INDEED, these are rough times for the Igbo race Nigeria but
which ethnicity would readily and really accept that she is enjoying the
country even when they visibly derive more than others?
Truth is that whining, moaning and even giving up on the country are not the solution. Complaining and accusing other Nigerians of marginalisation are equally as weak as kicking the air without pausing to thoroughly study the development.
Igbo has a lot more than many see going for her than most other Nigerian ethnic blocs. Even the non-deserning and seldom circumspect can sense more positive tendencies of Igbo race than the usual belladonna and bedlam bandied the streetwise Igbo person.
When their enemies hunt for prey they hound and taunt the Igbo with such tags as rowdy ‘money-miss-road.’ Should the issue in purview be politics, the Igbo is described as political neophyte with legendary knack for political naivete, greed for power and positions (even the most trivial) and lack of sophistication in political correctness and human mobilisation. Socially, he is oft derided as crude and uncouth native person with a phenomenal penchant to infest his environment with all manner of norms and indigenous ethos that seem inherited from dark ages. In business circles, even those who envy his unrivaled trading and financial skills (and that is indeed every other fellow) would disparage him as a hustler with all the traits of a daredevil rave. In some non Igbo societies, he is deemed and most times treated as a criminal just because he succeeds fast in business.
Generally, the Igbo person’s presence anywhere, among other Nigerians tends to evoke currents of fear and unseen but obvious energy that tends towards hate and suspicion. Even the Igbo person is not kind with himself when found amid the rest. Instead of being ensconced he often comes across as edgy and uncomfortable.
But who would blame him? Once beaten, twice shy. If you hail from a country where you are sure you are a freeborn but you find yourself a second cadre citizen once you grow to an age of awareness and you discover (often through real hard knocks of Nigerian life may be in school admission, job recruitment, career rise, appointments, contract award, politics or whatever endeavour you hold dear and thought your country would give to you by merit) you could respond to the shock like the typical Igbo person.
A lone Igbo person faced with such hostility is bound to exhibit some psychological reserves if not complexes that tend towards inhibition and some other withdrawal syndrome. He could in some extreme cases be led to crime given his sense of being socially excluded or unfairly marginalised in his homeland. With this sort of high sensitivity to such social disadvantage and harsh relegation to the background, he could act like any animal (man inclusive) with back to the wall.
Crime theorists such as Kramer (1998) and Seigel (2006) among others have established ample link between social exclusion and crime. Researches in the area have demonstrated that there are criminal activities that actually result from the operator’s rebellion against social discrimination. “Social exclusion” states Wikkipaedia, “is a major cause of crime and re-offending.”
However, crime can never be a rational response of the Igbo person to his society for whatever level of marginalisation because crime is not just a taboo but an unforgivable sin in Igbo belief system. An Igbo aphorism states thusly: Ohi na- aru madu. O na-eme afa ya echie (Stealing taints a person. It tarnishes his name forever). So marginalisation offers the Igbo no excuse for crime.
Truth is that Igbo is not the only race to suffer this subjugation. There are Jews, Irish, Hutus, Kurds among others. What matters here is a study of how the various ethnic blocs responded to it and how they fared thereafter. Igbo has survived pogrom and various forms of targeted class or sectoral extermination. She should derive strength from the sense of invincibility and universal suffrage the rare history offers her and forge ahead to conquer all other current odds which are comparatively minor.
The Jews did. As the social science scholar, Evgeny Finkel captured in his 2017 book ‘Ordinary Jews Choice and Survival During the Holocaust’ the persecuted Jews of Europe explored the odious and extremely bitter opportunity their extermination by Germany in the middle of the 20th century to evolve among other big feats: a great Jewish nation, Israel that the entire Gulf Region cannot suppress; a great Jewish economy that wields power and influence in almost all nations of the world, from the same Germany to Russia, United Kingdom, the United States and across Asia, Africa and Australia; a formidable Jewish voice in the United Nations, and a Jewish country that rules the academia, business and the space. This was a race that Adolf Hitler almost cleared totally from earth.
Prof. Finkel shows how Jewish responses during the Holocaust shed new light on the dynamics of genocide and political violence while equally explicating the enduring powers of strategic resilience.
His book presents a rich “framework for understanding the survival strategies in which Jews engaged: cooperation and collaboration, coping and compliance, evasion, and resistance.
Through Finkel, a professor of international affairs at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, one reads how Jews’ behavior in three Jewish ghettos, Minsk, Kraków, and Białystok, despite Nazi genocide and prewar policies that either promoted or discouraged their integration into non-Jewish society turned the Jewish race around for the better. The Jews simply resolved that never again will they be so treated. They looked inward and saw the positives in the Judas Gospel which the Nazi Holocaust offered them. Today Israel is a success story.
Finkel’s ‘Ordinary Jews Choice and Survival During the Holocaust’ which won the 2018 Alexander L. George Book Award, International Society of Political Psychology and the 2018 Joseph Rothschild Prize in Nationalism and Ethnic Studies of the Association for the Study of Nationalities makes it evident that while possible survival strategies were the same for everyone, it depends largely on the choices individuals make to either sink or swim amid such difficulties.
Races have the choices confronting their danger and trying to survive without pandering to the cowardly escapism of leaving the land of their initial odd fate as most people who currently bandy Igbo escape from the Nigerian union tout.
Amid State repression before World War II, the local Jewish communities that were subject of the inhumanity, strategised and determined the viability of anti-Nazi Jewish resistance and stock to it.
Author of ‘Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams’ Charles King, observed thusly after reading Finkel: “Why do only some people targeted in genocide fight back?
In this sensitive and original investigation, Evgeny Finkel shows that resistance to violence is a function of the skills and habits at a community’s disposal. Finkel reveals the pattern of constrained choices that drove communal behavior during the Holocaust and, in the process, returns the idea of agency to discussions of victimhood and survivorship.”
The comment of Nancy Bermeo of the University of Oxford further buttresses the value of constructive resistance. Her comment: “How do people react when they are targeted for genocide? Who cooperates with the killers? Who resists? Who flees and who simply tries to cope? In Ordinary Jews, Finkel’s answer combines compelling historical evidence, convincing theory, and a moving narrative. This is a truly extraordinary book—rich with lessons for us all.”
The lesson for Igbo here is to think thoroughly through their current Judas gospel and invent a winning fomular. For apt response to their woes, Igbo should think with clear head on their engagement with Nigeria; strategise and act decisively on the matter.
First, Igbo has to resolve, collectively or largely to commit herself to a better future. Then, work hard, mentally, philosophically and practically to achieve it over generations. The resolve should be very concrete and widely accepted that all vital sectors of the Igbo society would passionately stick to the plan even as given the requirements of the economy and socio-political times there should be room for tactical flexibility.
Second, Igbo should evolve a political habit that is consistent with the political dynamics of contemporary Nigeria. The new political trend which must be built around the beneficial tendencies of Igbo society both at home and diaspora should be dutifully made clear and understandable to the people, no matter their class.
Third, some people, especially in political and professional leadership positions must volunteer for love of the land and the future generation to be foot soldiers and champions of the new Igbo cause.
Ndi Igbo must equally sacrifice their ego and so often touted fallacy, “Igbo enwe eze” (Igbo have no king) or their so called “republican nature” to venerate their genuine leaders because ‘e too dike n’nke o mere, o mekwa ozo’ (if you praise a hero for a feat he posted, he will strive to do yet another one).
Finally, Igbo should build on their currently existent but largely untapped unique, regular town union and age grade meetings. The latter, which Adiele E. Afigbo described as a peculiar socio-economic ladder in Igbo culture can be expanded beyond towns and local councils to serve as generational platforms for paradigm shift in the larger Igbo land.
Pause and ponder the strenghth Igbo has in the economy – from the manufacturing to the retail chain. Think about the strenghth and social influence of the race in numbers across the country and beyond even if the electoral bodies census data fail to state ethnicity.
Think, think… Igbo think. Whip not tears. Think.