Recently, there have been calls from various schools of thought for the sovereignty of Igboland. It has even echoed louder since the passing of Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu. The groups sounding the gong include Mobilization for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Ohaneze Ndigbo and others. They are entitled to their rights of free speech/expression and organization, provided to everyone by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The idea of Igbo sovereign nation in itself is mouth watering, considering the benefits enjoyed by most small nation states such as Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia and many more with abundant natural resources like us. According to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) factsheet, Nigeria as a country is number 32 in world ranking by square kilometers, with 923, 768 and comparative area slightly twice the size of the state of California, USA. The estimated population by July 2012 is 170,123,740 and the demographic layout is as follows: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, and Tiv 2.5%.
Right now you may be wondering why the statistical brouhaha? I put up these figures just to provide you with an insight into how the Igbos will square off as an independent nation whenever that happens. What this means as you may already know is that 18% of the current Nigerian population (Igbo) will have full ownership and control of only about 20% of the total amount of natural resources in the country. I might be a little rusty in my math skills, but this translates to a population of 30, 622, 273.2 taking in less than $11.2 billion out of the current $56 billion total annual oil revenue. Look closely, we are talking of dollars in this case. Although this sounds like a lot of revenue and with this much money coming from oil alone, the Igbos could smile all the way to the bank. But that is just one factor, which is also likely to bring our political “Robin Hoods” out of the woodworks. Supporters and pundits of the sovereign state of Igboland have for so long presented their arguments on economic grounds, with special emphasis on oil, which we only own a very small percentage of. This is where I have a hard time buying what they are selling and I am not the only one in this free market, shopping for better deals. Having said this, we are now doing ourselves a disservice by merely assuming that we can make due as a sovereign nation state just on oil availability. At a mere mention of our own country or nation, all eyes turn to the oilfields of Ohaji, Egbema, Uguta areas as if that is all we are worth as a people.
It is true that nobody has conclusively traced our origin down to the first Igbo man or woman yet, but one undeniable fact about us as a people is that our heightened sense of survival is unmatched with any other group of people or earth. It was this factor and many more, along with Ojukwu’s selfless and patriotic instincts that almost made Biafra a sovereign nation some forty plus years ago. Can we still boast of that today? I cannot speak authoritatively on the experiences of the Igbos during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war since I was born almost at the end of it. However, according to my father whose experience and commitment to the fight led him to name me Ogueri, the Igbos before and during that time were united, dedicated, loving and very honest people, with a great sense of family and brotherhood, and most importantly, they were very creative and hardworking. He also told me to always proudly lay claim to my Igbo heritage with all the natural rights and privileges as well as the minor artificial inhibitions it bestows on me. This is the premise within which I draw my analysis.
We have continued to completely ignore the fact that current Igbo generation is on a steady slide down the culture slope, to the point of reluctance even to claim their identity. In Nigeria, it is only an Igbo man that can willingly give his children Yoruba or Hausa names even when he does not know the meaning of such names. It is only an Igbo man that swears up the heavens to be a “Lagosian” in an effort to jettison his heritage even when his name is Emeka Ike and he freely accepts Igbo chieftaincy title. A friend of mine who teaches Igbo language in the department of linguistics at a Nigerian University told me he was going to acquire another graduate degree in a different area of studies. He lamented that he has a burning passion for teaching Igbo language, but lately, the number of student enrollment into the program has drastically dwindled. I honestly shared in my friend’s pain. But here is the kicker; he has two children who neither understand nor speak Igbo language. They only speak English. Prominent Igbo men and women; our high and mighty speak of Igbo language and culture to their children as without any relevance or value. So I ask who are we trying to impress and what are we trying to prove? This tight chick, stiff upper-lip attitude of the rich and powerful only shows how disillusioned some have become in the pursuit of so called class and status.
Now that we are on this language and culture thing, let me key you in on some facts you may not know. While our society’s elite denounces our language and showcase their family monolingual shortcomings as the new evidence of upper-class, the rest of the world is buying into multi-linguistic abilities as the only way to get ahead in the current global dispensation. For example, the United States Department of Defense pays its service members (Military personnel) $300.00 a month for speaking any of the three major Nigerian Languages; Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. So if a service member speaks two Nigerian languages, he or she gets $600.00 a month and for all three, the member gets $900.00 in addition to whatever their monthly salary and allowances are. I am not making this up because I have been receiving this monthly payment for Igbo language since January 2008.
Just like Aristotle, Socrates, Rene Descartes, Emmanuel Kant and the rest, our forefathers by all standards were great philosophers too. They provided us with answers and guiding principles through which we can attain healthy living as a group of people. They firmly instructed us that “Eziokwu bu ndu” (Truth is life), “Umunna bu ike” (There is strenght in community), “Eziaha ka ego” (A good name is greater than money) and that “Ihe ewetara na akuku ite na ala na akuku onu” (That which is acquired through the wrong means only goes into the wrong things). In the days of my grandfather, the Igbos lived as if they were genetically wired to cling onto these principles because their lives depended on them. Today the reverse is the case. The point in all this is that; yes we have the right to a collective struggle in an effort to better the lot of our people; yes we deserve more than what we are getting from the current arrangement and yes we have to start from somewhere to make our case. However we also have to retrace our roadmap towards this struggle if we are gunning for a bang.
The pursuit of sovereignty strictly on economic factors will only set the stage for a total defilement of everything our forefathers believed in, perfected and handed to us. These were the principles that have guided our culture and people for several centuries. They were the same principles that held the Igbos together before and during the trying times (Civil war). But now, these same principles seem to have almost eluded us by our own design. It might seem insignificant a factor, but the danger in living without cultural inclination for any society or group of people is that after a while, the sense of collective endeavor dies in everyone. Life becomes everyman for himself, which is a recipe for disaster. As late Pope John Paul II put it “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish" Unfortunately, judging from how we have been behaving in the past few years, we might have arrived at that point or on a steady cruise towards a socio-political “Drive-by-shooting”. As Fatima Dike a renowned South African Poet, playwright and actor put it "Your culture is your past, your culture is your future. Without the past, you have no future and without culture, you have nothing”. Through our culture, we used to find expressions in our agriculture, intellectual reasoning, moral values, dresses, kinship, marriages, languages and even food. Through our culture, we had the ability to modify our thoughts, actions and reactions which made us highly distinguishable from other societies. We used to express ourselves in customs, beliefs, social norms and religion just as we did during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war.
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