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TOWARDS A TRIBAL ENMACIPATION OF NDI IGBO FROM NORTHERN DOMINATION- Part 1

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TOWARDS A TRIBAL ENMACIPATION OF NDI IGBO FROM NORTHERN DOMINATION-Part 1


Not too long ago an illustrious son from Igbo land delivered an eye-opening lecture at the just concluded 2008 Odonigbo lecture series. Among other things he highlighted was that Ndi Igbo are great and extra-ordinary tribe to reckon with.  As extra-ordinary tribe, he affirmed that Ndi Igbo are very much gifted and largely endowed.  Their endowment he argued, have contributed immensely in the building of Nigeria as a sovereign nation.  For me that lecture alone was another form of social and tribal consciousness in this regional society called Nigeria. Without brushing aside arguments that was highlighted in the cause of that historic lecture, it becomes appropriate to use this lofty platform to explore what appears to me the most pressing problem confronting Nigeria as a sovereign nation.  Nigerian problem is locked up with the Northern region causing the East, West and South to be neglected. The hijacking of this nation by Northern despots has thrown other regions into sham and into unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. The sham has made the northern region to live larger than others. It has availed Northern king pins the opportunity to enjoy better infrastructures.  It has made life more accessible to them than other regions of the country. Yet, in spite of these regional strides and advancements and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing in the lives of Northerners. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to a Northern man and an Edoma man. There is a sort of tribal anger fuming between a Yoruba man and an Igbo man. The richer the Hausa man becomes materially, the poorer the Igbo man becomes morally and spiritually. The North has learnt how to perpetuate their own flesh and blood in power but they have not learnt the simple art of living together as brothers.  The Emirs and Sultans perpetuate themselves in power as long as they live. They enjoy political power as long as they breathe. These two realities make every Nigerian to lives in two realms, the internal and the external. The internal is the realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals and religion. The external is the complex of devices, techniques, mechanism, politics and instrumentalities by means of which citizens of Nigeria lives. The problem here is that the East has allowed the internal to become lost in the External. They have allowed themselves to be lost in this regional country called Nigeria. Other regions of the country have allowed the North to dominate them. Ndi Igbo have allowed so much to slip by in the process of national progress and development. All these and many more are responsible while the North live and outdistance the ends for which the west and eastern region of this country lives. So much of the lives of Northern Oligarchy can be summarized in that arresting dictum of the poet Thoreau: Improved means to an unimproved end. This is a serious predicament, a deep and haunting problem confronting nations experiencing tribal inequality. If other regions of this country are to survive today, their moral and spiritual lag must be eliminated.


At all times I have the confidence to declare that enlarged Northern powers spell enlarged peril for the East, South and the west. When the without of Northern power subjugates the within, of Eastern powerlessness, dark storm of clouds begins to form in this sectional society called Nigeria. These problems and some economic domination constitute the regional dilemma for Ndi Igbo. These dilemma and many other factors expresses itself in three larger problems which grow out of Northern ethical Infantilism. Each of these problems, while appearing to be separate and isolated, is inextricably bound to the other. Martin Luther refers these as racial injustices, poverty and war. I call it tribal inequality, social disintegration, economic fragmentation and demonic hatred. I am not unmindful that tribalism and religious division is how Nigeria is founded.  Without mincing words, the history of tribalism is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation on the part of the East and West by the North. At different times, these realities have established an absolute tyranny over peaceful cohabitation.


                Despite religious proliferation, the first problem I would like to explore is tribal inequality. The struggle to eliminate the evils of tribal inequality constitutes one of the major struggles of our times. Other aspect of our struggle is tribally based. Nigeria according to E.J Ellah, answers tribal names, wears tribal cloths, and tribal marks, speak and think tribally; sympathies and promotes tribal self-help associations. They marry tribal wives and have tribal children; build stone houses in their tribal home and buried there when they die. Tribalism and ethnic division have not been put aside since after independence and Biafra war. Reflecting on the condition of the Igbo people in Nigeria today, Simeon Udunka writes: physically yes, the Igbo man has largely recovered from the war, but when you look around the presence of federal machinery or amenities it appears not to exist. Communication facilities are virtually non-existent in Imo state. No air transport facilities. About 70% of traffic in Port Harcourt International Airport is by Imo Citizens. The proposed sea port at Oguta is undeveloped. Despite the fact that so many projects in Igbo Land are abandoned, J.O Ojiako writes that the regional government in the North insisted on the Northernization of the civil service and in almost disturbingly violent speeches, the leaders of that government had said that they preferred the services of non Nigerians to those of southern  and Western Nigeria. Of course, the Igbos belong to Nigeria and have no wish to relinquish their citizenship. But it is left for Nigeria to make it possible for them to operate as full-fledged citizens. As of now, they are just carrying on as a result of the will to survive. If Ndi Igbo continues to allow things to slip by, they will not develop the will to power to carry on. They will loose their vital force to forge ahead. And when Nigerian creed affirms that we differ in tribe and language, it is unconsciously sowing the seed of discord. When this seed of discord is sown, one would rightly say that a Daniel has come to judgment.


Seemingly, Nigerian geographical location, language, religion, dresses, tribal marks, diet are all accidents of nature and must be accepted as immutable realities. Currently, the upsurge of the Negros of the United States grows out of a deep and passionate determination to make freedom and equality a reality here and now. In one sense, the civil right movement in the United States is a special American phenomenon which must be understood in the light of American history and dealt with in the light of American situation. In the same vein, the tribal inequality in Nigeria is a Nigerian phenomenon which must be understood in the light of Nigerian history and dealt with in the light of our tribal situation.  Any contrary effort will lead to a national catastrophe of incalculable proportion. Nigeria lives in a day, says the Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead when civilization is shifting its basic outlook: a major turning point in history where the presuppositions on which society is structured are being analyzed, sharply challenged and profoundly criticized. The world is criticizing Nigeria for tribal bellicosity. The world is analyzing why the North rig elections and murder innocent citizens from the East and the West.  And through the principles and ideals of democracy, the world is challenging Nigeria to put a stop on ethnicity and tribal conflict. What we are witnessing in Nigeria is tribal hatred and disintegration as against freedom explosion. What we are witnessing in Nigeria is bribery and corruption as against fair treatment where those who are qualified for a job are sent home in humiliation without justification. What we are witnessing is a worst form of squander mania and embezzlement where power are left at the hands of uncompromising barons who are seen by people as a means of amassing wealth at the expense of the masses. What we are witnessing is sporadic incursion of the military, religious strife, moral erosion which hinders progress and sets the clock backward for civilization. What we are witnessing in Nigeria is Machiavellianism, a pretence to be virtuous and a rejection of virtuousness as a moral principle based on the assumption that those who act virtuously are in most times grieved and eventually come to regret at last; What we are witnessing is a game of politics played by one tribe thereby establishing deception, treachery, felony and a flow of power from the barrel of gun. What we are witnessing is Northern perception of presidential position as a birthright. The North constantly asks if Igbo presidential aspirants are Igbo enough to rule this country. They ask other questions that are deeper than Islamic coalition. To use Victor Hugos phase for Nigerian tribal factor, our tribes have arrived to a stretching point of no return. And the deep rumbling of discontent that we hear today in Nigeria is the thunder of discontented masses, rising from dungeons of tribal injustice to the bright hills of freedom, in one majestic chorus the rising tribal masses are singing, in the words of equality song, Arent gonna let any region turn us around, Aint gonna let any tribe flex muscles with us. All over the country, the tribal wind and message of unity is spreading in the widest liberation in history. The fire of tribal politics has been lit like the Olympic torch. This fire will continue to burn so long as no alternative is found for tribalism. Of course, the Igbos belongs to Nigeria and has no wish to relinquish their individuality. Tribal or sectional bellicosity is an aberration of fundamental catholic doctrines in respect of the universal brotherhood of all men.  But it is left to Nigeria to make it possible for them to operate as full-fledged citizens. As of now, Ndi Igbo are just carrying on as a result of the will to survive. The great tribe of the Igbos is now determined to end Northern exploitation which began after the inauguration of indirect rule in 1914. This inauguration is how Nigeria is founded.


                Tribalism is a virulent disease of the 21st century. This disease coupled with its devastating effects is well known to average Nigerian citizens today. Tribalism otherwise constricted nationalism stunts the thought climate and growth of Nationalism. While tribalism continues to grow each day, ethnicity continues to acquire centripetal dynamics. The consequences of ethnic prejudice are loaded with great contempt, unrelenting aggression and disgraceful ridicule. Most times the Igbo tribe of Nigeria is tagged Oliver Twists for continuously asking for more money from the federal government to execute projects that are capital intensive. This nickname has caused the Yorubas to move towards their goal like a tidal wave. The Uruobos and the Ibibios of the south-East are equally racing towards their ambition to challenge tribal humiliation. You can hear them rumbling in every conferences abroad, in every village street in Nigeria; on the docks of titanic ships; in the dark alley of our cities; in private houses; among students in Nigerian universities and collages abroad; in catholic and protestant churches; at different clandestine and political meetings. You can hear it in Bible studies and in charismatic fellowships. East is meeting south only because of one factor: the tribal hegemony of northern domination. Despite this tribal phenomenon, mother earth is being redistributed to the disappointment of no tribe. This distribution is shifting the basic outlooks of Northern domination of this country. I must say that these distributions must align with the demand to have a fair share in the bush meat hunted down together as a nation. Ndi Igbo are not unmindful that they share in the same collective freedom call Nigeria. Nigerian citizens must be reminded that Ndi Igbo are part of this great nation. Like a fever or hurricane, the movement of equality, justice and tribal reconciliation is spreading fast. The East has woken up from their slumber and is poised towards their goal like a tidal wave. These demands have shifted the basic outlook of Igbos as a people. The demand should not surprise any student of anthropology. It should not surprise any scholar of linguistic studies. The demand for tribal equality should not surprise philosophers or historians who engage in comparative tribal analysis of Nigerian geography. The oppressed tribe of Igbos cannot remain oppressed forever. My experience with unjust treatment is a testament that those who are oppressed shall one day rise and challenge their oppressors.  Those who are denied of their God-given opportunities shall rise one day and make opportunities available to themselves and others. Those who are separated by religious strife shall be united at the appointed time.  Those who are denied what is due to them shall receive them in his time.  And those who are neglected and abandoned shall receive consolation in Gods time. These are noble promises from an Icon of nonviolent. They are promises from Christ, the greatest human liberator and an Icon of social justice.  My commitment to social justice has left me with no choice but to challenge the forces that stand against social assimilation and tribal inequality. At the appointed time, we shall rise and answer the call of retributive justice. The effort to answer this call is a yearning for autonomy and freedom which will eventually manifest itself in the here and now.  The Bible whether King James Version or the revised standard edition tells the chilling story of how Moses stood in Pharaohs courtyard centuries ago and cried, Let my people go. This is a kind of opening chapter in a continuing story of the chosen race.


                The tribal struggle in Nigeria is a later chapter in the same unfolding story of economic deprivation. Something inside an Igbo blood has reminded an Igbo man of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded Ndi Igbo that it can be gained. One can logically say that an Igbo man has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his brown and yellow brothers from Morocco, Tunisia and the Caribbean he is still not at peace. In the heart of this unhappiness, the Igbo man is moving with a sense of great urgency towards the promised land of tribal equality and justice. Fortunately, some significant strides have been made in a collective struggle to end the long night of tribal and ethnic injustice. Ndi Igbo is conscious of the magnificent drama of autonomy unfolding in the North and around Muslim communities. In the United States, we have witnessed the gradual demise of the system of racial segregation. We have witnessed in the history of American politics where a son of a Kenyan man contested in the 2008 presidential election and made a landslide victory. To copy American democracy, is to copy the ideas of racial justice and political liberation. To copy American democracy, the supreme court of Nigeria must promulgate laws outlining inherent dangers of tribal sentiments and affiliations. This bill must give a legal and constitutional deathblow to the whole doctrine of separate but equal Nigerians. The bill must decree that separate facilities, schools, for a particular tribe are inherently unequal and that tribalism on the basis of region is to deny that child equal protection of the law. The Supreme Court decision on this should serve as bacon light of hope to millions of disinherited Igbos. Whatever bill the supreme court of Nigeria would pass concerning tribal sentiments must receive an overwhelming support and perseverance of millions of Hausas, Yorubas, Fulanis and the Igbos. Any law that would challenge this dream would always come as a bright interlude in the long and sometimes turbulent struggle for tribal triumph. I have a feeling that when these demands would come knocking, Nigerian nation would witness encouraging and surprising signs of compliance. These traits and compliance would enable Ndi Igbo to see the world in a different light; to create what is now unknown or to re-assemble the pieces of what the Biafrain war had caused; to create something new and different like when you turn a Kaleidoscope, and different patterns and colors emerge in new designs and relationships, creating a whole new world of possibilities for Ndi Igbo.


                Another solid indication that progress is being made was found in the recent presidential election in Nigeria. The Nigerian populace revealed great maturity by overwhelmingly rejecting a presidential candidate who had become identified with extremism, tribalism, money politics and retrogression. Nigerian voters (Easterners) rendered a telling blow to the radical right and conservative left. They defeated those elements in Nigerian society which seek to pitch North against South and lead the Nation down a dangerous Fascist path. Let me not leave Igbo tribe with fictitious hope or false impression. The tribal problem in Nigeria is far from solved. The Igbo man has a long, long way to go before the dream of tribal equality becomes a reality. To put it figuratively in Biblical terms, the Igbo tribe of Nigeria have left the arid and dusty soils of Egypt and crossed a red sea whose waters had for years been hardened by a long and piercing dry season of massive religious fanaticism and resistance. But before Ndi Igbo reaches the majestic shores of the Promised Land, there is a frustrating and bewildering wilderness ahead. Igbo man must still face prodigious hilltops of opposition and gigantic mountains of religious intolerance, but with patience and firm determination, she will press on until every mountain of Islamic pride and shariaism is made low by the leveling process of humility and compassion; until the rough places of Sokoto and Madugiri are transformed into a smooth plane of equality of opportunity; and until the crooked places of Kaduna and Kano are transformed by the straightening process of bright-eye wisdom; Until the distribution of magnificent infrastructures at Abuja is found in every cities in the East. What the main sections of the Igbo community is saying is that the demand for dignity, equality, tribal acceptance, jobs and citizenship will not be abandoned, diluted or postponed. The Fact that most of the time Ndi Igbo put the truth concerning tribal suppression out of context because it is too painful and therefore not acceptable, does not alter the anguish and pains of tribalism. At all quarters the device of tribalism may temporarily cover-up hatred and anxiety but it does not bestow solidarity, peace of mind and united front. The Northern proneness to engage in tribal division is still a fact. But experience born of wisdom should tell citizens of this rich nation that segregation, marginalization and tribalism are obsolete.


Another major problem confronting Nigeria as a nation is bad leadership. From Unitary to Federal and to Military systems of government, the leadership of this country has not prospered. Most Nigerian leaders from the North came to power from Military corridors without any experience of political governance. Many of them lack university education which serves as political tool and a bacon light for making administrative and intelligible decisions.  With no political vision and experience, the only legacy was the exercise of tyranny without mobilizational capacity to institute change. But this change which Barack Obama instituted into contemporary politics would remain very illusive to Nigerian democracy. But effort to institute a unitary system in Nigeria failed woefully because some Nigerian leaders succeeded in strengthening the power of the federal government in part through a seemingly paradoxical strategy of creating more states.  The consequence is a return from civilian to military dictatorship which requires a new basis of legitimacy for national leadership rooted in constitutionalism and a draconian military system. Bad leadership from the north has been described as a bane of Nigerias development. Nigeria as a nation is falling apart to the degree that unutterable disappointment confronts her. The problems that confront Nigeria cannot be completely explained by the inaudible language of the heart called words. The success of any nation is measured by human effort. The same success also is measured by human achievements. If success is measured by tribal contribution then, Ndi Igbo needs to reap from the fruit of their collective contribution. Igbo tribe has worked so hard in this rich country called Nigeria. They have sent their sons and daughters to colleges and universities to add to the workforce of this nation. Many sons and daughters from Igbo land posses skills in vocational training and occupation. Many have produced the greatest number of medical professionals. They have the greatest number of Engineer s and legal practitioners. Many Igbo people have received an Education that too many tribal people in the world could only be seen as a dream.  There are young people in towns and cities and villages here in Nigeria and all over the world whose dream of going to college; who dream of becoming teachers, Engineers and scientists; who dream of making a difference like Igbo people have done. I am sure that their dreams are no different from yours but their opportunities to realize those dreams are limited, limited by their circumstances .., their lack of safe drinking water or food to eat; their lack of shelter or lack of safety; their lack of access to schools and teachers and the internet. They are limited not by their lack of dreams, but by the lack of people who will help nurture those dreams. The opportunities the Igbos have to make a difference in Nigeria are seemly bleak. Despite all these, Igbo tribe lack personnels in both military and oil industries.


                In his speech at the pre-launch cocktail for the Ken Nnamani center for leadership and development, former president of the senate, Chief Ken Nnamani said that Nigeria and indeed Africa is faced with the ever growing problem of leadership. Nnamani continued that bad leadership from the North engenders corruption, mediocrity and poor governance. These in turn destroys the very fabric of the nation, scare away foreign investors and undermine growth and national development. It is an irony that in the country of plenty, kerosene is out of reach; it is a funny joke that in a country of abundance oil and gas is pay as you earn; it is a shameful reality that in a country of surplus, we owe ridiculous debt.  Imagine that in the mist of plenty, every thing becomes expensive from fuel, rice, transportation, grocery and food stuff etc. Such is the moment I am presently talking about. Such is the moment Ndi Igbo of Nigeria is presently experiencing. Contrarily, the Northern region of this country continues to experience this high and joyous moment not for themselves but for their children and great grand children. On one hand, the majority of the Igbos who are disadvantaged are young, learned and cultured yet they are exposed to these forms of tribal neglect and humiliation. Others are students and pensioners (retirees). Others are uneducated and petty businessmen and women. But they are all united in the quiet conviction that it is better to have equal justice in all National resources than what the North have as against the rest of the country.  As I explore the horrors of racial injustice or Nigerian tribal inequalities, I was struck by the lives and voices of two very different individuals-Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivors, Elie Wiesel, and Malcolm X-who lent their voices to communities and causes that needed to be heard. I was equally stroked by the lives of Martin Luther and Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle and determination for social justice and equality. Mahatma Gandhi is the greatest leader India has ever produced. He called the people to resist British rule and occupation.  Gandhi stressed that they should do that in a non violent way. For example, he urged a boycott of British goods. A boycott means a refusal to buy or use goods and services. Gandhi was jailed many times for opposing British rule, but these only made him a greater hero to his people. I am not unmindful of the crusade carried out by Nelson Mandela. I am not unmindful of the investigative journalism carried out by Dele Giwa concerning corruption and the violation of human rights in Nigeria. I am not unmindful of the nonviolence crusade carried out by Ken SARO WIWA.  Ken challenged the occupation of the Niger delta and its oil territory that was not profiting owners of these oil fields. These individuals demanded social and moral justice through persuasion but the consequence of their persuasion yielded abundant fruits. In the end, they shed their blood for the sake of many.


The words that symbolize these heroes are unlimited. The expression that symbolizes their spirit and the many outward forms of their encounter makes them noble heroes of nonviolence.  Broadly speaking, nonviolence in the civil rights struggle has meant not relying on arms and weapons of struggle. It has meant noncooperation with customs and laws which are institutional aspects of a regime of discrimination and enslavement. It has meant direct participation of masses in protest, rather than reliance on indirect methods which frequently do not involve masses in action at all. Nonviolence has also meant that Ndi Igbo in the agonizing struggle of recent years have taken suffering upon themselves instead of inflicting it on other regions. It is these leadership qualities which made it seem appropriate to award a peace prize to these brave pioneers of freedom identified with struggle. So many individuals would be afraid to fight tribal injustices that are long over due. On one hand, some handful of individuals is asking for equitable distribution of resources to all regions of this country. So many people say that appointments and draft into military should reflect Nigerian federalism and not a Northern empire. I am encouraged that these individuals are making these demands in a non violent ways. These individuals are for me the real heroes of tribal struggle. They are the noble patriots for whom I will salute and honor at all times. Not long ago, Ndi Igbo claimed they no longer experienced high and joyous moment for themselves and their families. They claim that the Northern politicians of this country have acquired a new estimate of their own human worth.  We all know that Northern politicians are too rich that they have private accounts all over the globe. Many of them ride expensive cars not meant for Nigerian roads. Another most pressing problem confronting Ndi Igbo as a tribal nation is lack of scientific and technological knows how. Just as Western Nations are advancing in technology and improving lives of citizens, Ndi Igbo are lagging behind leaving citizens in the dark in this scientific age. Just as other nations are bringing the entire world into an awe-inspiring threshold of the future, Nigerian as a country is holding back on the past to solve modern and complicated problems. Just as other nations are producing computers that think and help citizens facilitate jobs and make new human discoveries, Nigeria depend on holding strong to the past.  If Ndi Igbo remains an integral part of this rich nation, they must urge leaders to build bridges to span the sea and gargantum building to kiss the sky. As other nations are building airplanes and spaceships that dwarf distance, Ndi Igbo must invest resources on technology. They should know that investment on technology is not a waste of time and resources. Instead of investing more in the right direction, we criticize the advanced world saying their stride in science and technology are something not approved by God. We criticize them saying there is something missing in their lives. We claim there is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to the advanced Economic development. To look at this differently, the richer we become in Oil exploration the poorer we become materially, morally and spiritually. Nigeria has learn to sell her oil to big nations, making friends of benefits but citizens of these oil fields lack the simple art of living together as brothers.


The success of America today comes from the black racial group called the Negros. These Negroes trace their roots from Africa as a result of slave trade that started long time ago in West Africa.  Slaves were exposed to harrowing experiences despite the fact that they are part of American history and success. As part of American Success, the Negros at one time was challenged to fight for equal treatment before the law. They challenged the unjust treatment that caused them to lose their self image and dignity. Negros undertook these acts of persuasion by demanding equal justices and social acceptance.  They persuaded by demanding that their checks needed to be cashed. Their persuasion was that they dont want promissory notes any more. Just like in South Africa, the blacks at one time demanded racial justice and dealt a deathblow to Apartheid regime. The collapse of Apartheid regime was a smooth testimony that justice has not perished from the face of the earth; and that blacks contribution in the development of South Africa cannot easily be brushed aside. Ndi Igbo have contributed to the building of this country in so many ways. Many of them have helped to build the railroads, canals and cities with their hard work, sweat and labor. Others made contributions in art, politics, health and new inventions.  To work so hard in ones own country of citizenship and yet look drab like a champ does not reflect a progressive people and nation. Despite these contributions, Ndi Igbo still look like people who came back from the Congos. We all know that those who came back from Congo appear like those in need of a Psychiatrist. Some of them seem like they are suffering from Post-Traumatic stress disorder. I cannot paint the picture so well enough to convey such pitiable images of economic squalor and marginalization. I cannot say for sure when Ndi Igbo will be liberated from tribal segregation. But I believe that the day is coming when similar incident would take place in Nigeria. I am optimist that one day Easterners will demand justice done in the name of equality. The day is coming when Ndi Igbo would demand for a fair-play in the building and allocating of the federal resources.  One day Ndi Igbo would ask the central power what should be done to all retired men and women from the East. When this time comes, those who fight for social justice must follow the nonviolent method. I will urge them to do that in a nonviolent way.  I believe that their education, wisdom and resources would help them accomplish these objectives. Their faith in the I am, will give them eloquence, courage, firm determination and the will to power to carry on. I believe this is the only way and the best way to achieve results.  Ndi Igbo are equally convinced that if this nation follows the way, the truth and the light, citizens of this nation would not perish but have life eternal.  The day is coming when Ndi Igbo will match down to the federal capital territory Abuja and ask the president and senators why there is no international Airport in Igbo land. I believe that one day Igbo men will make a freedom match to the capital and ask why their checks cannot be cashed. They will ask why electricity in Igbo land is epileptic and roads bumpy. They will ask what happens to free Education and why there are incessant strikes in Nigerian institutions of higher learning. They will ask for the overdue checks meant for pensioners. They will ask for the left over money from state and federal contracts. They will ask other questions that will generate tears in the eyes of the suffering masses. The day is coming when Ndi Igbo would ask our leaders to account for the surplus proceeds from oil and other mineral resources. They will ask why streets in Igbo land are in deplorable conditions with naked human beings sleeping on bare floor with shackles fastened one to another like slaves across the Sahara and Atlantic; they will ask why people are languishing in hunger and malnutrition in a country of plenty.


I am not unmindful that hunger and malnutrition in a country of plenty generate protest and war. In the most extraordinary protest movement ever mounted and sustained by African-Americans, the black people of Montgomery boycotted the buses for 381 days until a court order struck down segregation and gave them a total victory. The protest was directed by the Montgomery Improvement Association, and led by Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Park. The black people of Montgomery and America went on to tear down the walls of segregation and to create a new south and a new north. Martin Luther King Jr. went down on history to win the Nobel Peace Prize and Rosa Parks went on to win Americas highest civilian award, the medal of freedom, and to become one of the most honored women in the world. The method they employed was dialogue and persuasion and not confrontation like Biafra war. Our methods as Igbos will be that of persuasion, not coercion. Some pundits argue that if similar incident like the Montgomery episode is mounted in Nigeria, Ndi Igbo would witness tribal victory and triumph.


I am not unmindful that the demand for fair play does not come easy. During the civil right movement of the 1960s, many people felt that American nation had to address inequality of the past. To help encourage minority enrollment in colleges, affirmative action was introduced. The idea was to take into consideration a persons color/race when evaluating his or her qualifications for college entrance. But another form of affirmative action program required that a certain percentage of government contracts went to minority owned businesses. The argument was that minorities were not proportionately represented in government contracts. Affirmative action was created to address situations that were considered by many to be unfair, and to make things more just and fair. On one hand, many other people felt that affirmative action only succeeded in another kind of unfairness. They argued that affirmative action was unfair to people who are qualified for college but they are discriminated against, by choosing less qualified individuals over more qualified people. In the end, many people felt affirmative action created another kind of discrimination. Other social problems similar to the above are capable of causing belligerent or non violent activists to become conscientious Objectors. When noble men take a stand to challenge unjust treatment, cynics ask whether they have the right, or duty to challenge a law when their conscience finds the law unjust and immoral.  It is better to be conscientious Objector and fight tribalism, inequality and pitiable conditions that stare Ndi Igbo on the face. Ndi Igbo must fight political rights to the level of the humblest royals from the East. To fight as conscientious objector demands some form of courage. It required some form of brevity. The Objector must understand the courage of our brave pioneers- setting out with their families on a dangerous journey full of hardships, across an uncharted wilderness, to start their lives over in a new land. Objectors must risk everything to start all over and make a better life for themselves and others who will come after them.


                I am not unmindful that each tribe in Nigeria has the possibility of lightening the path of other tribes. The Igbos may not look like the Hausas or Yorubas. On one hand, the Yorubas may not speak the same language like the Igbos. The Muslim north may not practice the same religion as the Christian East. The cultural West may wear and celebrate values that are different from the Muslin North. Each tribe may not call God the same name; may have other dances; sing different songs and eat different foods. Despite these differences something common holds us together. All of us in a collective spirit have the possibility of becoming a rainbow in the sky. I am not unmindful that all of us are not born with the same privileges and opportunities, but I think if we surround ourselves with positive people, get involved, embrace the political process, and have a firm determination to succeed, we can achieve tribal unity and whatever we desire.  This was the experience provided to Ndi Igbo by their education. There is no doubt that the power Ndi Igbo have gained from good education and rich environment is something they will always have and use to empower others in the political process.  With their education and wisdom, they can rule this country; with their resources and wealth they can change this country; with their talents and endowments, they can govern this nation; with their dialects and tongue, they can unite this country to become a united country.  So long the North and the West have ruled this country; citizens have not experienced peace, unity and tranquility. So long the North has overthrown different regimes; this country has not witnessed unity and compliance. We all know that the pursuit of unity is a noble ambition. We also know that in a diverse and united society, citizens are happy, satisfied, content, ecstatic, confident and enthusiastic. But in a divided and separate society, citizens are sad, heavy-heated, depressed, sorrowful and melancholic. They constantly feel mad, furious, belligerent, irritated, bitter, infuriated, fast and furious. All these would hardly allow citizens to respect opinions, abilities of self and others. Unity so to speak gives way to tolerance. Unity is anchored on the principles of TEAM spirit-togetherness everyone achieves more.


I am not unmindful that these articulations would raise lots of criticisms. I am not unmindful that people will call me a writer of meaningless expressions. I am not unmindful that cynics would call me illusionary writer of the new age. But I know within myself that these demands are achievable if we believe. I know deep down inside me that the position I have taken is the only method which seeks to implement the just law by appealing to the consciences of the great decent majority who through blindness, fear, pride, and irrationality have allowed their consciences to sleep. I pray that my conscience will not sleep with them. Allowing our conscience to slumber does not create the urgent legacy that defines the 21st century. Obama was passionate about the urgency of time for minorities to believe. Thomas Jefferson was passionate about his belief in legacy. At all times, Jefferson has always believed that every person is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society. In Jeffersons view citizens must actively participate in affairs that affects them directly or affairs that have a broader impact for the common good. I am not unmindful that tribalism is capable of hampering individuals from Igbo tribe to become legends. But together and individually Ndi Igbo can create the legacy for this country that is rich with resources and dreams, but plagued by Muslim haves and Christian have nots. Again, I am not unmindful that the shirtless and barefoot citizens of Nigeria are developing a new sense of some-bodiness and carving a new tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of despair. I am not unmindful that despite our tribal origin, we all are required to contribute to the national common good. At all times the fame of Ndi Igbo has spread to the far corners of the earth, attracting many valuable tourists to our great nation.  Many of you will recall that never-to be-forgotten day when the writing appeared mysteriously on the spiders web in small states in Igbo land, calling the attention of all and sundry to the fact that the emergence of Igbo tribe was completely out of the ordinary. The north and other part of this country know that they are dealing simply with a gifted and supernatural tribe and I feel proud and grateful for that. My pride is that the fame of Ndi Igbo has spread to the far corners, attracting humans and immortals alike. But within the domain of our professional and personal experiences, we must make a difference and contribute to the necessities of our nation. Our skills honed over time will enable us to take action and follow our passions aggressively.  Tenacity is what will make the change we create sustainable over time, not simply for us but for the common good. I strongly belief that tribal tenacity is the only way to reestablish Igbo cultural communities; It is the only way to seek and redeem the spiritual and moral lag that have become the chief dilemma of Igbo community. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history which cuts without wounding and ennobles any Igbo man who wields it.


Fighters of social justice cannot be indifferent to the experiences of Ndi Igbo. Nigeria cannot be indifferent to Igbo citizens from the East. For the Igbos to make a difference, they must take a stand for what they believe in and recognize the important role each region can play collectively.  I tend to believe Ndi Igbo have a great nation in Nigeria.  Their belief in one and strong Nigeria is their hope in the 21st century. This is the type of hope preached by Barack Obama.  Such hope and affirmation are what will lift Nigeria up. Let us not allow ideology, idiosyncrasies and regional politics to get between us. Let us not allow the Nigerian phenomenon called regions to plunge this country into running separate from the pack. Im sure you have all heard of the butterflys wings flapping in one part of the world which may ultimately cause dramatic weather events far across the globe.  The Igbos must develop the power that would allow them take a stand and flap their wings and have a significant impact, almost instantaneously, on people and communities around the world.  Ndi Igbo must offer legislations to change Nigerian politics. They must offer ecumenical dialogue to suppress Nigerian tribalism. Dialogue and ecumenical affirmation offers religious affiliation and social change. Change in Nigerian politics must come from the east to the west and from the south to the north. Change must come from the vertical to the horizontal; from bottom to the top and not the top to the bottom.  Change has become a new slogan of the 21st century politics. It has become a linguistic expression of the new age democracy. Change has become a political slogan for universal health care; it has become a slogan for good infrastructures; it has become a political slogan for jobs. Change has become a new slogan for free education. Change is an idealistic message of hope. The real journey to heal this nation from tribal hegemony has begun. Ndi Igbo are expected to journey towards this path fervently and unrepentantly even when their strength wanes. To journey in this path would require strong conviction and resistance. I am confident to say that Ndi Igbo are now in a defining moment of tribal history. Ndi Igbo now live in a moment when Northern military machine would be brought low. The leveling of the Northern dominance will require courage like the Ethiopian Eunuch. They cannot solve these problems if they are divided. If they believe in the conviction that unity is a noble cause; if they accept that togetherness is a noble affirmation; if they believe that ecumenism is a supreme ambition, and that Nigerian nation has a right to survive, and be united, then they must find an alternative to tribalism. A so called ethnic separation will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of tribal suffering, political turmoil and spiritual disillusionment.


Another tribal war(Biafrian war) God forbid! - will leave another smoldering ash as a mute testimony of Nigerian nation whose folly would collapse inexorably to regional fracas. The conflict was full of dramatic issues and confrontations.  The Biafrian war was a conflict that split the nation into two. It divided families, pitch brothers against brothers. In the end, the vision of unity was completely lost. I am not unmindful that tribal war will open new vistas of exposure of vast multitudes, to insidious terrorization by the ever-present threat of ethnic annihilation. So if Nigerian nation continues to flirt un-hesitantly in her ethnic affirmation, if Ndi Igbo continues to regret the misfortunes of the civil war without positive ambition to overcome its defeat, she will transform into regional habitat of an inferno such that even the minds of Kant, Descartes and Dante could not imagine.  One great evil confronting nations is that of war. The Northern proneness to engage in war is still a fact. There may have been when the Nigerian Biafian war served as negative good by preventing the spread and multiplication of the evil forces. If Ndi Igbo assumes that life after the war is worth living and that lives of Igbo children are pivotal to the development of this nation, then they must find an alternative to another biafrian war. Finding alternative to war is essential because wars have produced weapons of mass destruction which threatens the survival of mankind, and which are both genocidal and suicidal in character. In my viewpoint, it is imperative and urgent to put an end to tribal wars and violence between nations which puts an end to fair-play and justice. Any war provoked through tribal struggle for equality would hardly solve the problems of either North or West. Such wars provoked in the western world which is motivated by racial injustice are always under the spell of terror where citizens become doomed to extinction. Sometimes after the Biafrian war, a formula was used that measured if Ndi Igbo have lost the war. This measurement identified Ndi Igbo as minority tribe claimed by the war. The same war identified Ndi Igbo as a tribe who are weak and needs to conform to the whims of Northern political machine. As a result they were subjected to all kinds human ignominy. The experience forced them to abandon their homes, businesses, properties and farmland to the North. The post-Biafrian war subjected Ndi Igbo to live substandard lives. With no good jobs and no decent housing, an Igbo man was meant to live half of his income compared to the North. Majority of Ndi Igbo hold menial jobs and their children could not attend good public schools. Many of them could not afford to attend colleges in the country of their citizenship. Many were driven out from their properties to face the worst form of tribal and social annihilation. This is where Ndi Igbo are now. When we review these negative experiences, Ndi Igbo have a double barrel share and many of them are twice as unemployed after the war. They are twice hit by sickness provoked by similar infractions such as diarrhea and kwashiorkor. Igbo women were disgrace and their children and wives were raped and humiliated. Many died out of hunger and malnutrition. And the rate of infant mortality after the war doubled that the Northern Empire could not imagine. In other spheres of human endeavors, the figures are sporadic and alarming. Another question that follows is where do we go from here? First, Ndi Igbo must massively assert their dignity and worth. They must stand up amidst a tribal system that still oppresses them. They must develop unassailable and majestic sense of tribal value. A majestic sense of tribal value is inestimable in achieving victory. Any victory after the civil war would always bring a ray of hope to other part of the world, a hope that conflicts between tribe, nations and political systems can be solved, not by fire, sword, but in a spirit of brotherly love. 


The struggle to end tribalism is a delicate endeavor. This battle must be won maybe not in our days, but in the reassuring days of our children. I am optimistic it must be won given the consciousness we will provoke in the years ahead. When this battle is won, citizens of this noble nation would challenge those unjust laws that discriminate one tribe from another because of tongue, tribal marks, religion, ethnic associations and background. Islam as a religion makes Northerners to discriminate Westerners and Easterners. Islamic faith allows Northerners to control the oil from the North and uses its proceeds to sustain its people and to support Islamic activities. The Northern religious heritage is reflected in the government of the Sultan, which strictly enforces Islamic customs and traditions, and in its architectures which reflects the nations adherence to Islam. Let us face the truth. The reason why Muslims cannot live together with other tribes is because the Hammurabis code of law demands an eye for an eye. This code punishes people for wrong doing, but offers justice to those hurt through no fault of their own. This code contradicts the nonviolent message of Jesus Christ-the icon of forgiveness and nonviolence.  When it comes to retaliation and forgiveness, Jesus says (seventy times seven). When he was confronted that he was unschooled and intelligent, he wrote on the ground and dialogued with the most learned scholars of his time. When he was vilified that he cannot accomplish a task (pulling down the temple and rebuilding it in three days), he never scoffed. When he was cajoled that nothing good and reassuring could come from his own tribe, he accepted the remark silently and in good faith.  He accepted all these put-downs because he was an honest man. We all know that honesty and justice is the best policy in all human development. But what happens when justice demanded by Ndi Igbo goes against what the North and other tribes believe? Sometimes, it takes lots of courage to speak honestly about what we believe. Ndi Igbo should not be afraid to say what they believe. They should not be afraid to voice out those pressing problems that challenges their citizenship. They should not be afraid to educate other citizens that Islamic cultural heritage does not reflect tribal/regional diversity of Nigeria; that Muslim religious heritage does not reflect regions and art; that OIC being used as veritable weapon to support Islamic heritage in Nigeria is a fact not a fiction. Ndi Igbo are worried that Nigeria as a nation is not founded on the principles of democracy. I am very much worried at the kind of decisions and problems that confronts Nigeria in the middle of the night. I am very much worried at the absence of democracy which results in the suppression of individual rights and freedom of speech. All these problems have caused the north to potential become adversary than partners in the building of a nation.


I know that Ndi Igbo love the idea of Jeffersonian democracy. I know that Ndi Igbo would want to try this political system of governance. Ndi Igbo love a political process that is liberal which can sustain its people overtime.  Ndi Igbo want the North under some checks and balances that would allow them better their lives economically, socially, politically, morally and spiritually. The Northern leaders know they cant block full access to our natural oil and mineral resources forever.  Based on these circumstances, some political pundits argue that the Northern model which is more of Oligarchy would not allow democracy to flourish in Nigeria. These pundits claim that Northern political hegemony would not allow free thoughts, expressions and freedom of the press. The North therefore, must realize that anti-democracy will hamper the success of our economy and our international relations. Great democracies have a lot of constituents that have to be heard and dealt with. This seems to put those Nations solidly in what I may call the realist camp, rather than the idealistic school of foreign policy. A lesson on Jeffersonian democracy brings tears to the eyes of every minority in Igbo Land. If I say let me use the word reform less so than democracy, we will be begging the question. The question every one asks is why has democracy continued to frighten the North and other Arab Nations? In several conferences on reform and democracy, Muslims were not at peace when the word is mentioned. When it comes to freedom of speech and expression, they say give us a break. When it comes to government of the people; by the people and for the people their spirit congeals.  President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt would say the same thing. When challenged democratically to engage in a universal reform, he says, Take a look at our history and where we are. You can talk to us about reform, but dont tell us to become Jeffersonian democracies. Its not possible for us. I have this strong believe that one day Ndi Igbo will witness Jeffersonian democracy practiced from Sokoto to Kastina, and from Adamawa to Kogi. When this time comes, the Emir and Sultans themselves would carry these democratic messages of equality to the far corners of Abuja and to Saudi Arabia. When this time comes all Islamic fundamentalists would accept a shameful defeat and compliance to democratic elections all over Arab world. It will take time for this prophecy to come through. But it will definitely come to happen if not in the near future but in the reassuring days ahead. Mark it somewhere; this prophecy will definitely come to happen in Nigeria. Ndi Igbo are worried that the North is not ready for the same kind of democracy they find so attractive in other nations. Truly, the North is not religiously ready; they are not culturally ready; they are not historically ready for it. How history will convince them, prepare them and make them ready.


 Because they are not ready, I venture to inform all Nigerians and all who hear and may eventually read this rare epistle that the philosophy behind tribalism and other factors behind sectionalism has become a subject matter of profound study and serious deliberation. If after this epistle, politicians demand a pound of my flesh or if I come under the sentence of death, I will not flinch.  I will not give a damn. I will not be cowed since equality, unity, Justice and ecumenism is the foundation of national happiness. Equality with the North will hardly solve the problems facing the south, the East or the West.  Tribal equality of this nation will mean nothing if it means our beloved country is still under the spell of money politics, murder, doom and extinction.  It will mean nothing if the torch of liberty, freedom is still gripped by cabals. I do not wish to minimize the complexity of the problems that needs to be faced in achieving tribal unity and coalition. But I think it is a fact we shall have the will, the courage, the audacity of hope and the insight to deal with it through mental and spiritual re-evaluation. I elect to say that Nigerian tribal drive and loyalty must become ecumenical rather than sectional. The overriding loyalty to one section of this country over another has often been misunderstood and misinterpreted.  Those individuals who misinterpreted this course, I mean the Nietzsches and Hitlers of the North has now become an obsolete necessity for the survival of Ndi Igbo.  The reason is because the supreme unifying principle of a tribe is anchored in love. Love as a key unlocks doors of tribalism and conflict resolution. As ultimate scriptural reality, love is beautifully summed up in the arresting epistle of St. John: Let us love one another; for love is of God and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God. If we love one another, God dwells in us and his love is perfected in us. The first hope in the inventory for Igbos should be love, unity and reconciliation. I am not unmindful of the transforming power of love. Love must be our regulating ideal. Once again, we must hear the words of Jesus echoing across the centuries: Love your enemies, bless them that despitefully use you. If the North continues to despise the East to feel they are cursed, pray for them; if a particular tribe causes another to feel humiliated; if they light up fire of discord to distract us from knowing what is going on; if they use religious war and fundamentalism; if they burn our Bible and put the ashes in the dust bin of history and compel us to embrace the Quran, pray for them. These liberating consciousnesses; these spiritual awareness I believe would turn out to become a freedom signature for all marginalized citizens of this noble nation. If you must protest I will say protest courageously with dignity and Christian love so that when the history book are written in future generations, the historians will have to say: There lived a great people from the East who refused to sleep because they are hungry; Who refused to be consoled because they are marginalized; who refused to show up at job places because they have not been paid; who refused to pay taxes because they are not employed; who refused to sing the national anthem and our creed because they feel and experience  the sorrows of tribalism.


I elect to speak once more that Nigeria can no longer afford to worship the God of separatism or bow before the alter of tribalism. Nigeria can no longer succumb to divisiveness and retaliation. The reason is because the valley of history is made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of sectionalism.  As a result, history is cluttered with the wreckage of Nations that pursued this self-defeating path of separatism. A divisive path of separatism lives no tribe any good. On one hand, love and ecumenism is the key to the solution to Nigerian tribal conflict. In every nation, unity heels wounds of tribalism and separatism. It calms civil, ethnic and racial disorders. It solves problems that might have come up as a result of selfishness. The drive for unity makes people think rightfully. It makes nations to understand what they would face once a sectional ambition is forged. Unity is transformational. Unity resolves conflicts. It bridges gap of hatred into cooperative existence. Unity encourages relaiabity and makes way for sustainability. Unity encourages competency in diversity. It nourishes talents instead of destroying it. Unity accelerates success and empowers when necessary. Unity is an ultimate reality since it changes life in the here and now. Citizens of every nation always seek to be united; Catholics, Christians, Muslims, men and women seek reunion and friendship; boys and girls desires companionship; Cities and Counties seek bilateral agreements. What must Ndi Igbo do if they fail to achieve unity and compliance from other tribes? What must they do concerning ethnicity and quota system? What must they do concerning election rigging and examination malpractices? What must NdI Igbo do concerning cults and Occultism in institution of higher learning in Nigeria? Suppose we have no alternative to tribalism and ethnic division! Suppose Im a battalion commander from the East; and my troops ask, What must you do today about these nightmares? Let me go fight the North! What must you do the day after tomorrow? Let me go fight the West! What must you do the day after that? Let me go chase the South! What must you do after that? I am going to guard the streets! All these are fantastic and noble ideas. These ideas can work only when there exist unity, compliance and coalition.


 I will leave my readers with a quote from Joan Chit-is-ter, a Benedictine nun and author. She writes that It is the way we live each of the circumstances of life, the humdrum as well as the extraordinary, the daily as well as the defining moments that determines the quality of our dreams. The dream facing Ndi Igbo is tribal acceptance into Nigerian politics. Tribal acceptance will establish a culture of living together between North and South, East and West, Catholics and protestants, Moslems and Christians, atheists and traditionalists - a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interests who because we can never again live without each other must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other. The arresting creed at A.W JONES reads:  I believe I can achieve. I believe I can push forward. I can soar like an eagle above my problems and challenges. I can and I will allow others to succeed. I will put forth my best effort and keep a positive attitude. I will learn all that I can today and be the best person I can be. If the Igbos can believe in this arresting creed, if they can find meaning in the stipulation of what they are demanding for; And for the North to allow the south and east to succeed, then they must continue to press on and  push forward. Igbos can soar like eagle above the trappings and challenges of tribalism.  They cant forge ahead beyond sectional situations perpetrated by the North. If they believe, if they make effort and keep a positive attitude they can overcome. The North would not allow Ndi Igbo to succeed and overcome unless they continue to spread this consciousness and put their democratic demands on table for dialogue.


Gerald Ogbuja


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