Understanding Ndi-Igbo trajectory in Nigeria

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THE tepid, almost reclusive, public response to the police clampdown on certain misguided youths who recently took Port-Harcourt, Onitsha, Awka and other cities by storm attempting to resuscitate the age-worn clamour for an independent State of Biafra is reflective of the general consensus among the people that Nigeria’s nagging national question can be resolved without recourse to divisiveness, strife or war. The Nigeria project or enterprise is still largely considered as a going concern or as work in progress.

The conveners of the protests and those who participated in them are persons who are about two generations or so removed from the viciousness and the savagery of the Nigerian civil war; they are many decades removed from the booming guns and the smouldering cauldron that typified the war years. The cannons have long ceased to boom even as the scars of war are viewed in historical antiquity.

The proper appreciation of convoluted matters of state craft, inter-ethnic relations, peace and security in a multi-lingual or plural society, etc. requires a nimbleness of mind that only age and life’s experiences can confer or impart. These young protesters are the unfortunate heirs of “the mood of utter disgust over the incipient brutalisation of their country. They are protesting against the crisis … that threaten and restively still threaten the future of our people.” – Chukwuma Azuonye: (Nsukka Harvest, Nsukka, Odunke Publications, 1972). Whether as a reaction to the bloodletting consequent on the pre-war massacres and the civil war or of the angst following the failure of the secessionist debacle, the Nigerian people are agreed that a repeat performance of the circumstances is far from being consistent with their fervent desire for a peaceful, prosperous and progressive society.

True, the Nigerian state is palpably run contrary to the cherished or professed values of her founding. She is a federation only in name as most of the indices of a federal polity are patently lacking in her constitutional make-up. Her extant Constitution is visibly at variance with the canons of a federal arrangement or structure. A federation is loosely defined as a country consisting of a group of individual states that have control over their own affairs but are controlled by a central government with respect to national decisions or settled values.

A major feature of a federal status is the right of the states to manage or direct affairs and events concerning them and specifically reserved for them to the exclusion of the interference of the central authority. This right is largely circumscribed regarding the central and constituent units relations in Nigeria. Subjects such as derivation, resource control, mining, minerals, oil fields, local government establishment and control, policing, etc. – all of them shared or devolved responsibilities in typical federal democracies – are curiously listed as exclusive federal matters in Nigeria.

That said however, neo-secessionists or those youngsters who need to be schooled in the fundamentals of Nigerian history may not be heard to mean that their dis-satisfaction with the way the Nigerian state is run is the reason for their expressed desire to pull their part of Nigeria out of the Federation. They have yet to exhaust the opportunities provided for relieving our recurrent political, social and economic difficulties even as the profound understanding of the underpinnings of those circumstances properly situates the adoption of the report of the 2014 National Conference.

The report has presented us with a document that is development or people-oriented, that abjures regional or ethnic control or sectarian ambush of the polity; that spreads general well-being; that confronts the fundamentals of our perennial crises; and that is reflective of our desire to truthfully bear the name or appellation, Federal Republic of Nigeria – a truly federal, republican and democratic entity. The adoption of the document’s thrusts is sure to relieve the present tension.

The people of the Southeast zone of Nigeria [or Ndi-Igbo] are remotely related with the Jewish people – a people whose claim of a unique status before God or of His abundant blessings is generally believed particularly in these parts. A band of Jews had reportedly accompanied the famed Kazeem family of Egypt to a small village on a hilltop in fulfilment of God’s ordination to take the family to a new land where He will start to bless the family’s offsprings.

That hill top village is today identified as Enugu. The emergent tribe from this marriage of cultures and of the ensuing acculturation thereof produced a people that love God [as they do not have a high level or propensity of demonic capabilities like some other tribes]. They profess the name of God but deny the power thereof. Unfortunately, the people are yet to appreciate or recognise spiritual significance as key to their ordination. They set great value by material acquisitions.

They rely on what they can see, feel or touch. This empirical attitude finds eminent expression in many issues of social, inter-personal and spiritual dimensions concerning the people. In politics, the professions, public service, the trades or vocations, etc. Ndi-Igbo manifest the relationship as exists between numbers and other measurable quantities. They generally dispel or disclaim the metaphysical implications of things that cannot be held or touched. But the humanistic study or appreciation of man or of a tribe of men should include such variables and/or constants as substance, essence, space, time, possibility and necessity.

The paradigmatic example of the Ndi-Igbo attitude to life is gleaned from the people’s ethics, psychology, politics, theology, liturgy, etc. exemplifying itself in the high digit or effusive appreciation or valorization of the individual’s material net worth or of his substantive and substantial physical or material contribution to the development of self or society.

The narration here is merely descriptive and not judgmental as it does not suggest the superiority or otherwise of one tradition over another. It is however an honest attempt at understanding the Ndi-Igbo trajectory and exposing the general, sometimes malevolent, mis-understanding that has dogged its critical path or course.
• Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, contributed this piece from Abuja via [email protected]

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