NDIGBO: A PEOPLE AT CROSSROADS
This is not the best of times for Ndigbo, a people originally found across the lower Niger but unarguably scattered all over the globe today. Indeed, these are a people truly in straits. The downward turn of the fortune of Ndigbo did not happen in an instance but they never imagined that the proportion of the misfortunes that befell them in the last six months especially when they thought they must have atoned for their perceived sins in Nigeria, real or hallucinatory.
It started way back in 1953 in Kano with the massacre of Ndigbo over some political arguments that were raging at the parliament in far away Lagos. Ever since, the shedding of Igbo blood for reasons ranging from the political to the religious, down to the ridiculous seems to have become a cultural sport in the northern part of the country.
The doomsday heightened on January 15, 1966, a day a daredevil section of Nigerian soldiers led mainly but not exclusively by Igbo officers staged a bloody putsch which was equally foiled by another section of Nigeria soldiers led mainly by Igbo officers. This bloody event gave rise to the Nigerian/Biafran War in which an estimated 2 million perished. A greater percentage of this figure was felled neither at the warfronts nor by enemy fire but by the starvation policy finagled by one of the most learned Nigerian of the era, a sage, a lawyer, a journalist, a statesman of international stature who nonetheless failed to see the universal in the human person.
Although Ndigbo survived the 30 month old fratricidal war of attrition with 20 pounds apiece, the bruises and the nightmares of the war have been haunting them ever since. Thus in Nigeria, Ndigbo symbolically became the hewers of wood, the underdogs and a perennially marginalized people. These setbacks not withstanding many among them continued to excel in many fields of human endeavor, despite the institutionalized disadvantages. Since, the civil service and corporations had eluded them, they naturally found their feet and carved their niche in commerce. Paradoxically, although the Igboman is the most endangered in Nigeria he is arguably the most ardent believer in Nigeria. The Igboman is the one Nigerian who would not think twice about developing any part of Nigeria in which he finds himself. The Igboman is one Nigerian who makes a conscious effort to appear Nigerian. The average Igbo politician is one who won't blink an eye at standing down the interest of his region for an elusive pan-Nigerianism. Perhaps the Igboman did all these because he is arguably the one Nigerian who craves for acceptance; perhaps the one Nigerian apologetic about his identity. Yet he trudged on, all this notwithstanding.
Corpses are shipped down regularly to Igboland, lucky ones anyway. The not so lucky find themselves in unmarked graves in nameless hamlets in the volatile boko-haramish north. Corpses felled by fellow countrymen in a masked political terrorism with pretensions. These people tell the Igboman that he is unwanted in their part of Nigeria. They kill his kind in numbers to prove their points as irrational as they are. Yet the Igboman is called to do nothing but profess a religious faith in his citizenship in Nigeria, for all that it is worth. How do Ndigbo wriggle out of this dilemma; how will Ndigbo solve this crises of choice? Forced in Nigeria in principle and forced out in practice. If he dares go as he did in 1967, he is called a secessionist, if he stays cool, the silent genocide rages on. When will the inertia end? There must be a way of telling the deaf and blind woman that her lover is dead!