Who are this enigmatic people called Ndigbo?

by Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi

In Nigeria , the saying in broken English: ‘Igbo-man get sense” is often dinted with negative connotations. Who are this enigmatic people called Ndigbo?Whence came all their egoistic adventures and the claims of acumen of ingeniousness? In Nigeria, they are the most traveled and widely spread. They seem to also know where exactly opportunities are hiding and how to hunt it down with keen precision.

They seem to be born with some sense of explorative adventures. In commercial enterprises, even without going to school to obtain degrees in Business Administration, they still know where and how to invest and properly garner the fruit of their investment. This enigmatic race of people seems to be born with survival instinct. With there spirit of tolerance, they can flourish wherever life puts them down. “Enough of that Igbo nonsense” someone might chip in. But without sounding like an ethnic chauvinist and with no intention of exclusiveness of the other groups, Ndigbo are a nifty people.

These people had often been criticized as greedy, money-mongers, uppish, narcissistic, individualistic, nonchalant to collective unity, swindlers, highly capitalistic oriented and so on and so forth. As a result, some perceive the Igbos as a group to be cautious with. They are the only group in the yore of Africa that has historic claims to building rockets, war tanks and the refinement of crude oil purely by themselves. That is, when cut off from the rest of mankind during a thirty months civil conflict. How could a black man make claims to such techno-scientific adventures accrued only to the white man? Impossible!

Now let us analysis the Igbo character. The Igbos came from a society that pushes and challenges its own people with intense purposefulness. Life without aim is not worth living. In the pure traditional Igboland—as it is today—there is no place for the ‘efulefus’. Those who are conversant with Chinua Achebe writings understand the concept of ‘efulefu’. Efulefu means, the idler, the lazy, the inept, the looser, the time waster, the sloth, the unmotivated. In the Igbo society, begging brings shame not just to the individual but to the entire family system of the person who begs. So every attempt is made to maintain a viable subsistence livelihood at least to a logistic extent. Ndigbo maintains a sense of pride in being the sole architecture of their personal world and achievements. Therefore, they prefer to find, than to be found— adventurousness. This spirit comes from the fact that they also want to assert and express their individuality as different from their communality. In a more philosophical approach, they see the ‘I’ as the sole creator of the ‘we’. The ‘I’ as a dynamic individual unit must not be entirely subsumed into the disappearance of the ‘we’ or ‘he/she’ or ‘they’. For this reason, they have been criticized as personalistic and ‘antagonistic’ to communalism. But this is far from a fact, when there is problem, especially the treat to the ‘we’ existence and survival, Igbos speak with one voice. The Igbos sense of freedom and democracy, personal pursuits and responsibility, initiative and enterprise, etcetera, is often confused with the notion of ‘anti-collective achievement’. From history they dreaded unitary monarchism. They maintain a sense of people-rule-government—democratic. For in it, they see an individual as fully asserting his interests and pursuits and achievements without any impediment. Can one really talk about the Igbos without linking them to certain sense of business enterprises, achievement and success? Find out yourself.

Ndigbo is one of the anti-hegemonistic races of people on the face of the plant earth. The imperial British colonization would attest to this feat. Also, the religion of Islam was never appealing to the Igbos. This is based on the fact that Islam is hegemonistic in culture and principle. The Igbos accepted in a rapid extent western education and Christianity because it tallies with their concept of individual freedom and self expression in the day to day pursuits. They accepted western education and Christianity, not in the sense of becoming a white man in the black man’s skin but as a way of knowing what the white man knows and even more than he knows. Because, in knowledge lies power and the control of the universe and the human fate. Again, the Igbos has the sense of responsibility to the family and children. The entire society is achievement oriented, children are taught to learn the survival instinct that characterizes the mind of those who are not losers.

The question then arises, is the achievement mania prevalent in Igboland hazardous to the future of the race? I do not think so. Look at the developed societies, the extent to which they had arrived is dependent on the sense of achievement mania of individuals. It is a high competitive people that can dance to the speedy rhythms of development music. Take a glance at the west; people are highly achievement and goal oriented. They are also workaholic which is why western civilization is sustained up till date. People are industrious, people are creative and insightful. Independent competitiveness is the battery that drives the western economic life force.

Having said all these, one sees that there is nothing intrinsically wrong about the Igbo independent spirit and adventurous search for opportunities, risky exploration of possibilities, and blind dive into optimism, constant trial-and-error mechanics, and the inventive and innovative conjectural prognosis. Ndigbo are dreamers and their enthusiastic sanguinity is often confused as portentousness. They can learn language faster. In so doing they quickly gain cultural assess into a people—the advantage of which they utilize positively. To have the ability and the charisma to speak someone’s language is to assess the way the people think, function, behave, act and react. It is to master a people’s psychological recesses and world views. This has been one of the great charismas of the Igbos. This also had given impetus to their success in Nigeria and across the world. In Nigeria for instance, other tribe say Igbo language is so hard to learn. This is not really the case. Every language is hard to lean to speak. It’s a question of patient and devotion. By learning other languages in a twitch, the Igbos could easily understand the strengths and weakness of a people, their customs and tradition, their technical known-how, their medicinal practices, business ideas etcetera. They could live in hostile environment and carry out their enterprises successfully.

This also brings us to a point in this write-up. The idea of IGBOMADE is becoming more and more pronounce. What does Igbomade imply? It is a product manufactured through the ingenuity and techno-scientific innovativeness, inventiveness and creativity of the Igbo people. That sounds funny! These are products purely Igbo in orient. This is different from made in Igboland or made in Nigeria etcetera since such could mean that a foreign company(s) present in Igboland or in Nigerian had produced such items. There are lots of thing manufactured and used in Nigeria which is Igbomade. Industrial revolution does not take place in one single day. It is step by step and it perfects itself with time. So the fact that there is the idea of Igbomade, an invention completely void of white man’s initiation and exportation should awaken a sense of euphoria. Gradually, someday perhaps, Igbomade should replace made in China as has dominated the world market today. It’s a dream. And the world is born in dreams.

But the problem facing this ideology of Igbomade is the problem facing the black man’s sense of self-competence. Take shoes for instance, there are qualitative Igbomade shoes. Yes they are not being recognized as such, instead they are tagged with made in Italy, made in USA, made in Germany, and made in China etcetera. What a lack of self aptitude! Again addiction to foreign goods had imposed on the people a zombie-like mentality and addiction to foreign goods. Locally made goods are ridiculed and rejected. No wonder instead of tagging local products Igbomade, producers chose foreign names to trick their foreign-mania buyers. This is wrong. This is lack of patriotism. This is destructive to the sense of industrial growth. It is cataclysmic to the economic regeneration of the black race. It is a willfully incited dearth of science and technology. It is a systematic neo-enslavement to foreign economy. I have often say that Africa, the blacks as the world knows it, are capable of assent to technology and science if they respect their own ideological imitative.

In some peoples’ understanding, Igbomade means imitation, fake, unworthy, third class and bad for human purchase and utility. These simply reflect the way people, Africans, value themselves in comparism to the rest of the world: imitation, fake, subordinate, unworthy, third class and inferior. A change of this view is what could make a different in the entire continent of Africa. It is absolutely true that Igbomade products are everywhere in the Nigeria market, even in other African countries, but in the guise of foreign names. Because people believe such products are the imitation of the original, they criticize them with great antipathy and bluntness. Not knowing that by so doing, they kill the innovative spirit arising from the black Africans. I am still waiting to see Igbomade products proudly displayed in Nigeria markets as a way of cubing the invading Chinese market in the country including the entire African nations. I am still waiting to see wholesalers and retailers tell their consumers about Igbomade products in their warehouses and stores.

Isn’t the name special—IGBOMADE? You don’t hear China-made and so on. Instead you hear made in China. Doesn’t that create a specificity genius of the African ground-breaking in technology and science? Without the obvious tribal bigotry, each time you patronize Igbomade product, you patronize the black man’s ingenuity. When next you visit a Nigerian market or any market in Africa, would you please ask for IGBOMADE items? You would be surprise what you get.

CSN: 30914-2008-17-55

Hilary Ugwu Ike - is a Codewit Author and resides in the USA

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