Monday, 24 April 2017 16:51

The Igbos Are Gods

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Some say the Igbos are paranoid, meaning  the Igbos imagine things that are not really there. Others say the Igbos are arrogant, suspicious, fearful, mistrustful, obsessed with money, or have unreasonable business practices. Our observation  is overwhelmingly significant. The Igbos  have to be gods. Though no Igbo has been elected President of Nigeria, one day someone will. That an Igbo would eventually be President of Nigeria is  a prospect that is as inevitable as the appearance of daylight after the darkest night!

The Igbos are gods. Igbos are a breed by itself, a seriously misunderstood variety.  Being the gods they are, the Igbos are survivors.  it is impossible for Igbos to be primitive coward or paranoid schizophrenic as some people make us to be without understanding who the Igbos are.

Watch the Igbos walk down the world ramp with grace and recherché nonchalance. They are the indestructible, they are the  indefatigable, and they are God's people chosen and ordained to carry the mantle.  The mantle is the badge of honor, the layer, blanket, covering, shroud, veil, cloak, responsibility, or functionality that is entirely Igbo.

The purpose of this essay is a response to portrayals of Igbos as paranoid. This Igbo writer seeks to defend his people long maligned in the course of Nigerian history during which the Igbos have been the butt of slander, criticism, smear, libel, hurt, harm, damage, or mkpogide no obe (mailing  on the cross). Read to the bottom of this essay to discover how and why the Igbos are considered  as gods.

It is time the Igbos were left alone. First, people ought to learn to circumvent the habits of insulting people to get them to do what people want done. Secondly, people ought to provide positive reinforcements (encouragement and praise) to help others want to do what people want done. We would add the efficacy of social observational learning that requires the modeling of behavior you want others to acquire through emulation. Albert Bandura is our favorite psychologist, though other theorists are quite useful. Note that Western-style counseling approaches do not work well with Africans in general and not particularly with Igbos who prefer a more direct approach.  Why? Igbo personality demands a more structured approach.

We Igbos are not primitive; it is just that we are a high-strung, aggressive and indefatigable group on the outside, but underneath, are fearful, intimidated, and stressed out. Remember  Igbos are barely crawling out of  a terrible war of attrition where they were made to wear the cloak reserved for a defeated, vanquished people. What do you see happening to the Igbo boys carrying placard and agitating for Biafra nationhood? Igbos are experiencing an abrasion, a slow destruction or erosion of selfhood. Can anyone see the process of wear and tear, eating away and emasculation of Igbo manhood?

Nigerians aren't  some irredeemable, unalterable sadists who draw joy from human suffering, are they? Don't they see the gnawing away, the wearing away, and the grinding down of Igbos? Are Nigerians  truly humane?  It is normal to expect Igbos to experience intense symptoms of the post traumatic stress syndrome as manifested in Igbo behavior. Though all these things are so, yet we Igbos are a people who keep hope alive.  With time, "ogadiri Ndiigbo mma" (it shall be well with Igbos).  Sometimes, some  Igbos believe "odigoro Ndiigbo nma" (it is already well with Igbos). The Igbos are gods.  An aspect of being a god is the ability to be an overcomer. The igbos have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, including pogroms and refugee camps.

This writer was at Enugu at the end of the War as the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of the Eastern Nigerian Government was spearheading the repatriation of Biafran children out of London and other African countries to which they were sent to escape starvation and kwashiorkor. This writer's late wife Maxine Myers Agazie, PhD, MSSW,  was the first trained and certified professional social worker with expertise in adoptions employed under the government of Sole Admininstrator Ukpabi Asika at the end of the Biafran War.

You could not avoid shedding tears  (if the milk of human feeling  was  left in you) at the plight of Igbo children. The Biafran  babies and surviving toddlers  were not provided with any type of adjustment or rehabilitation counseling  as they were being processed; They were just passed off as animals and reintegrated anyhow into society they did not understand, and placed with families who did not understand the trauma the kids had been through and who proved to be exploiters and child abusers.

The children's parents were either dead or unwilling to accept the responsibility to care for at-risk population. There was no food in the homes into which  the babies were deposited. The preferred child placement option the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MHSW) adopted was haphazard adoptions by men who were unrelated to the adopted persons, and who seized the opportunity to marry underage babies. How these kids survived to this day is a prayerr only God can answer.

We mention this to show that the Igbos have survived so many atrocities for too long and with so little help it is believed Igbos  can survive anything anytime anywhere and  anyhow. The current thinking is this: the Igbos are gods that descended directly from heaven and live among humans. Of all the Nigerian tribes, the Igbos appear to be the only group that hasn't been given the opportunity to benefit from real rehabilitation programs; Igbos have not had opportunities to experience love from neighbors and to acquire the altruism.

To be altruistic is to learn to be unselfish, selfless, humane, and philanthropic.  Therefore,  Igbos do not take help-your-brother stance seriously. The Jews and the Italians do help each other. The Igbos at the Nigerian Federal Ministries would prefer Hausa or Yoruba heads to one of their kind. This writer asked: "Why not prefer fellow Igbo managers?" Reasons given were that Igbos are taskmasters, Igbo bosses would underpay their employees, and Igbos are likely to be heartless.

The real reason why Igbos do not provide for each other is this: Igboland is so overcrowded the people need to move out elsewhere. Wherever they go, the Igbos suffer some form of persecution at hands of spiteful neighbors.  Recall the experiment done with mice in an overcrowded environment where some electrical shocks were delivered at random. Like Igbos just out of a war with nowhere else to go, the mice experienced PTSS (post traumatic stress syndrome), resulting in maladaptive/manupulative behavior that included homosexuality, cannibalism, with male mice attacking females and infants.

We admire the Igbos for surviving the atrocities of war and carrying on without extensive psychotherapy as if nothing has happened.  Th e Jews wouldn't have been able to survive the Holocaust without massive reparations and UN-sponsored rehabilitation efforts. With time, we Igbos shall acquire such survival skills as resistance, politeness, altruism, loyalty, and all other good attitudes.

The Igbos need the world's understanding, kindness,  and encouragement. We do not need the world's  criticisms or to be over-psychoanalyzed. Igbos do not need others' pity, sympathy or condescension because Igbos are gods, and gods do not need the forgiveness or benevolence of mortals. There are creative and fictional, survivalist explanations as to why Igbos see themselves as gods,

One of the characteristics of gods is their indefatigability, the quality of being untiring. Indefatigability is inexhaustibility or the ability to work and continue to work for a very long time without becoming tired. To the extent that gods are infinite and inexhaustible, Igbo are gods. Infinity is endlessness.  Inexhaustibility is boundlessness.

The Igbos are so indefatigable, aren't they? An indefatigable person is one who is unrelenting, remorseless, unstoppable, unflagging, and inexorable. After pondering over the Igbo paradox, one may  asks some perplexing questions.  What gives the Igbos their distinguishing personality?. Why are these people strong, fearless, adventuresome go-getters? Why do they go up Northern Nigeria and spend "billions of Naira, in fact, trillions of okpoyo ha (their money)  to develop the North, to build schools, churches, 5-star hotels, and banks. We can add dingy beer parlors, and ulo ashawo  (brothels) to the list of Igbo accomplishments in Northern Nigeria.

Now, let us define further the Igbo indefatigability by describing the mythical and culture-based  paradox of Igbo personality. A paradox is the inconsistency, absurdity, irony, contradiction, impossibility, or illogicality of Igboism. Therefore, Ndiigbo are gods. There is a mythical explanation of why and how Igbos have become gods.

One market day somewhere before the advent of Bible-carrying white men, while natives were trading their wares by barter and with cowries, a fiery star fell off the sky and landed in the center of a village. As illiterate and terrified as the villagers were, all adults and children scampered  into their huts, thinking an angry god had arrived to exact penalties for their undisclosed trespasses. No one ventured out for several days until a day after a heavy rainstorm fell. Pandemonium broke loose as a muscular stranger was hatched out of a fallen fiery star.

Without uttering "Ndewo" (thank you) or "Kedukwanu?"(how are you?)  in the way of greetings, the muscular stranger started to construct his own abode. He didn't ask for help or food. He simply walked into your hut and helped himself to your food, knives, hoes, machete, and sticks. He dug behind your hut to gather his mud and climbed your palm trees to cut the fronds and harvest a calabash of palm wine.

Villagers watched in amazement as the stranger worked and toiled and finally completed a big three-mansion-sized building much like the Aso Rock where Buhari lives. It had a huge toilet dug in the middle of the bedchamber into which no stool was dropped. The latrine or shit hole was stuffed with bales of money.

The stranger then went to sleep. Villagers dared not inquire into his name or say PIM as to why he shouldn't pay for "borrowing" their stuffs and eating their food. After series of discussions and a poll, male villagers decided to name the stranger Chi. Because Chi came from heaven, he is god and anthropomorphic, sharing some attributes with Chineke (the Almighty God).

Chi considers himself superior to other mortals, including the Hausas, Yorubas, Fulani, Munchi, and the Mmoghos. His antithesis is Ekwensi (the devil or evil spirit). He doesn't need mortals' permission to do as he pleases. Because Chi does anything he pleases, says whatever he chooses, goes anywhere he wants, eats all things he fancies, Ekwensu (Satan) became envious and triet to exert power over him. In fact, Chineke (the Almighty God) recognizes Chi as His own son, and has lots of regards for him. Chi shares Chukwu's (Chineke's) omnipotence (superpower), omniscience (unequalled knowledge), and omnipresence (being present everywhere at the same time)  T

The only difference between Chi and Chineke (Almighty God) is that Chi could not live beyond a certain age, though he sometimes wishes his money would buy him ndu ebighi ebi (everlasting life). One pernicious aspect of Chi's disposition is his uncanny ability to come to your community, take things  over, and put you out of your house while asking you: "Can I help you?"

Chi is to be greatly feared and respected by lesser gods and minor tribes. Chi deeply believes he is not on equal footing with the other gods, including the gods of rain and thunder, god of procreation, and god of harvest of new yams. In fact, Chi is higher than alusi (man-made idols) and he is known by other names, including Chukwuka, Chima, Chuma, Chukwuma, Chinedu, Chikwendu, Chigozie, Chijioke, Chibundu, or other names starting with the word Chi.

Chi never loses arguments with mortals because he is a god whose knowledge supersedes all others around except Chukwu or Chineke. Chi eventually became a big farmer, and married several wives to produce millions of children. His children are the Igbos of today. Chi is hated by the other tribes, including  the Hausa, Fulani, Mogho, Munchi, Shua-shua, Akputu, and others because Chi had never paid for the things he borrowed while building his house. Waiting for Chi to pay his debts is waiting forever.

There is a culture-based explanation for personality of the Igbos. The Igbos became who they are as a result of cultural influences. Many moons ago before the advent of the white man and thereafter, most Igbo men were cultivators of  such  staple foods as ji (yams), akpu (cassava), akidi (beans), ede (coco-yams), oka (corn), utaba (tobacco), and opupa (groundnuts), to name only a few.

Because times were hard, labor scarce and expensive, and money in short supply, most Igbo farmers married many wives for economic reasons, namely,  to produce enough children to work on family farms. Men planted yams and cassava, and women tended to vegetables , like okwuru, onugbu, egusi, uturukpa, and anara.  What the farmer and his wife or wives harvested were sold at open markets that fell on specific market days, such as  Eke, Oye, Afor, or Nkwo days.

Whatever money the farmer realized was spent on family needs, including clothes, food, medications, and children's school expenses (books, fees, and uniforms). The family head, Nna Anyi (our Father) always played an important role as protector and disciplinarian . Children respected, honored and revered Papa who carried the family ofor.

The Ofor is the symbol of authority held by the oldest family member, and Papa is the originator of the family. As family heads, Igbo fathers often provide direction for all family members to follow, including wives. Children were taught to become future fathers and mothers in their own homes.

Boys were expected to watch their fathers labor, heave, and strain to till a stubborn soil that must be made to yield food and other family needs. Girls watch as  mothers cook, clean, wash, become impregnated, give birth, and take care of young children, All children were made aware of family expectations: boys to marry and become fathers and husbands; girls to marry men and become wives and mothers in their own homes. Both boys and girls are to produce children for their husbands and wives.

Igbo men grow up to be just as industrious as their fathers in hard work and wisdom. Igbo girls pattern after their mothers. Family honor is to be maintained at all times through being responsible, providing food and shelter for the family, obeying traditions and fulfilling customs related to elderly parents, traditional marriages, family inheritances, funerals, and  chieftaincy titles. This is how the Igbos have developed to be who they now are.


Submitted by Dr. James C. Agazie, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ,

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James Agazie Ed D

A retired college Professor  with educational backgrounds in law (JD) education (Ed.D, MA) counseling,( MS) and and mathematics.  Write on topics dealing with Nigerian families, marriages, education, and employment.