By Collins Ughalaa
The Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria are independent minded, travellers and very industrious. Their travels have brought them in direct contact with all civilizations all over the world which have enriched the Igbo culture and world view. It is natural these contacts would strengthen their republican status and the desire for justice in a globalized world where democratic values of equity and fairness are constantly becoming the norm among civilized people universally.
Not few people know that the Igbo people who are free thinkers frustrated the indirect rule of the British Colonial Government in their land, so much that they abandoned the indirect rule structures that were already rated a success in the Northern and Western parts of Nigeria.
The Igbo people are very friendly and accommodating. The fact that they settle easily with strangers in their many sojourns makes them highly receptive to visitors on their land as well. They mind their business and expect you to mind yours. They are a proud people and always want to work to earn their living in dignity, because they believe in hardwork. It was because of their hardwork that they were able to survive the horrifying periods of the post war Nigeria. Not many believe that the Igbo man you see today as a success was handed a miserly £20 at the end of the war no matter how much they had in the bank. But God blessed their hassles.
With the above qualities, the Igbo man would be easily loved and hated in equal measures at the same time. That is the crux of the matter. Some people have argued that but for the amalgamated Nigeria in 1914, the Igbo man would have been so technologically advanced today. The devastating effects of the civil war and the setbacks suffered by them in great human and material loss was not enough to dampen their entrepreneurial spirits or cowed them into submission. Rather they combined to energize them.
I am of the view that in relation to the obvious political disadvantages they suffer in present day Nigeria, especially since independence, Ndigbo calculate better moving forward, because *ako bu ije* (your intellect guides you in life’s journeys).
This popular maxim of the Arochukwus is the central idea behind Igbo travels and development. They believe they are mentally prepared and smart to face all challenges they will meet and smartly avoid the obstacles with their eyes focused on the prize. In doing this, patience is key. The question remains, are the Igbo Nation the only race that have suffered one form of persecution or the other? The answer is No. Some overcome persecution and use it as building blocks while others are destroyed by it. In looking at the history, strength, resilience and the intelligence of the Igbo man, what do they need to do to avoid entering into the paradox of the proverbial *egu* (catapilar) that was strong and held firm on the tree branches as a child but fell to the ground at adulthood when it should be stronger.
Having gone through the most horrifying experience of military invasion since after 1970, Ndigbo should be stronger at adulthood.
Staying stronger is the best bet for the Igbo race. It therefore gladdens my heart that Ohaneze Ndigbo has showed that the best way for Ndigbo is to remain in a restructured Nigeria. This is in line with the position of the governors of the governors of the Southeast and other elected officials from the Igbo land, including former governors, etc. Ohanze Ndigbo has taken the restructuring debate higher with a visit to the North where it preached the gospel of peace, unity and a restructured Nigeria.
In reiterating my support for Ohaneze and the governors for their moves for a restructured Nigeria, let me once again thank the five governors of the Southeast for the decisions they took in Enugu and for standing out for Ndigbo when it mattered most, despite their political differences. All over the world, the primary essence of politics and governance is the protection of life and property. By what the governors of the Southeast have done, they have demonstrated that they can act for the overall interest of the Igbo nation in critical situations.
I know that I got a lot of attacks and insult following my last article captioned: *The Biafra agitation from a third eye*, but I am still convinced in my conscience that what the governors did was the right thing to do. Since their last meeting in Enugu State, even the blind can see that security of life and property was achieved in the Southeast. And people now go about their duties without having to be disturbed by the Army even in their operation Python Dance II, despite the fears expressed before it began.
Does this mean that I believe that IPOB is a terrorist organization? No. I don’t believe that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) comes close to being terrorist organization. Do I believe that Ndigbo are marginalized? Yes. I believe we are marginalized. But in the face of all this we cannot forget the saying of our elders, that a man who lives in the midst of his enemies always guards his life. This is why we must continue to thank the governors for their decisions which saved the Southeast from becoming a theater of war and a field of human bodies. Only God knows whether I would have written this article at all, or I would have written it from one Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp if that human debasement and carnage that started in Umuahia was allowed to go on.
I therefore challenge the governors of the Southeast to move beyond their the IPOB/Army case and leverage on their positions to address the critical needs of the people of the region. In a federation all eyes should not be on the federal government. Perhaps, if the state governors had lived up to their responsibilities the Southeast would have been a better place for all and the agitations might not have come.
Ndigbo should adopt *ako bu ije* and support Ohaneze’s restructuring agenda as the best way forward. Most people believe Nigeria is not working. That is why former Governor Ikedi Ohakim during his lecture at the Bold Step-4D Conference of the Youths Alive Fellowship of the Living Faith Church, aka Winners Chapel, Owerri, on Saturday, 23 September, 2017, said that Nigeria has nothing else to do but to restructure. He warned that if Nigeria does not restructure it will not be able to warehouse or husband the new changes in the world for the benefit of her people.
Restructuring is what is good for Nigeria and Ndigbo should not be found outside the restructuring negotiations because the outcome could be perilous, among all the peoples of Nigeria the Igbo people are the most republican.
A restructured Nigeria will guarantee food security. Food security is the first line of defence. Any nation that cannot feed herself is unworthy of being called a nation. Even third world countries should be able to feed themselves. With the size of land mass, the best vegetation in Africa and abundant mineral resources, Nigeria should not be talking about going hungry or going to borrow at any level.
Have successive governments in Nigeria done enough in tapping the potentials of this great nation and navigate her way to bliss and splendour? Is the present system where governors go to Abuja with bowels in hand every month working? No. Do I think restructuring Nigeria will change this arrangement? Yes. I believe it would.
The monthly bowel-in-hand arrangement before the Almighty Federal Government has only created indolence. Our leaders and the people have become unproductive as a result of the monthly money sharing arrangement in Abuja. People are now waiting for manna from heaven with the backward entitlement mentality. That is why Nigeria must restructure, to make the people become productive.
The western world we joyously admire today reached their peak because their people are productive. In the western world, the people work for up to eight hours and some work night hours too, to make ends meet. The people are eager to work because there are job opportunities there. But how can we have job opportunities when we have this choking arrangement where even Agriculture is not working? The little Agriculture we practice here are done by individual farmers who don’t even have the required funding and machinery to engage in modern Agriculture.
If we must drive ourselves out of hunger and stop borrowing, mechanised farming is the best way to go. The Federal Government should, therefore, quickly make funds available to the real farmers and Agriculturists to go into mechanised farming. Having done so, a restructured Nigeria will give the states the opportunities to pursue policies that work best for them, including mechanised farming.
Recently I heard the spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) say that Nigeria needs more policemen. No one can really be talking about insecurity and unemployment when the police and other security agencies are in dare need of manpower. I want to suggest that while the FG takes cogent steps towards restructuring Nigeria, it should nevertheless take very prompt actions to ensure that more people are recruited into the police and other security agencies.
It is unfortunate that in Nigeria it is one policeman for 600 citizens, whereas the international standard is one policeman to 100 or 200 people. This is one of the problems a restructured Nigeria would address.
Many people have lamented that roads in Nigeria are constructed without a plan for maintenance. This lack of maintenance culture on roads has led to serious and unpardonable depreciation of our roads. When contractors are allowed to construct roads without a maintenance culture, the people make no gain from the project because it would soon break down.
The government should go beyond the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) policy but embrace Build, Transfer and Manage (BTM), because in the process of managing what has been transferred, the government would build the capacity of the people for maintenance.
Can the BTM policy work now in Nigeria? No. Because the Federal Government is too powerful, but by restructuring Nigeria the units can properly manage themselves and shock the world.
The Igbo man must, therefore, make great efforts in having confidence in their leaders. It is their duty to make sure that only credible people with track records of verifiable achievements are elected in different positions of authority. This is more crucial now that elections are around the corner.
The level of political indifference among the Igbo is so much. Once they are united and determined to elect credible people, the solutions to their problems begin to appear. The Igbo man must do away with money politics and tilting to the highest bidder. I remember writing on the dangers of choosing leaders based on the size of their purses. This has inevitably discouraged would be good leaders to participate in governance in Igbo land.
In other climes, money-men search for credible and hard working people and support them to emerge as political leaders, but it is sad that the situation is different today in Igbo land. Once people make money, they offer themselves for political contests with little or no experience.
It is the political cross of the Igbo man. Any race where the primary qualification for political participation is money will never get it right because this is a pure attempt at merchandising politics, and once it is this way, we should blame nobody but ourselves.
Secondly, It is a great irony that the independent mindedness of the Igbo that has made them great successes in commerce is their bane in politics. Politics is a different area and unity and orderliness are required. Those who want to discuss with the Igbo must have a body that they should talk with without another group claiming leadership tomorrow, because they have funds to throw about.
The way the Senate leadership and National Chairmanship of a major political party that were zoned to the Igbo were managed are still embarrassments to the political psyche of the Igbo. The time to get it right is now.