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Who are this enigmatic people called Ndigbo?

In Nigeria, the idiom “Igbo-man get the sense” in broken English has frequently negative connotations. Who are these mysterious people known as Ndigbo? Where did their egocentric exploits and claims of intelligence and ingenuity originate? They are the most travelled and widespread in Nigeria. They also appear to know where opportunities are hiding and how to locate them with pinpoint accuracy.

They appear to be born with a sense of adventure and exploration. Even without obtaining degrees in Business Administration, they still know where and how to invest and reap the benefits of their investments in commercial enterprises. This mysterious race appears to be born with a survival instinct. With their spirit of tolerance, they can thrive no matter where life places them. Someone may remark, “Enough with this Igbo nonsense!” Ndigbo are a clever people, without sounding like ethnic chauvinists and with no intention of excluding other groups.

These individuals were frequently criticised for being greedy, money-hungry, haughty, narcissistic, individualistic, indifferent to collective unity, con artists, capitalistically oriented, etc. Consequently, some view the Igbos as a group to be wary of. They are the only group in Africa’s history to have built rockets, battle tanks, and crude oil refineries on their own. During a thirty-month civil war, they were cut off from the rest of humanity. How could a black man lay claim to such technological and scientific achievements exclusive to whites? Impossible!

Now let us analyse 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’s 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 architect 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’. Throughout 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 a 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 planet 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 to a rapid extent western education and Christianity because it tallies 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 the power and the control of the universe and 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 highly 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 workaholics which is why western civilization is sustained up to date. People are industrious, people are creative and insightful. Independent competitiveness is the battery that drives the western economic life force.

Having said all of these, one sees that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the Igbo independent spirit and adventurous search for opportunities, risky exploration of possibilities, 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 with portentousness. They can learn the language faster. In so doing they quickly gain cultural assess to 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 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 tribes say the Igbo language is so hard to learn. This is not really the case. Every language is hard to learn to speak. It’s a question of patience and devotion. By learning other languages on twitch, the Igbos could easily understand the strengths and weaknesses of a people, their customs and tradition, their technical know-how, their medicinal practices, business ideas etcetera. They could live in a 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 pronounced. 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 the 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 Nigeria had produced such items. There are lots of things manufactured and used in Nigeria which is Igbomade. The 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 as made in Italy, made in the USA, made in Germany, 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 a 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 the foreign economy. I have often said 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 comparison to the rest of the world: imitation, fake, subordinate, unworthy, third class and inferior. A change of this view is what could make a difference 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 Nigerian 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 products, 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 surprised what you get.