The aim of this essay is three-fold. First is to state emphatically that despite all what is being said and done, Ndiigbo shall rise again and are rising. The second point is to state categorically that Igbos shall pursue their liberation through peaceful means and diplomatic coexistence. Thirdly, we Igbos shall laboriously examine areas Igbos including this writer need to strengthen as we inexorably, unalterably, and unavoidably rise to our former preeminence. We admit we have made mistakes in the past in our relationships with each other and with other Nigerians. We are aware and becoming honest with ourselves. We resolve to cease playing childish, destructive games NOW as we endeavor to make serious efforts at behavior modification.
Behavior modification or applied behavior analysis is the use of learning techniques to modify or change undesirable behavior and increase the frequency of behavior that can be considered to be desirable. It is imperative that we change our undesirable behavior and attitudes in order to dig ourselves out of the messy situation we are in. Haven't we heard it said that "a fool is one who stumbles over the same stone twice"? Though we may be slow, yet we are aware that "one who is sick ain't dead yet" and that "a changed behavior is a door one opens again and again." These are not quoted from any book; they are made up, but they are true.
We Igbos are too intelligent to ignore vital areas needing improvement. There is no denying that Nigeria and Nigerians are picking on Ndiigbo for some reasons. Obviously, some of us Igbos are taking this picking to mean that we are being hated or at least lambasted for being who we are. Should our fellow Nigerians lambast, condemn, or criticize Ndiigbo who follow their way of life for centuries? No.
Aii the same, we Igbos want the same opportunities others have in order to do what we do best in a better manner without having our rights trashed or trampled upon. Surely, Igbos have to deal with situations which easily can be misunderstood to mean we are being hated. Picking on Igbos is the result of the pickers' fear or ignorance rather than hatred. We are citizens of one country and, according to Nobel Peace prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King, injustice done to one group is injustice done to all groups.
Let's check the internet and newspapers to hear what our fellow Nigerians are saying about us, and doing to us. Though the words and actions are negative, infuriating, or done in jest and laughter, yet we ought to pay attention for our self correction. Call up a few Nigerians of the Yoruba or Hausa ethnic groupings and ask for their opinions about you and your fellow Igbo men and women. Ask for their honest opinion, and promise them you would not be offended by whatever comes out of their mouths about you and your fellow Igbos. A wise man seeks corrections which are bitter sometimes. Words do not kill, but how we take the words can either invigorate or sour our feelings. Be a man or woman! Take the words as helping you to grow. So cheer up! It shall be well.
If the person you are talking with is a good friend who has the courage to stand by the truth even if it hurts a dear friend, you will agree that indeed their opinions may seem (only appear) to mean we are hated. The fault is nobody's but ours that we are not as popular as we would like to be in Nigeria. It is as if we were nsi (poison) to be avoided. Who do we blame for our predicament? Come on, blame anyone if you were the weak-minded customer who was busy arguing with a garri seller that the cup being used to measure garri was half full rather than half empty. Either way, the quantity of garri was not enough. Ndiigbo cannot continue to act nonchalant, carefree and lackadaisical. We ought to take action and do some self-diagnosis, honestly.
We Igbos are known as fighters because aggression is in our blood. But and this is a big But. Our combativeness must not be physical; it ought to be intellectual, moral, psychological and philosophical rather than physical involving boxing, elbowing, or wrestling. We must make up our minds use our minds to look at our common problems and come up with the most efficacious solutions We know that the "pen is mightier than the sword" and that "one who prevails in the game of uche (mind) goes home with the crown rather than one who KO's his opponent with one akpooom"(punch)? Therefore, let's use our intellect and problem-solving ability.
Fighting is as ineffectual as it is childish to settle disputes which require the use of the mind. Consider the young Igbos who have not seen a war, who are demonstrating and carrying protest placards, or who would engage in fighting at the drop of a hat. We ought to help our youth to channel their youthful energies to conquering science, mathematics, and technology in order to help solve many of our problems related to inadequate electrification, bad roads, poor healthcare, insufficient nutrition, and endemic employment. The Jews are doing it.
Even our southern neighbors the Ijaw, Efiks, and Rivers appear to harbor bad sentiments against Igbos. Why? They bear grudges for the way they felt we Igbos mistreated the minorities in the former Eastern Nigeria during the leaderships of Odumegwu Ojukwu, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Michael Okpara, Mbonu Ojike, Kingsley Mbadiwe, and other Igbo stalwarts. You cannot treat people roughly and expect them to love you, can you? Igbo apologies to these people are overdue.
The Ikwerre people and other Igbo-speaking people in the former Eastern Region are making it abundantly clear with an ear-splitting intensity that "we are not Igbos and you can't force us to be Igbos." They do not want to be connected to the Igbos. There was everlasting joy when Nigeria finally created separate states such as Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Akwam Ibom, Delta, and Edo for our former neighbors who feared domination and mistreatment at the hands of Igbos whom they referred to as "former colonialists."
I called a few Igbo friends to ask if and why Igbos are not well liked in Nigeria. One Igbo asks: " why should you worry about who hates Igbos?" I worry because I am Igbo and my children are Igbos, too. How do I improve myself if I turn deaf ears to personal criticisms that might help me grow to maturity, and why must I despise corrections and fail to heed warnings before stepping in front of a moving train or falling into a hidden ditch? It is impossible to dig myself out of a hole if I continue to cover myself with more dirt. Life is hard as it is so I don't want to make it harder. I am not an island, am I? We know that a tree cannot and does not make a forest. I need all the support I can garner from other trees in order to help create a thicker forest, don't I ?
Another Igbo says: "They hate us because they're jealousy of our wealth." The third says: "They hate us because we hate ourselves." Another asks: "Who would love one who loves money more than anything on earth?" Someone points out that there would not be armed robbers and kidnappers in Nigeria without Igbos engineering such atrocities.
Do you remember a story repeated among the Nigerian soldiers during Biafra? The story had it that If you wanted to know if an Igbo soldier was really dead, place a clump of money on the corpse. If the body moved, kill it more because it was not yet dead. Isn't repeating such gossip gross or sickening? It is safe to wager that if we Igbos were hated it would not be for having money but for what we do with the money. The Good Book warns that strange love of money is the root of all evil. If we are honest with ourselves, there are three things we Igbos ought to find out about us and our fellow Igbos as the following unpleasant scenarios seem to illustrate.
First, we overrate our omniscience, the I-too-know attitude, all-knowing, bravado, audacity, boasting, and boldness. There are more educated men and women, engineers, scientists, physicians, lawyers, and other professions in Yorubaland than there are in Ala Igbo. Remember that more Igbos are sweating in blistering heat, trading in open markets than are learning something in air-conditioned offices and universities classrooms. If we all trade who will buy? Don't we need some manufacturers, technicians, teachers, housewives, onyeburu (carriers), and counselors?
Secondly, we Igbos overrate our omnipotence, which is a misguided feeling of having all-powerfulness, influence, supremacy. There are more jobs and fewer unemployed persons in Yorubaland than you find in Ala Igbo. Sorry to burst our bubble; but Igbo graduates who get along with others are finding jobs in non-Igbo states. We Igbos ought to place greater emphasis on getting along amicably and working amiably with all, including members of other tribes. Let's emphasize being friendly, warm, good-natured, agreeable, cordial, affable, genial, or kind rather than being confrontational and obstreperous (noisy and incontrollable as children on playground).
Thirdly, we Igbos overrate our omnipresence in that we are too abrasive, tending to cause abrasion, provoking anger, ill will, annoyance, or irritability. We overrate our importance, ubiquity or property of being everywhere at the same time. Fewer pieces of Igbo property can be found in the 5 Igbo states than you can find in the 31 non-Igbo states including Lagos, Kano, Abuja, and so forth. That means that Alaigbo wealth is a drop in the ocean of whatever Igbos claim to have in Nigeria. Let's concentrate on selected activities in some places and do it well rather than being a rolling stone that gathers no moss. This is just a suggestion from a person who doesn't enjoy trading.
As this writer was telling a fellow Igboman that Igbos own a good part of Lagos, the fellow stopped me dead on my track and said: "Who told you that? My dear, Igbos own nothing. Yorubas and Hausas own most of Lagos in terms of money, buildings and commerce. You know why? Igbos work too hard and too individualistically to earn a little while Yorubas work little but cooperatively to own a lot. They own almost the entire Lagos."
Therefore, my fellow Igbos, the key words here are "work little, smart, and together" rather than "work too hard and alone." You can take the words to Harvard Business School and write a disarming/winning Dissertation. The tragedy is this: some Igbos are unscrupulous, dishonest, unprincipled, corrupt, crooked, dodgy, immoral, deceitful, or devious. These adjectives are used with lots of love and respect for my fellow Igbo people. Unfortunately, a few bad apples make the entire basket to appear to be rotten.
Let's consider a few statements that might be descriptive of us Igbos in Nigeria and abroad. We Igbos exaggerate and overestimate our "smart ass-ness," wisdom, and/or intelligence; we forget that it takes a special, evolving brain to adapt and survive in a changing environment. Like the world, Nigeria is changing rapidly and requiring specialized adaptive skills to adjust to shifting environment. Let us Igbos move with the tide and not be left behind.
We Igbos need to be about education in the sciences and technology as a matter of priority. Let's encourage our kids to be in the forefront of the direction the world is now moving toward. The future is in scientific areas, including, chemistry, biology, medicine, computer technology, engineering, oceanography, and other life sciences. The days of voodoo economics are gone forever. The journeys to the moon and bottom of the oceans are just beginning.
We Igbos seem to concentrate exclusively, completely, and entirely on trading. You can teach monkeys to sell bananas or dogs to watch over your mansion. The story is told of one Anambra doctor who hung up his medical equipment to go sell building materials from China. Did he forget to ask who would help us to wipe out malaria, small pox, river blindness, mental illnesses, starvation, leprosy, and anemia? The answer lies with scientists, not witchdoctors or sellers of building materials. Don't we see thousands of huge uninhabited mansions in Igboland? These are white elephants providing sanctuaries for rats and cockroaches.
We Igbos are extremely selfish. Yes, the Igbos are extremely hardworking, yet hardly working. We amass great wealth, yet have poverty of the spirit. And where does our hard work end? Do we use our wealth to pull up the other struggling neighbors? No, the Igbos do not help each other, preferring in live in mansions while family members live in hovels, huts, or in the open field. We use our wealth to oppress others who are less fortunate. We brag that we are multi-millionaires and laugh at and belittle neighbors who do not measure up. We overeat, overdress, over parade ourselves at parties to show we have ego (money and bigmanism).
We are murderously greedy. Professor O built a large house at Onitsha and hired his cousin to manage tenants and collect rents. As Professor O went back to his teaching job in America and did not receive quarterly accounting from his cousin for several years, he flew back to Onitsha and nearly fainted. His cousin had hired a lawyer to alter documents and transfer title to the building from Professor O to his cousin. Expensive lawsuits are in progress to revert ownership.
We Igbos are afraid to associate with fellow Igbo brothers and sisters. We are afraid because we know that Igbos are known to be members of gangs, armed robbers, kidnappers, and ransom seekers. Therefore, we do not feel safe among fellow planners and plotters of evil.
We are too trusting of outside so-called friends and non-Igbos. Why? It is because we do not want other Igbos to get to our privileged positions for fear we might lose their respect. The Igbos we have helped to succeed will eventually come to bite the fingers that had fed them. Igbos you have helped today may end up being your worst enemies tomorrow, backbiting you, stealing from you, and creating unnecessary headaches for you.
Uncle Sam started his China business and entrusted it to Nephew Theo. Uncle Sam sent Nephew Theo to China to transact deals and act as Sam's representative and to make millions of Naira profit. To cut the story short, Nephew Theo took over the business and drove Uncle Sam to the poor house. Nephew Theo stole all that belonged to his uncle with the help of his mother who is Uncle Sam's younger sister.
We Igbos sell out to others too easily. We sell out to non-Igbos who offer us money and no real comfort. We get comfort from being at peace and away from prying eyes of jealous Igbo neighbors.
We are careless in foolishly trusting outsiders without keeping a little secret for our protection. Case in point: we build mosques and establish living quarters for cattle-herding Fulani in South-East and open our ass wide until they become so comfortable they carry out massacres and burning of our buildings. Why can't we learn from the Biroms of Jos how they survived the ordeal? We should not be plainly foolish and thoughtless, should we? Have we lost our Igwebuike philosophy? Let's go back to the drawing board and review the meaning and philosophy behind the Igwebuike.
We Igbos are prideful, unyielding and unwilling to make personal changes in behavior and attitudes that would facilitate our progress as a people. Igbos are too competitive in everything they do; they lack spirit of cooperation and loyalty. Hire an Igbo manager in your business and he will rob you until your business closes and he may even open his own business within your business to suck out all the profits. He then laughs in your weeping face as he proudly walks all the way to his bank with bags of your money. He laughs when you cry: "Chimoo. Chimoo Chim egbuem. (Oh, my God. Oh, my God. My God has killed me)"
We Igbos lack contentment and often clamor for more and more wealth than we can put to good use. Consider this Igbo merchant who has seven mansions at Lagos, yet he keeps buying land and building more mansions in his village, and at Abuja, Onitsha, Asaba, Awka, and anywhere he mind takes him. He has seven SUV's parked at one location. I ask myself: "Can this fool drive seven vehicles at the same time in his life? Can he live in all seven mansions?" A man who has 7 SUV's lined up in his garage seems t o be telling the world: "Beatie-m mele!" (Beat me and let me see).I dare him to take one mansion to heaven at his death and return to earth so we can crown him Osimiri Mansion (Ocean of Mansions).
Our wives accuse us of having wickedness/hardheartedness. We are poor models for our kids. We are not loyal to wives and wives are disloyal to us. It is a case of wayo-man-die-o-wayo-man-buryan (a trickster buries a trickster). We Igbo traders are so greedy for women we cannot wait for a man to die before talking to the widow and making sexual advances after displaying our useless bags of Naira in front of a weeping widow. We spend money to buy everything, including love from a woman. Chief Onyekwere is an ugly man with missing front teeth, short, and looks like ozodimgba (chimpanzee), Nevertheless, Onyekwere's wife is oyoyo (beauty queen), dresses fashionably as a physician trained in London. How? Chief Onyekwere is a very rich trader and can buy anything he wants even it is a woman. It is a case of Beauty and the Beast.
We Igbos can't come together to achieve meaningful projects without being too critical and without being too many chiefs (leaders) and few Indians (followers). The number of Chiefs, Sirs, Nzes and other brainless titles in an Igbo organizations makes Satan laugh in hell.
We Igbos use organizations (WIC, APGA, Igbo Union, and political parties for examples) as springboards to steal group funds and exploit fellow Igbos in order to achieve financial gains at others' expense. Do I need to tell you about the treasurer of this USA Igbo organization who diverted thousands of members' dollars to Nigeria and converted the money to Naira for his private business at the rate of $1 =N150. When he was caught, taken to court, and forced to refund the money, the Igbo organization lost more than half its money when the conversion rate was $1=N350. Follow the math: When Stealing $10,000 multiply by N150 = N1,500,000. When returning N1,500,000 divided by N350 = $4,285.
Ever wonder why Nigerian teachers are not being paid on time? We divert teachers' salaries to private importation and investments while teachers starve, refuse to teach, or go to markets to sell while schools are in session.
We Igbos are unable to learn from our catastrophic past (Biafra War, Igbo pogrom, and current boko haram) in order to forge ahead and build a better future for our children.
We Igbos are extremely competitive and lack cooperative spirit. If you apply for jobs near anther Igbo man, the other man would feel threatened and seek ways to sabotage your progress through direct intervention with employer or gossips that would paint you black before you ever start the work.
We have tunnel-vision, content with immediate gratifications, with an overriding interest in akpam (my pocket). We are forgetful of the big picture that may not occur in our lifetime. We are inexorably unmindful of the future of our great grand children. We are unwilling to die or suffer loss so that others may benefit in the future.
We are happy developing others' land (in Lagos, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Kaduna, and Port Harcourt, for examples) and leaving our homes unattended, and when we are chased out by the Yorubas, Muslims and boko haram we run empty-handed and homeless.
We Igbos are excellent gossip mongers given to incessant innuendos and destructive communication intended to damage the other person's reputation.
We Igbos are extremely envious of each others' progress and seek ways to sabotage and discourage.
We Igbos cannot work well with spouses and other groups, but choose to be so independent as to defeat our purpose. While other tribes work cooperatively to make money je-je (easily), we toil like Egyptian slaves to make ends meet.
Igbos often work with ntiwasi ala (earth-breaking) and ndodi igwe (pulling down of sky) to achieve the same thing or less.
Who have been accused of inventing kidnappings, armed robberies, ransoms, and abali di egwu (robbery at night or night is dangerous) in Alaigbo? Accusatory fingers have been pointing at none others than Igbo people. There are a few suggestions we might consider.
Let's play the game Onye Ahapuna Nwanne Ya (Do not leave your brethren behind).
Let's make Igwebuike (Unity is Strength) our mantra.
Let's be humbler and less prideful of our so-called education and praise others more for their accomplishments.
Let's make friends with the Yorubas, Hausas, Fulanis, and others who would assist us get ahead in employment and businesses in their home states.
Let's learn languages and cultures of our Nigerian neighbors to increase chances of progress in education and employment.
Let's cease putting down or belittling other Nigerian tribes.
Let's decide that Alaigbo shall be peaceful by installing reputable chiefs (heads of clans) who would not take bribes and whom we all can listen to and obey to settle our differences, just as the Yorubas have their Obas; Hausas have their Emirs, and Idomas have Ochi'Idoma, We Igbos ought to have someone we respect and revere, respect, admire and worship to settle our differences and unite us in Igwebuike (unity is strength) and Onye Aghana Nwanne Ya (Let Noone Leave One's Brethren Behind). Remember this: Despite what is being said and done, Igbos are not down and out; they shall rise and are raising again
Copyrighted, Sunday, August 16, 2015 @ 7:01pm
Please see his other essays at jamesagazies.blogsports.com