The Igbos: a diaspora culture, a free-spirited people with commercial bravado, dispersed and rooted in every functional community in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. This cultural value presents a facade that is twisted by both Igbos and non-Igbo politicians to their advantage. However, the underpinning pedagogy of the Igbo culture is “biri kambiri” (live and let us live) defined in some other African cultures as “Ubuntu”.
Therefore, enforcing an enclave mentality onto a culture with global asset spread is the height of myopia. It is pertinent to note that 90% of Igbo wealth reside outside the Igbo enclave. We, therefore, must recognise in addition that the tonality of some of the leadership of the separatist movement is unwise and unwarranted. The tonality of violence is not backed by most of the Igbo population simply because, on the question of independence, you cannot take a diaspora culture and contain it in a bottled state. No right-thinking or analytical brain ever resorts to war or bang on with warlike tonality when we have more than enough creative minds in the six regions of Nigeria to design alternative solutions to war. The problem remains that it is easier for self-serving politicians to evoke and inflict on the unsuspecting masses the emotions of war than invest the energy in creating alternative solutions.
That alternative is the route to peaceful restructuring without sore separation. This route is backed by a 3-point plan to self-sufficiency. Let us reference the period of approximately 10 years of rapid and sustained progress in states like Anambra and Lagos. No region needs to separate if they can instead be designed to be self-sufficient. Once you are self-sufficient, fiscally independent, not dependent on revenue from the centre and without the albatross of debt used for consumption tied to your neck, you are indeed free. The contrary is that no region needs to fear the self-sufficiency of other regions. The success of one does not imply the failure of the other. The focus for this restructuring must be in: a) Education and human resource development (government-led); b) Independent small-scale power generation and distribution (government + private sector-led); and c) Agriculture along with associated value chain industrial investments (private sector-led)
When the power base was with the regions, all regions including the north made rapid and sustained progress. As Nigeria is presently set up, the routes to achieve previous levels of rapid progress is either to break up through 1) war of independence or 2) mutual agreement on fiscal restructuring. The political class must be open, honest, and not lead by deception. When regions campaign for referendum, they are campaigning for mutual agreement on fiscal restructuring. Those who are stalling on restructuring by mutual agreement are by default engineering a cataclysmic breakdown in Nigeria, but be assured that we must insist that each and every one of them must present themselves, their sons and daughters to contain the breakdown and not fly them abroad so that the gullible emotional masses will lead themselves up to slaughter. Alternatively, we can vote for fiscal independence which will take more time and effort to implement. We have six regions in this country, by persuasion and agreement, there are regions whose representatives will see reason for fiscal independence.
The current leadership of most of the socio-cultural organisations are already leading this charge. The bedrock of our insecurity today does not come from any strife between indigenous tribes in Nigeria but between Nigerians and foreigners who refused assimilation. The system as it exists today will collapse under the weight of injustice; a system where those who steal the most enjoy all the freedom, those who intimidate by AK47 enjoy the camouflage of authority while hard-working, law-abiding citizens who demand freedom are routinely picked up and harassed by law enforcement agents.
Central to our future as a nation and that of our youth population is leadership based on the right vision. Exhibiting to our youth population a future based on character and integrity will help them retreat from contemporary consumer culture built around “big brother Naija”. If they can see it, they can seize it. Time to get back to the drawing board and rebuild this nation community by community, local government by local government, and state by state. Empirical evidence supports the fact that Nigerians (individuals and communities), wants to do what is right for themselves but inhibited by the absence of good governance, governments’ active expansion and promotion of poverty through deliberate acts that undermine enterprise, promote injustice, spread insecurity and install institutions that promote mediocrity (e.g. the Nigerian constitution et al).
The situation is such that the tribal mark of a person of the president is secondary only to competence, fairness, equity, and equality under the law. We desire a government that will give the private individual freedom to use their brains and enterprise to grow their individual endeavours while contributing to the general good. Whoever has the policy framework to enable the private sector to create 100m jobs over a 10-year period should take the reins even if the person comes from the moon. Sharing oil money via social programmes is not wealth creation.
You do not create wealth for a people by sharing the national cake. Let us refocus on our local governments, state, and regional cooperation. That type of transparent and fiscally frugal governance referenced earlier on is the only way forward even within an imperfect union. The current Nigerian constitution is an impediment militating against national progress. Those who fashioned the constitution were more interested in carving up of existing and conceived national cake but paid scant attention to how the country can enlarge the size of that wealth.
The Igbo agenda supports collapsing and folding up existing cake sharing centres (over 300 redundant MDAs) and repurpose them under the six regions as production centres without recourse to central funding, their existing budgets redirected to the local governments. The agenda challenges the practice of throwing communal wealth to a handful of politically connected persons for over 30 years under the pretence of research institutions only to produce a prototype of “kilishi” production machine. This is tantamount to throwing judgement to “brutish beasts”. It never took Biafran scientists more than six months to research, design, and manufacture what they needed to survive. The proliferation of MDAs, security and anti-corruption agencies is the visual indices of our rent-seeking economy. However, how many people from the favoured regions have been lifted out of poverty after 50 years of rent-seeking? The sharing therefor is only for the benefit of Nigerian politicians and their pockets. It is time to bake a new cake. We have not only liquidated the national cake our forebearers left for us, we have also borrowed and shared borrowed funds.
Igbos take exception to attempts that deliberately undermine the entire region. A case in point is the infrastructure designed to bypass the entire southeast notwithstanding the quantum of manufacturing in the southeast region (Nnewi, Aba, etc) or the deliberate downgrade of an all-encompassing transportation function of the second Niger bridge. Also, the organised but deliberate land grab under false pretence of herds-men clashes while the heartbeat of our security apparatus pretended to look the other way, the pretence that leadership is so intellectually morbid, that they are unaware of the machinations of lieutenants.
In Nigeria, we failed the colonial and slavery test of Arab and Western cultures and now the Chinees. Until we make open governance the central theme of our development (from the community to LGA-state to Federal government) we will continue running 100km per hour only to stand still. Our freedom is encapsulated in our brain and enterprise. The freedom we seek is to develop our communities including our diaspora abode in a way that is beyond and outside the apron strings of Abuja. If the other regions join hands to focus on this, we shall be collectively free; if we fail this test of independence, then welcome to slavery for each one of us under the “Emir of Ruga”.
The Igbo agenda is driven by a vision of success that does not infringe on the rights of others or the values of other indigenous Nigerian communities. Until we dismantle existing moribund institutions and deploy our collective strategic foresight, we shall continue to react to the actions of brain dead dimwits who are stuck in the18th century, who do not value the progress of their own kit and kin, and whose idea of the future is stuck 200 years back. The Igbo agenda is indeed “The Nigerian Agenda”; “biri kambiri”; “Ubuntu”, live and let us live.
Chidi Okemadu M.Sc. (Arch); M.Sc. (Mangt. & Fin.); M.A. (Ed) CeFA, MCIM, MCIOB