Interrogating Ofoegbu’s Igbo people of Nigeria, big outside, small at home
Igbo people of Southeast Nigeria are synonymous with adventure and industry. They are also believed to be endowed with good business acumen. These unique traits, many perceived, have helped them to traverse the world and in most cases, flourish and dominant wherever they find themselves.
As it is their tradition, they return annually to develop their community and in doing so, they compete to outdo one. Little wonder then the author described Igbo land as a home everyone should be proud of in every respect.
Dr. Longinus I. Ofoegbu, in this interesting and insightful publication titled, Igbo People of Nigeria: Big Outside, Small At Home, disclosed that community and individual self-reliance which is part and parcel of Igbo culture has been responsible for the developmental pace in Igbo land.
This largely explains the reason most Igbo hardly depend on government except for projects beyond their capacity, which in any case, are supposed to be government projects.
“Therefore, through their efforts, modern social facilities in education, health and manufacturing sectors are found in many parts of Igboland,” the author says about his people
Several other salient facts about the people of the Eastern Nigeria, including the numerous stereotype impressions that may have affected them negatively socio-politically, are equally highlighted.
According to him, for about four decades, he informally discussed with countless number of Igbo and non-Igbo people on how the Igbo were perceived in Nigeria’s social, economic and political environment. The answers obtained from such an indebt research formed the thrust of the books.
His findings, which came, as answers to his research questions would have necessitated his strong wordings for the people. In a very succinct tone, insisted that the Igbo have done enough outside their homeland and warned that “It is high time they came back to strengthen the socio-economic base of their homeland.
He further asked: “Must they forever look outward? Is it a sin for the Igbo to build their homeland and make it a centre of attraction to themselves and the other people in Nigeria and beyond?
Beyond Eastern geographical and ethnic boundaries, Dr. Ofoegbu, a former Chairman, Caretaker Committee, Kuje Area Council, FCT; former member, Nigerian Bar Association, Unity Branch, Abuja and former Council Member, West African Examinations Council, also took a critical look at the history of Nigeria in general in comparison with the role Igbo people have played in the journey towards nationhood.
Although the book was finally published in 2020 by Golden Rule Educational Consultants, the author revealed that several years of research and consolations about the people’s culture, socio-political and economic history as well as generations of Igbo politicians, especially the generations of 1940 and1966; 1979 and1983, have culminated into comprehending the numerous problems and challenges confronting the people and the larger Nigerian society.
Beyond that, the author, as part of his contributions to national development, attempted to find possible lasting solutions to numerous Nigeria’s challenges. All this, he captured in his book for public consumption and consequent actions.
“Although the number of people I have discussed these issues with is legion, one thing I found more or less easy was aggregating the numerous shades of opinion, the related historical facts and tied them into a bundle. That bundle is this book”, the author stated.
Driven by his sense of patriotism, Ofoegbu dedicated his publication to the memory of several Nigerians who gave their all, and evidently participated in politics to serve the people and for the common good rather than serving themselves for their personal interests.
The book is further dedicated to all Igbo sons and daughters at home and across the world that thinks of home, and in their individual capacities, contribute towards making it a home indeed.
The Forward was written by former President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo (Jnr), who commended the author for his firm belief in the unity of Nigeria through equity and fair play.
According to Nwodo, the most interesting and crystal clear point Dr. Ofoegbu has made in the book is his strong belief in an indivisible Nigeria driven by equality of citizens before the law as well as collective and individual respect for one another.
His verdict was that the goal of the book would be achieved if as many Igbo people across the world as possible, get the overall core message of the author.
“It is left for each individual Igbo person to act consequentially according to one’s capacity and ability so that the overall goal of making Igboland and Nigeria a place to be may be achieved.”
Nwodo therefore recommended the book to all Igbo sons and daughters wherever they are, insisting that “it is time to build and develop the homeland for the good of the people and Nigeria as a country for self-determination, equity, sincerity and social justice for all irrespective of the population sizes of the various groups.”
The author went further to capture the account of 1966 Military Coup, the regional political intrigues as well as the socio-economic implications on the citizens and the nation.
Coming down to the current political situation in Nigeria, the author likened it to building a house from the roof and expecting it to stand on pillars of air before the concrete foundation and pillars are put in place.
Ofoegbu’s account of the Igbo people is presented in 17 chapters. The early chapters discussed the origin of the Igbo people, their occupation, geographical address, character, general outlook and values.
Other chapters are sub-titled, Pre-Independence Politics in Nigeria, The Civil War Years; Aftermath of the War; The Cradle of Political Parties in Nigeria and A Time To Reflect And Plan For Future.
The rest are: Igbo Generations: From Protectorate to a Federal Republic; A Hard Look In The Mirror and The History of Three Major Igbo Socio- Cultural Organisations.
Providing answers to the question posed in chapter one about the Igbo and their origin, Dr. Ofoegbu stated that the Igbo are one of the three most populous indigenous ethnic groups found in Nigeria.
He held that if population census is conducted without any political manipulation whatsoever, the Igbo might be the single largest of the 371ethnic groups found in Nigeria. On the origin of the Igbo, he admitted the difficulty in confidently tracing their path from cradle. This, he blamed on the scanty studies about them.
He however believed that from the available history as well as linguistic perspective, the Igbo are part of the larger Kwa family.
“But the question is, where did the Igbo come from? How did they come to be natives of what is now politically referred to as South East of Nigeria and in parts of Delta and Rivers States of Nigeria?
These and other answers to several nagging questions are succinctly provided in the book, which is packaged in a very attractive and neat print. It is not only recommended for the Igbo but for students of history and every other Nigerian who is interested in knowing the past in order to shape the future.