I grew up with Igbo people. In fact, my best friend for a long while as a child was from Ohafia, he was Igbo. But ever since my childhood I had been regaled with the stories of the ‘Igbo suffering’ in Nigeria.
Most of these stories had been so hard to believe that I used to thank God as an innocent and very naive child that we were not Igbo.
Uche used to tell me stories, obviously from his parents, of how the Igbo man was a second rate citizen in the country. How the ban on stockfish popularly known as ‘okporoko’ was targeted at them. Also, how the ban on second hand clothes better known as ‘okrika’ was a devious policy of economic asphyxiation for the Igbo man.
As I grew older and started to understand better, the stories got more realistic. Awolowo was the ‘devil’ his post war policies as the then economic honcho was directed at the Igbo people. The 20 pounds matter, the issue of abandoned property and the rest was targeted at keeping the Igbo man down.
The stories, although veering more towards ‘folktales’ were colorful. Igbos were Jews. They could trace their origins to Israel. The average Nigerian is afraid of the Igbos because of their aggressive merchandising tendencies hence the need to keep them down. The Igbo man fought the Civil War almost with his bare hands and all sort of other stories.
Today, the lopsided policies of the Buhari administration seem to lend credence to this assertion leading to the emboldening of the call for separation- Biafra.
The fact that the Igbo man has held several strategic positions including even the Governor of Nigeria’s most economically vibrant state- Lagos just a few years after the Civil War has done nothing to diminish this position of Igbo marginalization. Igbos have held so many strategic positions including the second position both in Military and Civilian Governments continue to elude the strong proponents of the marginalization theory.
I sat recently with a prominent Igbo professional. He went practical. He wondered why Customs would stand at Ore to seize Igbo luxury cars after allowing them to be cleared at the sea ports. He felt the people of the South-South were not thorough enough to stand by the Igbo man in his quest to face the northern oligarchy.
He talked about the ‘betrayal’ of the Igbos by the Yorubas of the South West during the Civil War and again during the 2015 elections. For him the Igbo cry for Biafra was just a symbol of the average Igbo man’s angst with the system and not a pragmatic move for separation, hence the lack of Igbo elitist support for the push.
As he spoke, he mentioned one or two transactions he was doing in ‘Abuja’ forgetting that if the marginalization was deliberate and real, he would not even as an Igbo man be in such talks at the level he was and with the sensitive nature of the transaction.
So, my position. I think the theory of the Igbo marginalization is cloudy smoke propagated by the lazy and ‘not focused’ igbo leadership who by their own doing continue to lose out in the scheme of things. To cover their shame, they forge these stories to justify their seeming inability to deliver to their people.
You see democracy is a game of numbers, negotiations, consultations and bridge building. The Igbo elites seem to better understand how to build alliances towards the second position rather than towards leadership. The Igbo elites would rather throw up the ‘worst’ of it rather than its brightest leaders. So, the present crop of governors and compare them in depth and standing with the successive Governors of Lagos or with a Seyi Makinde or with a Fayose or with a Nasir El -Rufai and maybe a Zulum.
This is why I am taking a keen interest in the governorship contest in Anambra. The quality on show seems to be breaking out. The impressive line up is beginning to look like the Igbo elites are waking up from a deep slumber. The quality on show is Nobel Prize worthy.
Culled From Ripples Nigeria