why pride in one’s ethnicity?

Charles Chidi Achodo and other Owerri folks, I would especially appreciate your response to my question.


Ozodi Osuji

This evening I am not feeling happy, if you like, I am somewhat depressed. Though my father and mother have been dead for over twenty years but whenever I think about them, I feel sad, depressed.
I do whatever I do when I remember them, listen to their people’s music. They are Owerri-Igbo. So, I reached out to my CD of Owerri music. I have been listening to recordings by Peacocks International, Oriental International, and other recordings of Owerri musicians.
As I lay on my back on my couch and listen to my people’s music my spirit is uplifted. I was transported to the land of my ancestors; the pictures of my parents (Johnson and Theresa Osuji), their own parents (Joseph and Martha Osuji-Njoku) and a whole host of my people flashed through my mind’s eyes. I was in the company of those who loved me beyond words and felt happy.
Suddenly, the words of my grandfather were repeating in my mind: “Ozodi, never forget that you are an Osuji, Iwu Nwa Osuji-Njoku, Onye Owerri, the best human beings on planet earth (our Owerri people believe that they are the best people, that God specifically selected them as his chosen children).
I am temporarily in the company of my ancestors (we are the people’s traditional war leaders, Osuagha, generals, as well as the people’s high priests, Ndi Ishi Amadioha).
Pride in family and kindred wafted through my mind. I felt as a if I came from the best of humanity, the elect of the gods.
All these feelings, of course, are fantasy, but I am telling you how momentarily I felt. By identifying with my people, I felt safe and in Alamua, home of our ancestors’ spirits. Thereafter, I came back to planet earth where black folks are supposed to be unimportant, inferior people.
My Owerri people see white folks as not as good as themselves (to marry a white person is considered a degradation of the Owerri people) but now this Owerri man is in America and is seen as inferior to white folks; grandfather Osuji wanted white folks to kneel to be able to talk to him, but his grandson must endure abuses from white folks. Such is life, c’est la vie.
Ah, reality.
The question I want to ask is how come when a person identifies with his people, his family, his heritage he feels transported to a state that is out of this world. This sense of joy and power derived from one’s kindred, ethnicity and race probably account for the hold of nationalism on people.
All over the world, people take pride in their nation; pursuit of what makes their nationality powerful motivates them to glorious acts (I am supposing that I can sacrifice my life for our Owerri people…it is difficult to tell you how listening to Owerri Music made me feel, listening to ”Eddie Kwanza and Onwu Ebeara Igbu Ejiogu”, it gave me total sense of identification with my Owerri people…never mind that ordinarily, I listen to what white folks called classical music, such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven etc.).
Our Owerri people say that unless you are born an Owerri person you are not fully a human being! As if to justify their narcissistic claim, Owerri folks have the highest concentration of educated people in Nigeria; they have more PhD holders than other Igbo clans; in my Umuamadioha kindred alone are medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, and professors, many at American universities.
We are simply an amazing people; I must say that Igbos in general seem a special breed of human beings; are there human beings who are better than Igbos?
Seriously, are there any Igbo who would want to belong to another human group?
I do not know why ethnicity has such a power over people, including me. Why is this the case? You see, I have not really spent a lot of time with my people. Like most Igbos of my generation, I was born in an urban center (I was born at Lagos); my mother and father spoke Owerri, but I did not necessarily join them in speaking it; I understood Owerri dialect of Igbo but mostly spoke pidgin English and at school spoke standard English.
Elementary school. Secondary school and University in the USA and thereafter chose to live in the USA. So, most of my life has been spent away from my Owerri people. I do not remember the last time that I spoke Owerri-Igbo!
Yet, everything Owerri uplifts me. Why is this so? Why does ethnicity have such hold over human beings?
I generally like to see me as urbane and cosmopolitan and beyond race and ethnicity; I fancy myself mostly interested in the world of philosophy, psychology, and science in general, yet Igbo, specifically Owerri folklore has intense hold on me!
Whether I like it or not, I am a proud Owerri man. I just said it, didn’t I? Despite disclaimers, I am a proud Owerri man!
I would rather be an Owerri man than from any other human group!
Why does ethnicity exercise tremendous hold on even the best liberal minds like me? I can understand why people go to war, fight, and die for their people; the power of one’s people over one is enormous; we should not underestimate this mysterious power, instead, we should study and understand it.

Ozodi Osuji
March 15, 2021

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