While for several years, Yoruba and some Hausa movies dominated local cinemas, the entry of Igbo films in the early 90s, gave raise to the tremendous improvement in home video production that are widely marketed at home and abroad. No matter what they lay their hands on, morally or objectionable, the Ibos always upstage the pioneers. When some undesirable elements from other parts of the country were discreetly defrauding innocent victims of their hard earned treasures in the past, Nigerians suddenly woke up to the dastard acts of advanced fee fraud as perpetrated by some young chaps from a section of the country who enhanced the scam. They not only publicly pronounce their overnight ill-gotten wealth, they acquire chieftaincy titles, state-of-the-art cars and dole out money like Kosai/Akara to their bewildered suffering citizens. The records and list of those in the net from the Ribadu-led 419 Commission are clear testimonies. One may still wonder whether the award winning and charismatic Amazon, fighting against fake drug, is not from that noble tribe.
The recent event in Anambra State, where the first civilian coup against a civilian administration in the country was foiled, has made those conversant with politics in that part of the country to wonder aloud whether it was just a nightmare or another best-selling Nigerian movie about to upstage the popular foreign films which have the feature of the Italian Mafias, Underworld Godfathers, wicked intelligent agencies and political gangsterism. In fact the substitution of winners of elections to legislative houses with those who never vied for the posts in Anambra, would make foreign script writers struggle to produce a befitting millennium movie from the enigma.
Generalization of issues and attitudes on the basis of individuals’ misdemeanors within groups, and associating such with particular tribe or race may be seen as grievous exaggeration and contemptible. But once unwholesome activities are consistently perpetrated and associated with individuals or groups within a particular bloodline as identified by tribes, then generalizations may, to some extent be justifiable. The actions of Ibo leaders before the recent Anambra imbroglio are lamentable. It may be recalled that the presidential primaries of most political parties witnessed a large turn out of aspirants from the region, but at the end their enormous numbers were of no substance. Most of their senators selfishly tussled for the single seat of senate president; their several socio-cultural groups are always on loggerheads; while their godfathers appeared to be plotting to overdo one another in the scheme of things. In fact they fought themselves intermittently.
How did the Ibo tribe reach this political crescendo when they have in their midst the cream of eminent politicians, shrewd businessmen, the intelligentsia of repute, revered traditional rulers and dynamic activists? Is it not from the same region we have individuals who are inspirations to others in every sphere of national endeavour and make indelible marks in the nation’s history? We talk of the first Nigerian President, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe and the former Vice President, Chief Alex Ekwueme; we like honest publishers in persons of Chief Nwanyawu and Sunny Odogwu; we envy the educated traditional rulers like Professor (Obi) Chike Edozien of Asaba ( a professor in Medicine) and Prof (Obi) Nnemeka Achebe of Onitsa, we learn greatly from their academicians such as Prof Pat Utomi, Professor Chinua Achebe just to mention a few.
Each region and tribe in the country has expressed the issue of marginalisation in the polity, but that the Ibos are more marginalized after the Civil War is not in dispute. It is obvious and regrettable that they have insufficient and little representation in sensitive posts after the war where they had occupied several top positions in the public service and in the military. It was in view of this ill and in sympathy to their plight that there was advocacy for the emergence of a credible candidate for the presidency from that part of the country. But their regular infightings and the recent movie-like fracas in Anambra, portrayed the Ibo race as the most disorganized in practical politics. This fact has been attributed to an extreme adoration for wealth, where politics is viewed as business enterprises for money making. What could have been the fate of that section if it had succeeded in the battle for the secession from the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 60s? Many nationalities would have probably evolved from the region, where they could have experienced genocide as the case with smaller countries like the events in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast among several others.
Today, whether we like it or not, every Nigerian believes that the most mobile, industrious, creative and hardworking Nigerians are the Ibos. A first time traveller or a stranger in any part of the country can consider himself safe if an Ibo person is dwelling in the host environment. As respected and widely traveled traders, the people are recognised as investors who could make profit from decent to dreadful ventures no matter how long it takes. They are the group who could reproduce any new product and equipment within a short while to admiration and bewilderment of manufacturers. Though embarrassing attitudes of chauvinists who call such reproduced goods as Ibo made, force the indigenous manufacturers to inscribe foreign and fictitious labels to their wares at the risk of floating the law of imitation when they deserve our total encouragement and improvement to meet international standards.
As good as they may be in different field of human endeavour with rich culture, it is unfortunate that Ibos have allowed young gangsters whose sources of wealth are questionable to hijack political parties and by extension overtake the state machinery for the purpose of sharing the national cake to the detriment of their populace. The illegal monetary inducement and subventions to godfathers are probably the reason most states could not pay their workers’ remunerations as when due and execute projects, since the godsons must dedicate chunks of fund from monthly federation account to service the palms of unquenchable and cunning business-politicians. It is incredible that in this democratic dispensation, some groups of people have the gut to negotiated sharing formula of public offices and treasury to individuals before assumption of office.
If some illiterate young men below the age of forty could be worshiped by elders and conferred with the title of big Daddy and Godfathers, then the clamour for youth empowerment for social re-engineering and transformation of the polity would remain a mirage. In fact the actions of the new breed godfathers, is enough for the political elders to further deny the youth the right to self-recognition and assertiveness in taking up sensitive positions.
It is beyond imagination that while elder statesmen are denied police escorts and ordinary citizens deprived of minimum state protection, the moneybags and politicians recruit the service of the police as their private security to terrorize and oppress anyone whether in government or in private business. If this privileged service is not controlled and the beneficiaries tamed, a period would come when the rich and gang leaders may recruit the navy, army and air force as private security that they could easily deploy to overthrow a democratic government.
Surprisingly, weeks after the dastard acts in Anambra State, the major culprits were/are still roaming the streets freely as if there is no law to prosecute them. Were they to come from the opposition parties such as All Nigerian People Party (ANPP), Alliance for Democracy (AD) or even All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) wouldn’t the culprits be rounded up immediately and prosecuted for treason while their accounts frozen and properties confiscated like other unsuccessful coup plotters in the past?
The Ibos are highly respected for being industrious, enterprising and cultured people whose impacts are felt across the globe. They need to wake up from their slumber and purge out undesirable elements from their midst. They need to look inward and wage war against fraudsters, ritualists, gangsters and business-politicians who drive their name to disrepute. Let them put their acts together and stop immature politicians from using the enviable tribe to stage a new Hollywood Movie.
By the way, from where is this judicial actor, Justice Wilson Egbo-Egbo whose intervention in clearing Wabara-Imo Senatorial palaver and the sacking Ngige as Governor?
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Daily Independent August 7, New Nigeria July29, Thisday July27, Comet July30, Nigerian Tribune August20, Daily Trust August 29,2003