It’s indeed, a landmark achievement by Ndigbo in electing the first Ohanaeze President-General from a state other than the five South-Eastern States. This is a true demonstration of the height which we have reached and a direct response to those who say Igbos are well unable to forge any sense of unity among themselves. Many often interpret this saying to mean that Igbos, as viewed through the lens of those who occupy the South-East geographical zone, cannot agree on a common line of action, but in the broader sense, this also mocks the inability of Igbo brothers and sisters in the South-East and the South-South to stay united or at the least even openly identify with one another. A bold statement against those rejoicing over the disuntiy among Igbos has thus been made with the election of Ambassador Ralph Uwaechue from Delta State as the new President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
Just as the election of Barack Obama as the first black President of the United States doesn’t end racism, so does the election of Amb. Ralph Uwaechue, as significant as it is, doesn’t end the need for a continued quest among Igbos to forge stronger ties across the Niger, as well as ensure that the now fading psychological line which demarcates the Igbos of the South-East from their brothers in Delta, Rivers and other States and vice-versa, is eventually, nay rapidly erased.
There are many ways through which unbridled unity can be achieved among the Igbo through the creation of a sense of oneness. Firstly, arguments from both sides of the divide should be greatly scrutinized and attended to.
On the side of the Igbos from Delta and Rivers States, various accusations that range from negligence, favouritism … are traded. Igbos from these areas have said time and again that the generality of Igbos never officially appreciate or celebrate their sons and daughters when appointed in office, or when remarkable achievements are made by them. A good example is the appointment of Sir Mike Okiro as the Inspector General of Police, being the first Igbo man to occupy the position since after the civil war.
Igbos in the South East rather clamoured for the appointment of Ogbonnaya Onovo, on the grounds that, according to them, Onovo was an Igbo man and that the presidency deliberately didn’t want Igbos to occupy such a sensitive position. What does that now make Mike Okiro? A tribeless person or an outcast?
Paul Dike’s ascension as Defence Chief was better accepted by the generality of Igbos, perhaps due to the fact that lessons had been learnt from the embarrassing scenario which occurred during Mike Okiro’s appointment. Infact, it’s so bad that when Igbos learn of an achievement made by one of its sons, some stop in mid-celebration when they learn the Igbo person question hails from outside the South-East zone.
Some accuse the Igbos in the South East of selective acceptance, laying claim to only non-South Eastern Igbos who have achieved enviable landmarks in their chosen professions, like Jay Jay Okocha, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Sunday Oliseh, Kingsley Obodo, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Sebastian Adigwe, Francis Atuche, Nuel Ojei, Peter Okocha, Sunny Odogwu and a host of other super stars who all hail from Delta State, along with notable ones from Rivers State like Chioma Ajunwa, Comdedian Julius Agwu to mention a few.
South Eastern Igbos respond that those who they identify with are those who initially identify with them, like Jay Jay Okocha and Okonjo Iweala, even stating that sometimes, people forget that a luminary like Pat Utomi is not from one of the five South Eastern States because of the way he has freely and openly associated himself not just with the South East as a group of people, but with the entire Igbo nation, which he is one of.
Utomi needs no ones permission to flaunt his Igboness. Yet others are of the opinion that the South easterners shouldn’t wait to be identified with before reciprocating, as such show betrays the consciousness that they are the self-appointed custodians of the Igbo nation.
Another argument from across the bridge is that the Igbos from the South East do not show much sympathy to the cause of their brothers outside their zone, in matters that require external support. An example is the current efforts by the people of Anioma in Delta state to create Anioma State out of Delta State. Inspite of the obvious gains this will have for the Igbos in that region of Delta State along with its easier intergration with their brethren in the South east, little seems to be done by the governors of the Igbo states or even the Ohanaeze in this regard.
On the side of the Igbos from the South East, numerous accusations of self-denial by the Igbos from Delta and Rivers States are at the fore-front of their grievances. They say that no matter where you meet a full blooded Igbo man from Delta, Rivers or Bayelsa State, he’ll never admit to being Igbo. Some do so when you’re with them only to recant once a third party comes into the picture, and they do so even more fervently when they are in the midst of non-Igbos, to the utter embarrassment of Ndigbo and of course, the perpetual astonishment and amusement of the non-Igbos who then, justify their stance that Igbos aren’t united. After all, “seeing” they say “is believing.”
It is essential to note that before the Civil War, such open disownment of Igbos by Igbos wasn’t the case. The prevelance of this came as a result of Igbos who lived with non-Igbos in the old Bendel State and later during the creation of Rivers State with the Ijaws, etc, to believe that the loss of the war was a South Eastern affair, and so, for them to survive and escape the sanctions of the war by the Nigerian Federation, had to identify with their non-Igbo neighbours by denying being Igbo. This is inspite of the fact that an Igbo man from Delta State ( then Bendel State ), Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, was the man who non-Igbos pinpointed as the catalyst to the war. Nzeogwu will be turning in his grave today, as Igbos from his very state and community disdain his utter sacrifice by denying him and their entire origin.
I believe that the time for these issues have come and gone. I will however, not fail to strongly blame the present generation of leaders and parent folk, the elders among them especially, for playing a role that on one hand, ensured that non-South Eastern Igbos told their children often and on, that they were not Igbos, while on the other hand, South Eastern Igbos told their children that they were real Igbos while anyone from the South East wasn’t a real Igbo person. This went on even though parents on both sides knew that such mis-education was not true, but just to spite the other. The result is a divided Igbo nation that is just waking up from its deepest slumber.
As the tragic drama that has held us bound for so many years continues to disappear, I urge Ohanaeze, being the apex Igbo body and a source of common convergence for all Igbos irrespective of State of origin, to make very clear and deliberate efforts in bringing Igbos together through actions and re-educative efforts that include:
* The use of Nollywood to convey messages. As the Nigerian film industry is booming, the advantage that a majority of players in every sector of the industry are Igbos. Through the medium of films, many commentaries and documentaries a swell as modern epic block-busters should be churned out en masse, to re-educate Igbos and the young generation of what their origins are and who they truly are.
* Igbo authors should be commissioned to write on this incident, tracing the history of the Igbos and how we came to be at this stage, and possible solutions in their write up. Books and novels, both fictitious and non-fictitious, should be written to enlighten the populace.
* Joint developmental projects as initiated by the South East should also, at all times, be inclusive of the Anioma people and all other Igbos in the South-South. Alwa
ys painting such projects as an all Eastern affair further alienates others. There’s nothing wrong, or long in terms of grammar or in print, in saying or writing things like: ” The Economic Summit of the South East, Anioma & Igbos From Rivers State.”
* Inclusion of the History of Igbos in all schools that are situated in all Igbo speaking areas worldwide, with an emphasis on destroying the walls of hate and division that have been built between Igbos in different regions of the country.
* Strong endorsement for the creation of Anioma State. Let’s not worry about the oil wealth of the southern part of Delta State being denied Delta North ( Anioma ). There’s evidence that oil exists in the Anioma side of Delta State too.
I’m sure you have many more suggestions on the way forward. Please feel free to mail your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
God bless us all as we forge ahead towards the attainment of excellence and unparalleled achievement.