Ndigbo: Redefining Our Priorities

The Igbo debate is ON, AND THE JURY IS STILL OUT. The debate today is not about politics only; it is not about economics only and all the other socio-cultural cleavages that have preoccupied us in the past. It is about all of them and more; it is albeit riddled in puns and paradoxes. Paradoxes are always interesting puzzles to solve for it has no existence in reality; if it exists in reality, then it certainly cannot be a paradox in the literal definition. It is actually something that cancels each other out. Igbo problems and confusions, enthused with paradoxes have a solution; as with ethical dilemmas, of which we have our handful, there is a solution, it just isn’t apparent or easy to get to.
The solution I prefer is the hybridization and synthesis of thoughts, actions, attitudes and ways. By this I mean, purge the weak portions in our Igbo nation and people. Grab as much foreign material- thought wise, action wise and resources, integrate them into our ways and norms, and make ourselves stronger for it. If our problem is lack of harshness towards our enemies, then we should find someone who is capable of being harsh for us, as Ojukwu and his lieutenants did for us in the chaotic 60’s. We must actually start looking at aggregates of our sublime, bizarre and often rude elements. Using our best and worst in proportions would help us blend better in such competitive environment as Nigeria and the world at large is becoming. As much as we glory in our Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, we ought to also reflect on our Ralph Uwazurike; both represent poles of our talents and drives.
Ndigbo cannot put down any meaningful structure of a great magnitude without outside help, that’s how it is today with us. That is how critical developmental history has gone; America could not in the 1700’s, same with Israel in the 1940’s and even China and India today. Yet we must be clear in our minds that “can” and “will” are not the same things. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you will. So if Ndigbo can’t and won’t do what it takes as we presently stand, then we have to find someone- people, group, organizations and even friendly countries who does have what it takes, and most of the time, that means looking at odd places, considering a whole range of options but above all having faith in your own people, to help drive your ambitions. This is not something new. Americans, French, Britons and in recent history India and China are using this method
It seems the Igbo dilemma is the family complex. The uplifting and mistaken attitudes of making Notoriety appear as fame has undone us a lot. The unsound manner, in which we have allowed our notorious brethren take up important positions amongst us even if they are obnoxious enablers of murderers, has placed us uncomfortably on the wrong side of civilization. Most people argue that we do not have much of a choice and that if they are really contrite and add up to our wellbeing, they should be brought back to the community. Yet my view is, if we are as wise as we claim to be, we should not be deceived by the innocent airs of those whom we have previously found to be dangerous to our cause. Our dilemma is but a predicament if we allow it to be so; we need to move on, to liberate our minds and our strength to tackle the huge developmental problems facing us.
Globalization means to me that you alone cannot do everything. You need help. The Yoruba’s and others naturally acquire this help because they use every opportunity they find to tap into that which places them on a better footing to tackle their collective problems. Organization and politics has so much been blended into their approach to life that they find it easier to have their legs in the machinations of Nigeria and their hands fully preoccupied with the development of their place and people. Yet, because it takes hard work and more time to create a lasting civilization, this means it takes better and stronger willed people to create a thriving society, this is our advantage and we must find a way of knitting together the millions of dispersed Igbo potentials to start developing our land. We must not live the paradox; we must live the dream- of creating a sustainable society and a conscious civilization that has all the trappings of a great people.
While I fall squarely into the camp that expects the various people of Nigeria “to find their own agency of development and growth and autonomy”, still I wonder if it may not be helpful to recognize that there is some small percentage of Igbo folks who simply cannot see any sense in our finding our own agency and autonomy. Whenever I find myself debating my friends, I try to point out that these folks, un-Igbo, truly “have lost every ability to become productive and participatory agents of the Igbo Developmental project and thus require a paternalistic Nigerian government bureaucracy to take care of them in perpetuity.” This notwithstanding, the new approach towards the reconstruction of our much buffeted land ought to keep these tiny but dangerous minority in view.
One of the interesting things to me in my daily contemplation of our collective fate is that in the past two decades or so, some nations have broken free from the shackles of dependence to start actual developments within their respective nations. I am not a professional in this field but think that our way ought to be changed and redirected towards the concrete development of Igboland, there cannot be an otherwise. Let politicians continue their politicking, but private individuals and groups ought to step in and provide the necessary thrust, and in most cases partner the state governments as minimally as possible.
The foundation for the future of the Igbo nation must reflect the following: 1. A reasonably honest representative government. 2. Private property laws backed by courts, which follow the rule of law. 3. A reasonably honest banking system, prepared to play their respective social roles. 4. A population that understands taking responsibility for themselves. These ideas as they stand are not mine but became clear while reading “The Mystery of Capital” by Hernando Desoto. Whatever we strive to do or become; these basics must be factored in and comprehensively followed.
Look around the world. Wherever these ideas have taken root, the countries have prospered. Three recent examples: Japan since the end of WWII, West Germany since the end of WWII and notice, in contrast, what was happening in East Germany under Communism during the period of WWII up to 1989?; South Korea since the end of the Korean War and contrast that with what has occurred in North Korea under Communism. Do we need any clearer examples? And yet there are people in this country and many Ndigbo that don’t grasp these ideas. They still want to believe in Abuja and its bloated, big and ineffective government and collectivist solutions. How do we convince them of what is clearly before their eyes? This is the challenge.
Even more to the point…….how do we convince other States or geo-political zones in Nigeria that they can become economically successful if they adopt these principles? We’re now trying to do it again after over 40 years that M.I. Okpara and his team successfully pioneered it. We can obviously see that it isn’t being eagerly accepted by even our people, for just how can we account for the eight wasted years in the South East. Our failure though multiple, can be attributed to the failure of the elite to focus on the majority on the lower pedestals that also make up the consequential catalyst. To overcome resistance to the idea of fundamental development of Igboland, maybe we have to first create unconditional collective agreement, so we can start at the bottom and build our economies from the bottom up as Okpara and his team did.
In contemporary Nigeria, more than 40% of the money used in developing places like Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna are made in Aba, Onitsha and Nnewi, but because we have no infrastructures and visible industrial presence to trap these funds, the banks and various government agencies pull them out and use it elsewhere. This is a trend we must all try to reverse. For a start, why can’t we get the Nkalagu Cement Factory in Ebonyi State, The Golden Guinea Breweries in Umuahia, Abia State, The Aba Textile Mill, Abia State, The Emene Steel Company, Enugu State, and a few such industries going again. It is not an easy task, but it is one that can be successfully undertaken. The present Governor of Ebonyi State in his inaugural speech said that Nkalagu is one of his priorities; we ought to step in and partner with him and other Governors in this project. This would help repatriate most Lagos and Abuja go-slow and street vendors and check others from joining them. And with the new openings coming up in the power sector, we need to find independent power generating and distribution sources to carry the weight and scale of this new drive.
The other answers to our problems, lies in education. This is the ground upon which the shackles of our past would be broken. I am not talking about building schools, or repainting existing ones or other sorts of things. But of the relative restructuring and refocusing of the academic fundamentals of the ones we already have to concentrate on key professional trainings that would form the bulwark of the future we intend to have. It must be private sector driven, with or without the full support of the governments of the South East. Alongside, we have to set clear achievable agenda for the various governments that can be easily localised and implemented with a lot of local content.
The debate goes on. Your views are highly sought. The days of leaving our fates to politicians and a few elites have gone. You can be heard, irrespective of where you are or what you do. You do not necessarily need to attend any formal meeting or belong to the group to make your views know, our future can only be bright and productive if you add your voice and action to the things we are doing. Keep strong all…

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