Friday, July 17, 2015

Paper Delivered at the Igbo Political Conference by Remy Ilona

PAPER Delivered By Remy Ilona
Greetings my umu nne na umu nna!
I very carefully studied what I’d describe as the term of reference-to craft an Igbo political agenda, a manifesto, and possibly give ideas on what should be a political road-map for the Igbo people.
I very nearly informed Ms. Ntinugwa who has graciously kept me in the loop that I won’t be able to contribute anything at the present time, due to a few reasons:
I am very busy at the moment: tied up attending to some time and energy consuming tasks, and this may stop me from giving my best. Also I have very little interest in ‘politics’, and I do not know much about it. But from what I learned from my father, one should always view calls or summons by kinsmen as priorities and respond with alacrity. I have also observed from the three presentations submitted earlier; that presentations that don’t deal strictly with ‘politics’ could also help us to reposition our ethnic group, and are from the look of things acceptable.
Frankly much of what I wanted to recommend have been touched on by those that presented before, and in some comments. In fact the erudite summation by Prof’. Mark Odu…….” congratulations for articulating survival lines. The main ingredient for starting is mutual love and social responsibility for one another. We have to build Ndigbo to a level of trust for one another in order to motivate and power effective leadership and followership. The stomach will need to be provided for. I believe cooperation at SE Zonal level should precede any movement toward independence. Prior to that we must ensure that we have ingredients for survival. That can only be built after effective and trustworthy leadership cadres have been built and tested. In the meantime we must suffer indignities of degradation and that should power us into sustainable levels of trust in one another with attendant social responsibility for one another. We do not have to start agitating for statehood without healing ourselves and our youth of our presumptuous and atomization proclivities which invariably motivate criminal tendencies. Our age-old reverence for right thinking leaders must return before we can move forward”…. sums up what I wanted to say.
What I would recommend is that we first without further delay embark on a journey of self-discovery and without delay begin to revive the bonds of Igbo brotherhood that I believe that they have gotten frayed almost to an irretrievable level, because they have not been nourished and refreshed since ancient times.
I’ll explain why we need to rediscover who we are, because my mother used to say; ‘anwupu nkita akoro egosi ya ka ogharu idi ka owu mbo ka aturu ya’. Virtually all the laws and policies rolled out in Nigeria that on their face seem harmless are in the main very harmful and disadvantageous to the Igbo, but because the Igbo as I believe is largely unaware of who he is, he carries on as if nothing is wrong. I’ll illustrate. Take a look at the Land Use Act. This law took my, your, and everybody else lands in Nigeria and vested them on the various governors. This looks harmless, and is in fact harmless to a person or group whose lands was/were traditionally vested in the Sultan or Emir or Oba or Alaafin. But to the Igbo individual whose land was vested in him traditionally and historically, and who as of right has a vested interest in ‘ana umu nna’, can we say that this ‘new law’ would not have dangerous and hazardous consequences? What if the governor that you took my lands and gave hates me? My point is that because we know so little of and about ourselves, culture and history, and have in fact become ‘more Nigerian than Igbo’ we accept anything and everything that would lead to many problems. We also take steps and actions that would only entrap us. Though I was a toddler when Obasanjo promulgated this law that captured and reflects his own Yoruba traditions, as Nigerian Law, since I grew up I have not noticed Igbos trying to make sure that this law which runs counter to Omenana Igbo is made not applicable in Igboland. And as ‘onye gbaru nkiti kwere ekwe’….our silence could be used against us when we wake up and begin to see danger in the form of herdsmen…..
Another example: recently the Supreme Court took a decision that would destroy what’s left of the resilience and viability of both the Igbo family and the Igbo marriage by making a landmark ruling that henceforth Igbo women would share with the men all the patrimony, and this includes the ‘ana obi’. I have not seen the Igbo protests against this law that would make easy divorce an Igbo way of life in the next fifty years.
What do I make of all these? We know very little about ourselves, and we care even less.
And curiously other Nigerians that we interestingly see as less smart don’t accept what we do without question, often to our detriment. We all saw the Hausa/Fulani push aside the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when they noticed that it was infringing on their rights to practice ‘Sharia’. We also all saw the Yoruba declare publicly that by their customs and traditions that a non Yoruba can not head a market in Yorubaland. And that they have a right to determine who strangers in their land would vote for. And all these moves which should all be ultra vires the Constitution stood.
So, if as I recommend, we begin to look at ourselves with the objective of knowing who we are, what we should do, what should be our relationship with fellow Igbos, non Igbos and the Land of the Igbos, we should also begin to study what and what we should and would do to become one people “indeed” again. Other Igbos experiences may be different from mine, but as for me I am not convinced or persuaded that today the average Igbo feels that a fellow Igbo is more his brother than say a Yoruba or Ishan with whom he shares religion or religious denomination. I would also need to be convinced or persuaded that even here in this forum that we all have deep filial feelings for each other.
In addition as we work on coming back together to become umu nne again, and in deed, we should look again at the question of who is Igbo? It is queer to me that most Igbos that I meet today consider just the South East as Igbo. But that’s not what I learned from my father or what I have observed. I believe that Igbos who are as much Igbos as myself own ancestral lands, and are resident in: all the way from Edo, through Delta, the South East and Rivers. Some even say that a few are native to Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers. Last year I read a Sun story in which a big group told a haunting story about how they (the Igbos of Benue) have been left behind the lines, marooned, to be dealt ruthlessly with by the Idoma.
I recommend that all the above be dealt with urgently, because they have bearing on how we are treated by others. I want to believe that other Nigerians, never fools, have observed that there are deep disconnections between us, and that we are not united, and are thus vulnerable, and can accordingly be mistreated, and that there would likely not be consequences. An Igbo senator from Enugu state led the opposition to the inclusion of Anambra among the oil-producing states. And when Kogi sued Anambra for stealing its oil, if I am not wrong, Enugu sued Kogi, and also Anambra. Also I prefer to first deal with, and discipline myself than to begin with dealing with, and disciplining others. I have a strong conviction that if we become self-aware, knowledgeable, and one indeed again, that we would become strong again, and that our neighbours would begin to take us serious. They may not love us, but they would fear and respect us. I believe that when things get to this point, if we choose to remain a part of Nigeria, our existence in the country will not be onerous, and if we choose to leave, the other groups would not make a whimper.
As I round up I contribute the following: a people [who are one people], know who they are(are knowledgeable about their history and culture), and can thus navigate into the future with clarity would easily have an agenda, a manifesto, and a roadmap if impulses that make the afore-mentioned necessary come up.
Our job here should be easy because there seems to be a growing trend, a general realization and agreement that we are in trouble, in our families, in Igboland, in Nigeria, and I add everywhere-else.
Another little illustration may be helpful.
I must be careful so that I do not begin to write a book. During the last elections at least two calls were made for Igbos to be exterminated, even though no Igbo was vying for any really important position. If similar calls were made for Ijaw, or Yoruba or Fulani to be exterminated, it won’t be so worrying. But as the calls made were just for the Igbos to be killed, and from history its only the Igbos that have suffered genocide in Nigeria, I guess that we can agree that there is trouble. And expediently move with speed.
Dalu nu.

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