By Onwuasoanya FCC Jones
Igbos are not without leaders, the concept of Igbo enwe eze, which literally translates to mean, that Igbos have no leaders that they pay no heed to leaders, is a figurative way of communicating the republican and independent mindset of the Igbo man. The average Igbo man is independent to the point of resistance to any form of dictatorial and unintelligent leadership. Igbos are not easily swayed to sycophancy, but as intelligent people, they follow the lead of anyone who has convinced them that he or she has their best interest at heart. Most times, the true leader who enjoys the respect of the majority of the Igbos is not the loud and showy leader who is always on the streets to display the few number of people he or she has either hoodwinked into buying into his fad or the noisy fraudsters who have succeeded in conning some gullible moneybags and acquired some mass media equipment with which they broadcast hate and spew garbage.
Igbos are among the most intelligent people in the world, and they do not follow anyone easily. They study an aspiring leader’s antecedents; follow his or her trajectories closely, before deciding to follow his or her lead. However, we have our own share of the gullible and like always, these gullible ones within our population are usually the noisiest. They should not be mistaken as representing our majority. Their noise should not be mistaken for the voice of the people.
Nigeria is facing very challenging times, with threats of war flying from all corners and different groups of dangerous noisemakers springing up from all corners of the country. Igbos are at the center of all this, and as it is expected, many individuals are jumping up from everywhere to either lay claim to the leadership of the Igbo race or claim to be its spokespersons. Everyone has the right to claim whatever he or she wishes, but it is left for the people to decide whom to listen to.
It is however important to point out that the root of all these threats and counter threats is in the reality that a group of people rightly feel marginalized in the scheme of things. It is a fact we cannot gloss over that the Igbos are not receiving their fair share in the scheme of things in present day Nigeria. While the marginalization of the Igbos did not start with this administration, the frustration seems at a higher tune now, because things seem to have got worse for the Igbos of the Southeast since the inception of the present administration and this situation is fuelling the rabid discontent in our system. While this does not justify the criminal threats to the cooperate existence of Nigeria by some groups and uncouth individuals, the Federal Government would succeed a great deal in reining in these boiling crisis in the system if more attention is paid to the complaints of the Southeast, especially in the area of infrastructure, political appointments, service chiefs and other sensitive issues. The Igbos deserves to be heard and their grievances addressed. However, these complaints must be channeled through a diplomatic and more effective way.
Among the emergency Igbo spokespersons, we have those who may be classified as fear mongers, whose only solution to the threat from a group of misguided Northern youths is to tell millions of Igbo people doing business or working in any part of the nineteen Northern States to close their shops and return home. Without mincing words, this group of people are the worst enemies of the Igbo people. The worst enemy of the Igbo man is any individual who would encourage him to abandon the means with which he feeds himself and his family, without providing him any alternative. Even before the colonialists gave Nigeria its name, Igbos have been touring the present territory called Nigeria and beyond in search of greener pastures. It is also deceitful for anyone to argue that the Igbos can locate all the businesses they are presently doing in the North, in the East and it will thrive as much as it is presently thriving in the North. This is because, they will not have the same number of customers and clients as they presently enjoy, and it will take them at least one year to master the business environment of the East before their businesses pick up. Also important is the demand for the services or goods they deal on in the North. Every business has its customer base and rebuilding a fresh customer base in any environment is not an easy task.
If the millions of Igbo men and women who are presently resident in the North should return home as it is being clamoured for by this group of impostors, it will also affect the businesses down here rather than help it. This is not something many people will like to read, but the fact is that those in the North can afford to survive without the Igbos doing business in their lands, as there are thousands of Northerners or even people from other ethnic groups within and outside Nigeria who are ready to take over these businesses and the jobs which our people will be abandoning to return home. This group of fear-mongers should recall that immediately after the civil war, Igbos trooped back to the North to continue their businesses, set up new ones and resumed new jobs for their personal and family survivals, while at the same time providing lucrative job opportunities and development to their hosts in the North. I cannot say it enough, that both the Northerners who are threatening Igbos with eviction notice and our Igbo siblings who are encouraging our siblings doing business in the North to vacate, are living in a fools’ paradise, because any gainfully employed Igbo will not take them serious. A group of people who have remained undaunted by the many violent crises in the North, including the Boko Haram menace, cannot be moved by a threat by a group of disoriented youths, who are looking to be heard, for the wrong reasons.
Another group of emergency spokespersons and leaders of the Igbo who have emerged are the other group returning the threat of the equally misguided Arewa youths. While a splinter of this group is asking Igbos in the North to prepare to defend themselves in case of any outbreak of violence against them, another group has come up with what security analysts have described as an empty threat. This group has declared their readiness to take up arms and defend their Igbo kith and kin in the North, should anything happen to them.
As much as our ego as members of an ethnic group may not allow us to accept that Igbos in the North, on their own stand to lose a lot in the event of an outbreak of crisis, history shows that it is true. There have been many unprovoked attacks on the Igbos in some cities in Northern Nigeria, and on each of those instances, Igbos were left counting their losses, which ran into billions of Dollars, if well calculated. Apart from the advantage of number and better understanding of the terrain which Northerners enjoy over their Igbo counterparts, the Igbos own more properties commercial wares that will be targeted for destruction should there be any outbreak of violence.
The most irresponsible of these relevance seeking elements is the group that trades on spewing hate speeches and insulting anyone who does not agree with their own style of speaking out against the ills being endured by the Igbos. This group has exposed Igbos, not just in the North, but in every part of Nigeria to more harm than any Arewa group can ever do. The irony is that most of those championing the message of hate and divisiveness which has become the landmark of this group of people reside abroad, giving themselves a false sense of safety, in case what they are asking for happens. On social media and in the main media, they constantly sponsor hate messages and buffets of dangerous lies against the Federal Government of Nigeria, in the guise that they are calling attention to the plight of the Igbos and also fighting for secession from the Nigerian union.
Recently, this group also started uploading videos of what looks like military or para-military training grounds with its members performing what is more of a comical military drills than anything serious. While the conventional security outfits may not take them seriously, it is not debatable that these videos and speeches credited to this group of noisemakers and war mongers have the capacity to incite hatred against Igbos in other parts of the country. No one who truly loves his people would expose them to dangers of any sorts without having plans set in place to protect them in the case of any eventuality. While this group has made the most noise, caused the most trouble and boasted the most about their capacity to unleash the highest trouble on the nation on behalf of ‘Igbos’, they have not made any move to ensure the security of lives and properties of our people in the North or any other part of Nigeria since after the threat by the Arewa group. It will not be out of place to suspect that this group and its leaders may be surrogates of our the real enemies of Ndi Igbo, whose plan may be to lure us into the slaughter table and abandon us there to a grievous fate.
Nothing is more important to the Igbo man today than economic and political emancipation. More importantly, economic emancipation. This emancipation does not come by making too much noise or passing threats left, right and center, but by strategic thinking, planning and surreptitious implementation of ideas that guarantee the economic independence of the Igbo nation. Igbos will be most happy to queue behind any leader who suggests and pursues a plan that guarantees our economic emancipation as a people. One of the ways to ensure this economic emancipation of the Igbos is by building bridges of understanding between the Igbos and other ethnic nationalities in the country. There is no ethnic group that can survive in isolation, hence, the Igbos, whether they get Biafra as a sovereign entity, or they remain in Nigeria, which of course, is the wisest thing to do, they need the friendship and collaboration of other ethnic groups to survive and become the giant of Africa, as they aspire to. No matter how innovative we are as a people, we cannot consume everything we produce. Anyone who can consume all he produces is not a serious business person but an experimenter. Those who preach divisiveness, those who encourage us to hate our Hausa, Yoruba or Ijaw brothers are our greatest enemies.
An economically emancipated Igbo nation is a socially, politically and even religiously emancipated Igbo nation. We must invest all our energy, rhetoric, propaganda and everything we can afford as a people to fight for the economic liberation of our people. This is not achievable by mere words of mouth. We must wear our thinking caps and strategize on how best to achieve this, because time is no longer on our side.
Truly, we do not need the leadership and cannot follow the lead of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) neither do we have any sympathy for the disaster being cooked by renegades in the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group. We want to survive as a people, we are a people in love with economic success, hence, the leader we must follow is the one that has the blueprint for our economic development and emancipation. The governor of Imo State, and Chairman Progressive Governors’ Forum certainly knows the route to the desired destination of all Igbo people everywhere and we are happy to follow the leadership he provides. This is not about political loyalty to one person or a Party, but the reality of our course as a people. we must follow the right route to arrive at a noble and enviable destination.
NIGERIA MUST PREVAIL!