After the Nigeria Nation had crushed the almost seceded Biafra, the surviving Igbo people accepted their fate. Well, at least for that time being. The paradise their political founding fathers, including the Great Zik of Africa among others, had envisioned and which the late Odumegwu Ojukwu had dared to fast-track by proclamation of their cession from Nigeria had been virtually turned into some sort of hell.
The Ndigbo had to fight a further post-war outbreak of many diseases that massacred further numbers among their vulnerable children. Though the eastern Nigeria was “verbally” re-integrated back into Nigeria, that did not materialise in terms of rehabilitational packages for the region both environmentally and economically. Today, the average Igbo person would tell you that the race still suffers from that misadventure. What we have in place of the projected economic boom are relics of destruction which still haunt the race till today.
That alone has led to the exodus of the Igbo tribe like the biblical Jews, seeking social and economic asylum in other parts of Nigeria and elsewhere around the globe. One can conviniently argue that the Igbo tribe is the most dispersed among the various tribes of Nigeria. Their presence permeate every nook and cranny of the nation’s vast geographical terrains from the southern ‘Lagosian’ beach to the Northern Chadian territory.
Prior to the upsurge in the spate of insecurity in the country, there was no single village in the country where the culture does not frown on “foreign” settlers that one would not find one or two thriving Igbo businessmen operating at a scale proportionate to their financial capabilities. He would quickly learn the peoples’ language and co-habit with them in peace and harmony. Every toddler could easily take you to where Chinedu’s medicine store is located within such a village. His shop would serve as a “gisting joint” on all manners of issues by all the locals in the evening and he would relate with all as his own people. If one went to a village and it would be said that only one family was not from the tribe, one could almost swear it must be an Igbo family.
I doubt if there is any tribe in this country that has out-shone the ibo people in being industrous. What is amazing is that; one will hardly see an Igbo man complaining of government neglecting their youths. He would strive to survive by always finding something to do to make ends meet and serve as a model of self reliance to the upcoming ones. One would have expected that a tribe so widely travelled and widely dispersed should be naturally consumed by the greater opportunities their industry afford outside their homeland. Of course, it must be said that the Igbo people are lovers of their home and they would never be carried away by the prospects of business elsewhere.
Here in lagos and at every Christmas season, the nation’s commercial capital is virtually emptied of the Ndigbos. They must go home and re-unite with their kith and kins in the East in what one of my teachers used to decsribe as “onwa December”. I used to see owners of businesses empty their shops by scaling down the cost close to the annual migration back home. What a great tribe!
In every major cities of Nigeria, there usually exists a segment of every major market (usually the heart of such market) that would be dominated by Igbo people selling clothes, shoes,electronic, medicine, spare parts etc at rates substantially cheaper than the local people would sell. As my mother would say ” The igbo man knows business, He would have gone back to market four times before a Yoruba man sells his first item”.
One can as well ask, should all the Igbo people withdraw from all Nigerian major markets, won’t the economy collapse? Of course, it may not but we owe the Igbo people the recognition they deserve as a tribe contributing robustly to the Nigerian economy. I hope a government would come in to embark on a massive rehabilitation of the South Eastern home of this wonderful tribe by carrying out some developmental projects that will truly manifest the post-Biafra slogan of “No Victor, No Vanquished”. This definitely cannot be a forlorn hope!
This piece was contributed by Abdul-Azeez Debimpe