– By Tari Nemi –
Igbos are such a strange people in this world. Those who don’t understand them get many things mixed up about them.
The only people apart from their neighbors here in Africa whose culture is similar to theirs and who seem to understand and like them are the Jews because they are the only ones that share similar life style with the Igbos of Africa.
Someone might want to ask why am I writing about the Igbo as if I am Igbo myself. No I am not Igbo, I am Ijaw. My ethnic group share borders with Igbos on many fronts and we share a lot in common together in terms of culture and a few words in languages but that’s not what gave me the right to write about them. I studied in a federal university at the heart of Igboland for five years. Most of my friends in school were Igbos and I lived outside school in an Igbo community with local Igbos.
Igbos are culturally business people, they survive by buying and selling. They believe that success comes from constant monetary exchange so they live that way and develop a system of training the younger generation from taking over from them through their mastership and apprenticeship system.
They are also very passionate people. They put their all into whatever they do. They put all their eggs in one basket until they have success in that quest.
Igbos don’t give a little chance to evil to mature and grow into something that cannot be controlled. This is the reason those who planned the first coup and only revolution in Nigeria were mostly Igbos.
A single individual Igbo might be very good at telling lies but the Igbo community eschewed lies. The reason individuals tell lies in Igboland is because of their business culture.
Most business men are not sincere or else they won’t make much gain that’s why Ijaws rarely do petty business and succeed because we don’t know how to differentiate business life from real life and so we relax too much and feel so reluctant in business but that’s not the Igbo. An Igbo would rather cheat you in business instead of to have losses, his boss that trained him taught him so.
Because most Igbo individuals are business people and may sometimes want to bring business life of insincerity into societal life, the Igbo community has more checks on the human excesses in the society than any other society I am aware of. An average Igbo detest insincere life in the society. They can ignore insincerity in business but not in the community because they understand that business is for gain while the society is for life and love for without love life will be lost.
An Igbo man is an independent man. They don’t like to take what is not theirs so they work very hard to get their own. The Igbo society hates oppression so if you can prove how an Igbo has oppressed or is oppressing you or a group of people to the Igbo society, that person becomes an enemy of the whole Igbo community. If such person is an Igbo, he will be excommunicated and treated with disdain but if he is not he will be resisted whether those he is oppressing are Igbos or not.
Most of these qualities of the Igbo can be found in most other ethnic nations in Biafra but the difference is that none of them have the business culture of the Igbo society. That business culture is what makes the neighbors of the Igbo to find it hard to understand them nor trust them.
Igbos are a very focused people, they hate distractions and they don’t tolerate it because they believe time is money. If an average Igbo see you as a distraction he will ignore you no matter how much he loved you and move forward. If you disagree with his ideology he will do everything to kick you out of his way and only come back to listen to what you have to say after he has succeeded. So if you don’t understand him you will think he ignored you because he doesn’t care, no he did because he hates wasting time.
This attitude is what has caused the most trouble among the Igbos and their neighbors in Biafra. While Ijaws, Ibibios, Urhobos, Efiks, Ogonis etc want to be heard the Igbo wants results. It’s easier for Ijaws to gather other tribes in Biafra like we have done over time in the struggle for freedom of the coast otherwise called Niger delta struggle. Ijaws don’t care giving the whole year listening to what others have a say on a matter but Igbo is an impatient tribe.
This is why I marvel that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu never rushed into arm struggle and is patiently waiting and taking time to convince every single individual in Biafra to understand the Biafran cause. I see in him the speed of the Igbo, the patience of Ijaw and the maturity to sustain a struggle without gain which is only found outside Africa.
Most Africans have lazy minds, sorry I must tell the truth. By lazy minds I mean they don’t think hard enough and they don’t have the patience to sustain a good ideology and maintain it over time irrespective of the temptations. Nnamdi Kanu is different. This is why you see most people falling out of the struggle and entertaining new ideologies, some for gain and many can’t just remain in the ideology they believe in.
Now back to the Igbo.
An Igbo is fulfilled when he is on his own (independence) and you are on your own and everyone is happy. He doesn’t enjoy fighting to keep you in bondage under him except you let him. He can only fight you with all his life when you attempt to deny him his right or try to oppress him.
So the fear of Igbo dominating others are not real only except the structures are not well placed.
It is normal for every large tribe to dominate in a unitary system where everyone pretend to be one when they’re not. This is why a unitary system won’t work in Biafra but a confederation. Only a confederation will work because like the Igbo all Biafrans love their independence and that’s why Nnamdi Kanu has proposed to have a government system that promotes individual nation independence and collective alliance to form a central government United in military and foreign affairs. This system is the only system that can work in Biafra and the resistance that has caused the strife now and during the Nigeria Biafra war was because BIAFRA was operating a unitary system that made other nations felt like the central government was all about Igbo and they were subjects. They resisted being subjects to their brothers, became loyal to the invaders because they thought if the invaders frees them from their brothers they all can then stand as equals in the supposed Nigerian union not knowing that the invaders see things from a different angle. At the end, the invaders proved that they all were grouped to be conquered. So helping them conquer your strong brother because you felt oppressed was the worse that happened to the coastal Biafran nations.
Igbos don’t have a history of oppression because they don’t have it in them to oppress. They believe all men are equal and deserves the right to be on his own. This is why Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has proposed to have one of the best systems in the world, a little advancement of what our forefathers practiced before Britain came.
What I expect from other Biafran nations is to insist that Biafra is exactly the way Mazi Nnamdi Kanu envisions it to be because what we all need right now is ourselves. We need the Igbo, Ijaw, Ogoni, Ibibio, Urhobo, Efik, Igede etc to be able to survive and break free from the oppression of Nigeria.
Some Igbos and most people from the coast wants Igbo to fight alone and for Igbo territories alone so after they become independent they can then bring others on board. I laugh, I pity my brothers in the coast. If now when Igbo is here it is difficult to break free is it when you have become tinier and more easy to crush that the blood thirsty oppressors will then let you go? If at all the Igbo succeed in saving you it will take them much more than it would take them to free you now because at that time it’s now interfering into other nation’s sovereignty. Same reason it’s not so easy for Israel to just jump in to help BIAFRA now. Certain diplomatic arrangements has to be done.
On the other hand, Nigeria wouldn’t want to let go their only source of livelihood, the oil in your land. So the next time you resist BIAFRA think over it again.
Tari Nemi is a revolutionary writer and a refined teacher, 21 January 2019.