with Nigerians respectfully.
If Igbos want to be liked and given the opportunity to rule Nigeria they simply have to find a way to demonstrate to other Nigerians that they like and respect them.
In a democracy people elect to political offices their peers, not their superiors. Nigeria is not a throw- back to the past where some insane persons fancied themselves superior to other persons and out of that insanity ruled other persons as their kings (and claimed divine right of kings). I am talking about the era of monarchy and aristocracy.
In a democracy all people are equals; equal Nigerians would elect a Nigerian who presents himself as their equal, not a paranoid character with delusion of superiority pretending superiority to Nigerians and asking Nigerians to elect him to office.
Finally, providing us with convoluted analysis of the Nigerian political economy, telling us how the white man wants Hausas to rule Nigeria, how Hausas manipulate every person in sight to get themselves into power and other such academic nonsense will not obviate the simple psychological reality that if you respect folks they will respect you and give you the opportunity to rule them, and that if you are perceived as an insulting son of a bitch you would be resented and not given the opportunity to rule any one. As long as Igbos are seen as insulting sons of bitches, regardless of other political and economic matters, they will not be gladly given the opportunity to rule Nigeria. Therefore, the choice is in Igbos hands: if they want to be given the opportunity to rule Nigeria they must change their infuriating habit of degrading folks and learn to respect folks.
Change and become a decent human being and participate in politics but remain an empty, arrogant prick and you are kept on the sideline of Nigerian and any other politics.
PS: Yesterday, I took a look at a Nigerian Internet forum and noticed that some Igbos have returned to verbally abusing me. I am not quite sure I know why they are doing so since I had stayed away from their world. I, therefore, dug out this old piece that I wrote in 2007 to reiterate the point of Igbos learning to respect folks if they want peace and opportunity to participate in Nigerian politics.
Perhaps, they are struggling to sow discord between Dr. Ojo and I (they are most alive in conflict; they do not like peace; like most personality disordered persons they hate peace and thrive in war). Perhaps, it is because I said something to the effect that I would support Dr. Ojo running for office in Nigeria. Perhaps, it is because I supported Buhari for the presidency and opposed the do nothing Jonathan who has no clue why he is at Aso Rock. I supported a Hausa man and therefore supported their enemy hence they came at me with their rotted swords, stabbing blindly everywhere and hoping to hurt something. Whatever are the reasons for this unprovoked and uncalled current spate of attack on me I could care less although I must admit that they make interesting subjects for those who want to observe self-defeating persons at work? These people are time and energy wasters and I have no time and energy to waste on them.
Let me make it abundantly clear that I do not want some mentally retarded and or disordered person sending his response to this piece to my private mail box; if such creatures want to respond to this material they should post it to the forum where it appeared. If I choose to read their write up (which, generally, I do not choose to do) I would do so. However, I know these people quite well; they are garagara people; out of that childish need to seem powerful by putting folks down they would send their “njakiri” put down letters to my private email (and not wanting to pollute my mind with their illogical reasoning, I would delete them).
For what it is worth, here is an insight for them to chew on. I am aware that I tend to criticize Igbo icons such as Azikiwe and Ojukwu. Igbos do not have past heroes and therefore cherish the few twentieth century heroes they had; if one denigrates those heroes they come charging at one. I ought not to say negative things about Igbo leaders, folks that they think are the best things that have happened in leadership matters. In criticizing Igbos, since they and I are one, I am actually criticizing myself! Those criticized tend to feel attacked. I can therefore understand why some of them would respond to me with anger (attack me in self-defense). What do you expect; if you criticize folks for them to love you? Of course those you criticize will not love you.
If this is true then Igbos ought to learn from it that their compulsive insulting of other Nigerians makes other Nigerians angry at them and therefore desist from doing so. I justify my criticism of Igbos with the belief that I am trying to save them from alienating Nigerians hence disposing Nigerians to attack and harm them. However, if truth is told, I am not invested in them; my life’s work has nothing to do with Igbos, Nigerians and Africans. I am preoccupied with abstract thinking about the human condition.
Given their poverty, Abraham Maslow would say that Africans are necessarily invested in trying to obtain food so as to survive and not yet capable of bothering themselves with abstract thinking about science and meta-science…that that is for those who have had their physiological needs met and want to self-actualize. In effect, my work is not for these people; actually, my work tends to appeal to those with full stomachs, who happen to be non-Africans! Africans are not my target market, not the audience for my writing; as such, I ought to know better than bother with their unreasoned responses to me.
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
September 21, 2011