Ndigbo and "arabanko" leadership

By Ab-Davidson Nwohonja on

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When values die, a people die.

They die, not because they have stopped procreating, but because they have lost their identity and culture that have become subsumed under other identities and cultures. And whenever such happens, the people become mere footnotes in history.

Igbo people, my people, have neither become extinct nor mere footnote in history, but they might actually suffer that fate unless their leadership begins to change its ways. If they fail to do this, the fate might actually befall them.

The above conclusion came to the fore recently when extensive thought was expended on Igbo leadership by this writer. It revealed how low and empty Igbo leadership has become, especially in view of the current onslaught by Boko Haram, the murderous Islamic sect that is rampaging from the Northeast.

Instructively, leaderships of different ethnic nationalities in the country have dealt with the issue of Boko Haram’s brutal campaign in many different ways as it concerned them. Among them, Igbo leadership appears to be most disappointing. This conclusion came from the fact that after about two years of the sect’s destructive campaign, Igbo leadership has not been able to organise its people for appropriate response to the activities of the sect. It was also too hard to understand why Ndigbo have been groping in the dark regarding the sect. Why has there not been any concerted effort to organise the people, to either have them provide succor for themselves, or counter the activities of the sect.

Indeed, it is appalling that for more than two years of Boko Harm, those that call themselves Igbo leaders have not raised a finger in defence of their people, apart from occasional timid press releases merely condemning activities of the sect, and occasionally issuing what could best be described as empty threats. The activities of this crop of Igbo leaders, both in and out of government, easily convinces one that if Igbo leadership of the 50s and early 60s had conducted themselves the way the current leadership has done, Ndigbo would have become extinct today.

Undisputedly, the people in greater numbers in churches, plazas, bus stations, and market places, which the sect has bombed, have been Ndigbo. Apart from the bombing of the United Nations office and Nigerian Police Headquarters office (Edet House) in 2011, all the other bombings have all always taken place in such places as mentioned above. This, therefore, is the reason for belief in some quarters that Ndigbo have borne most of the brunt of Boko Haram’s dastardly acts more than any other ethnic nationality group.

Those who expressed this belief, and rightly too, considered Boko Haram attacks as similar to attacks on Ndigbo in the Northern pogroms of the mid 60s, which paved way for the North hijacking power and plunging the country into a war. For this very reason, few people are confused on what the current onslaught from Boko Haram has been all about.

To be sure, what is happening today did not start without warning. It is on record that early in January, 2012, Boko Haram sent a statement to the media telling none Northerners to vacate their land. One Abu Qada claiming to speak for the sect was reported as having declared: “We wish to call on our fellow Muslims to come back to the North because we have evidence that they would be attacked.  We are also giving a three-day ultimatum to the Southerners living in the Northern part of Nigeria to move away.”

Since then bombing, shooting and butchering of people, mostly southern Christians, have continued. Neither the Nigerian military nor Police could protect them. But what has the so-called Igbo leaders done to show that they were in leadership and caring for the good of their people? Absolutely nothing!

Only recently, another ultimatum was given by a group which calls itself Arewa Youths Development Foundation, tell all Southerners to leave their section of the country. Still all who call themselves Igbo leaders, starting from the governors and groups like Ohaneze and Igbo Leaders of Thought, have been taciturn.

The fear is that if another pogrom resembling that of 1966 begins to take place in the North, Ndigbo will be out in the cold because nothing has been put in place to succor and provide for them in case of such eventually.

Why is it then that since Boko Haram commenced its ungodly war, targeting Ndigbo especially, there has been no attempt to organise the people? What kept the Southeast governors, in collaboration with others who call themselves Igbo leaders, from organising a pooling of risk for Ndigbo outside Igbo land, especially those in the North? Why weren’t Igbo people with impeachable integrity brought together to float an outfit that will have every Igbo walk into a bank at the end of every month to pay in a paltry 20 naira for himself, or 100 naira for his family.

With such supposedly inconsequential amount of money collected in two years, what would Ndigbo not be able to do in resettling their people in the event of displacement from the North? But no such thing has happened.

This writer is strongly convinced that what has been happening with Ndigbo today was because leadership was none existent, even though some people have been deluding themselves to be Igbo leaders. Before Biafra/Nigerian war, Igbo leadership was a delight – from the family units, through the regions, to the national level – it was responsible, responsive, progressive, developmental, and people oriented. But few years after the war, it went comatose. The people went on a thinking holiday – they closed up their brains, took off their thinking caps, and went on frolic (fully in the Nigerian way).

The Nigerian way is the ‘arabanko’ way. It is steeped in the philosophy of “eat and merry today, for tomorrow we die”. The classical example of that philosophy was aptly demonstrated in the numerous social clubs that emerged few years after the war. They were led by the most prominent of them all which was Peoples Club of Nigeria. Its slogan was: “Peoples Club, gini ka anyi ga-eme echi? Ka anyi biri be ndu, ebicha ndu, amara ihe anyi ga-eme echi”. It means: “People club, what will we do tomorrow? Let’s enjoy life today, after today we will know what to do tomorrow.

Igbo leadership has been in that mode of enjoying life for more than 40 years now, and their tomorrow is yet to come. There has been no thought for tomorrow. Nobody thinks of anything beyond the momentary enjoyment for himself and his immediate family. As a result the general good has been neglected, so much so that a region that once had the highest growing economy in the world has been relegated to the status of a wasteland.

It is indeed painful how Igbo leadership dipped few years after the Biafra/Nigeria war ended. One could remember with nostalgia how, before that war, Igbo leaders responded to the North’s attempt to keep their children out of secondary schools in the north, by collectively building schools for their children under the auspices of Igbo Union. At that period also, communities sent their brilliant children abroad on scholarships.

One could also remember how immediately after that war, the people organised themselves and used self-help efforts to develop their towns and villages – to build hospitals and maternities, post offices, connect electricity, and built roads and bridges. The people also provided for themselves, pipe borne water, built schools, markets and several other things – all regardless of governments. Perhaps the height of it was the mobilisation of the people (home and abroad) by Sam Mbakwe, as governor of Imo State to build an airport for the people.

With the foregoing, the crux question to the so-called Igbo leaders of today would be: When will the ‘arabanko’ leadership end, so that mental, articulate, and constructive leadership – for which Ndigbo is known for – will commence, so that Igbo land will go back to its known progressive and developmental ways?

Without that, extinction beckons.



Posted on August, 11 2014

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