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World Igbo Congress: Time to Stop the Jamboree

September 11, 2008

“Every generation must, out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it” -Frantz Fanon. Our forefathers did their best to preserve the integrity, the honour and the glory of Igboland through dints of hardwork, total commitment, selfless service and sense of dignity.

“Every generation must, out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it” -Frantz Fanon. Our forefathers did their best to preserve the integrity, the honour and the glory of Igboland through dints of hardwork, total commitment, selfless service and sense of dignity.

They taught us to be honest in small things and as well as in big things, they taught the principle of justice, Egbe belu ugo belu (let the kite perch and let the eagle perch), they taught us the spirit of hard work and the concept of Onye aghana nwanne ya (be your brother’s keeper). They preached to us that justice brings peace and peace triggers progress. I grew up with these principles and they have helped me a lot in life. But today in Igboland, these cherished principles and ideals have been, to a large extent, abandoned to the detriment of all of us. The centre can no longer hold, and things are falling apart. Every year, since the past ten years or so, my people, Ndigbo travel to the United States of America, in the name of World Igbo Congress to seek the way forward for the Igbo, and in the past ten years, things have remained the same. Over the last ten years, we have discovered that our people travel to United States for the so-called World Igbo Congress to feather their nests. Some of our so-called leaders go to the United States for different reasons: some go there for their private businesses, some use the WIC yearly jamboree to check out of Nigeria, some borrow money to travel just to be seen as belonging to the Igbo mainstream, some in government use it to siphon our money abroad, some use the occasion to go for shopping spree, some go to America to watch ijere masquerade, and some go for sight seeing. But while they go to the United States to gallivant and wash their dirty linens outside, the problems at home continue to multiply. The outcome of the latest outing this year was what it took to bring to the fore the antics of the organizers and participants. They went to the United States to quarrel and fight over issues that border on narrow personal interest and not for the general good. One of the participants was so pissed off that he was quoted as saying that “it is a disgrace that we cannot resolve our internal problem. This is one of the reasons why Ndigbo are politically irrelevant in Nigeria today”. On this day of Tuesday, September 9, 2008, I make bold to say that time has come for us to do away with this yearly ritual of going to the United States every year to search for solutions to our problems. Time has come for us to bring the World Igbo Congress home if we believe it holds the panacea to our many problems. We cannot solve Igbo problems in far away United States, another land built by brave and great men and women through sweat, blood and tears. I wish my people will avail themselves of the opportunity to read the history of America to see how committed men and women through dint of hard work rose from the backwaters to build the world’s most successful country on earth. Now, if it is a taboo to put the World Igbo Congress together in Igboland, let us, for God’s sake bring it to Abuja, Lagos, Asaba, Ibadan, Osogbo, Sokoto, Kaura-Namoda, etc. I prefer any other city in Nigeria than America. Charity they say begins at home! In 2005, the then President Obasanjo’s National Constitutional Conference ratified an additional state to be created in Igboland to bring the number of states in the South East region to six and yet three years after, Nigeria is yet to come to terms with that affirmation. Today, more than three years after, Nigeria has robbed Igbo of nearly N300 billion of revenue allocations based on the average monthly allocation of N4.5 billion to the envisaged additional state as well as an average monthly allocation of N2 billion to the new LGAs in the state. This is what should engage us here in Nigeria. As I am writing this, Igbo traders lose an average of N200 million every month on Lagos-Shagamu-Ore-Benin collapsed Road. We should be talking about this at home here in Nigeria. As I write this, some idle young men have found kidnapping and demanding ransom as a business in Igboland. It is thriving and booming. This should also engage our attention. Before the Civil war, schools used to have the best buildings in Igboland but today, schools have the worst buildings. The public health facilities in Igboland today are so decrepit as to make our people cringe in fear and shame. The poverty level is breeding social anarchy and exploitation of frightening dimension in Igboland. These and so many other gapping issues should prick our collective consciences rather than the yearly gallivanting in the name of holding a talk-show that leads to nothing. As I write this today, demographic distortion has taken its tolls on Igboland-a situation where 80 per cent of educated, sophisticated and highly skilled Igbo manpower live and do business outside Igboland, leaving the social, political and economic landscapes for charlatans and mediocre. This shall worry us as a people. Only the Igbo can re-build Igboland and it can only be through creative harnessing of our potentials and not through sterile meetings like the annual World Igbo Congress. Given the monumental problems confronting Ndigbo on daily basis, it is insensitive, provocative, primitive, ridiculous, unpatriotic, and uncharitable for Ndigbo to jump into the next available flight every summer to the United States to sleep in big hotels and hold a fruitless jamboree, achieving nothing tangible at the end of the day. Such monies spent for this exercise can sink reasonable number of functional boreholes in Igbo communities and can rehabilitate some schools where our future leaders get their nurturing. Enough of this needless jamboree! Joe Igbokwe. Lagos.

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