Are You Better Off? The Igbo Homeland Yesterday and Today
Overview of Message Content and Organization
Part A: Special Appeal and Invitation to Ndi Igbo Worldwide
Part B: Snippets of Information about the Igbo Homeland
Part C: Soul-Searching: Questions on Selected Aspects of the Igbo Homeland
Part D: Meditations on Biafra: Land of the Rising Sun
Part E: Elders of the Igbo Homeland: Skilled but Wanting in Leadership
Part F: By Way of Conclusion: Our Urgent Need for your Support
Part A: Special Appeal and Invitation to Ndi Igbo Worldwide
Inspired by the deplorable condition of the Igbo ancestral homeland – the mess the youth dispensation got us into after the Nigeria-Biafra War – and the urgent need to salvage the situation, this message is coming to you from the Nihi Ndi Igbo Foundation (NNIF). It is in line with our on-going projects to save the ailing Igbo language and the unique cultural knowledge it encodes from potential extinction and preserve them for the long-term welfare of present and future generations of Igbo speakers. To that end, we are interested in reaching out to the Igbo diaspora worldwide, including Igbo community organizations in need of help in this and other regards.
If you or other people you know fall into this category of ndi Igbo, we would appreciate hearing from you and the acquaintances, regardless of their country of residence. Please contact the Nihi Ndi Igbo Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This message is also for you if you are an Igbo living in the Igbo ancestral homeland. We not only need your support as much as you need our services; you are, in fact, indispensable to our eventual success because you are on the ground and no stranger to the arena. Please give us your cooperation and, whenever possible, a brief situation report or update as well.
A broken tool, as you know very well, does not fix itself; someone fixes it. A city or country does not make itself the best dwelling place on earth for its inhabitants or citizens; men and women of great vision make them so. The city of Montreal in Quebec and Canada, for example, did not make themselves one of the most attractive places to live on earth. Like-minded Canadians, men and women, worked together to make them so.
Furthermore, the unemployment, welfare, and universal healthcare programmes in Canada did not fall from the sky like biblical manna. Far sighted politicians and visionaries took a pragmatic approach to Canadian problems of their day and established them for the betterment of all Canadians.
It follows, therefore, that the endangered Igbo language, culture, and homeland cannot sort themselves out if they are left alone to do so in due course; human intervention is imperative in that regard. In other words, it behoves us, ndi Igbo, to fix the Igbo language, culture, and homeland for the betterment and highest good of the stakeholders.
The Igbo diaspora can, therefore, do itself no better favour or render our people no greater service today than this: use its collective resources in conjunction with the ingenuity for which Biafra is known worldwide to redeem and transform the Igbo ancestral homeland into the promised land generations of ndi Igbo have misguidedly been searching for in the wilderness. That is what matters most now beyond your immediate and extended families.
Part B. Snippets of Information about the Igbo Homeland
According to our survey, the numero uno problem on the mind of virtually every Igbo speaker today, problem from which the fixing of the Igbo homeland should and must begin, is the unconscionable man-made suffering ndi Igbo have for so long been forced to put up with in their God-given homeland flowing with milk and honey and, ironically, endowed by the Universe with one of the richest mineral resources known to mankind. Stop! Take a deep breath and exhale before you read the most shocking aspect of this absurdity: the callous indifference of the powers that be to the desperate plight of the masses.
The second worrisome problem and source of pounding headache for ndi Igbo is the collapse of the pre-war Igbo society they used to know and be proud of, including the degeneration of the Igbo language and culture, the loss of those values and enviable attributes that once made the Igbo homeland the envy of the whole world, the Igbo philosophy of collective urination, brotherhood, sisterhood, etc. What happened to those values that propel the Igbo society, served ndi Igbo well before the Nigeria-Biafra War, and also helped them to survive it?
These preoccupations, none of which can be wished away or left perpetually unresolved, are the raison d’être of the NNIF – a child of circumstance born by the Igbo language and culture endangerment. We are aware of them. And we know the solution to each of them. The only thing we lack and have been waiting for in that regard is your support, the support of the masses, the grass roots who, in fact, are their own worst enemies.
In the meantime, we have seized the proverbial bull of Igbo endangerment by the horns and embarked on a holistic documentation and revitalization of the Igbo language and culture – a bulwark against extinction. And we are racing against time to accomplish that and stabilize the language before it degenerates beyond revitalization or ends up on a metaphorical life support.
Language and culture are inextricably interwoven. The former vehicles the latter. If the language becomes extinct, the culture will die and vice versa. Ndi Igbo need both to survive and safeguard their cultural continuity.
As we document the language and culture, our ancestors are reminding us of something equally important for the survival of ndi Igbo: the rebuilding of the metaphysical wall of the Igbo Nation à la biblical Nehemiah. Analogous to the wall of Jerusalem and of Jerico, the Igbo wall collapsed several years ago. The collapse, in turn, enabled water to infiltrate into the hollow stalk of the fluted pumpkin, complicating matters further for unsuspecting ndi Igbo. The Igbo homeland has not been the same ever since.
The NNIF holistic documentation of the endangered Igbo language and culture, the eradication of man-made suffering across the Igbo homeland, the rebuilding of the metaphysical wall of the Igbo Nation à la Nehemiah – all are aspects of the solution to the problems of the Igbo Nation, solution that boils down to one thing: rebuilding the Igbo homeland and society for the betterment of everybody.
This common-sense approach to the problems in question will enable us make the Igbo homeland one of the best possible places anybody can live on earth; thereafter, the remaining pieces of the Igbo endangerment puzzle will fall into place one after another.
The Igbo homeland is in a terrible mess today because of the failure of the post-war leaders of the Igbo society and of the dysfunctional Igbo elite to rise to the challenge of leading ndi Igbo to the promised land. They got us into the mess. We will get you out of it. But, first, let me expatiate somewhat on the post-war leaders in question and how they got us into the mess.
Whenever something starts to smell, the Igbo people customarily use water to wash off the odour. When water itself starts to smell, they find themselves in a terrible predicament as they are today. What water is to a smelling item in the Igbo culture is what the Igbo youth is to the Igbo society.
The Igbo youth are the future custodians of our common heritage. Our language, our culture, our traditions, and our world view – all are in the hands of the Igbo youth for onward transmission to subsequent generations of Igbo speakers. During the Nigeria-Biafra War, the Igbo youth were at the battle fronts defending their besieged ancestral homeland heroically against the Nigerian and foreign invaders. And after the war, it was to them that ndi Igbo naturally turned to lead the Igbo homeland to the promised land. Little did they know that the Igbo youth were going to mess up the well-ordered Igbo society.
From the governor’s seat to the lowest-paid civil servant in the various ministries, the youth have ever since occupied all the positions of power and leadership (deputy governors, permanent secretaries, senators, commissioners, members of the house of representatives, chairpersons of local governments, directors of government agencies, etc.) that enabled the incorruptible, pre-war leaders of the Igbo society to build the Igbo homeland as we knew it before the war.
In addition to wielding immense power, the Igbo youth have to their advantage the luxury of oil revenue the pre-war leaders of the Igbo society never had. They are therefore in a comfortable position to transform the Igbo homeland into a paradise on earth, as the pre-war leaders had intended, by developing it further.
Today, the water has not only started to smell; it stinks because the youth have turned out to be the complete opposite of everything ndi Igbo expected of them. They were, for example, expected to pay the salary of workers regularly, as their predecessors did. They don’t. They were expected to provide water and electricity across the Igbo homeland twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (= 24/7). They didn’t. And they were also expected, amongst other things, to provide our people with affordable housing and healthcare. Instead of improving and expanding the existing services, they made some worse than they were and eliminated others entirely to maximize the discomfort of our people.
We stepped into the unfortunate mess when unprecedented political corruption caused the avaricious (= exceedingly greedy for wealth) and self-serving, post-war leaders of the Igbo society to veer off the course chartered by their astute, pre-war predecessors and derail. The corruption not only ravaged the Igbo homeland like forest fire in no time and infected the populace; it has hitherto remained unabated. Most importantly, we are in the mess today because the leaders in question were morally bankrupt and spiritually ill-equipped to be at the helm of the God-fearing Igbo Nation.
A wise, visionary leader does not only solve the problems of his (or her) day; he (or she) foresees those of the future and, if need be, goes above and beyond the call of duty to nip them in the bud. Ask your leaders the amount of the oil revenue that is being put aside by the oil-producing states for children who will be born in ten, fifteen, twenty, or more years after the oil might have dried up and see how short-sighted they are.
Part C. Soul-Searching: Questions on Selected Aspects of the Igbo Homeland
By the way, let me ask you some questions about the Igbo homeland of yesterday and today to enable you compare and contrast the pre- and post-war leaders of the Igbo society and draw your own conclusion. Each question is preceded by a brief background information.
Please answer them as truthfully as you can. If you were born after the Nigeria-Biafra War, you can (a) visualize a time warp linking the present and the 1960s, (b) consult your elders to learn more, or (c) do some research (in the Igbo homeland or online) to discover the facts and better inform yourself.
Case 1: General
Nothing is static in nature. And nothing is non-living. Every element of the Universe vibrates at its frequency. For you to actualize the dreams of your life, change has to occur from good to better, and from better to best. Change is progress. Such is the law of the Universe. And the Igbo homeland is no exception. The Igbo homeland, therefore, must undergo a profound rebirth if it is to survive the aftermath of greed and corruption left by the Nigeria-Biafra War and serve the interests of ndi Igbo for years to come. So, here is your first question:
Question: In the light of the negative changes that are occurring (= taking place) in the Igbo homeland since the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War – changes from best to better, from better to good, from good to bad, from bad to worse, and from worse to worst – are you in a better or worse situation in the Igbo homeland today than you were or would have been in the 1960s, the pre-war years?
Case 2: Apartment Rental
Before the Nigeria-Biafra War, employees in the private and public sectors in Eastern Nigeria were paid their monthly salaries with clock-like regularity at the end of each month. As a result, they were paying their apartment rents at the end of the month as well.
Today, an Igbo in need of an apartment in the Igbo homeland is required to cough out two- or three-year rent in advance (plus agency fee) before he or she moves into the apartment or building; even though no employee across the homeland is paid his or her monthly salary regularly, let alone do so more than one month at a time. The practice is not limited to individually-owned buildings. A company that owns a rental property in the Igbo homeland collects two- or three-year down payment from its tenants but pays its own employees their salaries one month at a time.
Ironically, these avaricious homeowners are Igbo, too. In Quebec, Canada, tenants and landlords are forbidden from paying or demanding more than one month rent at a time, respectively. And in Ontario (Canada), a tenant pays only the first and last month of his or her one-year lease. Regulations are in place to protect the tenants and the homeowners.
Question: If you are a tenant or a prospective tenant in the Igbo homeland today, are you and your loved ones better off with the prohibitive, multiple-year down payment your government sees nothing wrong with, or with the pre-war monthly payment of your rent?
Case 3: Water Supply
Water is one of the basic necessities of life. Liquid plasma, the watery portion of your blood is predominantly water. And the digestion of the food you eat is essentially a process of hydrolysis. Without water, the operating system of the human body will collapse.
Before the Nigeria-Biafra War, every major city in Eastern Nigeria had its own water delivery system: pumping stations, water reservoirs, and underground pipes that supplied water to buildings, the suburbs, and strategic public places around the city. As indispensable to human life as water is, that system collapsed shortly after the war and has hitherto not been revived.
If our erstwhile colonial administrators were able to build railroads across Nigeria, and if General Yakubu Gowon was able to build an oil refinery in Kaduna and pipelines from Port Harcourt (in the East) to the refinery (in the North), I see no reason why we cannot build a network of water pipes and drain pipes across the Igbo homeland for delivering water to the cities and villages twenty-four-seven (= 24/7) and carrying off waste matter, respectively. A pipeline project of this sort takes time and money, but it’s not rocket science.
Question: If you are a fireman fighting fires at Aba, Umuahia, Okigwe, or Enugu without water and fire hydrants, are you and your colleagues better off with the pre-war water delivery system that made firefighting somewhat easier or with the water tanks that sprang up around the Igbo homeland in the aftermath of the Nigeria-Biafra War?
Case 4: Electricity Supply
With resources from coal, palm oil, palm kernel, and cocoa, the Government of Eastern Nigeria was able to supply its cities with electricity twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (= 24/7).
Today, the only thing that is constant is power outage and electric bills the subscribers pay monthly for services they are not provided with. As a result, a growing number of households and businesses across the Igbo homeland have two or three generators on their balconies for home and the workplace.
Question: If you live in the Igbo ancestral homeland, today, are you and your loved ones better off with the 24/7 service or with the payment of hydro bills you did not consume?
Case 5: Nurses and Patient Care
Nurses are the backbone of hospital care. They are as indispensable in that regard as doctors. Today, as we deal with the invisible enemy called COVID-19, nurses are at the war front with doctors. Can you imagine what a hospital (or residence for seniors) will look like without nurses and other caregivers?
Between 1960 and the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War, bed-side nurses and ward maids were responsible for monitoring inpatients, giving them medication prescribed by doctors, and taking care of their personal hygiene needs. Family members and friends of the patients were allowed to visit their loved ones in the wards from 16h00 to 19h00 daily.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (now Federal Medical Centre) at Umuahia, for example, was so well managed by the expatriate administrator that the hospital had a bicycle park (with roof) and full-time assistants for the convenience of the common man and woman.
The personal hygiene component of bed-side nursing was abandoned by nurses across the Igbo homeland after the war. Today, family members of the inpatients provide them with their personal hygiene needs.
Question: If you (or a member of your family) have (or had) been an inpatient in any of the hospitals (= healthcare establishments) in the Igbo homeland before and after the war, were you and the family member taken better care of by nurses before or after the war?
Case 6: Medical Treatment Abroad
Some Nigerians travel abroad for any specialized medical treatment that is not available in Nigeria. Others are flown abroad for such treatment by companies or the government.
Even though these compatriots are flown abroad, sometimes as a status symbol, they end up being treated by the same Igbo doctors who are specialists in their areas of need and would have seen and taken care of them at home if the world-class hospital we herein advocate had been built in the Igbo homeland.
Like the pipelines projects, it does not take a rocket scientist to demonstrate that we cannot be masters of our own destiny without such a facility amongst others.
In short, we have Igbo doctors abroad who are qualified to do the job and willing to serve their ancestral homeland in that regard. But they must be provided with the tools they need in a conducive environment devoid of the ills of the Igbo society.
Question: If you were one of the leaders of the Igbo homeland, today, would you fly ndi Igbo abroad for specialized treatment that is not available in Nigeria, or build an equivalent, state-of- the-art, world-class super hospital here in the Igbo homeland to take care of such needs?
Case 7: Road Maintenance before and after the War
Roads and highways in Eastern Nigeria were maintained by the Public Works Department (PWD) before and throughout the Nigeria-Biafra War. The full-time road maintenance PWD employees filled up pot holes, cleared gutters of debris for easy drainage after rainfall, and cut fast-growing grass on both sides of the road.
The need for its services notwithstanding, the PWD was axed at the end of the war along with thousands of jobs; consequently, the economic infrastructure of the Igbo homeland is no better today than it was then (= 50 years ago).
Question: If you are living in the Igbo homeland, today, are you and your loved ones better off with the PWD that took good care of our roads before the war or with the dismantling of the department after the war without a substitute? In other words, are Igbo homeland roads better today without the PWD or worse than they were in the days of the PWD?
Case 8: Igbo Homeland Environment
Life in the Igbo homeland is made possible by the plants, rivers, streams, lakes (= our fragile water resources), trees, animals, insects, birds, forests, etc. the ecologically conscious ndi Igbo share their environment with. Because the pre-war generations of Igbo speakers saw divinity in everything and understood the oneness of all things, they were aware of the interconnectedness between us and these elements of the Universe; consequently, they tried their best to maintain the delicate balance.
All that changed at the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War. Today, streams in the Igbo homeland are drying up prematurely. Some species of fruits, vegetables, and medicinal herbs indigenous to the Igbo homeland are in danger of extinction. And farm lands are polluted and impoverished by imported fertilizers and pesticides that are harmful to the environment and marine life.
Question: Are ndi Igbo and their homeland better off, today, with the looming ecological disaster (= the endangerment of these elements on which human life depends) or with healing the rupture between humans and nature that precipitated the disaster?
Case 9: Pension Payment
Pensioners are normal human beings like you. The difference between you and them is that they have paid their dues to the Igbo society, dues that you are still paying. The pre-war leaders of the Igbo society recognized that fact by paying retirees pension at regular intervals to enable them meet the basic costs of living and enjoy the rest of their lives.
That enjoyment and peace of mind is apparently unacceptable to the post-war leaders of the Igbo homeland. As a result, the pension payments are several months behind schedule. And the accumulated arrears are carried over from one month or year to another.
In Canada, retirees receive their pension cheques at the end of each month. If the end of the month is a weekend or public holiday, the payments are made a few days before.
Question: If you are one of these elderly pensioners, are you and the other old age pensioners better off with the pre-war regular payment of your pension or the post-war belated payment many of the pensioners do not live long enough to collect and enjoy before they die of hunger and starvation?
Case 10: Communication Lines
Before cellular phones, the universities, government agencies, and private companies in Eastern Nigeria had landlines (= land-based phones) anybody could call. And telephonists (= telephone operators) were available to connect the callers.
Today, in the Igbo homeland, these landlines have become extinct. A cellular phone subscriber has to know the cell phone number of the person he or she wants to speak to in a given office, department, institution, etc. And radio stations use several cell phones for phone-in programmes instead of a land-based telephone with several lines and extensions.
In North America where Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, cell phones have not replaced landlines. Appointments, for example, can be scheduled, rescheduled, confirmed, or cancelled altogether by phone. And 911 Emergency Lines exist for Police, Ambulances (with paramedics), and the Fire Service Department. Unlike the situation in the Igbo homeland, though, the phone numbers, without exception, are reachable 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Question: Are residents, businesses, and institutions in the Igbo homeland better off with the extinction of land-based phones compounded by the unreachability and network problems of their cell phones?
Case 11: Mail Delivery to Homes and Businesses
Mail delivery to homes and businesses is not luxury. It is an essential service residents of a city and businesses can, in no way, do without. That is why mails are delivered daily to homes and businesses in the Western countries even when postal workers are on strike.
Families depend on mail delivery; businesses depend on it; rural and urban communities depend on it; and government and its agencies depend on it, too. Without postal services and a suitable economic infrastructure, a city and its businesses cannot thrive and compete for foreign investment with other cities.
In the Igbo homeland, the postal system not only survived the war in tact; it remained relatively efficient until the 1980s. In those years, post offices were established in every city by the Post and Telegraph (P&T). And in the rural areas, postal agencies served the needs of villagers and their communities. The revenue-generating system collapsed when corruption rife within the P&T made the Nigerian crown corporation unsustainable.
Question: If you are living in the Igbo homeland, today, are you and your businesses better off with the suspension of the pre-war door-to-door mail delivery services?
Case 12: Igbo Markets and Market-Day Celebrations
The Igbo people have four cyclic market days named after the deities representing the four elements or the sign of the cross. Each of the market days is composed of a big (= full) market day and a small (= half full) market day. The eight market days so formed make up an Igbo week, the genesis of the Igbo indigenous calendar.
Every Igbo child is born on one of the four market days. Some kids are also named after the market day on which they were born.
Every Igbo community consisting of several villages has its own local market and market day that is celebrated when it falls on a Sunday, every two months. Generally, parents use the market days and the big events surrounding them to remember a lot of things, including the birthdays of their children. The market days and market-day celebrations are, thus, important components of the Igbo culture they help to keep alive.
Like the communities, every city in the Igbo homeland has one or more markets where the rich and the poor, from within and without the city, buy and sell everything that money can buy. One of such markets is the historic Umuahia market – an untouchable landmark in the Igbo culture.
The historic market at the service of mankind that received shoppers and visitors (heads of states, foreign dignitaries, friends of Biafra, etc.) from around the world when Umuahia became the provisional seat of the Government of Biafra after the fall of Enugu during the Nigeria-Biafra War was razed to the ground by the post-war leaders of the Igbo homeland on the pretext that it was being relocated. Umuahia was thus dispossessed of its lone historic market – all at the expense of the populace, the common people.
After Umuahia, the Owere New Market was bulldozed in a similar manner, amidst protests by the stakeholders. The popular markets did not only disappear from Umuahia and Owere; the disappearance took a heavy toll of human lives.
As destructive as it was, the Nigeria-Biafra War did less damage to the cities of Umuahia and Owere than the post-war leaders of the Igbo homeland have irreparably done to them and their inhabitants (= our own people).
Question: If you are a resident of Umuahia, a trader in Owere, or one of the store owners deprived of their licensed stores and means of livelihood in the two cities without compensation, are you better off with the razing of the markets against the wishes of the inhabitants of the two cities, of the communities they served, and of the petty traders whose lives and businesses depended on them?
Case 13: Payment of Workers’ Salaries
A worker deserves his or her wage. It is a matter of common sense and fair play. Before the Nigeria-Biafra War, employees in the private and public sectors across the Igbo homeland were paid their salaries monthly in arrears (= at the end of the period they worked). The regularity of the payments enabled the workers to make financial commitments and honour them. Nobody was owed a penny by his or her employer.
From one month belated payment after the war, the contagion spread across the Igbo homeland in no time and, before the workers realized what was happening, it had become the norm. Today, the payment of workers across the Igbo homeland is several months in arrears.
In some cases, the unpaid salary of workers in the public sector is embezzled by their superiors who take undue advantage of their positions of authority to intimidate and silence the employees thereafter. Elementary and secondary school teachers bore the brunt of the hardship occasioned by the ugly situation.
Question: If you are a wage earner in the Igbo homeland, today, are you better off with the payment of your monthly salary, stipend, allowance, etc. whenever it pleases your employer or boss?
From our villages and cities to our schools and colleges, and from mass transportation and rural development to the security and well-being of the Igbo homeland, the situation is the same: ndi Igbo are lost on the road to nowhere with no credible leadership and voice to give them direction.
Ndi Igbo are starving and dying in greater numbers today than during the Nigeria-Biafra War. Thousands of them are, in fact, dying of curable diseases because they cannot afford hospital bills that range from hundreds of thousands of Naira to over a million a handful of inhabitants of the Igbo homeland make in their lifetime.
The fabric of the Igbo society has fallen apart. Ndi Igbo living, working, and contributing to the economy of their city of residence in the Igbo homeland have been tagged personae non grata à la Nazi, laid off their jobs, and asked to go home as if they were alien residents (= resident foreigners). And in the name of the Igbo homeland, untold and irreparable damage is being done to them, to their families, and to their businesses – all without compensation. The rich amongst them is getting richer and richer; the poor, poorer and poorer. And the values and attributes that set the Igbo society apart as a peculiar nation in Africa are being desecrated and trampled underfoot. With such a situation, how can the Igbo homeland fare any better?
To be fair to the post-war leaders of the Igbo homeland, they may have done their best under the circumstances; however, doing one’s best is neither an acceptable plea for understanding on the part of the leaders nor consolation for the innocent victims of their failed and disastrous policies when the result that matters most is not good enough (see Aba, the industrial hub and economic powerhouse of Africa that used to epitomize the Igbo entrepreneurial spirit our post-war leaders have bastardized and reduced to nothingness).
Fifty years after the Nigeria-Biafra War (1970 – 2020), none of the successive leaders of the Igbo homeland (with the exception of the late Governor Samuel Mbakwe) has cared enough about the common people to provide them with water and electricity twenty-four-seven (= 24/7), despite the billions (= thousands of millions) of Naira given to the state and local governments, since the end of the war, for the development of the Igbo homeland. So, how will recycling one of the failed leaders (who are all billionaires at the expense of the people they were supposed to serve) or their political cronies as president or vice-president of Nigeria someday be advantageous to the Igbo homeland, given their fifty years of zero concern for the welfare of the people, and fifty years of abusing their patience with impunity?
We should, perhaps, blame ourselves for handing the leadership of the Igbo homeland over to the youth too soon after the Nigeria-Biafra War. On the other hand, the post-war leaders should have buried the responsibility underground for zero dividend, as one of the biblical talent recipients did, and left the Igbo homeland and its establishments as they were before the war instead of mothballing, liquidating, destroying, or defacing them beyond recognition.
In other words, the Nkalagu Cement Factory, the Obudu Cattle Ranch, the Oji River Power Station, the Golden Guinea Breweries (Umuahia), the Aba Textile Mills, the Star Beer Breweries (Aba), the Nsu and Umuahia Ceramic Industries, the Enugu Coal Mines, the Avutu Poultry Farm (Obowo), the Nsu Tiles Industry (Ehime), the Ikeduru Aluminum Industry, the Owere Cardboard Packaging Industry, the Mbaise Paint Industry, the Aba Glass Industry, the Mission-owned and operated colleges across the Igbo homeland, the farm settlements and palm plantations of the Eastern Nigerian Development Corporation (ENDC), and much more – all should have, at least, been left for us as they were before the war, including the thousands of jobs they created for our people.
Because it is always easier to destroy than to build anything, the post-war leaders of the Igbo homeland chose the former over the latter and left most of the industrial projects of Sam Mbakwe and his predecessors moribund.
The situation reminds me of the perceptive Igbo woman who humorously requested that one of the colonial officials of Nigeria be allowed to remain behind for her at the time Nigeria got her independence from Britain in 1960 because she had no confidence in the ability and willingness of Nigerians to govern the country well for the common people. Sixty years later, events have proved her right.
Perhaps the Igbo homeland is drifting rudderlessly (= aimlessly without direction or control) because the President of Nigeria and the governors of the Igbo homeland are non-Igbo. It is very convenient to blame our blunders and misdeeds on Nigeria.
Part D. Meditations on Biafra: Land of the Rising Sun
At this point, I have a word or two for our Biafran agitators and their leaders, a word or two they can take cognizance of or ignore at their peril. I therefore urge them to read my message with an open mind and examine the logic of my arguments carefully before they react to it.
With the incredible damage (see cases 1 – 13) your own dispensation has done to the Igbo homeland since the end of the war, in what way will the Biafra you are agitating for be better than Nigeria without water and electricity 24/7? How will the Biafra you envisage be better than Nigeria without regular payment of workers’ salaries and the pension of retirees? And in what way will that Biafra you are agitating for be better than Nigeria by flying Biafrans abroad for medical treatment instead of building an equivalent, state-of-the-art, super hospital in the Igbo homeland and providing our people with affordable healthcare and equality of opportunity?
For a country to prosper, there must be law and order. How will Biafra be better than Nigeria without a Rule of Law and a Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect our people against abuse of power? In what way will Biafra be better than Nigeria with two- or three-year rent payment in advance your own dispensation sees nothing wrong with instead of providing Biafran tenants with affordable housing? And how will Biafra, its homes, cities, businesses, and institutions be better than Nigeria in this information technology age without land-based telephone lines and door-to-door mail delivery services?
Is agitating for Biafra while the Igbo homeland and society are being destroyed by our post-war leaders a more pragmatic approach to the problems of ndi Igbo than taking the leaders to task for the destruction and demanding immediate and unconditional restoration and expansion of the establishments and amenities highlighted in cases 1 – 13 for the comfort and well-being of our people?
Ironically, the post-war leaders in question claim to have served the Igbo homeland well, since nobody stoned them when they were at the helm of the Igbo society, or held them accountable for their misrule (= misgovernment) thereafter. They had the opportunity to fix the Igbo homeland for the general good of our people. They did not. They had the resources to help our people survive the unprecedented hardship of post-war life in the Igbo homeland (= hunger, poverty, sickness, etc.). They chose to leave them to starve and die (see cases 1 – 13). Now, they are blaming the youth roaming the streets, the wheelbarrow pushers, the unemployed college graduates, etc. for not hurling rocks at them.
If Biafra had re-emerged in the last ten to twenty years, what would have prevented its leaders from corrupting, rubbishing, or bastardizing it as our post-war leaders have done unto the Igbo homeland? Since Biafra would have transformed the Igbo homeland into the earthly paradise it was meant to be, what prevented your leadership from using the legendary Biafran ingenuity to accomplish a lot in that regard alongside the agitation and, ipso facto, save the thousands of Biafrans that did not have to die before the re-emergence?
Like the well-being of our people, in general, those of the soldiers who fought on our side during the Nigeria-Biafra War, in particular, should also be our collective responsibility, with or without Biafra. Some of them fought and died so that we may live; other survived the war and are living in abject poverty today.
So, is the agitation for Biafra more helpful to the soldiers than mounting pressure on the post-war leaders of the Igbo homeland prior to, or alongside the agitation, for aid programmes that would have taken care of the needs of the veterans and their families over the years in appreciation of their sacrifice? In fact, as I write this message, hundreds of images of Biafran veterans in dire need of help have flashed through my mind. One of them, in particular, has been on crutches since 2019 because he cannot afford 1.4 million Naira for hip-replacement surgery in the Igbo homeland.
Fifty years after the war, we are still telling the maimed soldiers begging for alms on some of our roads to go in peace and await the re-emergence of the Biafra they fought and got maimed for. That is tantamount to expecting the enemy they fought gallantly against to take care of them for us, pending the re-emergence of Biafra. This is not right. And time is running out for our belated gesture of appreciation.
Biafra is a worthy alternative to Nigeria because Nigerian leaders lack the courage and the will to accommodate the changes ndi Igbo, as one of the founding nations of Nigeria, have for years been demanding to enable them develop their ancestral homeland as they wish. However, if the track record of the youth dispensation is a video of what the Biafra is going to be like, in what way or manner will it be better than Nigeria when it re-emerges?
In what way will Biafra be better than Nigeria when the youth leading the Igbo homeland today, and those aspiring to be the leaders tomorrow, are pretentious Pharisees, hawks among eagles, self-serving megalomaniacs issuing fatwas condemning our people to death à la Ayatollah Khomeini and, above all, products of the same Nigerian predicament?
Will Biafra be better than Nigeria (a) by embezzling and facilitating the embezzlement of public funds for selfish ends (acquiring property at home and abroad, stashing money away in foreign bank accounts, etc.), (b) by using the funds for the economic security and social welfare of the Igbo homeland, or (c) by providing no such assistance to Biafrans in need – the sick, the elderly, the unemployed, the underprivileged, the disadvantaged members of the Igbo society, etc.?
Before you preach the gospel according to Biafra to our people, you need to whet their collective appetite for it, first, by telling them what Biafra holds in store (= what life in Biafra will be like) for them.
Finally, if Biafra were to re-emerge today, how will the vices engrained in the mentality, the subconscious of the militants and their leaders make the young republic a better country than Nigeria, innumerable vices that have done more damage to the Biafran cause than our detractors would have imagined in their wildest dreams? Will the vices be left behind in Nigeria or carried over to Biafra? And how does the youth dispensation intend to remedy the inexcusable errors of its administration and indemnify innocent victims and their families accordingly?
We can criticize and blackmail Nigeria from now until the world freezes, but the leaders of the Igbo society treat our people no better than Nigeria does, as evidenced by the facts herein exposed. We are simply being hypocritical in that regard.
Fifty years after the Nigeria-Biafra War, our people are no better off in their ancestral homeland, today, than they were before the war. They are moaning and groaning under excessive hardship, moaning and groaning their disapproval of the post-war leaders of the Igbo homeland who are busy hosting the worst states in Nigeria, proscribing the IPOB meaninglessly, embracing the Fulani herdsmen and their cows, and erecting statues across the Igbo homeland while our people are starving to death. What does that tell you about the much vaunted knowledge of ndi Igbo that does not translate into visionary leadership?
How can you, the youth, continue to point the finger of blame at Nigeria or the post-war leaders of the Igbo homeland when you are not different from them today and will do what they do if you were to have the opportunity?
What distinguishes you from the post war leaders when you easily sell your soul and conscience to your oppressors for political leverage or material luxuries, turn against the cause you once believed in and agitated for and, without qualms, betray the allies with whom you were fighting a common enemy?
Biafra may re-emerge in five, ten, fifteen, twenty, or more years from today. It may also not re-emerge in our lifetime or the foreseeable future, depending on how we go about it. Between now and whenever it will come to pass, thousands of Biafrans alive today will continue to die unnecessarily in the Igbo homeland every year because of excessive hardship while we are in a position to sustain and keep alive everybody except those destiny has decided to call back home.
To give every Biafran alive today a better chance of witnessing and embracing the much anticipated re-emergence, verbal assurances of what the Biafra will or will not be like are not enough to secure their lives and allay their deeply rooted fears and skepticism relative thereto.
Biafra is neither a panacea (= cure all) for the problems and tribulations of ndi Igbo and their homeland nor a magic wand any hypocrite can wave to transform the Igbo homeland into an earthly paradise overnight, as some of the Biafran agitators erroneously believe (or are made to believe). It is essentially a river we cannot cross before we get there.
Whether or not we would get there, we need to better the lives and lifespan of our disoriented people, give them hope as Nehemiah did for his Jewish people, and move them to or towards a brighter future by (i) ameliorating the hellish and unacceptable condition under which they live in the Igbo homeland today, (ii) raising their living standards, and (iii) providing them with essential life-saving amenities and services that should ideally precede rather than follow the re-emergence of Biafra.
Such services and amenities must include those herein highlighted, security of life and property, and no less rights and freedoms than those enjoyed by the citizens of the freest and most generous country in the West (= Europe and America).
For a people who have historically served as sacrificial lambs for the unity of their country, nothing can be more important to Biafrans alive today than that (= rebuilding the Igbo homeland and society they used to know and be exceedingly proud of). Besides, enough resources exist already in the Igbo homeland to enable us accomplish that now, without further delay.
Since Biafra will not avail you after you are dead, redeeming and fixing the Igbo homeland for the well-being (= health, happiness, prosperity, security, peace of mind, comfortable and stress-free life, etc.) of ndi Igbo does not preclude the re-emergence of Biafra; consequently, the latter does not have to happen before the former. They are complementary rather than mutually exclusive approaches to the problems of the Igbo people.
Instead of enjoying such a comfortable life, our people are suffering and dying because the resources in question are being harnessed and misused by the misguided and unconscionable post-war leaders who plundered the Igbo homeland, dismantled its pre-war establishments, and turned their backs on the foundations laid by the Eastern Nigerian Government for the economic and social development of the region.
The same folly is more than likely to happen in Biafra, even with the best of intentions on the part of the agitators and their leaders; consequently, we will take nothing for granted in that regard. A person bitten by a snake in the Igbo culture dreads an earthworm.
We would rather remain where we are and suffer perpetually than end up with a half-baked, non egalitarian Biafra that will be similar to or worse than Nigeria. So, as you agitate for Biafra, be aware that ndi Igbo are no longer willing to be lured into the lobster trap blindfolded, or fooled into believing that Biafra will miraculously be better for them than Nigeria.
Before we jump off the cliff, therefore, we will have a close look at the place we are jumping into. We are not going to put the cart before the horse and leap before we look. In other words, we will regret the regrettable error before we commit it.
In sum, ndi Igbo want to be shown the proof that Biafra will be better for them and their posterity, seven generations down the road, than Nigeria when all the actors in the rape and impoverishment of the Igbo homeland (= the destruction of all the things that bind us together as a people) are ironically Biafrans. And so far, none of the governors of the Igbo homeland or the leaders of the various militant organizations jockeying for emperorship, ministerial positions, and power (they will be ineligible for in a level playing field) ahead of the actualization of Biafra, has been able to do that.
Baring the sudden collapse of Nigeria, the agitation for Biafra is doomed to failure if it is not accompanied by the rebuilding of the Igbo society and homeland à la Nehemiah.
Part E. Elders of the Igbo Homeland: Skilled but Wanting
He who killed a spotted dog on the pretext that it resembled a leopard, for what reason did he kill the one that resembled an eagle? So goes a popular Igbo proverb. The destruction of the Igbo homeland is one of the unfortunate legacies of the post-war leaders of the Igbo Nation; however, we cannot attribute all the problems of the Igbo homeland to them, exclusively. Because our post-war elders are not entirely blameless in that regard, I will not mask or overlook their faults and shortcomings lest there be any doubt about their complicity in the aggravation of the Igbo homeland situation.
Traditionally, our elders are the guardians of the Igbo ancestral homeland. In every community, they quietly monitor the acquisition of wealth by their sons and daughters. The elders interrogate members of the community they suspect of involvement in illegal or criminal activities like drug abuse, stealing, armed robbery, killing, etc. that will tarnish the image of their families and bring the name of the community into disrepute. In addition, the elders impose sanctions on any member of the community who commits a crime against the homeland and, in extreme cases, ostracize and banish criminals from the community. The elders guard the purity of the Igbo homeland against contamination. Their word is their bond, the word of our ancestors.
Like the French philosophes of the 18th century (= the Age of Enlightenment), Igbo elders have the ability to sense the pulse of their communities. They recognize truth as truth, falsehood as falsehood, and abomination as abomination. In short, they are men and women of calibre and integrity, the salt of the Igbo homeland and, above all, old souls that reincarnated and carried the Igbo homeland forward over the years. Such was the reputation and role of the elders of the Igbo homeland until the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War.
Much to the consternation of ndi Igbo at home and abroad, the sense of responsibility of Igbo elders today is a far cry from that of their astute predecessors. The Igbo elders of today have degenerated to the point that under their watchful eyes, an animal (a goat, for example) is left on a leash while delivering its young one – an abomination in the Igbo culture.
Before the watchful eyes of the elders, too, evil is laying eggs everywhere on the Igbo soil today, eggs it never had the slightest chance to lay at the time of our fathers and forefathers. The current generation of Igbo elders bury their heads in the sand and pretend not to see the evil that imposes a burden on the conscience of men and women of goodwill. I should, perhaps, remind them here that “the hottest places in hell,” according to Dante, “are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.”
Instead of questioning and sanctioning the youth who suddenly becomes filthy rich overnight with no verifiable jobs or legitimate sources of income to justify the opulence, the community elders, today, are implicitly aiding and abetting illegal acquisition of wealth by decorating shady characters with traditional chieftaincy titles. In some cases, the chieftaincy title is conferred on the highest bidder.
These aberrations do not comport with the position of elder in the Igbo culture, and for good reason. The decorations, for example, put undue pressure on other members of the Igbo society to enrich themselves by fair means or foul and be similarly decorated. The vicious cycle thus continues ad infinitum.
The repugnant practices are, therefore, detrimental to the Igbo society. We are witnessing them more and more because of transformations that took place in the psyche of the Igbo youth during the war, causing them to be prematurely propelled to the position of elder far beyond their level of maturity and sober thought after the war. As a result, they are not only wanting in leadership and imagination; they lack the wisdom and depth of knowledge that enabled our ancestors to assume (= wear) the mantle of leadership of the Igbo society over the years and held the homeland together until they handed the leadership over to the youth after the war. The Igbo society started to fall apart thereafter as open corruption became fashionable amongst the youth.
On the women side, the elders of today are as wanting in many respects as their male counterparts. The pre-war women elders of the Igbo society were well organized and tough-minded women who knew the type of society they wanted for themselves and their families and worked together to build and maintain it uniformly across the Igbo homeland until the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War.
Best known worldwide for the Aba Women’s Riot of November-December 1929 that predates the Women’s Liberation Movement (= Feminist Movement) of Simone de Beauvoir and Women’s Suffrage (= the right of women to vote), the pre-war generation of women elders retired from active service in the Igbo homeland at the end of the war and handed the leadership of Igbo women affairs to the new breed or younger generation.
Shortly thereafter, some of the local markets (amongst other things) started to collapse. And the celebration of the market days began to fade. The decay of the sense of responsibility for the local markets amongst the new breed of women elders finally enabled western ideas to creep into our value system and destroy the market-day cultural festivals we inherited from our ancestors and other observances relative thereto that remind us of our oneness as a people and our belonging to a community.
It is interesting to note that the pre-war women elders of the Igbo society would have rebelled against the leadership of the Igbo homeland and mobilized as they did in 1929 to stop the destruction of the Umuahia and Owere markets they guarded jealously over the years.
Like the elders, the autonomous communities and villages that accept bags of rice, cows, millions of Naira, and other gifts from politicians in exchange for support, authorize the acceptance thereof on their behalf, condone and encourage such practices, partake in sharing such gifts, or allow themselves to be suborned in these or other ways – all are enablers and spoilers of the Igbo homeland. So, where do we go from here?
Despite the stark realities of life in the Igbo homeland today that make our mission seemingly hopeless, it’s not all doom and gloom. We are undaunted by the enormity of the task and confident of eventual success. We did not undertake the journey to document the Igbo language and culture, clean up the societal mess, and sanitize the Igbo homeland for the highest good of the greatest number of Igbo speakers because it is easy and painless; we undertook the journey because it is difficult and tortuous.
Part F. By Way of Conclusion: Our Urgent Need for your Support
Life on earth is short. Nobody lives forever. And time waits for no one. Ndi Igbo have suffered and died enough unnecessarily because the post-war leaders of the Igbo homeland who had the power and authority to change their lives chose to leave them to suffer and die (see cases 1 – 13).
This is the most abusive violation of their oath of office (= to defend the Igbo homeland and protect the lives and property of our people) that I can imagine. And there is no foreseeable end in sight for the suffering because oppressors do not voluntarily have a change of heart and stop oppressing their subjects. They are never tired of subjecting the oppressed to abject poverty, a life of misery. They never refrain from doing evil. So, how long can our people simmer with anger before they reach the limit of their patience and boil over? The time has come to give them a well-deserved reprieve.
A person whose father is a butcher in the Igbo culture, does not eat bone. Today, things are so hard for the common people across the Igbo homeland that the children of butchers see no bones to reject, let alone eat the boneless cuts of meat! All is not well! Our people, men and women, young and old, are suffering excessively when we have enough resources to alleviate the man-made suffering, eradicate poverty across the Igbo homeland, and free them from hunger and starvation. And we cannot pretend ignorance of the unconscionable situation.
If you and your loved ones are better off with the way things are in the Igbo homeland, today, you are whole and in need of no physician. If, on the other hand, you and your loved ones are worse off, you have an obligation to help us reclaim and rebuild the Igbo homeland before it degenerates beyond redemption, or our narrow window of opportunity for fixing it closes.
Do you have a heart? Does the condition of the Igbo homeland bother you as much as it bothers us? Can you justify your apparent indifference to the situation in good conscience? Have we not wandered enough in the wilderness as a people and floundered around in the dark for too long in search of the elusive promised land? Before you sleep tonight, ponder on these questions and act accordingly. Our people are dying while you delay.
Whether you are rich or poor, young or advanced in age, educated or uneducated, a civil servant or a self-employed entrepreneur, a business man or a market woman, a CEO of a company or a philanthropist in search of a noble cause to invest in, etc. (no one or occupation is excluded), you have an obligation to help us reclaim the Igbo ancestral homeland and change the course of the Igbo society in such a way that it will work for you and your children, for the children of your children (= grandchildren), and for the children of your grandchildren (= great grandchildren) up to and beyond the seventh generation.
With your widow’s mite, you can facilitate the restoration of our ancestral homeland to its pre-war glory and the alleviation of the man-made suffering the like of which has never been seen in the Igbo homeland. With a tiny fraction of your fortune, you can invest in the security and well-being of ndi Igbo and their posterity. You and your organization can also support or sponsor selected aspects of our Igbo Heritage Preservation Initiatives, in particular, the seminal dictionary (in the making) – an exceptional initiative that addresses a compelling need in the Igbo culture.
These are capital intensive, special interest projects like no other that call for meagre investment on the part of every son or daughter of the Igbo homeland, each according to his or her ability. You will find no better opportunity to help rebuild the Igbo homeland à la Nehemiah and enshrine your name in the annals of the Igbo Nation than this. Please send a brief email to the NNIF project coordinator in this or other regards at email@example.com.
This is not only our chance to fix the Igbo homeland right, once and for all, or hold our collective peace forever; it is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you to be part of history in the making because we are in this battle for the heart and soul of the Igbo homeland together.
Our post-war leaders have perverted the Igbo society and destroyed the establishments that held us together as a people to the extent that no pillar of the land and culture of our ancestors will remain standing a few years from now if we do nothing to safeguard the situation. We are perilously close to our own destruction and, by implication, close to losing Biafra and our ancestral homeland as well. So, let’s go for it! Igwe, as our people say, bu ike. All hands on deck! Oge eruwo!
By the way, before I terminate this message and let you go, I would like to remind you all of the following offensive situation that insults our collective intelligence as ndi Igbo, a peculiar nation. The Igbo homeland is blessed with mineral resources, fertile lands for agriculture, good weather year round, and abundant rainfall and sunshine. In addition, we have no natural disasters like freezing rain and blizzards, hurricanes and tornados, earthquakes and tsunamis, landslides and volcanic eruptions, etc. to contend with.
In spite of these blessings, our people are living a life of misery in the midst of abundance and dying for the sins of the post-war wreckers, plunderers, and looters of the Igbo homeland who do not give a damn about their welfare. Does the situation make sense to you? I presume that it does not. And that you would like us to put an end to the nonsense. Your choice then is to be or not to be a part of the solution because it calls for concerted action without delay on our part.
We thank you for your support and help and, as usual, welcome your questions and suggestions.
The Nihi Ndi Igbo Foundation
NOTE: Please draw the attention of every Igbo person you know to this message.