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« The Nigerian Media as Scapegoats? | Main | Potomac Mansions: Kalu and Atiku are Neighbours »

August 31, 2005

Addressing Cleavages in Alaigbo

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji (Seatle, Washington) --- If you do not seek the truth, the truth will seek you, for only the truth will make you free. Therefore, there is no use denying the truth. We must state the truth at all times. The truth that we want to state here is the truth that there are divisions in Alaigbo. Other Nigerians may see a homogenous group called Igbos, but within that group there are cleavages. We ought to address those divisions without denying them.

I prefer to write in essay form. This enables me to inject my personal experiences hence make my writing relevant to people like me. If I write in a detached, abstract manner, I tend to write what seems not germane to real people. I will, therefore, personalize this essay. I am from Owerri area. I will write as an Owerri Igbo, an Owerri man looking at Igbo problems.

When I was growing up in the 1960s/70s, my father, a very observant Igbo man, told me a lot about our people. Among the things he told me was that the people from Owerri, Mbaise, Orlu, Okigwe, Ngwa (Aba), Umuahia, Bende and Egwuocha (Ikwerre, Port Harcourt) are the core Igbos. To him, those are the real Igbos. People from Onitsha, Asaba, Abo, Enugu, Nsukka etc, he believed, are peripheral Igbos. To father, these other people bordered non-Igbos hence their cultures tended to be adulterated by the peoples they are close to. The Onitsha, Asaba and Abo, he said, are influenced by Edo and Urhobo cultures and tend to behave like those people rather than behave like the core Igbo people. Enugu people (Wawa, as they then were called) are close to Otukpo and Tivi people and are influenced by those non-Igbo people.

Simply stated, to father and his generation, the Owerri Igbos (roughly those in the old Owerri province) are the real Igbos; the others are aliens in their midst.

My father, Johnson, and his fellow Owerri people, used to call Onitsha Igbos (encompassing the old Onitsha province and inclusive of Asaba and Abo people) Ndinjekebe. (Honestly, I do not know what that term means).

Onitsha people called the core Igbo people Onyeigbo (Igbo people). Apparently, Onitsha people called the core Igbos what they did as a way of putting them down. To them, apparently, the real Igbo people are uncivilized and primitive. They imagined themselves more advanced than the core Igbo people.

Why this apparent sense of superiority found in Onitcha Igbo? First, it is because they believe that they came from Benin and that the Edo are a more advanced people than Igbos. Second, it is because white men and Christian missionaries first came to their land and built Christian schools before they came to the core Igbo area.

History books tell us that by the1850s the Church Missionary Society (Anglican) had established missionary outposts at Onitsha and environ and built schools there. Christian missionaries did not penetrate the core Igbo area until around 1906 (in the heels of Lord Frederick Lugard’s pacification of the Long Juju of Arochukwu in 1902)). In effect, Onitsha people had fifty years leg up in acquiring Western type education to core Igbos. In fact, when my father was at elementary school, in the 1930s, his teachers were mostly Onitcha and Ijaw people (The Christians had also established schools in Ijaw land before doing so in the core Igbo area, hence the earliest Christians and teachers in the former Eastern Nigeria used to be Ijaw and or Onitsha people.)

For our present purpose, Onitsha people had a preponderance of educated Igbos and, therefore, dominated the former Eastern Nigerian politics. Apparently, it got into their heads that they are superior to core Igbo people. To the present, Onitsha people tend to feel superciliously superior to core Igbo people.

Onitsha people have stereotypical views of Owerri people. For example, they see Owerri people as lazy (Onye ntala ugba, nguru mme…all I want out of life is to eat ugba and drink wine; I do not care for other things in life; I am a carefree and good for nothing, jolly fellow) and see Owerri women as prone to prostitution.

Upon completing my doctoral dissertation at the University of California, and offered a lecturer-ship position at the University of Jos, I toyed with whether to stay in Nigeria. I had learned research methodology and while at Owerri town, suddenly decided to do an impromptu empirical research on where the prostitutes in the city came from. I walked into the various brothels at Owerri…they called themselves hotels but were, in fact, filled with rooms where whores plied their trade. “Money for hand, back na for ground”, they said. I interviewed all the prostitutes in the three hotels that I visited. Not one of the harlots in these representative whorehouses of Nigeria is from Owerri. Guess where they came from? They came mostly from the Onitsha area! I am not making this up; this is a fact.

I did the same research at Lagos. There is a part of Olodi and Isaleko where prostitutes live. I visited them. Here, the women were mostly from the Middle Belt region of Nigeria. The few Igbos among them were mostly from the Onitsha area.

I stayed with a friend at Victoria Island. In the evenings, to while away time, I used to go to the Federal Palace Hotel. I listened to the mostly American music played by the Hotel’s band. As I walked to the Hotel, I noticed that prostitutes lined up the short distance leading from Awolowo Road to the Hotel grounds. I donned my blue jeans and T shirt and looked as if I was a black American tourist and went to hobnob with the women. I took this particular veneer because the sisters were there to turn tricks with Westerners, persons with serious money, not with poor fellow Nigerians, so I had to look and talk like an American for them to talk to me. I did this for a few nights. The women came from all over Nigeria. They were mostly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-eight (my cohort; so, I interacted well with them). I did not see a single Owerri woman among them. This is a fact, not fiction.

In terms of doing rigorous empirical research, I believe that my sampling is statistically representative of the women involved in the prostitution trade in Nigeria. At any rate, I satisfied myself that the notion that Owerri women are “Ashawo” are fictions in the minds of Njikebe people.

If truth be told, I have not seen one single Owerri prostitute in my life. If they existed, and all things being equal, they must exist, I have not seen them. To the best of my knowledge, no woman from my town, Umuohiagu, is a prostitute. I am not saying that there are no Owerri whores, in the nature of things, there must be a few Owerri street workers. I am saying that the stereotype that Owerri women are loose is just a fiction in the minds of Onitsha people.

And it cuts both ways. My father’s generation believed that Onitsha people are prone to criminal behaviors. My father used to tell me that at Lagos, where we lived, if an Igbo is ever caught as a thief that the chances were that he was an Onitsha person. As if to bear him out, most of the Igbos engaged in 419 criminal activities tend to come from Onitsha area. I dare say that no Owerri person is involved in this dastardly behavior.

Obviously, not all Onitsha people are engaged in criminal behavior. The point is that Owerri people tend to stereotype Onitsha people as mostly interested in money and that they believe that Onitcha folks would stoop low to get it.

Owerri people tend to be less inclined to trading and tend to be law abiding persons. Since they are not obsessed about making money, they tend to accept decent jobs and do them to the best of their abilities and not seek ways to steal from their employers. Owerri people say that if you give an Ontisha person a job, that he would seek ways to rob you down. This is obviously a negative stereotype. But, as they say, in every stereotype there is an element of truth, albeit exaggerated.

Alaigbo has divisions and we had better address them and not sweep them under the rug. An issue must be brought out into the open, studied and, as much as is possible, understood and solved.

Are there differences between the various Igbo clans? Igbo culture is surprisingly uniform in all Alaigbo. We all have similar names, though pronounced differently in different parts of Igboland. For example, Nwachukwu in Owerri and Wachukwu in Ngwa; Nwamu in Owerri and Wami in Ikwerri. The Igbos have the same names for their four market days of the week: Ore, Afo, Eke and Nkwo. In short, most cultural practices across Igboland are the same.

In so far that there seem some differences among the Igbos, they are superficial. For example, the people along the Niger River were accustomed to trading on the river. They traded with non-Igbos and brought non-Igbo produced goods into Igboland and sold them to the interior Igbos. This is not unique to these people. All over the world, riverside people tend to be trading people. (On the negative side, these trading Igbos engaged in slave trade. They bought and sold Igbo slaves. They were responsible for selling Igbos to the non-Igbos who then sold them to the Europeans at the Atlantic seaboards. In effect, these people honed their so-called trading skills by selling their own very Igbo people. This is a shame.)

Those Igbos in the harshest part of Igbo land, where agricultural productivity is the least possible, also tended to survive by trading. Thus, people from Orlu, by necessity, tend to be good traders.

Conversely, those Igbos who live in the most fertile part of Igboland, places where land is more abundant, such as the Abakaliki and Owerri people, tend to be less inclined to trading. Until recently, they tended to be farmers and very good ones, too.

In the first phase of the Igbo modern era, it happened that luck favored those Igbos who traditionally were good at trading. They, more or less, became fairly wealthy relative to the more sedentary Igbos. Apparently, their meager wealth got into their heads and swelled their pride to the point where folks from Onitsha area felt superior to persons from Owerri area, the very people who produced the food that kept them alive.

As already noted, Christian missionaries first pitched their tent in the Onitcha area. Therefore, Onitcha folks tended to be more educated in Western ways than Owerri folks. The first phase of Igbo governance was, therefore, dominated by the ‘educated Onitcha folks”. Apparently, this consequence of historical accidence got into their heads and some of them fancied themselves better than Owerri folks.

My father’s generation sorely resented Onitcha folks feeling superior to them. Father used to say: How dare these fake Igbos (Onitsha Igbo) feel better than real Igbos (Owerri Igbos). As a realistic man, however, he appreciated the reasons why the Onitsha felt as they did: they were ahead of the Owerri in matters Western. Thus, father and his fellow Owerrians resolved to have all their children attend universities and they did.


The Igbo from Umuahia, Bende, Abriba, Abam and Ngwa tend to be more marshal in spirit than other Igbos. This marshal spirit is probably rooted in the traditional role of these people during the slave trade. For five hundred years, these people acted as soldiers for the notorious slave traders, the Aro. The Aro spanned Igboland, buying slaves and selling them to the Efik and Ijaw, who, in turn, sold them to the Europeans stationed at the Atlantic coasts.

My grand father, Osuji, told us how Aro people terrorized his people during slave times. These people, he said, pretended to be priest-judges and stationed agents in the various Igbo towns and bid folks to bring their cases to them. Those they found guilty, they claimed to have sent to jail. In this case, jail meant taking them to Arochukwu, and selling them into slavery. The Aro also fomented wars between Igbo villages and captives were sold into slavery.

The Aro had the Abriba and Abam as their soldiers, escorting them as they traveled all over Igboland, capturing and selling Igbos into slavery.

(The Aro must apologize to all Igbo. Until they do so, Igbo will not forgive them their crime. The Aro may pretend that all is well in the land, but all is not well in the land. You see, the sins of fathers are visited unto their children, unto the tenth generation. Aro crimes against Igbo still rancors in the minds of Owerri Igbo, to the present. People from my area, in fact, hate the Aro more than they hate the so-called detractors of the Igbos, the Hausas.)

In one of his writings, Chinua Achebe, without proof, claimed that the Equiano (see Equiano’s interesting autobiography) was an Igbo boy. In his autobiography, Equiano narrated how he went out to play and was captured by slave traders and sold into slavery. If, indeed, he was an “Eboe”, it is Aro and Abam folks that captured and sold the ten year old boy into slavery. These slave traders were hard hearted, evil persons. They made life hellish for their fellow Igbos. Just imagine what life must have been like in slave time Igboland: a kid goes out to play and he was captured and sold into slavery. Igbo villages were constantly at war with each other, so as to capture slaves to be sold. Life must have been nasty, brutish, and short. It was a Hobbesian world. It must have been a paranoid world where no one could afford to trust other people. As I speculated elsewhere, this probably accounts for the high level of paranoia found in Igbos. I am yet to see an Igbo man whose level of paranoia is not above average. All human beings have traits of paranoia, but some more so than others.

And why is it necessary for the Aro, Abam and Onitcha to own their past crimes? Shouldn’t we let the past be the past? If the past did not repeat itself in the present we would not have to study history. The fact is that people, in the present, are influenced by their past. Aro, Abam and Onitcha people are still as hard hearted as their forefathers. They, in different forms, are still selling Igbos into modern forms of slavery. It is truly amazing these Africans. They have such a short memory. They went about enslaving our people and somehow think that we have forgotten what they did. No, every person in my town still remembers, with horror, the activities of the Aro. We are as angry as hell at the Aro for kidding and enslaving our people.

These evil souls must, therefore, do some serious soul searching, accept their past mistakes, and resolve to change. Until they do so, those of us who were their victims must be skeptical of their motives. We must watch out lest these evil souls sell us into slavery, as they sold our brothers in the past, and show no remorse for their sins. All that these evil folks do is blame the white man for slavery and hope, in their infantile thinking, that that would divert attention from their own heinous role in the sin of slavery. Blaming whites cannot absolve Africans of their role in selling their fellow Africans. Both Africans and Europeans were equally responsible for the crime against humanity called transatlantic slavery and both must make amends for their crimes by paying reparations to African Americans. (All the African countries involved in slavery must give One percent of their annual GDP to Africans in the Americas; additionally, they must offer these people automatic dual citizenship should they choose to live in Africa. A sinner must make amends for his sins; Africans sinned by selling their brethren; they must ask for forgiveness and make some reparations to those they sold; until they do so, nothing is going to work out well for Africa.)

There is a tendency for the Onitcha Igbo to take the Owerri Igbo for granted. Thus, we have a situation where Onitcha Igbo form organizations that purportedly champion Igbo interests and expect the Owerri Igbo to fall in line and support them. What we know of human nature is that each individual is out to maximize his self interests and that it is the rare human being who transcends his ego self interests and works on behalf of social interests. Thus, all things being equal, the organizations that folks from Onitcha area form serve their interests and not all Igbo interests.

If one surveys organizations in Alaigbo that purport to speak for all Igbos, what one sees is that they were mainly formed by folks from the Onitcha area and that they speak for Onitcha interests. This was the case in the past. Nnamdi Azikiwe and his NCNC were irrelevant to Owerri people. One cannot point to a single project that the NCNC did for Owerri people.

The government of the then Eastern Nigeria, for all practical purposes, exploited Owerri people and did nothing for them. Azikiwe built a university, the so-called University of Nigeria Nsukka. Now, if he was a sensible person, he would have built that school in the center of Igboland, which would have been Owerri. (Owerri is the natural capital of Alaigbo and must be so.)

The decision to declare Biafra an independent state was largely an Nnewi-Onitcha people’s decision. Owerri people were not consulted. Interestingly, when the war of words turned into a shooting war, it was Owerri people that formed the majority of the foot soldiers of the Biafran army. Onitcha people hid out the war in rear battalions. In effect, Owerri people were exploited during that war.

As would be expected, Owerri people resent being taken for granted by people who do not even consider themselves real Igbos. In his autobiography, My Odyssey, Nnamdi Azikiwe, struggled mightily to convince the reader that his ancestors came from the royal family of Benin. His unspoken assumption was that the Bini were superior to the Igbos.

If Azikiwe had any kind of intelligence in his brains, he would have struggled to show that his folks came from Igboland, even if they did not. In this case, they came from Igboland and did not come from Benin. He was just a confused man. Azikiwe was an extrovert and, as such, not expected to be very bright. But, nevertheless, he ought to have reflected on what he had to say before he said it. If he was thoughtful, he would not have rooted his heritage in Benin.

Consider the English. They came from Germany. But they do not go about telling the world that they came from Germany; they tell us that they are proud Britons, even though the term Briton applies to the original Celts that the Romans found in the Island that they named Britannia. Consider the French. They are mostly Frankish Germans, but they do not go about telling the world that they are Germans; they simply say that they are French men. Consider the ruling classes of America, they are mostly English/German but they do not tell the world that they are so, but take pride in telling the world that they are Americans.

Here we had an Igbo man who, instead of instilling pride in Igbos by affirming his Igbo heritage, claimed to be an Edo man. And for this crime, Azikiwe is not my hero. My hero must be a proud Igboman.

Currently, some misguided Ikwerri Igbos claim not to be Igbos. These people who are close to Owerri and whose Igbo dialect many Owerri people speak have allowed themselves to be deceived by the Hausa-Fulani-Yoruba rulers of Nigeria. The black colonialists who misgovern Nigeria would like to divide and conquer Igboland, and if they can persuade the Rivers Igbos that they are not Igbos, they would have sowed the seed of disharmony in Alaigbo and, in the process, control the Igbos. The Ikwerri Igbo is as Igbo as the Owerri Igbo. In fact, when, in the future, we do a more thorough historical study of the Igbos, we may find out that the Ikwerri came from the Igbo heartland. I certainly feel more kinship with the Ikwerri than I feel with the Onitcha Igbo.

And while on this subject, it is doubtful if the Ijaw and Efik people are not related to Igbos. During the five hundred years of slave times, Igbo slaves were sold to the Europeans at Efik and Ijaw Seaports. In the process, a massive number of Igbos was brought to these, apparently, non-Igbo areas. The result was heavy mixing between Igbos and these people.

One doubts that there is an Efik or Ijaw person who is not a mix of his people and Igbos. At any rate, when one talks to any of them, one feels kindred spirit, as if one is talking to a fellow Igbo. I have never felt that an Ijaw or Efik person is different from persons from Owerri. I see them as my own very people.

Please note that in parts of Owerri, we call God Obasi, as the Efiks do. This shows how intermingled our two peoples and cultures are.

In terms of evolution, one does not believe that the Ijaw separated from the Igbo, or the Igbo from the Ijaw, whichever is the case, long ago. The two people are so similar in both their biological make-ups and cultural ways that, perhaps, they were the same people, say one thousand years ago? The other Nigerians, such as the Yorubas, seem to have separated from the Igbos long ago, say two thousand years. The Igbo and Yoruba languages, both of which I speak, do not seem related; but the Igbo and Ijaw languages seem much related and sound alike to me. When I hear Ijaw people speaking, it is like I hear Igbos speaking a different dialect. Simply stated, Igbos feel one with the Ijaws. No Igbo person can discriminate against Ijaws, despite the lies put out by the Machiavellian rulers of contemporary Nigeria; those who aim to divide a united Igbo-Ijaw people.

There appears to be lack of understanding of practices unique to certain parts of Igboland. For example, my last name is Osuji. Some Igbos from Wawaland actually assume that to be called Osuji means that one is an Osu. A chap in one of the Internet Chat rooms that I visit, who, apparent was angry at me proceeded to tell his chat room buddies about the subordinate nature of the Osus in Igbo society. His intention, obviously, was to put me down, to get folks to see me as an outcaste hence not pay attention to what I was saying.

I recall that I have had this problem before. At a different occasion, an Onitcha Igbo person had implied that Osuji is an Osu name.

In Owerri, the name Osuji or Njoku symbolizes a child dedicated to God. He is, in fact, like the biblical Samuel. He is generally selected to be the high priest of the people. In my own case, my people have always been the high priest of Amadioha. Osuji’s are diala, free born. In my village, Umuorisha-Umuohiagu, we are the first, Opara, of the village. We are the first among equals. When the Oha, Amala, gather to deal with an issue, no one can talk before the Osujis talk.

Unfortunately, we do have Osus in our town and they are relegated to a specific village, Amuuga. Some of us are working to end the second class treatment meted out to the Osus.

The critical point here is that some Igbos assume that just because ones name has the prefix Osu in it that one is an Osu; these folks ought to educate themselves on Igbo culture before they alienate more people than is necessary. The Igbos are known for their thoughtless talking and tendency to alienate other Nigerians with their careless speech. They tend to encore the wrath of other Nigerians because of their intemperate speech. Folks ought to think before they talk, better still, they ought to research a subject before they talk about it. As for the wa-wa boy who sought to denigrate this Diala by calling him an Osu, one would think that if he had any brains in his idiot head that he would be ashamed that the Igbos have Osus and work to end it, rather than seek to put some one down by associating him with the Osu phenomenon. That ape ought to go back to school, and this time, make sure that he learns something useful, rather than merely see certificates as something that confers prestige on his inferior feeling ego-body.

The salient point, however, is how much the Igbos from what I call the Onitcha area do not understand the practices of the Owerri Igbo. There seems a disconnection between these two Igbo clans. These two sets of Igbos must, therefore, make a vigorous effort to understand each other, rather than alienate each other. If they insist on insulting each other, the other groups in Nigeria can, in fact, exploit their differences. The clever and diplomatic Yoruba can manipulate the weaknesses he sees in the Igbos.

IGBO CHARACTER FLAW

And that brings us to a character structure in the Igbos that they must address, right away. The Igbos, at the individual and group levels, tend to feel superciliously better than other persons.

The individual Igbo often imagines that he is better than other Igbos. Igbos from certain clans tend to imagine themselves superior to those from other clans. As already noted, the Onitcha Igbo often fancies himself superior to the Owerri Igbo, whereas the Owerri Igbo considers the Onitcha Igbo a criminal.

Collectively, the Igbos tend to feel superior to non-Igbos.

I was born and grew up at Lagos. During my growing up days, the Igbos around me impressed on my mind that we were better than the Yorubas and Hausas. In fact, they taught us that we should always look down on other Nigerians.

I went to school and found both Yoruba and Hausa kids beat us Igbo kids. We were told that we were better than others, but, in actual fact, those others seemed better than us. We developed cognitive dissonance. So, how do you resolve the dissonance?

There is nothing to reconcile. All people are the same and equal. No group is superior to others. Whites and blacks, Igbos, Yorubas and Hausas are all the same. There is no such thing as a superior human being. Inferiority and superiority are deluded mental states.

I have given why Igbos find it necessary to look down on other Nigerians serious thinking. If objectivity were the criteria for judging the groups in Nigeria, some are, in fact, more advanced than the Igbos.

The Hausas, Yorubas and Edos had fairly sophisticated societies with centralized political structures. The Igbos were stuck at a more primitive social organization. Each Igbo town was, more or less, independent of others. There was no Igbo superstructure for governing all Igbo land.

To political science, the Igbos are considered at the base of social organization, a primitive people, whereas the Hausas and Yorubas are considered at the feudal level of political organization.

In material culture, the Hausa and Yoruba have accomplished more than the Igbos. Look at the mosques in Northern Nigeria and the cities that existed in Yourubaland before the white men came to their necks of the wood. The Igbos lived in thatched huts, essentially primitive housing. So why are these essentially primitive (mercifully called preliterate by condescending anthropologists) people arrogant and feeling better than their neighbors?

I speak as an Igbo. I am not in denial. I suffer from all the shortcomings of the Igbos. I am not seeing something in me, denying and projecting it to others. There is no transference relationship going on here. I have had years of psychoanalysis done on me.

As an Igbo, I feel superior to other people. Consider. I came from what one might call a working class background. But when I came to America, I immediately assessed my white school mates and, somehow, felt that they were inferior to me. That is correct; I have never seen a white person that I felt is the equal of the Igbos. I tended to look down on whites.

There then is a paradox. The mere fact that I am in America, going to their schools, implies that they are superior to me, at least in material culture. But there I was feeling superior to them. I used to condescend towards whites and, at best, tolerate them, as one tolerates children, with amusement.

I remember taking a philosophy course and the professor walked in, a woman. I said to myself, what does this Otu Ocha know about philosophy? How can a woman understand my beloved philosophy? I love philosophy and have done so since I was fourteen and my father gave me Will Durant’s History of Philosophy, as my birthday gift. If you get me going on any of the philosophers, from Plato to Aristotle, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Locke, David Hume (my alter ego), George Berkeley, Hegel, Schopenhauer (my fellow pessimist), Jean Jacque Rousseau, Nietzsche, William James, Henry Bergson, you cannot stop me from talking. Well, here was a woman to teach my beloved philosophy and I simply concluded that a woman cannot do so and immediately left the classroom and dropped the course. I took it when a man taught it. What is the point? I had all the Igbo prejudices, including feeling superior to other people and to women in particular.

So why do Igbos feel superior to other people? Elsewhere, I employed Alfred Adler’s individual psychology in explaining the Igbo character problem. However, I am fully aware of the limitations of Adler’s rationalistic psychology; life cannot be reduced to pure reason. I am trained in both Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell’s views on mythology and understand that there are dark forces in our unconscious minds that our rational science is not able to understand.

Be that as it may, I believe that Igbos tend to feel inordinately inferior to other people and compensate with imaginary sense of superiority to them. I do not exactly know why Igbos feel inferior to other groups and have a need to restitute with infantile sense of superiority. I have, elsewhere, speculated on some putative reasons why the Igbos feel inadequate, as they are, such as their lacking developed complex political organizations.

Lord Lugard, it should be recalled, had absolute contempt for the Igbos, for he thought that, of all the Nigerian tribes, they were the least civilized. He admired the Hausas most, for they had attained feudal social political organization.

If pride did not blind Igbos to political reality, they would see that of all the groups in Nigeria, that the Hausa have had the most experience in governing large polities. As such, the Igbos ought to learn a thing or two from the Hausas on how to govern polities. Clearly, the Igbos are late comers to the art and science of governing large political structures, and can be said to be the least experienced group in Nigeria in doing so. Misguided pride aside, one sees Hausas as the better rulers of Nigeria. One believes that Igbos have a lot to learn about government before they can do a good job of it. At present, Igbos tend to see government and political positions as from which they gratify their childish narcissism and seem socially important. In fact, very few Igbos understands the negative nature of government. Government is an instrument for suppressing people and for making essentially selfish human beings behaves in a social serving manner. Government is a means of controlling the people and in the process reducing their natural freedom to do as they pleased. Government is exercise of the power of coercion and necessarily must jail and or kill some persons, if it serves social interests to do so. (If you are interested on this subject, see the writings of political theorists, such as Nicollo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Charles Montesquieu, Jean Jacque Rousseau, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Jay, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Edmund Burke, Pareto, Joseph Schumpeter, Seneca, Cicero, Marcus Aureoles and other political realists.)

All that we need to know is that the Igbos are not superior to other tribes in Nigeria. No one human being is superior to other human beings. Whereas some persons seem more talented in certain areas of human endeavor, the fact is that all human beings are the same and equal. To desire that one be superior to other persons is to be neurotic, a mild mental disorder; to believe that one is already superior to other people is to be psychotic (delusion disorder, if accompanied with hallucinations is schizophrenia, paranoid type).

We do not need to flog a nonsensical belief. No one is better than other people. Therefore, the Igbos must make a vigorous effort to see all other Nigerians as the same and coequal with them. The Igbos must learn to respect other Nigerians.

In particular, the Igbos must stop their annoying tendency to look down on the Hausas. I can tell you from direct experience that some of the brightest Nigerians I know are Hausas. The best Nigerian mathematician I know of is a Hausa person.

Obviously the Igbos have strengths. They tend to work hard and are very industrious. In the few years that they have become acquainted with Western civilization, they have made a lot of progress acquiring its indices, albeit at the superficial level. As already indicated, many Igbos now have university education. This is a phenomenal achievement, even by American standards.

However, having university education does not mean that one has understood the spirit of the West. For one to understand the spirit of the West, one must study Western philosophy, psychology and religion. Very few Igbos have done so and generally exhibit superficial understanding of what the West is all about. Even when they call themselves medical doctors, engineers etc they are no more than primitive folks in western clothing. Unless you have personally gone through the tortured intellectual journey that the West went through, had your own dark ages, renaissance, reformation, enlightenment, romanticism and finally got to your own age of scientism, you are not operating in the Western paradigm of reality. You are a tribal man in Western uniform.

Whereas no one should excuse man’s inhumanity to man, I sense that Igbo arrogance contributes to other Nigerians tendency to persecute them. Consider that the Igbos used to call Hausas Nnama, cattle, and generally disrespected Hausas. How would you like to be so disrespected? Be honest? You would feel so angry that you would want to beat up the person putting you down.

Obviously, many factors contributed to the various pogroms and genocides that were perpetrated against the Igbos, but one factor contributing to it is Igbos childish pride. The Igbos, therefore, must give up their neurotic and or psychotic feeling of superiority to other people and see all human beings, men and women, as the same. If they do, I believe that they would generate less hatred, anger and persecution towards them. Of course, other Nigerians ought to refrain from killing Igbos. No one has a right to kill other human beings, no matter their character flaws. The Igbos are a hard working but intemperate people. Other Nigerian ought to make allowances for Igbo lack of diplomacy and take advantage of their industry.

CONCLUSION


What have I said in this rambling and disjointed essay? I have said that there are divisions in Igboland, serious ones, and that it serves all Igbos well for them to bring them out into the open and explore ways to fix them. Placing serious issues on the back burner and pretending that all Igbo see things with uniform lenses is being like the proverbial ostrich, and hide ones head in the sand. We have serious issues in Alaigbo and must address them.

To begin with, we ought to address our infantile tendency to look down on other Nigerians and, indeed, on each other and learn to see all God’s children as the same and equal. We ought to give up the neurosis of wanting to seem superior to other human beings.

We ought to appreciate the strength that lies in our diversity. The traders of Igboland are obviously useful. The less trading oriented Igbo are equally useful. Each compliments the other. There is no use looking down on each other.

The Onitcha Igbo must give up the delusion that he has the right to speak for all Igbos. Some of us Owerri folks do not take seriously any thing said by Onticha people. That is the sad fact. Igbos must consult each other before they speak for each other. If you want to form an organization on behalf of all Igbos, please find out what Ndigbo from all parts of Alaigbo feel about it; do not pretend that just because you are Igbo that other Igbos would accept your leadership. There is diversity in Igboland, as there is every where else in this world.

Finally, there is serious cleavage between Owerri and Onitsha Igbo. This division must be worked out; no one should pretend that the two respect each other. They don’t.

Some Owerri folks look at the political comedy and tragedy going on in Anambra state, Ngige and Obi’s song and dance, shake their heads and say: what else do you expect from criminals? This is sad, indeed.

It is about time that all Igbos sat down in their own Igbo national political reform conference and looked at the issues that divide them and sought solutions that unify them.

All Igbo must work for one Igbo nation, a nation that stretches from Port Harcourt (in present Rivers State) to Abo (in present Deltas State). One Alaigbo nation, indivisible and united.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji,PhD

Seattle, Washington

Posted by Administrator at August 31, 2005 12:57 PM

Comments

This article is a masterpiece. It expresses the same feelings that I have always had, but which I have never been able to put into words...that no human being is superior to the other; that all men are created distinct & equal in the sight of God.

The good, the bad & the ugly exist in every race, every tribe & on every street corner.

The things we share, far outweigh the things that divide us.
Thank you once again for expressing it all, in a clear lucid, detailed way...

Posted by: Laudate at October 21, 2005 07:02 PM

I appreciate ur write up so much my brother.I wish every Igbo should try and read this article.However I have a little contribution.The term 'Igbo' is a modern day coinage used by colonial masters to address a conglomerate of people with similar language and culture.In the pre-colonial past,'Igbo'reffered to those people in present day igboland that bear igbo in their names.examples are igboukwu,igboeze,[r]umuigbo etc.Igbo is therefore a small tribe that form part of modern day Igbo.Another of such tribe is Aro eg.umuaro,Arondizuogu and Arochukwu.Many tribes have refused to be addressed as what they are not,because it was forbidden by their forefathers.Ikwerres are one of such tribes.I have been worried because most of my friends are from rivers state and speak 'Igbo' but their problem was just being called Igbos.I took time out and had a long discussion with my grandfather "Ozoebuka Abagworo" who enlightened me that our tribe is 'Oru' who is a brother to Igbo and that we were surrounded by so many tribes that existed independently.These include orsu,isu,egbema,isuama[owerri] and nkwerre who in the past reffered to themselves in their individual tribal names but existed peacefully as neighbours.infact many Igbos do not actually know their tribal names like my friend who consistently used the coinage 'owerri-igbos'instead of Isuama.Nomenclature is therefore one of the major problems of our people.imagine where ohaneze ndigbo is called ohaneze ndikwerre or ohaneze ndioru etc.will everyone of us agree?

Posted by: ozor ozordi at May 13, 2006 02:42 PM


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