By Oduche Azih
I classify Ireke Kalu Onuma (Biafra at 50…Igbos are the problem) as a late comer to this debate. He is probably among the comfortable elite who in the words of Alex Oti, don’t play politics, to their utter regret.
Now a nobody like Nnamdi Kanu has rightly or wrongly taken centre stage. Hence this panic in the house. Where were we all this while? How did we confront earlier manifestations of this agitation by the likes of Chief Ralph Uwazurike? Many of the leading lights of Igboland have been sleeping on duty as it were. We have an abiding duty to jump into the fray and robustly SUPPORT Biafra, #Restructuring or Whatever OR similarly OPPOSING some or all the above WITH SOLID ARGUMENT AND ANALYSIS.
That is leadership. This is not something you do in your spare time, AFTER YOU MUST HAVE COLLECTED PAYMENT FOR THAT INVOICE. No! Involvement, like religion, is supposed to cost you something. It is unlikely, but it may even demand your very life. As a professional busybody, I have had occasion to say the same thing to my Daura-born Fulani friend while discussing the dangers up north of advocating mass education and immunization against polio, measles etc.
Some money-miss-road have recently woken up from their slumbers or returned from their journeys only to propounding what Nnamdi Kanu should or should not do! Can you imagine? They kept Kanu at arm’s length, refused to engage him in order to influence him and his movement ONE WAY or THE OTHER. Now everyone is suddenly an analyst. The truth is that most of us abdicated our God given responsibilities long ago.
It is impossible for Ireke Onuma to write such a long essay without striking a couple of notes with which different constituencies will identify. He succeeded in this regard, thus invalidating the main thrust of his essay that IT IS ALL THE FAULT OF NDIGBO. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have always addressed this matter from a number of perspectives. The first is the institutionalized deprivation of the South-East such that it cannot provide for itself. Note that I am not referring to Revenue Allocation. Ndigbo should be able to do so if unshackled. I am not necessarily talking about Biafra.
Ndigbo can build all the roads, bridges and power plants that it needs. Without these, there cannot be industrial development and jobs, including agro-processing. Not to recognize that the present arrangement prevents Ndigbo from doing so is an exercise in self-deceit.
Ndigbo are ready to invest both at home, in the Nigerian Diaspora and beyond. These are not mutually exclusive as is being made by some commentators. But in the absence of power and a determined policy thrust to keep things the way they are, no amount of brilliance or capital can achieve a positive change. I have been in manufacturing almost all of my life. It pains me when people who have never been involved in MAKING anything and CREATING JOBS presume to understand the relevant linkages in a productive economy.
Then again, the writer finds it distasteful that Ndigbo hobnob with our so-called enemies in pursuit of profit. That is an unnecessary incitement. The future is pregnant regarding New Biafra and/or Restructuring. For now, we are Nigerians for goodness sake. Ndigbo participation in both the politics and economy of Nigeria, despite holding the short end of the stick, is a given. Those activities should be undertaken without any apologies. It is on record that many host communities after selling land to Ndigbo mistakenly (or is it deliberately) replace the verb SOLD with GIVE. This is obscene!
Nobody ever gave anything to an Igboman. The self-serving and overused statement of having “welcomed” Ndigbo in their communities indictates a serious lack of knowledge regarding the Nigerian Constitution. Notwithstanding the outcome of this current national soul searching, Ndigbo will continue to discern areas of potential investment “abroad.” Perhaps with more misgivings and increased apprehension because of the current wave of discontent that have overtaken Nigeria.
Let me round up. I have consistently preached to the young Igbo who fall under my span of control that the much-ballyhooed statement that NDIGBO ARE BAD is patently false. Any Igbo elder who wilfully spreads such falsehood is only pandering to his self-appointed Slave Master. No people, not the least Ndigbo, need another’s validation.
Surely there are many things that Ndigbo can and should do better. However, the truth is that present day Nigeria has somehow managed the miracle of bringing out the very worst of Ndigbo. And to add insult to injury, they gloat about it. Haba! Yes, what you see now is not us. Set Ndigbo free. If the punishment for being loud, insolent and competently hardworking is genocide then I give up all hope for any sensible World Order.
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