IGBO ECONOMY EXCEEDS IGBO GEOGRAPHY
| by Osita Ebiem
( August 21, 2013, New York City, Sri Lanka Guardian) Every functional and succeeding society is usually the one that has succeeded in making law and order their cornerstone. There is flagrant and impudent disregard for the “manufactured”, unrealistic and incongruent rules and customs (Constitution) of one Nigeria because there is no common ground on which all the peoples meet. No society can succeed where there is such level of state of anomie because of total disregard for the rule of law as there is in today’s one Nigeria. In one Nigeria there is a complete absence of law and order not because the people are incapable of living by the rules but because the rules do not have roots in the peoples’ original norms and customs. There is no uniformity of interests and collective pursuits so what makes sense to the Igbo does not make the same sense to the Yoruba, Hausa or Fulani.
In another sense, advocating that because “Igbo economy exceeds Igbo geography” then they must remain in one Nigeria can be likened to encouraging Igbo people to practice the type of closed economy that the old Soviet Union tried at the peak of its experiment – doing business mostly with the states they had sovereign influence and control over. As most students of Soviet history agree; that practice contributed significantly to its eventual fall. If there is any lesson at all in it to go by, we can safely conclude that Igbo people do not need to be part of Nigeria in order to conduct successful businesses in Nigeria. To further support this point we need to remind readers that Igbo people are currently living and doing successful businesses in other countries such as Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Ghana and several other places. And there is no need for them to convert these host countries into one Igbo country in order to do businesses in them. In the same manner, Igbo do not need to belong to Nigeria in order do business in Nigeria and with Nigerians.
In another instance, some Igbo individuals would prefer that the precarious and hopeless situation of Igbo nation’s continued existence in a united Nigeria be less emphasized or not mentioned at all. These individuals believe that talking about the oppressive and humiliating conditions that Igbo nation experiences in one Nigeria is a show of weakness and exhibition of the victim mentality. Such people talk of and point at the resilience and humble meager accomplishments of some Igbo people in various areas of life as proof that after all Igbo have not been the losers as it is generally assumed. The scope of this article will not permit us to enumerate several instances of discrimination, disdain, injustice, disregard, dishonor, hatred, spite and deliberately contrived obstacles thrown in the way to stunt Igbo growth in Nigeria. From the direct result of Igbo’s forced membership in one Nigeria the Igbo collectively and individually have suffered several missed opportunities, impudent mistreatment and humiliations. The victimization of Igbo in the failed Nigerian project as evidenced everywhere and in all aspects, is real and it will amount to the display of an equal level of dishonest braggadocio as one Nigeria apologists do, for anyone to acknowledge and say otherwise. Stating honestly what is obvious and true does not weaken the position of anyone in any context. Accepting facts of situations is always the first step in finding solution to the problem. Living in denial of one’s true condition and “confessing positively”, would not make the problem to just go away. To humbly and sincerely accept what is true and impacting negatively on one does not mean one has to live with the adverse condition without making effort to extricate themselves from it.
Some advocates for separation have cited the Biafran genocide when trying to further persuade those who it is assumed that it is for some selfish reasons that they still think that Igbo people should have no right to self-determination, freedom and sovereign independence outside Nigeria. 3.1 million Igbo and other Biafrans were murdered by the Nigerian state and its citizens during the genocidal years of 1966 to 1970. The Biafran genocide is regarded by many experts as the foundational genocide in the post-colonial Africa. Since that horrible pogrom, genocide and ethnic/religious cleansing in Biafra took place forty something years ago no one has been held accountable for the inhuman atrocities in Biafra. There is a general consensus among most analysts that it is this deliberate neglect to punish the perpetrators of the heinous crime against Biafrans that has led to similar but of less magnitude others in Rwanda, Darfur, Liberia, Sierra Leone and several others. It is believed that subsequent perpetrators of similar crimes in Africa were particularly emboldened because they had no deterrent reference sanctions against the Biafran war criminals. After forty years, Nigeria and its citizens remain unrepentant and unremorseful about the genocide and that especially strengthens the ground of separation advocates.
Still using genocidal reason as basis for separation, advocates for Igbo/Biafra’s independence give copious examples of deliberate crimes of genocide, ethnic and religious cleansing against Igbo people and other Biafrans in Nigeria starting from 1945 to the present day. The last reported (it is said that government agents suppress most from getting reported in the media) is as recent as one week ago in Kano Northern Nigeria. The attack, since claimed by the al Qaeda affiliate of Nigerian Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram targeted Igbo people (the leader of the group said so in his speech justifying the attack). In the attack which was multiple bomb blasts, scores of Igbo people were killed, maimed and their properties destroyed in the Sabon Gari area of Kano. Armed with this and many other reasons separation advocates fight on by claiming that Igbo can only be safe and prosper in a separate sovereign state that is independent of Nigeria.
But purely for rhetorical reasons, let us continue with this discussion considering the separation question from the point of view of Ojo Maduekwe and others like him. Let’s for a moment pretend with them and accept that Igbo economic consideration should be the only basis on which Igbo should choose between their continued dehumanizing existence in one Nigeria and separation, self-determination, freedom and honor. But even for solely the sake of argument this thought feels so disgusting and very difficult to contemplate by any decent human being who understands that what makes us humans is much more than material abundance. What about the art? All animals eat and drink but human beings not only do the same they also have the capacity to appreciate beauty and the art and derive incalculable satisfaction from the experience. Human beings unlike base animals can watch the mesmerizing beauty of the sunset or the awe inspiring turbulence of the ocean then lie down, go to sleep and have dreams about the experience and sometimes their circumstances and destinies are changed as a result. These Nature’s display of harmony and beauty do not only cause humans to feel satisfied and happy, sometimes they make them write great poems and produce other great works of art. Many years ago this writer wrote one of his best poems after watching and being captivated by the grandeur of the sunset.
The greatness of all societies and peoples everywhere and in every generation consists in their ability to harmonize and appreciate the beauty of their collective body of art. The amount of value that any society or people attach to their collected body of art and culture can always determine how much greatness they will ultimately attain in every other aspect of their existence. Has the reader wondered why a society’s museum and art centers are considered to be the greatest possessions of the society and its people? Or why some art pieces of societies are priced and prized beyond any material value? For all well-evolved societies and peoples, art/cultural production, their collection and preservation go beyond mere pass time it is their most valued profession. Some artworks sell for millions for this reason.
We have only talked about the art and cultural value of the people as being more important than their material possession but what about the human capacity to make choices. Choice in human beings can and should be indulged in deliberately and for the sake of it and in some cases with no reasons given. This takes us back to the point we made in the first part of this article. But here we are emphasizing the fact that Igbo’s considerations in either remaining in cultural, political and social bondage in Nigeria or being free through the principles of Self Determination and Indigenous Peoples Rights must, for the sake of preserving their humanity, go beyond mere economic consideration. As we said earlier we are still trying to compromise and understand why Maduekwe and others like him persist in their perceived unforgivable superficial views on why Igbo should remain in Nigeria. For lack of any convincing reason from the standpoint of one Nigeria apologists we will still go further with this debate and base our next set of arguments on the realities of the present era.
We now live in a big global world that has used technology to shrink millions of square miles/kilometers into a tiny virtual village of a few square feet/meters. From one small bedroom anywhere in the world, a technically savvy individual can almost run an entire world’s economy of trillions of dollars on computers. No one needs any more the acquisition and colonization of vast territorial physical empires in order to effectively engage in prosperous economic activities. Igbo people and other Biafrans of this generation must be conscious of and make decisions based on the current time and circumstances they live in. When as a people they fully realize the present time and their place in it, their leaders will learn to refocus and redirect the energy and creative genius of their people toward building a world-class economy which emphasizes virtual territorial geography as against physical geography.
They can choose to call it; Igbo or Biafra Borderless Economic Project. Igbo people or Biafrans can build this kind of borderless economy by striving to produce world standard products and services. They should shift their attention to producing things and ideas that are acceptable and exchangeable anywhere in the world. To achieve this Igbo elite and thinkers must play the part of articulating and making clear a comprehensive road map for their people to follow. And we must warn here though that we cannot anticipate any significant achievement in this matter if the leading thinkers and leaders are not prepared to be radically bold and uncompromising with their ideas. Any thinking or idea that includes Igbo as part of Nigeria clearly defeats the effort before it begins. Contrary to what is obtained today, Igbo leaders and ideas men and women must learn to encourage and sponsor creative ingenuity, teamwork or collective achievement amongst their people. They must teach the people how to build excellence, complex and sophisticated bigness and permanence. Such doctrines are impracticable in Nigeria.
As Igbo/Biafrans begin to learn to turn their attention and energy in finding their strength and prosperity within them then it will become clearer to Maduekwe and others that think like him that Igbo economy can and should exceed not just the Biafran physical territorial geography but even much more that of the current one Nigeria. As Igbo people discover their right place in the scheme of things in the world it will become very clear to them and others that they have never needed and will never need Nigeria to succeed and prosper. The greatness and prosperity of the Igbo exist and can only be found right inside of them and not in their physical environment. What the Igbo need is a secured sovereign homeland (it doesn’t matter how small because with the right attitude any space is big enough). They need a homeland where they can take charge and be responsible for the consequences of their actions. Igbo need a homeland that will work to defend the lives, properties and interests of its people anywhere in the world.
It is not difficult to see by all honest and sincere analysts that Igbo people will never get such a homeland should they for any reason whatsoever remain part of this one Nigeria that is permanently dysfunctional and practically impossible. The separate and independent Igbo/Biafra state we are talking about does not need a million, million square miles/kilometers of physical territory in order to prosper and be strong and capable enough to work for the interest of its people. The sheer greatness and vastness of physical dimension does not by itself translate into real greatness and prosperity.
Modern science has shown us that virtual sizes of very infinitesimal dimensions can produce vast amounts of power that the entire known universe can hardly contain. The Big Bang creational theorists have done a good job explaining how everything that we know of today in the physical universe is the product of the explosion that happened about 13 billion years ago of a tiny object of subatomic dimensions. And today, from this incomprehensibly small event has come into existence everything from the smallest atoms to the biggest stars, quasars and galaxies in the whole universe. It goes without saying to remind the reader that Igbo people and all Biafrans are part of this universe and therefore have the same creative seed in them. Every Igbo person or Biafran is an inheritor of the same primordial force that brought everything in the universe into being. It is on the basis of this truth only that they should resolve to achieve greatness by themselves and without the encumbrances of any one Nigeria. For goodness sake, we wish to state here that this comparative point of Igbo as part of the creative force that brought all things into being is just as real and practical as reality can be and should not be taken as mere pep or feel-good talk.
In conclusion, we are confident that the time is not far at all when all Igbo leaders and intellectuals including Ojo Maduekwe, Obi Nwakanma and others like them would have become convinced in the fallacy of their belief in one Nigeria. They will look back and wonder how they could have been so smart and sincere and yet lived for so long in such very obvious falsehood. We are sure that in that moment of collective epiphany, the present opposition to separation and slow-to-come-along separatists will become the greatest apostles of the Igbo or Biafra Borderless Economic Project; an economy that does not consist of or depends on mere physical geographies. In the midst of this realization Igbo political leaders and intellectuals of all hues and shapes will voluntarily be at the vanguard of the millions that are fighting to throw off the neck of Igbo nation forever the strangulating yoke of one Nigeria. When this happens Igbo leaders and thinkers will step forward to help every Igbo everywhere to build an economy that they can conveniently run from the comfort of their bedrooms and never need to step out into the dangerous territories of one Nigeria that is deadly mined with horrible ethnic and religious bigotry, intolerance and searing heat of mortal hatred. Yes, Igbo economy indeed exceeds not just Igbo but Nigeria’s geography and it is for this reason alone that Igbo and Biafra should live free and independent of Nigeria’s restricting physical geography. And the time should be now.
Here below is Ojo Maduekwe’s response to Vin Otuonye which is where the line, “Igbo economy exceeds Igbo geography” is taken from. We owe our thanks to Maduekwe for the brilliant coinage.
I will take the calculated risk of engaging further on this issue possibly for the last time. I feel drawn in because you wonder how much we Igbos in positions of authority raise our voices against Injustice against our people and you charitably reminded all about my constraints as an Ambassador of the Federal Republic that represents all and not just Igbos. The truth of the matter Vin is that if we keep silence in the face of manifest injustice against Igbos while in Government then we cannot truly claim to be the sons of our fathers! Another truth is that when we do so it will be unethical and may even amount to infringement of constitutional oath of office if we came out in the open bragging about what we do for our people. Any public officer doing so does not deserve to be there in the first place and will not last sufficiently to do the good he is obliged to do for his people. The other truth is for such advocacy on injustice to be credible and effective one must also be on record to do right and be just for other groups even to the occasional irritation of one's people. So it is not really that one's public office prevents one for fighting for one’s people. It is about timing, venue, platform, context and choreography. It is about strategic thinking
Yet there is public record to show that some of us even while in high public office have spoken the way you are writing when you refer to the sacrifices of Ndigbo. The point of departure with some of us who were grown up enough to fight the civil war (since you refer to MASSOB's option of nonviolence) is that rather than acquiescing to a permanent victim mindset that is not getting other Nigerians ' attention we are looking for a response befitting a great and big nationality as the Igbos. In the hurly burly real world no one wants to hand over a platform to a group that keeps drawing attention to its victim status if that group cannot compel attention in other persuasive ways. I am worried whether current approaches factor in Rollo May's wry observation that "powerlessness corrupts and absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely.” So how we manage our pain and articulate it without scaring everyone else may well hold the key to our breakthrough. Yet as I said earlier, I have spoken, even in high public office on the terrible Igbo price for national unity. Sample: As Transport Minister and leader of Igbo members of Obasanjo Administration in a speech delivered on the occasion of Remembrance Day of Ndigbo who lost their lives during the Nigerian Civil War held at the Michael Okpara Square Enugu 29 September 2000------".
As we rightfully remember the Biafran dead on this historic site dedicated to the matchless memory of Michael Okpara, let us solemnly resolve to live up to, those ideas of free society for which our men and women paid the supreme sacrifice. Let us not forget that Biafra at its best, was an indictment of the injustice and corruption which Nigeria in 1967 represented. We honour best our dead by supporting the forces of democracy in order to confront that degree of injustice and abuse of power which inevitably flows from the lethal combination of rampant ethnicity and unbridled corruption......
Our Igboness will find its most positive opportunities for excellence through the reconstruction and reconciliation of a Nigeria that will be sensitive to the Biafran concerns for justice, neighborhood values and meritocracy. We must be part of a growing national coalition that is ready and determined to create a new Nigeria. Even as our people died between 1966 and 1970, and as they have died in other carnages since then, it had always been sadly true that the Igbo economy exceeds Igbo geography. Our best tribute to our dead will be to find creative routes towards harmonizing that reality with the promise with the promise of a new Nigeria where lives and property will be secure; where citizenship will be marked by residence, and not by tribe and tongue; and where the enterprising qualities of our people will have the widest possible platform to flourish. Again at the Word Igbo Congress held in Houston from 29th August to 1st September200 I said "Other ethnic groups naturally came to perceive with considerable admiration, Ndigbo as the quintessential Nigerians who had voted with their feet more than any other group for a mobile, liberal society of equal citizenship rights......We Igbos have therefore been at our best when we refused to follow the narrow enclave preoccupation of other groups; when we have seen Nigeria and indeed all of Africa as available for our restless genius; and when we have encouraged our sons and daughters to bear the brunt of national integration. Of course there was always a price to pay for all this, some of which were extreme to say the least. But on the balance we are not such pathetic losers in the Nigeria Project. We have been strong, resilient, resourceful and justifiably proud. What is required is a new Zikean impetus that can push our interest in a more integrative, more inclusive and less threatening language; an approach that celebrates an interface and reconciliation of Igbo aspirations with the Nigerian dream, and by so doing, place at the service of the leading African nation the talents of some of the best and brightest who combine local relevance with world class instinct in an increasingly globalised community. We have the capacity to do this. Why accept less, especially in a knowledge economy based on the primacy of the market and the consequential retreat of governments from the centre - stage?" Do you need more evidence that some of us have not been silent concerning the Igbo Question within the wider Nigerian Question even while in Government or are seen as part of the establishment.
( Osita Ebiem is a Biafran citizen and the Sri Lanka Guardian's special correspondent on Nigeria. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )