Among the different ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Igbo are without a doubt, one of the most remarkable. So remarkable, indeed, that some have even traced their ancestry to biblical Israel, as the far-flung descendants of Jacob, the Jewish patriarch. Gad, Jacob’s seventh son, is said to have had three sons who settled in South-eastern Nigeria. These sons; Eri, Arodi and Areli, are believed to have fathered clans in Igbo-land and to have founded such Igbo towns as Aguleri, Arochukwu, Owerri and Umuleri.Igbo geniusEven the bitterest adversaries of the Igbo cannot but admit that, asa people, they are very resourceful and ingenious. Indeed, this has often been the cause of their envy and dislike by others. However, more enlightened non-Igbo Nigerians see this as a cause for celebration.
While today, the centre-point of Nigeria’s manufacturing is situated in the Lagos/Ogun axis, there is no doubt that the real locomotive of Nigeria’s indigenous industrialization lies farther afieldin Aba and in the mushrooming cottage-industries of the Igbo heartland.In one of the paradoxes of Nigerian history, the terrible civil war provoked homespun industrialization in the South-East.
Military blockade left the Igbo with little alternative than to be inventive in a hurry. While Nigeria as a nation failed woefullyto harness this profitably after the war, it has nevertheless ensured that the Igbo are at the forefront of Nigeria’s economic development today. Indeed, the way we disregard “made in Aba” today is the same way we disregarded “made in Japan” yesterday. For those of us who believe against the odds that Nigeria is the China of tomorrow, we equally recognize that the ingenuity of the Igbo is an indelible part of the actualization of that manifest destiny.
Hall of fame: Even TD Jakes is an Igbo Man.
The Igbo have been a great credit to Nigeria. They have given us a great number of our favourite sons, including international statesman Nnamdi Azikiwe; military leader Odumegwu Ojukwu; regional leader Michael Okpara; vice-president Alex Ekwueme; mathematical genius Chike Obi; literary icon Chinua Achebe; world-class economist Pius Okigbo; world boxing champion Dick Tiger; international statesman Emeka Anyaoku; and world-class artist Ben Enwonwu. Pemit me to include in this illustrious list evensome of my very good Igbo friends: Pat Utomi, Ojo Madueke, Olisa Agbakoba, Joy Ogwu, and Stanley Macebuh.Let us get one thing straight: Nigeria would be a much poorer country without the Igbo. Indeed, Nigeria would not be Nigeria without them.
Can you imagine the Super Eagles without the Igbo? Not likely! Who can forget Nwankwo Kanu, Jay Kay Okocha and our very own Emmanuel Amuneke? Can you imagine Nollywood without the Igbo? Impossible! Just think of Stella Damascus-Aboderin; Rita Dominic and Mike Ezuruonye.
And then there are the diaspora Igbo who many are unaware are of Igbo descent, including concert singer and actor Paul Robeson; Oscar award-winner Forest Whitaker; mega-pastor T.D. Jakes; Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu; and BAFTA actor award-winner Chiwetel Ejiofor.
The Igbos have more than represented Nigeria creditably in virtually all walks of life. This makes it all the more absurd that this same people have been consistently denied the position of executive president of the country in all but six months of Nigeria’s 54 year history.Civil-war legacy.
Of course, a major reason for thiswas the 1967-1970 civil-war which had the Igbo on the losing side. But that was over 40 years ago. If there is really to be “no victor, no vanquished” in anything more than mere rhetoric, then the rehabilitation of the Igbo back into post civil-war Nigeria will not be complete until an Igbo man finally becomes president of the country. That imperative should be of interest to every Nigerian nationalist, committed to the creation of one Nigeria where everyone has a deep sense of belonging. The problem, however, is that the Igbothemselves seem to be their own worst enemies in this regard. They appear to be doing their very best to ensure that this inevitable eventuality continues to be denied and delayed.
Written by Emmanuel Biafra Nnamdi, a Pro-Biafran Activist living in Dubai.