It is undeniably clear that coming across any written work with a caption as this, tends to stirs up numerous and varied notions in people’s minds. The views of an Igbo man who comes across this topic is bound to be different from that of a European. So will it also be, with any member of the external world not directly affected by this topic or the issue it seeks to address.
One might see it as a liberation philosophy, another might see it as an attack on what is European, and another still, might see it as a defensive means applied to transfer the responsibility of the ills found in Igbo hemisphere to the European world. None can be said to be wrong in his particular opinion unless an explanation of the authors import has been relayed to him and he persists in his stand. For this, it becomes very necessary that at this early moment, a brief explanation of what this topic is aimed at be presented to the reader so that he does not jump to hasty conclusions even before reading this.
The Igbo tribe of Nigeria today experiences so much political, economic, and social crisis both within itself as a tribe and with the other tribes with whom it makes up this one nation called Nigeria. Most of these crises so much affect the Igbos to the extent that they often see themselves as a marginalized tribe in this nation. This has led to their consistent clamor for a Sovereign state of their own (Biafra), not minding the fact of the failure of its first realization attempt during the early days of Nigeria’s independence.
Looking at the present socio-political situation of the Igbos in this multi-tribal nation, one will discover that a greater percentage of the hardships they are facing in their own God-given land cannot be ascertained to have its place rooted in nature. They seem to be man-made, willingly or unwillingly caused, knowingly or unknowingly arrived at. Most of these problems can be said to be aftermaths of some past experiences of the Igbo man both within the confines of his fatherland and outside. It must be acknowledged that the Igbo man has been more at peace with the world around him in the absence of a Nigerian nation than today when he has been forced into a national union with some other tribes. This goes a very long way to prove that some causes of the Igbo man socio-political predicament can be vividly traced to the period of his being a part of this ‘Lugardian’ amalgamated nation called Nigeria. If this can be said to be so, then her days prior to this amalgamation, especially within the colonial era, when she was being pushed into acting in a way she does not really accept must have played a major role in the many problems she so suffers today.
The Igbo man of today finds himself faced with so much socio-political difficulties in his co-existence with the other tribes that make up this one Nigeria. For this, he so much longs for secession; he longs to have a sovereign state of his own, which will have all its affairs self-piloted and which will have him as its sole controller. He longs for the sovereign state of Biafra where he will be free from the present days’ ‘regrettable Igbo predicament in Nigeria characterized by humiliation, manipulation, and marginalization.
A look at the socio-political problems of the Igbo man of today, which has produced in him such longings as these, reveals the fact that the colonial amalgamation of the Nigerian nation has a bigger part to play in it. This implies that the Igbo man’s contact with the European world has a hand in such situations and that it is not just a problem caused by the other tribes with whom he shares this one nation. We the Nigerians also have a hand in it, no doubt. It is based on this fact that this work sets out to expose the present socio-political conditions of the Igbo man, tracing it back to his early life without this colonial amalgam called Nigeria, to see how the Europeans in their contact with the Igbo tribe could be said to have caused a problem for the Igbos of today. In the words of Rev Fr. Collins Ojene, “No continent suffered from the scourge of slavery for centuries as Africa. No continent was so brutalized by colonialism, imperialism, and now neo-colonialism as Africa.”
The Igbo nation, we have to note, is part of the African continent and as such the afore-mentioned statement, if it is true, also applies to them. This study serves to ascertain the extent of the damage these (colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism) had caused the Igbo race specifically. In this study, we are interested in seeing if really we can be very right to say that the colonial masters have been our ‘messiahs’, sent from God above to bring us salvation and light (like Christ was believed by the Christians, to have been sent) as shown by some writers of history. To see if they can be seen as, in the words of F. K. Ekechi, expressing the view of the people of the lower Niger on the early Western Catholic Missionaries, “a kind (white man) who came for the welfare of the people.”.
It is a study aimed at examining the intricacies of these diverse contacts that has existed in history among the Europeans and the African-Igbo world to see what actually has held the Igbo nation spell bound from advancing to the developmental stage the European world of today is in. It is a work born out of an interest in contributing to the growth and development of the Igbo race. This interest to help move the Igbos forward was born in the course of our study of the African philosophy and the many problems facing it. It grew after a realization of the fact that the ancient Egypt of Africa was amongst the first civilized nations but today is nowhere, development wise.
On the other hand, it is aimed at producing what can be accounted by us, as the gains and problems created for us by the westerners and by so doing help our people to know what they need in their present rush for the white-mans land (greener pastures) and culture. It is a way of trying to expose us to the reality that not all that glitters is gold and that the European in all he does is never perfect and should never be regarded so. Fr. Collins Ojene opines, “The African continent (Igbo world) is daily degenerating into possible state of anarchy or even extinction should something not be done concretely and very urgently.” Our socio-political conditions here is getting worse by the day and so resulting to a mad rush for the European (western) world. It serves to give an Igbo mans understanding and approach to the African (Igbo) socio-political predicaments of this world and as well as help save the Igbo race from extinction. It also serves to expose the Igbos to the likely causes of their present condition. At this time when the Igbo youths so much long for the western world and its culture, viewing it as the paradigm, it becomes very necessary that a work of this nature should exist to point to them the possible problems and benefits that may accrue from such escapade. To the world at large, it serves as an eye-opener, pointing, like a signpost, to the road we (Igbos) have to follow in order to arrive at a brighter future destined for the Igbo race by the creator. As can be observed today, the present technological advancements experienced in the world and its conglomerative civilization, as can be witnessed within the Igbo territorial boundaries not withstanding, there had remained an unaccomplished inner quest for joy and life’s fulfillment amongst the Igbos as they struggle to live out their existence within their environmental habitat.
The Traditional Igbo cultural society, although timidly inclined, seem to have been more comfortable, habitable and homely for the Igbos than the present. This can be seen in the fact that, today, most evils never heard of in the traditional society; like fornication, bribery and corruption, have been made a widely discussed issue even amongst kids. On this Ozigbo writes; “new social ills have overtaken the Igbo society: corruption, bribery, untruthfulness, greed, get-rich-quick mentality, bad leaders etc”. To this, he adds, “Western education and the monetized economy have helped to fan the embers of dishonesty, untruthfulness, greed, and sectarianism.” Also, the way most Igbos often tend to fall back to the traditional rituals of ‘Ịgba-afa’ –divination and fortunetelling, at any slight difficulty goes to portray the fact that they sometimes find real fulfillment in their origin and culture.
In a bid to emulate the Europeans, some Igbos of today often attempt at solving most of their life challenges and experiences using borrowed ideologies, which were originally formulated by the west in relation to their own environmental conditions. These, oftentimes, do not align with their environmental as well as cultural conditions and at times do not properly fit into the Igbo situations. From the facts clearly presented above, there arises a very strong need for a cultural revival among the Igbos to reawaken their minds towards the realization of a more homely cultural society.
The sense of this cultural revival must be understood not to imply a complete going back to their traditional culture for this in itself was never fully conducive possessing within it some abnormal understandings and behaviours that needed to be jettisoned. Rather, it ought to be understood as a juxtaposition of their past cultural system with the present borrowed cultural system they possess with the aim of providing the future generation with a cultural environment more homely than the Traditional and this present cultural society.
There comes a need for us to imbibe the sense of Conceptual Decolonization as presented in Wiredu’s philosophy. I will say that what we need in Igboland today is succinctly expressed in the words of A. E. Afigbo, “a reaction to the uncritical lapping up of alien ways of thought and action.” This is closely equal to application of the Conceptual Decolonization of Wiredu to the Igbo cultural situation. It is this kind of reaction that is so much spoken of as a cultural revival needed among the Igbo speaking people and it is only this that can serve as a way forward, for the Igbos, towards their realization of a better tomorrow. This cultural revival has to emerge first and foremost from an awakening in the minds of the present Igbos the true consciousness that their present life’s experience so much punctuated by European world’s borrowed systems of living is never the best they can possess. These borrowed systems can hardly qualify, in any way, as the best way to their happiness in life since its origin does not have any root in their cultural habitat.
It is this that I have set out to do in this work and I strongly believe something great has been achieved in the mind of anyone who has read this work. The suggestions of S. Chukwujekwu that “in the search for the way forward in reclaiming our Igbo language and culture, the local church and various state governments in Igboland have vital roles to play” becomes very pertinent here. His further observation of the fundamental primary project required for the decolonization of the mind of an average educated Igbo man/woman in his or her attitude towards our native language and culture as something to be found within the search for the reclaiming of our native Igbo language also comes in here more providential and worth very encouraging.
At this point, I wish to suggest that the basic problem of the Igbo man, orchestrated by the European contact, is psychological and intellectual dethronement of which, today, a renaissance is very much required. This renaissance so required should to be completely cultural. We have to note that cultural renaissance is in itself the only way available for us to make our life in this world as Igbos better and more enjoying. We must take cognizance of the fact that every real cultural renaissance, no matter the aim, ought to begin with a revival of language
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West African Journal of African Philosophical Studies (WAJOPS), Vol. 7, (AECAWA Publication), Enugu: Snaap Press Ltd., December 2004.
About the author
Donald Udeoba is a graduate of public administration, a philospher and a great beliver of utopianism and morality and ethics.
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