On Tuesday 16/9/2008, I read Joe Igbokwe’s interesting article entitled “World Igbo Congress: Time to Stop the Jamboree“. It then occurred to me that I have an unpublished piece on the same issue, and with a similar title. I wrote it during the course of the World Igbo Congress (WIC) in 2007 but lost it when my computer crashed. Surprisingly, as this year’s Congress ended, a colleague returned a hard copy of it which I gave him to proof-read in 2007!
The activities of the WIC do give me cause to worry. Annually, Igbos from all walks of life gather in droves in one USA city or the other for the Congress, claiming to deliberate on matters of interest to Ndi-Igbo. Many Igbos from Nigeria join the hustle and bustle, turning it into a yearly pilgrimage of sorts. One wonders over the rationale for the choice of a foreign venue in preference to Igboland or Nigeria. It cannot be said that Nigeria is inconducive for such an event, assuming there is any need for it. Even as the programme is organized by Igbos in USA, that alone offers no justification for holding it outside Igboland. It smacks of inferiority complex on the part of the organizers.
When Jews in Diaspora operated the Zionist Movement outside the then Palestine, it was because they could not situate their gatherings in the Middle East which was a hostile environment to the achievement of their aims and objectives. Again, Marcus Garvey stayed outside Africa to project his “Back to Africa” idea because he was an indigene of West Indies and not Africa. Thus, no justification exists for holding the World Igbo Congress outside Igboland, when most of the organizers and participants were born in Igboland. Even if they were born abroad, it does not change my position.
A visit to the home page of the World Igbo Congress reveals very lofty objectives ostensibly geared towards the betterment of Ndi-Igbo. It is one thing to tout such sugary and high-sounding objectives, yet quite another to get them realized. And experience has shown that, like the promises made by Nigerian politicians to the electorate, the activities of the WIC have not been felt positively on the lives of Ndi-Igbo.
It appears that five categories of persons attend this annual jamboree. The first are Igbos in Diaspora, some of whom were born outside Igbo land and may not have been to Nigeria. Some, though born in Nigeria, have not been home for years and may, in some cases, be unable to trace their hometowns from Lagos or Abuja airports. These Igbos are out of touch with the problems at home and, therefore, may not be well placed to offer solutions thereto. Generally, they also severally fit into one or more of the next four groups in terms of their individual disposition to the Igbo cause.
The second group is made up of persons who parade as and arrogate to themselves the appellation of “Igbo leaders of thought”. Here, you find Igbo politicians and Ndi-Eze who utilize their presence at this event to score cheap political points or as a form of ego-trip. In truth, they go there to talk, waste precious time and public funds and end up with nothing concrete or positive for the average Igboman. These are the same people who feature prominently in the activities of the inactive and confused Ohaneze Nd’Igbo which has been infiltrated and held hostage by Igbo quislings detailed on a destabilizing mission by external forces. Most of the people here are behind our problems at home, and their presence at the Congress will surely be a continuation of their evil activities on an international scale.
The third group is constituted by some wealthy individuals often referred to as “money-miss-road”, who are mostly people of questionable character and sources of wealth. The majority here is barely educated and hardly knows what to do at such a forum; rather they see the event as another opportunity to showcase their riches and globe-trotting credentials. For them, the event is really a jamboree. Among us Nd’Igbo, once a person becomes wealthy, he considers himself a community leader of thought, what with the frenzy with which traditional titles are conferred on every Tom, Dick and Harry nowadays.
The fourth group consists of Igbo intellectuals, professionals and statesmen, some of good repute. They attend these conferences under the illusion that their presence and speeches there will result in good fortune for Igboland. Alas! Some soon get disillusioned when it stares them in the face that the whole thing is a jamboree which has been hijacked by politicians and other undesirable elements of Igboland.
The fifth group is made up of non-Igbos who pass off their presence at the Congress as a show of solidarity with the Igbo cause. Many of these people are vultures who are bent on disorganizing the Igbo nation. Just like the fifth columnists among Ndi-Igbo, these people are sponsored by our avid enemies on their devilish mission. They eventually join forces with our prodigal sons to thwart the actualization of the Igbo cause, whether at home or abroad.
This year’s WIC reportedly focused on the increasing and embarrassing incidence of domestic violence among Igbo couples in USA. There was also the promise that the organization will work towards ensuring that Igbos in Diaspora speak the Igbo language. What a pipe dream! We Igbos are notorious for treating our culture and language with scorn and preferring foreign tongues and cultures. When Igbos in Nigeria no longer teach our language to their children, how will those in Diaspora achieve the feat? Even so, could the 2008 World Igbo Congress have had any meaningful discussion amidst internal wrangling which produced rival claimants to its leadership?
Much of what we see as development in Igboland today owes to self-help efforts by communities. Government presence and encouragement are hardly felt. Beyond our age-long marginalization, we have been unfortunate to have greedy, corrupt and visionless fellows emerge as our political rulers in Igboland, especially since 1999. The exceptions have been very few. One trickle-down effect of this is the imposition of fraudsters as traditional rulers on many newly-created autonomous communities, as was prominent in my state, Imo, under the Udenwa administration.
Many Nigerians have criticized the modus operandi of the WIC, and justifiably so, branding it a jamboree and calling for an end to it. I make haste to associate myself with them. The organizers of the Congress should rather visit Igboland, find out the challenges our communities face and task themselves with tackling such. We need drinking water, functional hospitals, electrification, well-equipped schools, motorable roads, scholarships, etc; we face grave problems of gully erosion and landslides. For sure, these annual carnivals and talkshops have not provided or tackled any of these. How does the yearly jamboree in USA reflect positively on the villager in Igboland? Let Igbos in Diaspora borrow a leaf from Jews in Diaspora whose contributions to the development of Israel are unquantifiable.