A people’s history and achievements are usually closely tied to the leadership that pilots their affairs. Aside the golden era of 1940-1965, the Igbo cannot be said to have been fortunate with unique and exemplary leadership.
The great Zik dropped in from the US, via Accra, Ghana, in 1937, where he had edited the Morning Post for 24 months. He quickly made his presence felt and talent appreciated by the political community of Lagos.
He then proceeded to create robust awareness and thirst for western education amongst his people, inspired community effort in academic development, especially, through scholarships, community schools and general infrastructural development through communal efforts.
He then sent the ten argonauts overseas and awaited their return, to assist him. Established chains of Newspapers and emerged leader of the NCNC, after the passing of the legendary Herbert Macaulay in 1946.
He inspired a whole new generation, designed the foundation and set the stage for the greatest leap in human history. He effectively organised the people, by establishing the Igbo Union. The eboes previously only suitable for the position of messengers, houseboys and bottle washers, in the 1920s, suddenly covered the education gap with the South West, and launched ahead to produce clerks, managers, store keepers and supervisors, by 1950.
Hundreds of village schools built through communal efforts, transformed a people, within such a short time. Such miraculous transformation hasnt been replicated elsewhere on the planet. Leadership, inspiring leadership.
Communities taxed themselves to educate indigent but bright kids, donations were raised and very gifted chaps were sent overseas under community scholarship. Soon, a confident, solid generation of Ndigbo who could hold their own anywhere emerged.
Playing prominent admirable role in education, commerce and industry, science, medicine, technology, sports and politics. The eboes earned everyone’s admiration, respect and of course, envy. Those certainly were the best years of the Igbo.
Everything was shattered on 15th January 1966. And on the 29th of July 1966, as General Ironsi was taken out in Ibadan, Ndigbo fell into a very deep, unfriendly and dirty political pit. A pit they are yet to climb out from, even up to this day. The attendant very bloody war, seem to have sealed their fate.
And the post-civil war scorched earth policy towards them, seem to have produced certain kind of leaders with certain fears and apprehension. Sadly, certain forces, factors and developments have unwittingly dug the pit deeper, making it even harder, for Ndigbo to climb out from the hostile pit of political irrelevance.
To make the situation worse, many Ndigbo are unaware, and even uninterested to put heads together in search of a way out, and many unwilling to make the necessary inevitable sacrifices. Craving and desire to always place self-interest over group interest, seem to have dealt a terrible blow to cohesion, unity of purpose and presence of mind and the attendant sacrifices and commitment needed to chart a way forward for the great Igbo race.
Those who should lead regrettably hate to hear that they aren’t doing well. They want to be flattered and told they are the best and most able leaders in the universe. Perfect beings, saints and angels, beyond and above criticism of any sort. Hence this letter.
Dear Igbo leaders, the litany of mistakes, political and otherwise, that defined our journey as a people, inside Nigeria, ought to get us seriously worried and thinking about our present and future, and the great need to avoid further mistakes.
Quite avoidable errors, devastated our land, wiped out our population, gave us bad press, still hinders our ascendance, and retarded our political and economic growth. When will the old woman count the contents of her basket? After how many falls?
I have news for us: The younger generation are coming, and they are angry. They were born mostly outside Igboland. Ajegunle, Jos, London, Houston, Abuja, Cotonou, Douala, Oshodi, you name it. They are full blooded Igbo, both parents, Igbo, and they are not happy with Nigeria. Not happy with their leaders, not happy with the situation they found themselves.
Believe it or not they are coming. They are not proud of the situation, and they are not smiling. They and their children are forced into exile by the traditional post-civil war dichotomy, marginalisation, oppression, sectionalism and nepotism in the land.
They want to assert their identity. They want to define and rebuild their land. They and their little children, reside and thrive in Brazil, South Africa, Canada, Ghana, Malaysia, Togo, China, Germany, France, Spain, India, the US, the UK, everywhere.
Their little kids speak Mandarin, French, Espanol, Ashanti, German, you name it. They are going to shape the future of this land, build Africa’s greatest economy, redefine the image of the black man and completely transform this land. They are coming and they are unstoppable.
Their soul is hungry, and their heart is filled with lofty dreams of technological inventions and advancement. Their minds and spirit are filled with ambitious vision of a new world, devoid of subjugation from any quarter. They are legion. You can take this to the bank.
The millions at home, dwelling in Aba, Onitsha, Nnewi, everywhere, are bitter, but the diaspora population seem angrier.
In their 20s, 30s and 40s, Nwanne these guys don’t want to be compliant all their lives to the whims of someone else. They want to be free, respected and treated right. They don’t want anybody denying them any of their privileges, dues and rights henceforth. Their generation didn’t lose any war, didn’t suffer the humiliation of twenty pounds.
They aren’t ready to lick boots, betray their children or manage to live in order to please any master. Both the very educated amongst them, and the not so educated are well informed, courtesy of the social media age. And they are in a hurry to regain their lost dignity. And they are very woke.
They have no intention whatsoever to see their children inherit same humiliating condition they met. Most importantly, they aren’t very proud of the steps of the leaders. They have been watching and noting all.
They are aware of past mistakes of Igbo leadership. They know about the NCNC election boycott of December 1964. They aren’t sure the prewar alliance with the North, was the best option available at the time. They know about the first and second coup.
They aren’t so sure 30th May 1967, was the best date to pull out, given the quantum of resources available and the level of preparation. They aren’t sure the hardline position at two of the peace and reconciliation meetings, held in the heat of the war, were the best and wisest options available.
They shudder at the number that perished in the battlefield and the frightening number who fell from malnutrition and Kwashiorkor. They know of the post-civil war behaviour and disposition of Igbo leaders, through the military era, till date.
They know they are forced to migrate out of the zone and they also know why. No jobs, no seaport, no infrastructure, and no dignity. They reject that life.
The narrative that Igbo leaders have done excellently well since 1970, is a patently false narrative, valid only at the Sports Club, at political conclave, at elite gatherings and inside the state houses. And just for deception or entertainment purposes only.
The argument that post-civil war Igbo leaders have dispatched their duties with utmost sincerity, dedication and concern of the welfare of the masses, remain a very high risk and dangerous opinion to express outside or in unsafe places.
Our story is too clear and very obvious to the angry youngsters. They wish things were just different. They only see a bleak and frightening future. Blackmailing them, blaming them, pointing out their faults and castigating them, won’t restore the confidence they lost in their leaders.
Our leaders must face reality, understand the times and rise to the occasion. The me, myself and I, self-centered culture that created the doubts and distrust, must be discarded. Our leaders across board, political leaders, traditional rulers, the clergy, elders, business leaders and opinion leaders, must identify with the pains of the masses.
They must seek and articulate workable solutions to the many miseries of the masses, especially, that of the aggrieved youngsters. They must be seen in front, advancing, protecting, promoting, defending and presenting the interest of the masses.
There’s no other way to earn the confidence and the trust of the people. Staying away from them, avoiding them, distancing from them, shunning them, gives them the impression you don’t care about them. A lot of awareness have changed the template.
Igbo leaders must find out what time it is. The old format of doing things have expired. They need to acquire the latest trending software. They urgently need to upgrade. They must download the latest version. Time is running out.
Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko is the founder: Igbo Youth Movement, and Secretary: Eastern Consultative Assembly.