LEADERSHIP IN IGBO SOCIETY: ANALYSIS, CHALLENGES AND
EKWE NCHE ORGANIZATION
LAW and ORDER COMMITTEE
Ndi Igbo, men, women and children, we salute you.
The little boy or girl playing in front of papa's house, the young school
child listening attentively to the teacher in an overcrowded classroom, the
college and university student reduced to 001, 100, 010 feeding schedule,
the university graduate who has been looking for a job unsuccessfully for
five years and who as a last resort has become an Okada cab or wheelbarrow
pusher at the tollgate, the market woman who wakes up before the cockcrows
and toils at her market stall till sundown to scratch out a few naira to buy
food for her children, the man of the house who watches in total confusion
and despair as the business he toiled all his life to build dissolves before
his very eyes reducing him to almost the status of a beggar, the university
professor who despite being one of the brightest minds in the world, knows
painfully well that he cannot drive his dilapidated car because he
cannot afford to replace one burst tire, the trader in Aba, Umuahia,
Onitsha, Enugu, Awka, Nsukka, Abakaliki, Lagos, Jos, Calabar, Port
Harcourt, Benin, Makurdi, Maidugiri, Kano, Yola, Kaduna, Abuja, Sokoto,
Zaria, Lome, Kumba, Cotonu, and other markets who travel all over the
world striving hard to bring goods to his customers, the civil servant
who despite earning subsistent monthly salary that does not last two full
weeks continues to work, the young Igbo man and woman who cannot marry,
rent a flat, buy his or her own car, build a house or even feed himself
or herself because nobody has bothered to provide any jobs for them, the
man who sings the praises of one crook or another, the politician who
constantly tells his people that things are or will be alright, the
traditional ruler who has been busy selling titles to even those who
committed genocide against Ndiigbo, we salute you all, Men, Women, and
children, young and old, strong and weak, EKWE NCHE salutes you all.
EKWE NCHE has spent hundreds of hours studying and analyzing the life of
Ndiigbo in the context of living in Nigeria in the past 56 years. We
asked numerous questions and sought to understand certain things about
1.) Why did British governments from as far back as the time of Lord
Lugard through the government of Harold Wilson, during Biafra hate
2.) Why have Ndiigbo been the target of violent physical attacks and
looting of property in Jos 1945; Kano, 1953; all over Northern Nigeria,
1966; Western, parts of Midwestern Nigeria and Lagos, 1967; Lagos 1993
3.) Why are Ndiigbo the most willing of all ethnic groups to spend huge
amounts of personal fortune developing towns outside Igbo heartland in
places like Kaduna, Lagos, Zaria, Sokoto, Benin, Kano, Markudi, Jos
building hospitals, schools, hotels, markets, industries, despite the
fact that Ndiigbo are not the wealthiest ethnic group in Nigeria?
4.) Why do they spend so much money developing other people's homes while
leaving their homeland undeveloped?
5.) Why are Igbo political leaders the greatest advocates of Nigerian
Nationalism (strong united Nigeria, e.g. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, despite
being the losers for it, while political leaders of other ethnic
groups espouse primarily Ethnic Nationalism, e.g. Chief Obafemi
Awolowo, who never believed in Nigeria and would sacrifice Nigeria for
the benefit of the West; Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto
never believed in Nigeria and would sacrifice Nigeria for the North.
Both were great Ethnic Nationalists who never believed in Nigeria.)?
6.) Why do current Igbo political leaders seem to be going down the same
path of Nigerian Nationalism despite the hardship, suffering and death
Ndiigbo have been subjected to because of their belief in a strong
These are just a few of the hard questions we have been asking and
trying to find answers to. Why do we consider it important to do this?
Maka na Igbo kwuru si na onye amaghi ebe mmiri bido mawa ya, amagi ama
ebe onyakoro ahu.
From the colonial government into self-government and independence,
Nigerian political leaders have told Ndi Igbo: if you worked hard,
acquired good education, technical skills, were honest, enterprising and
above all believed in the unity of Nigeria, you will be rewarded and you
will be successful and happy. And so Ndiigbo swarmed universities,
polytechnics and colleges in Nigeria, Europe and the Americas and
acquired Western education and technological skills in ways never before
seen in Africa. You joined the civil service in large numbers moving and
delivering letters intact and on time, you became railway engine drivers
and made the trains run often-on time, technologists kept the water taps
running and electricity supply constant, you became teachers and
traveled long distances away from your homes to educate children of
other ethnic origins. Often you challenged British imperialists who did
not want certain parts of the country to be exposed to good education.
You became engineers, technicians and laborers and built roads, bridges
that opened up many interior parts of Nigeria. Often you worked under
very harsh and difficult conditions. You fanned out to all parts of
Nigeria delivering goods and services to people even at the remotest
parts of the country. You took your wives and children with you. You
built schools, hospitals, and industries and employed indigenes of the
communities where you lived to work and earn a living. You learned and
spoke their languages, adopted some of their customs and even married
their women. You did all these things because you honestly believed in
One Nigeria, One Nation, One Destiny. No other ethnic group comes even
close to making the effort to weld Nigeria into one nation as you did.
Did Nigerian leaders reward your noble effort?
You bet they did! By organizing the killing of Ndiigbo and looting of
their property in Jos 1945, Kano 1953. They did by planning and executing
the most barbaric pogrom on Ndiigbo in May, July and September 1966
resulting in the killing of some 50,000 men, women, and children
including the unprecedented barbarism of slitting open the bellies of
pregnant Igbo women and then killing the unborn fetus - the most
abominable crime in human history. They did by chasing you out of the
towns, schools, hospitals, industries that you had built in their
communities. They did by refusing you employment in their civil service
in Northern and Western Nigeria. They did by employing expatriates in the
civil service in Northern Nigeria rather than employing you. They did by
looting your shops and personal effects in Northern and Western Nigeria
and seizing and distributing your houses, land and industries in of all
places Port Harcourt an Igbo land, and other riverine towns to their
cronies and agents. They did by even forcing Igbo in some parts of Igbo
land to declare that they were not Igbo and even go as far as changing
the names of their towns and villages to only God knows what. No they
were not done with rewarding you. They had to pursue you to your country
homes, your villages and destroy even that last bit you had there as well
as starve to death about four million of your innocent women, old men and
children. The Igbo holocaust has no equal in the history of modern
Africa. Then they made sure that you didn't have any money to start life
all over again. They rewarded your high educational achievement by
chasing your highly qualified and efficient administrators away from
higher institutions in places like Lagos and Ibadan. They did by starving
your schools of funds and institutionalizing policies that guaranteed
employment to mediocres, non-skilled cronies and rabble rousers rather
than to those of you who are skilled, qualified and knowledgeable in your
fields. Thus they effectively rendered your education and skills
irrelevant. They have rewarded you by making sure that your sons and
daughters will never rise to certain ranks in the Army, Air force, Navy,
Police, Immigration, Customs etc. If they could, they would have rewarded
you by limiting your movement in and outside Nigeria. They had planned to
do so but couldn't quite figure out how to do it. Oh yes, Ndiigbo see how
Nigeria has rewarded you for your belief in One Nigeria, your educational
attainment, your technical skill, hard work, industry, entrepreneurial
power and your willingness to cast off retrogressive policies and
practices. Ndiigbo, Nigeria gave you these rewards because you were very
good Nigerian nationalists, you believed strongly in One Nigeria, One
Nation, One Destiny.
But what about those who did not believe in One Nigeria for a second?
How did Nigeria reward or punish them?
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the undisputed leader of the Yoruba together with
his followers believed that Nigeria was a mere geographical expression.
They believed staunchly in protecting the interest of the Yoruba Nation.
For not believing in One Nigeria, the Yoruba Nation has been rewarded
with control of the Nigerian economy, the civil service, scores of
industries, huge infrastructural development in Lagos including
expressways, flyovers, most modern port facility etc., and a large chunk
of the Nigerian army. The AD and Afenifere has made sure that the reward
continues in the current Obasanjo administration. Chief Awolowo and his
followers are Yoruba Nationalists.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto and his followers believed that
North should be for Northerners, West for Westerners, East for Easterners
and the Federation for us all (where ever the federation is). Almost all
the Northern leaders of today are staunch followers of Ahmadu Bello
except the few followers of Alhaji Aminu Kano and J.S. Tarka.
How did Nigeria reward the Hausa/Fulani Nationalists?
Easy! Nigeria gave them gave them control of the army, the police and
other uniformed organizations. Nigeria gave them total control of the
billions of dollars earned yearly from sale of crude oil and natural gas
ironically located in Eastern and Mid-Western Nigeria. They were rewarded
with control of a big chunk of the civil service as well as scores of
industries. They were even rewarded with money printing machines with
which they could print all the money they wanted.
And so Western and Northern Nigeria political leaders who did not
believe in the unity of the Nigerian federation have often been given
control of the instruments of government of the federation while Eastern
political leaders who have been strong believers in the primacy of the
federation of Nigeria has been shunted aside. Is it ironical? Is it
confusing? You answer for yourself.
Ndiigbo, if you pay close attention to what has been happening in
Nigeria in the past 50 years, you wouldn't feel so confused. On many
occasions the north threatened to break away from the federation if they
were not given what they demanded. Each time they got exactly what they
demanded. During the Lyttleton Constitution of 1954, the Northern House
of Chiefs and the Northern House of Assembly passed an eight point
resolution demanding that they be allocated 92 of the 184 seats in the
Federal House of Representatives. They insisted that if that was not done
Nigeria will immediately transform into a confederation or customs union
in which each of the three regions will enjoy almost sovereign status
with the right to make their own laws without approval of the federal
government, maintain a separate judiciary, and public service etc. The
British, West and East governments agreed and the North dropped its
demand for a confederation or customs union. They blatantly rigged the
federal election of 1959 and installed Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa prime
minister. They rigged it again in 1964 and as usual forced Zik to install
Abubakar prime minister. During the constitutional conference of 1966/67
they insisted on a confederation but changed to a federation with a
strong central government when they were advised by the British, to
change their stand since they were already in control of the instrument
of power and government. They did and had their way.
In 1999 after the death of General Abacha, the West made a veiled threat
to break away from the federation if they were not given the reins of
power. The North quickly handed over the government to Olusegun Obasanjo.
When you Ndiigbo demanded self-determination, basic freedom to be left
alone to run your life, in 1967, the North and the West teamed up and
slaughtered millions of you like dogs.
Ndiigbo what has changed for you in 40 years?
Ndiigbo, after the most horrible and humiliating experience of the past
33 years, it is time for you to take a close philosophical and pragmatic
look at the direction you have been going in Nigeria. For being the most
patriotic Nigerians, the greatest defenders of Nigerian unity you have
been discriminated against, your highly qualified sons and daughters have
been pushed out of their jobs, your houses and other property have been
confiscated and given out to cronies as war booty, your wealth carefully
preserved in banks has been stolen by government, your roads and bridges
have been neglected and turned into death traps, your schools and
colleges have virtually collapsed out of neglect, your wives and
daughters have been raped and carried away as booty, your men have been
slaughtered in their millions, your young men have been rendered
uneducated, unemployed and financially emasculated, commerce and
entrepreneurship have been made so difficult that you have to sweat blood
to earn every naira, your society has been pauperized and thrown into
cultural chaos. Hunger, poverty, disease, squalor, insecurity of life and
property, premature death has become your bedfellows. The Igbo who
never begged because it was a thing of honor and pride to be able to pay
for whatever one wanted has become a beggar. Ndiigbo, things have
seriously fallen apart for you. In what aspect of life are you better off
today (1999) than you were in 1965? When people tell you that things are
getting better, ask them "better for who?"; when they say, don't worry, we
are in charge now, ask them "in charge of what?"; when they say, our
political party is in control and has power, tell them that is it not
totally and completely apparent and clear that the Yoruba and
Hausa-Fulani are in control of economic and political power in Nigeria.
When they tell you that power belongs to the political party, tell them
that it is a lie. Tell them that IN IGBO SOCIETY POWER BELONGS TO THE
PEOPLE. Ndiigbo elect their own leaders and tell their leaders what to do
and how to lead them. Ndiigbo have never accepted "rulers", not even when
the British imposed warrant chiefs on them. Think about it. Ndiigbo, it
is time once again to set yourselves on the path of prosperity, progress,
economic growth, commercial and industrial advancement, political and
cultural emancipation and stability, social and economic justice, good
health, abundant supply of food, individual freedom, liberty and respect
of your human rights, intellectual, educational and technological
achievement, the hallmark of Igbo society. Arise, Ndiigbo arise, its
time. Like the Israelites of Biblical times you have been in the
wilderness for more than 30 years. It is time to rise and shine again.
Yes, the people of the rising sun, it is time!!