Evidence from prehistory, as can be seen in the works of Catherine Acholonu and other authorities in prehistory, point to the fact that the Igbos belong to the aboriginal inhabitants of our planet, as shown in the representative character of classical Igbo civilization and language of the original culture and language of Homo Sapiens. Traces of Igbo language can be found in the Chinese, Korean, English, Japanese, French, Swahili and other languages. In Africa and West Africa, the Igbos predated many other settlers in the region. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Chinese, Koreans, South Africans and Europeans see the mirror of their past in our own Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart.
The Igbos are known to be a people with a proud history, a culture and civilization that is universal both in its origins and in its historical spread. No wonder her citizens are world citizens, found in every part of the world and easily adaptable to every culture and environment.
No wonder Ndigbo were global even before it became fashionable to be global. Our journey towards globalization started in the 1950s before developmental issues became a global concern. Even as a colonialized nation with unemployment, urban slums, poor infrastructure, lack of finance and unskilled labour, our leaders then asked bold questions about the long-term vision for Ndigbo and made a conscious effort to industrialize Alaigbo. Then our foremost leader, Nnamdi Azikiwe, (may his soul rest in peace) believed that “unity is strength”, our theme in this year’s celebration, “Igwe-Bu-Ike”, and that we need to develop our land to global standard to restore our dignity. This led to his establishment in 1948 of the African Continental Bank (ACB) that sowed the seeds to make Alaigbo an economic power house. Thereafter, we saw the establishment of the Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation in 1954, to coordinate massive economic developments of Alaigbo. These pioneering efforts, no doubt, catalyzed the Igbo spirit of merchandize and spread of development to all the nooks and crannies of the country and, indeed, the whole world.
Every success in life has its corollary in envy and jealousy. Ndigbo have had and are still having unmitigated hatred from other tribes in Nigeria as a result of their industry and perseverance. This ugly situation led to the decimation of Ndigbo in the northern pogrom of 1966 and during the Nigerian Civil War that saw to the death of more than three million sons and daughters of Ndigbo. Unfortunately, this historical reality that midwifed this misadventure still trails Ndigbo in modern day Nigeria. If anything, the situation has quadrupled with the wire of tension palpable. It is only the sagacity forebearance and fatherly management of the current leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo that has absorbed the palpable tension generated by our youth and kept fire away from the gun powder. I have been personally denigrated by the members of IPOB to the extent of being called names and my home bombed but I have refused to allow my children to be exposed to ferocious and blood-sucking security operatives who are waiting for just the slightest opportunity to unleash mayhem on our people.
THE STATUS QUO
The irreducible and indubitable fact is that Ndigbo are, like I said before, endangered species in Nigeria even with the long trek of the country into democracy. In fact, never at any time is Nigeria at the cross-roads it is now and Ndigbo are feeling the main brunt of it. Ndigbo have been completely emasculated and dehumanized in their fatherland and indeed, have become even third class citizens, a little short of the era of slave trade. Never in the history of this country has Ndigbo been marginalized, denied of their fundamental human rights and traumatized as they are now. Many examples abound but suffice it to mention but a few. Our industrious and illustrious sons have severally been harassed and arrested and their businesses threatened for no just cause. Very often, the charges against them are frivolous and lack merit. Ohanaeze Ndigbo leadership has had cause to defend them or sound a note of warning even on the pages of newspapers. Again, the state of infrastructure in the South-East is most disheartening. A foreign loan which all parts of the country are obliged to pay back was acquired by the Federal Government but the whole of South-East was excluded from the beneficiaries. It took an expression of outrage by Ohanaeze Ndigbo and some sons and daughters of the geo-political zone for a half-hearted insertion of some parts of Igboland in the project. Uptill now, the expansive coal deposit of Igboland has remained unexploited and lying fallow despite all entreaties and assurances by the Federal Government. The multiplier effect of the revival of the industry in terms of jobs for our teeming youth is unquantifiable. The so-called international airport in Enugu remains a veritable death trap while the Second Niger Bridge appears to be a campaign slogan for any incoming government at the centre. The South-East still remains the only geo-political zone in the country with only five states. Contrary to the provisions of the constitution, the South-East is brazenly excluded from the security apparatus of this country with no apology proffered.
Furthermore, the IPOB, a non-violent and non-arm carrying pressure group, like other such groups in the country, was proscribed while sinister herdsmen are left to ravage the country and, even when arrested with irrefutable evidence, are set free by the authorities.
The truth lies in the immortal words of William Shakespeare: The fault lies in us and not in our stars.” Ndigbo are, to a large extent, the architects of their problems. While one recognizes the aforementioned marginalization orchestrated by the Federal Government against our people, we can salvage the situation by looking inwards to solve our problems by ourselves. For a long time, there have been exhortations by Ohanaeze Ndigbo for our people to think home, to come home and invest. The investments of Ndigbo in the North and Lagos are said to run into tens of trillions of Naira. In fact, it has been confirmed that the Alaba Market in Lagos mainly populated by Ndigbo is the highest economic driver of Africa. It is said to turn out over four billion dollars ($4 billion) annually, the highest in Africa.
Again, the entity known as Nigeria must be restructured for any meaningful development of the country. Ohanaeze Ndigbo has been at the forefront of the agitation for the restructuring of the country to guarantee fairness, equity, and justice. This it has done by reaching out to our brothers and sisters in the South-South, South-West, the Middle-Belt and some parts of the North. God on our side, we shall realise the objective.
Most importantly, we need to speak with one voice. Ndigbo need to come together so that their voice will reverberate in Nigeria. In order to build the virile Igbo nation that we desire and we all shall be proud of, we must speak with one voice, hence Igwe-Bu-Ike. Thank you for your kind attention.
Chief John Nnia Nwodo
President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo