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Understanding Ndi-Igbo trajectory in Nigeria


bridge_1THE 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

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  • Tony Oshea

    To some extent Mr Rotimi,you may be correct in your analysis/postulation. In your second to last paragragh ,you rightly opinned that Ndigbo do NOT subscribe to the meta-physical as tbey beleive in substance,and the only extra-terestial being Ndigbo recognise as amajor determinant in their existence is Chineke.It is instructive that majority of them will therefore subsume the relevance of the meta-physical in their destinies.Ordinarily Ndigbo will NOT attribute any measure of success or failure to the meta-physical or extra-terrestial.Talk about the civil war,suffice to say its attendant after-effect,i believe personally in drawing an analogue with the Jewish exodus from Egypt.Before God blessed Israel and the Jews ,he circumvented their comfort and navigated them through a torturous journey in the widerness for forty(40) years,before bringing them into a land of milk and honey.However understanding Ndigbo ,first you must understand and accept that they are NOT Yoruba,and therefore CAN NOT act or behave like Yoruba.The Igboman does NOT celebrate wealth by organising Owambe party for instance,and that doesn’t make him wrong.It is his culture.He is deemed wealthy if and when he constructs a road ,single-handed in his village.He does NOT worship wealth,nor bow or prostrate before men as benefactors or in need of favour,rather he works hard to empower himself ,financially and economically and others-mostly lazy people- misrepresent their industriousness as money-loving and acquisitiveness.Like Americans would say “There is no free lunch” and Ndigbo apply that maxim to the letter.Never expect Ndigbo to praise sing anybody,because they DON’T esteem anybody to equat God Almighty-Chineke.They will NOT defecate anywhere,except the toilet, like others,simply because it is a taboo in igboland to do so.Here-in lays the misunderstanding inherent in the perception and socio-political relationship between Ndigbo and other ethnic groups in Nigera.Honestly we should appreciate, rather than denigrate other people’s beliefs and culture, in order to establish the advantages of our diversity.

    • emmanuel kalu

      well said.

  • Izeobor

    This writer is scratching the surface of what it means to be an “onye Igbo”. One is not an “onye Igbo” by merely speaking the “Igbo” language or living in the “South East” enclave or even studying “Ndi Igbo”. There is an underlying metaphysical trait that radiates from within an “onye Igbo”. A “Yoruba”, “Efik” , “Ibibio”, “Kalabari”, “Ogoni”, “Edo”, “Hausa”, “Fulani”, “Igbira”. “Tiv”, and in fact, any person could be an “onye Igbo” metaphorically but cannot be an “onye Igbo” metaphysically. You can liken it to a Gentile who converted to Judaism but that does not confer a Jewish metaphysical status on oneself. Another example is a “Yoruba” convert to Islam which does not confer the status of an Arab on the person. That metaphysical kernel distinguishes “onye Igbo” from other ethnic groups in “Nigeria”. “Igbo-ness” is innate and not acquired! That is the reason “Ndi Igbo” children exhibit the “Igbo” tendencies from birth, such as industriousness, competitiveness, independence (misconstrued by other ethnic nationalities as individualism), egalitarianism, collectivism (misconstrued as communism), and a lot of other traits which separate them from other ethnic nationalities. Once an “Igbo” person, always an “Igbo” person!

    • Mazi JO

      Well said! But the bigger picture is our political universe – the Country of Nigeria. The Nationalist in all of us MUST be the driving force in these renderings which must not be tribe-driven. We spend precious energy glorifying our hamlets while the largesse of space yearns for development. Let’s lavish these excellent narratives on our one and only Republic for a change. Think Nigeria, my man!

      • Izeobor

        Sorry, the present setting is a mirage and must be addressed if any meaningful progress has to be made in “Nigeria”. It is either “Nigeria” is restructured for patriotism to find a root or we revert to “status quo ante” . “Nigerians” are good candidates for patriotism but a situation where the “monkey de work and baboon de chop” is not an acceptable norm.

        • Mazi JO

          Yes, my dear, restructuring we very much need. But restructuring our individual mindsets about Government is the first step towards active and functional Democracy.

  • emmanuel kalu

    Until the national conference report is implement which I doubt this president would do, we would continue to do this dance in Nigeria that doesn’t lead anywhere. we need a true federalism to make Nigeria what it needs to be.

    • Mazi JO

      Something like that. At least you are looking at the National sphere. But it should not be live or let die for that proposition. We can be looking at other versions of change until the Government has time to look at the proposals. Like intensify the campaign against breaching our TREASURIES in Federal, State and Local governments.

  • Alugijo

    who is this deluded writer?

    • Agaba ntu-ebi Biafra

      YO-ROBASTARD barbarian from the tribe of the NOBODIES…….WORTHLESS
      OFEMMANU COWARD, go your own way you shameless Nigerian NONENTITY! Biafra is giving you sleepless nights…..TRASHY BASTARD…A product of home incest factory ….PIG