KWENU: Our Culture, Our Future
Abolition of Eze Ndiigbo in Diaspora: A Tactical Blunder
Obiora Ogochukwu (O.O.) Okafo
Obunagu Achalla, Enugwu Agidi
Anambra State, Nigeria
Sunday, December 20, 2009
BACK GROUND HISTORY
First of al , nature abhors vacuum. It is in recognition of this dictum that eze (king) in Diaspora emanated to help consolidate our waning glory in contemporary history. It is a fact that more than 70% of the crème de la crème of the Igbo live outside Igboland and that majority of them spend 99% of their lives wherever they reside. And due to lack of organization, an increasing number with their concerns and interests are lost or assimilated into other ethnic groups and countries. Therefore, Eze Ndiigbo in Diaspora is a child of circumstance meant to forestall this and to consolidate the ''ebe onye bi ka o na-awachi'' syndrome. The Igbo in Diaspora are not unified under one umbrella and are without spokespersons wherever they live; they are therefore like sheep without shepherds. Consequently, the intention of the institution is noble.
Going by our history, our political and economic performance in Nigeria so far, regardless of the fact that we are the most resilient and populous ethnic group, not minding the fabricated census figures, we have not done well to befit our status. To trace the root cause of this problem, we have to go down the memory lane. Historically, we are more republican by nature due to the fact that kingship iron grip is near absent in our tradition. Our model of administration is akin to the type the founding fathers of America envisaged, which was anchored on freedom. In this, government is seen to be best when it governs less and people grow uninhibited by the kings and queens or other institutions.
The position of the Eze Nri, a central Igbo king in our history, is more of a spiritual leader than political. He oversaw that our tradition and culture were maintained, and where it is discreet he sent emissaries for cleansing. Therefore in our towns, the cohesive and iron grip of kings on the subjects were lacking, rather administration was left for ‘’ndi nze na ozo’’: the titled men, age grades, masquerade groups to handle, with Ezeani and other traditional high priests as the spiritual leaders.This system could not fit in well to the contemporary capitalist oriented government which is more hierarchical in nature. And so, the administrative convenience was lacking, particularly as the society became more complex. It was on this basis that the warrant chiefs were introduced in Igboland by the colonists to synchronize with their system and that of other ethnic groups with such systems like the Hausa, the Bini, and the Yoruba. Hence, eze-ship started spreading to even new autonomous communities being created now in different Igbo states. So far, the institution is still not well grounded or assimilated in most places in Igboland. That is why it is still a subject of intense context in almost all our towns. Nevertheless, the need for the existence still outweighs its absence.
And so is the Eze in Diaspora.
IMPORTANCE OF THE INSTITUTION FOR COORDINATION AND CONTROL
As a peculiar people that are so independent-minded and determined to survive; the Igbo are always on the move for greener pastures (njem nwe uba); this has earned them "the Jews of Nigeria." In these movements, they always believe that everywhere is home (‘’ala bu ofu”), and this allows them to easily settle and contribute unbiased and meaningfully in the host communities. But this sometimes are not wholeheartedly cherished. It is sometimes misconstrued for their push for dominance. For this, the Igbo are always exposed to a lot of vagaries that endanger their individual and corporate existence. For example, the Nigeria-Biafra War and a lot of other crises that have involved the Igbo have been remotely caused by this perception. Even the Federal government of Nigeria for fear of this same purpose, domination, enshrined in our constitution federal character and quota system, not minding the inherent dangers associated with them in retarding the development of the country and the genocidal (Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, art 7(1) (K)) effect on the people concerned, particularly in the area of education.
These situations are mostly exploited because of the Igbo lack of organized central administrative system wherever they live. They are mostly in weak cells (towns unions) fending for their survival. This leaves them without coordination and control . They are like a rudderless ship. And so, most often , gains (political positions and beneficial pressures to the host) that accrue to them due to their contributions in their host communities are lost because of lack of coordination and channels of acceptance and distribution. For this, these people need representatives or leaders just as Moses was to the Jews in the wilderness.
FOR CULTURAL REORIENTATION:
Of utmost concern is that most Igbo in Diaspora spend 90% of their life time wherever the live, only to visit home during festivities or in emergencies. This near absence from homeland has made the youths in particular to disconnect from their roots; without knowledge of our culture and tradition; even the immediate ‘’umunna‘’ are not known to this group. This has gotten to a dangerous point that many youths of Igbo origin barely know how to speak the Igbo language, our only common identity.The parents to these youths are not helping matters by not teaching them, rather, they prefer them to speak English language because of the colonial deceit that anyone that speaks English is an intelligent person . By this attitude , they are querying God, why He made them Igbo and not "oyibo." Really He made us Igbo because He wants us to propagate His works through our tradition and culture via Igbo language. Worst still is that many of these youths ,even adults inclusive, are fast loosing our identity and are poorly assimilating most host communities traits. This leaves them in great dilemma of identity crises; they are like bats, neither birds nor mammals. They are alienated and not respected for this in politics, work and businesses places.
AS A RALLYING POINT?
It is in realization of these and their accompanying deprivation, that lead the Igbo in Diaspora to embrace the Eze Ndiigbo as one of the panacea for our survival. The need for a figure or arrow head is a necessity for any group; this supports the dictum that ''a na-enwe obodo enwe, obodo adighi eko ka ugbogulu'' this literary means that the town is owned or noted by a group of persons, it does not creep aimlessly like a specie of melon (ugbogulu). This pointperson gets and passes on their decisions with the host community relevant authorities. The Igbo in Diaspora deserve to have their own eze as a focal figure, since their population in some cities outside Igboland are more and more heterogeneous than that of most towns in Igbo land with eze or igwe.
MEANS OF INTEGRATION
The existence of Ezeigbo institution has forced most of the Igbo host communities to believe that we have come to stay as against their believe that we will one day run and leave behind all our investments for them. This has helped in reducing the tempo of attacks on the lives and properties of Igbo. More so, it has opened the eyes of other ethnic groups that the Igbo have embraced the so much sort integration process of Nigeria as against other ethnic groups that are still talking about their bases or zones of west, north, south, south south, middle belt, Niger delta. Therefore, if the need for the institution has been realized now to cater for the political, economic social, and cultural needs.
In addition, the institution has giving sense of belonging to Igbo in Diaspora as it has brought nearer to the people a lot of our cultural heritages, like annual "Iwa ji" festival and other cultural activities which ordinarily could have been denied the people. The accompanying social engagements bring the people together, reinforce oneness, and afford Ndiigbo in every city the opportunity to form another line of fraternity or brotherhood . The youths that are particular about marrying their fellow Igbo find these social functions a good opportunity to interact with the opposite sex, a chance that could not have been possible where the people concerned are too busy to go to Igboland for the search.
IT IS REVERSING THE ASSIMILATION TREND BY OTHER TRIBES
process of assimilation which has made many Igbo in Diaspora to lose track of
their tradition and culture is now being gradually reversed because the
institution has brought our tradition and culture nearer to the people. Our
tradition and culture are now running parallel with our host communities as
against being subsumed. The only part of this process of reversal that is still
not yet addressed is the recruitment of Igbo language teachers wherever we are
to teach the Igbo youths. This will help our youths that are helplessly and
indirectly forced to do other languages in WAEC or NECO since a Nigerian
FOR STRATEGIC PLANNING
Since the Nigerian constitution has made it that everywhere is home for every Nigerian, therefore if the gains of this institution are properly managed, we may make up politically for what we are losing in the less number of states in the Igboland. This is because our population is always reasonable to constitute a force wherever we reside. It is most often close to the host communities, it is in recognition of this fact that some states like Lagos, Kwara, Niger, Kano gave Ndiigbo political positions. Therefore, with our population, we can get or win elective positions outside Igbo states.
Further, it is a known fact that the Igbo have investments in most cases more than the indigenes of most communities and these are most often objects of envy. Therefore, to consolidate our investments, we need to be on ground by having a figure head of repute and prestige to be able to work and access with ease relevant institutions. This was played out on the political scenario of Ilorin, the Kwara state capital, where the Hausa Fulani Emir of Ilorin is in the predominately Yoruba state. It is a tradition that every Hausa migrant community has the equivalent of the patron leader called Sarikin Hausawa. We are conversant with he history of the Emirs who are the direct descendants of Usman Dan Fodio and how they are planted on the host communities and their grip on our national politics and the economy is not farfetched. This is one of the major reasons that is envisaged in establishing the Eze Ndiigbo in Diaspora: "Uzu na-amaghi akpu ogene, lee egbe anya na odudu. Taa bu gboo."
FOR POLITICAL LEVERAGE
Politically, eze in Diaspora has given us the leverage and a platform to operate as a people. We now have addresses where to be found, with established channels of communication. Unlike before, any red-capped person will run to any of the media houses to go and disgrace the Igbo in the name of one Igbo chief said this or that, even when it is personal and for selfish reasons. This also allows our sons and daughters a forum to interact on equal pedestal with the host political class to disuse our common wel being at the same time developing our people to the art of governance and making up for the deprivation occasioned by quota system. This opportunity of interaction will not be possible if our leader is a union leader, as in Igbo union as being canvassed by some people.
A DISPUTE RESOLUTION MECHANISM?
Conflict is inevitable in every group and more as people move from one cultural group to another; and success breeds enmity. These have been the burden of Ndiigbo wherever they reside. But the incessant attacks on the Igbo and their properties have reduced now due to existence of this crises resolution mechanism. Therefore, we have to migrate from towns unions to a more encompassing, sustaining and dignifying thing. The most formidable organization in Nigeria apart from the government before the war, was the Igbo State Union but that type of union cannot effectively fit into today's complex world because of the perceived shortcomings or barriers to the union leader. His position lacks prestige and this will deny his access to people and places of authority.
REASONS FOR PRESERVING THE INSTITUTION
The gains of this institution are innumerable to be allowed to be destroyed on the infinitesimal and parochial bases of variation in nomenclature ''Eze Ndiigbo'' tearing Ndiigbo apart or that it is a foreign culture. It is a fact of life that there must be struggle where two or more people are gathered, even in most Igbo towns eze-ship is still creating confusion because it is foreign and still not yet properly assimilated in our cultures. Therefore we should concentrate on refining the processes to the institution that generate the confusion than to throw away the child and the birth water. It is true that some Igbo people who have lost sense of our value system that ''Igbo na asu na olu na olu ma asuo ude obulu ofu, makana ofu aja-ani ji anyi'' have gone to the extreme to destroy our common heritage for self-aggrandizement. Therefore it is not enough to abolish this institution based on these facts. We should realize that the Igbo come together under intense heat just like the amalgam of iron and carbon to form steal and difficult to break once together.
EZE NDIIGBO, A MISPERCEIVED INSTITUTION
Let me believe that the dissolution of ''Eze Ndiigbo'' in Diaspora may have been borne out of misunderstood intentions and possible gains of the institution. Let me not believe that this mission from some of our homeland traditional rulers are not selfish or for parochial reasons borne out of jealousy as being propagated by some people that what is due for them is now being taken over by the eze in Diaspora. It is the negligence on the side of our royal fathers that gave rise to the emergence of Eze Ndiigbo in Diaspora. How many times have they intervened just like the Sultan do whenever the Hausa/Fulani have problem outside their bases? Or , what fora do they use to address our waning cultural values on their subjects in Diaspora? It is equally wrong on the host governors who take the advice to withdraw what has helped them in administrative convenience. Or could it be they were waiting for this kind of opportunity to appear.We should watch it, this tells more about how uncomfortable they may be with the institution as a major unifying factor for us and its attendant progress now and in future. The mode of the execution of the exercise , displayed lack of internal cohesion among the rulers and the ruled. Could this be a political maneuvering by the political class ? Or an external force using our unsuspecting royal fathers as canon fodders ? We should examine this critically in line with the empowerment of rascals in Igboland and South/South to keep us in perpetual disarray by external power blocks and thereby exposing our people to perpetual external poaching .
PROBLEM WITH IGBO ELITES
I will blame our educated and enlightened brothers and sisters on the lapses of the Eze Ndiigbo in Diaspora. Our enlightened brothers and sisters are like a candle put under the table, instead of on the table to give the rest light. This is because these groups have been seen to be less Igbo as they go up the ladder. They tend to move away from anything Igbo , even our mother tongue is seen to be the language of the illiterate, whereas the reverse is the case with other ethnic groups. This mind set makes them to alienate themselves from anything Igbo; and inwardly they feel inferior identifying with the Igbo causes. This was exemplified by Senator Adolphus Wabara, the former senate president address at the Osun Osogbo festival venue, where he was castigating the Igbo at the height of Okija Shrine imbroglio. What is the difference between the two institutions apart from good packaging by the Yoruba. This lack of concern by our elites is still the root cause of the Anambra state political crises and almost other Igbo groups. It is the semi-educated and the so-called illiterates that champion the Igbo cause all over, just like the eze-ship in Diaspora. Where were the elites when they assumed the position, take stock of this observation. So it is this vacuum created by the non-appearance of the elites that are taken over by the less informed; the blind cannot lead the people with eyes but this is happening in Igbo land . That is why our political maneuvers are in a mess; lack of coordination, foresight and tact.
Take a look at the pedigrees of whole emir, traditional rulers, oba in Nigeria; these are educated and influential members of the society. Igbo elites, why? Why do you shy away from your responsibility? Possibly afraid of what ? Organize the society and give it direction and there will be peace all over. Come out, do not be selfish to waste away your God's gift for the people. ''Onye chi nyelu, ya nwanne ya.'' We cannot effectively make it individually; ''igwe bu ike.'' You are the eyes and ears of our less endowed brothers and sisters in this our one dimensional world. You have to do the thinking for them for there to be peace and progress. Let us stop being armchair critics that proffer no solution.
WORK TO BE DONE BY OUR TRADITIONAL RULERS FOR SUSTENANCE OF OUR TRADITION AND CULTURE
There are a lot of work to be done by the traditional rulers than the disbanding of the eze-ship in Diaspora. What is their effort in sustaining our tradition and culture, most importantly our most cherished heritage, the Igbo language that is fast going extinct? The language is greatly abused that it could better go for "Engligbo." Many of our youths rarely speak the language fluently; worst still is that their parents encourage the use of other languages against Igbo as a status symbol for enlightened people. The abuse has long degenerated to the point that even the Igbo do not know whether they are Ndiigbo or Ibos. And no effort has been made to correct this anomaly by our traditional royal fathers who are the custodians of our tradition and culture. Besides, the traditional rulers have not told us the difference between Igwe and Eze, and possibly the origin of "igwe" in the Igbo tradition . There is no uniformity in attire among our eze to differentiate and identity them from the commoners as seen in other climes.
OPENING OLD RELATIONSHIPS
Reestablishing links with our brothers taken on slavery that are in Haiti, Sierra Leone, and Liberia for strategic reasons, have not been done or contemplated. And of recent history are our bothers and sisters that were sent to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea during the Biafra War. These people bear Igbo names, but they don’t have the background history as to their origins. The recent killing of many Igbo in Equatorial Guinea on the excuse of being involved in a coup has not been investigated to know whether it is still the same oil politics of Biafria War that is being played out there . Or assumed fear of possible future domination by the Igbo there. These moves will help in accommodating our people who are scattered all over the place as well as foster economics, social, political prosperity. Internally, our traditional or cultural relations with Ibibio, some people in Bayelsa state, Niger state, Benue state, Igala, which was played out during the war, as the then Attah of Igala refused to allow the spill of blood of the Igbo in Igalaland as we are their brothers. These relationships should be reinforced through occasional cultural visitations by our traditional royal fathers. These alliances will help the Igbo to make trusted allies that will be helpful politically, economically, and otherwise.
Our young men and women particularly among our brothers and sisters across the bridge, and in Rivers state are having identity crises, uncatered for by our traditional rulers who should be propagating our brotherhood to strengthen the bridge between us. I am not sure that we sent emissary officially or unofficially to Gabon, or ever made attempt to thank and establish a political and economic bridge with who harbored our brothers and sisters during and after Biafra War ; late Omar Bongo of Gabon.
REINVIGORATION OF OUR IDENTITIES
What has been their input to the gradual extinction of common identities, harmonization and codification of our tradition and culture visa avis birth ,marriage, death rites, wills, etc. as seen in other ethnic groups? How far have they gone in preserving our traditional religion that has shown to encourage more love and unity? The omnipresence and universality of one God is not in doubt, therefore our traditional mode of worship should be respected and allowed to be along other religions that preach love. The idols are means to God just like other religions have their intermediaries or prophets. The knowledge of God which is religion should not be allowed to divide us, as God is unity, love, and peace . We should not allow the uninformed or religiously blind or merchants to mislead us into perpetual division in the name of religion. "Nku di na mba na eghere mba nri; ozokwa, odibendi diri ha.''
If God is universal and He is everywhere , then He is also even in the shrines, since all shrines are made by the collective will of the community to serve good purposes. Therefore, why are some uninformed traditional rulers like Igwe of Oraifite and Igwe of Nkerehi in Orumba South local government in Anambra colluding with some overzealous pastors to destroy other people's sacred places of worship. They should be aware that the constitution of Nigeria allows for freedom of worship and no religion has been made a state religion. Their action tantamount to illegality in law. Why then the destruction of sacred places of worship? I wonder what they are custodian of, if they destroy these sacred places and change the symbolic name of town as in the case of Nkerehi. I t is an anathema to the position they hold as the custodian of tradition and culture. This is why I advocate that informed people should be elected in these positions. Who authoritatively told the people of Oraifite and Nkerehi that the shrines are their problems? They should address themselves to education of the time to solve their problems rather than being blindly confused into religious politics by religious bigots looking for easy money.
''Uzu na-amaghi akpu ogene, lee egbe anya n'odu,"
is a name of notable deity in Yoruba land and a state is named after it, even at
that, the state has produced almost four Nigerian leaders (Obasanjo,
Shonekan(confirmed), Abiola, and Awolowo (unconfirmed)), it has the most
educated people with the highest number of industrialist in Nigeria. Education
is the key to their success. Our people should embrace education of global
relevance to be able to understand and exploit the world better,
particularly in this information age. People should stop being deceived by
religiously blind and uninformed pastors with their fake visions. Our people
should learn from how Osun Oshogbo festival has been packaged and
elevated to national and international festival with UNICEF
ozo title, which is more than an insurance or pension scheme, not only that
it gives the holder political leverage in the society , it sustains or cushions
the holder in old age interims of income and social networking which is very
important for people that have retired from active service and are aging,
is not being propagated to accommodate other people from different places. This
institution should be embellished and invigorated to continue to play its role
as a cult of the elites that help in organizing the society. The mundane believe
that it is a pagan or fetish institution being propagated by some
religious zealots should be discarded . The masquerades which are
veritable means of happiness that draw people together during festivals should
not be allowed to die in the name of politics of religion. Our festivals have to
be revitalized to engender and reinforce the happiness, peace, and unity our
forefathers had envisaged to foster them to this point.
TO BE PATHFINDERS TO OUR PEOPLE
Now the world is a global village and our people are always on the move , it is the duty of the royal fathers and the elites to chart good paths to enable our people exploit the many opportunities that abound in the world today to reduce tension of kidnapping , armed rubbery and all manner of wickedness and vices that are very foreign to our tradition and culture, which were occasioned by state policy of deprivation, like federal character and quota system. We should not succumb to the government policy of "kill the education in the East and you tame and rubbish the Igbo man.’’ Our people are resourceful and are rich enough to carry on if only information are made available to them in this one way society, with necessary explanation for need for the change for better.
This is the era of information, education and, as it has been , knowledge is power. The information technology is offering a great deal of revolution in the world in terms of easy and quick money making, the elites should redirect our less informed brothers and sisters to this direction so that we will change gear from local traders to corporate people. The professionals like engineers, doctors and what have you should be directed to the opportunities that abound in the world particularly in the Middle Eat and all the areas abandoned by the Europeans and Americas due to crises. Our people have broken the jinx of national integration in Nigeria by being in every nook and cranny of this country . We have to plan well to be integrated into the world by keying in on the global high way. Therefore, for us to meet up with this, we have to redirect our people back to school, this time around it should be mainly science and technological education to march with the needs of the world . Our people should be made to understand that the era for scampering or stumbling into wealth just like you scamper for oil bean seed (ukpaka or ugba) or yam in the old is gone. This is modern time where wealth creation is planned for, and one can only do that if he or she arms him or herself with modern information, knowledge or education. This is the shortest cut to wealth.
Jews we claim to be have knowledge as their weapon, most great scientists in
America are Jews. Again , most countries that have undergone economic ,
political , social , cultural revolution, armed themselves with knowledge
for example , America, Germany, Japan China, etc ; even in Nigeria, the former
weakest leg of the tripod holding Nigeria, the Yoruba, are today the strongest
due Awolowo's free education in the west. Equally, individuals that have made
names in history then and now are the people that have towed the line of
education. King Solomon in the Bible asked God for wisdom of all things on
earth, because with it he can get all what he needed, even the so much sought
wealth will be at his beck and call. Equally
Therefore, a think tank of all professionals of modern day education should be assembled to always inform us on the way to follow. We cannot effectively succeed individually in this complex world now, that is why our people are in disarray, unorganized everywhere. We should be our brothers keepers as it has been from the old to reduce internal rancor and promote progress. We should reinforce the need for going to overseas for education so that we will get quality education that will march the needs of the world today. Since the local schools have been rendered useless, technical education should be made mandatory in all the secondary and primary school in the East so that we will move our people from being only okada riders, pure-water sellers and petty thieves, local kidnappers and sleepers in all manner of churches looking for the never-come miracles. It is a truism that we don’t have any more qualified modern carpenters, masons, mechanics, electricians, and other artisans. Everybody is now a trader, even when they are selling nothing. Abuses like faking of products, pirating and undue risks for money making will die down when new and easier means of making money are shown to these people. More so, dying young due to overstress among our people will reduce.
Education is the surest and quickest way of launching our people to the global high way at the same time placing the Igbo strategically on the political and economic mainstream of this country. We cannot achieve this by begging but by this strategic positioning, so that the country will have no choice than to be begging us to move the country forward. Let your advice be like that of the one-time Irish prime minister that admonished his people to be like the young , weak and frail salmon fish that leaves the birth place of the shallow Irish waters and journeys many thousand kilometers to the sea to acquire weight and strength; after a long period, it comes back against strong sea current and other obstacles, even dams, to the birth place to lay eggs and die. Our bothers and sisters , wherever they are should make going to school their first port of call , instead of the streets so as to expose them to the real thing and real owners of the society.
Therefore, on the Eze Ndiigbo, there is no pretence that he who wears the shoes knows where it pinches . The people on ground should bring their leaders among themselves. These, people should elect by themselves who takes care of them. So that in unison we will exploit the national and global opportunities abound in our time at the same time pass our traditions and cultures to the generations to come ; instead of being assimilated by the host countries and communities and eventually going extinct just like our common heritages is going now.
The abolition of this institution is like giving a dog a bad name in order to kill it. If this move is sincere, it will not be aimed at destroying this our cherished gain but we should find a way to consolidate it by refining the processes leading to election of the officials and succession. It is true that many of them may not be out of our best eleven and their characters are questionable. The sole business of some of them is buying the seized goods of their supposed subjects. This abomination is akin to the proverbial "Eze Iduu" that cheats his subjects. This kind of persons should be thrown out through a refined mechanism. Again, we should make it a tradition like other ethnic groups to choose the high and mighty, that is, well-read, influential, and successful people to these influential positions so as to understand the art of governance in the ever-changing complex world and to enhance the prestige and sustenance of the institutions as seen in other places. We should stop henceforth the putting of uninformed money-miss-road men to positions of influence, even in our local communities. The institution should be insulated from adverse politics that can affect the essence of it being.
PROCESSES TO THE INSTITUTION
On the process of election and succession. This process has to be handled by Ohanaeze central body in conjunction with the Ohanaeze state chapter concerned and representatives of all the council of Ndieze or chief from all the Igbo states and area. All the registered towns union with Ohaneze state chapter have the right to nominate any Igbo person within the state they deem capable of handling the position. There must be standard as to the quality of the person to be nominated in terms of age, educational qualification, exposure and reasonable financial freedom. Campaigns should be by visitation by nominated members along with not more than five of his friends or campaign team to towns union meetings .There should not be open air campaign or rallies , there should not be more than five posters of the candidates on the strategic places in the venue on the day of election.
Elections to the stool should be by three representatives of every registered town union (president, Vice president and the secretary). who will deliver their votes in block to their chosen candidate as agreed by their union internal election .The election should be by open ballot system. the person with the leading number of votes will be the eze and will be crowned by the traditional ruler of his home town in the presence of the other representative on a chosen date.. other things should be defined by the constitution.
Okafo_ Obiora. Ogochukwu. (O.O.)
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