I woke up at 2:30am this morning to catch up with the news and stuff on my timeline I missed while asleep. Nigerian news usually holds nothing good most times, yet I decided to start there, interestingly, I cannot now remember the first I read, but the second which was on the list of “IN OTHER NEWS”, where the aftermath of the alleged killing of a teenage girl by her Igbo (boy)friend in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State made the list. Before now I’d heard about the mayhem and destruction that was visited on Igbo traders and businesses in Biogbolo community, as news about the death of
Faith (the victim), at the hands of Tochukwu (her friend), at a hotel where they’d gone to liaison, filtered into town. It is claimed that Tochukwu who is now at large wanted to use her for ritual purposes. Her death threw the indigenes into a fit leading to attacks on their Igbo neighbours and traders, who have gained stereotypical notoriety for their “love for/of money“, and their willingness to go to any length to get it, amongst their fellow Nigerians.
Interestingly, when I finished reading that news, then went through my timelines on social media, and throwing in a few lines, before putting off my data, owing to the new upwardly adjusted data rates, I went on to catch up with my TV series. Though I’d already downloaded this week’s (third) episode of STARZ’ AMERICAN GODS, I hadn’t seen last week’s because of commitments and other series I was keener to watch, and also because I was yet to make sense of the series, but encouraged by a good friend of mine a few hours before, I decided I should start with that. The first four minutes of the second episode of season one of American Gods, dwelt on slaves been transported from Africa to America. One of the slaves started lamenting in his mother tongue, and it was in Igbo (https://t.co/5gEyRpgwOD). I almost fell off the bed in shock. I didn’t know if I should cry or laugh. This wasn’t one of those one off sentences like Will Smith doing an Igbo doctor in Concussion would do, or the mumbo jumbo that a so called president from a banana republic in Africa would say in a movie or TV series. This is Igbo, and this actor went on and on, in its undiluted form to spin a yarn, that when I sat up to replay that scene my wife was aroused and asked if anything was wrong.
That scene got me thinking about the impact the Igbo continue to make in the world in general and Nigeria in particular. It brought to mind the late Biggie Smalls’ (Christopher Wallace’s) “I can be as good as the best of them, and as bad as the worst“, lyrics in one of his songs, making me wonder if he wasn’t a descendant of Igbo slaves in America, because that totally encapsulates the situation of the Igbo (in my estimation), in life’s scheme of things. You will find the Igbo wo(man) in the place where you find the best, in much the same way as you’d find them in the worst of places, not been led in either situations but leading (even when they come upon whatever it is they have set their hands or mind to, later than others), if and when they are not pioneering. When kidnappings took a break in the Niger Delta, because of the amnesty deal with government, and the easterners, Igbo folk took up the mantle, the outcomes were dangerous. Victims, many times were killed despite the payment of ransom, unlike what was, and is still obtainable in the Niger Delta with the resurgence of kidnap activities there. Killings for rituals is a nationwide thing, though much of what is reported is of stories from the south, unfortunately when the Igbo is involved it is easily linked to the stereotype, and this my friend isn’t me in any way justifying the murderous activities of my kinsmen. You can also add to all these, drug trafficking (so much so that it was reported that the certain group of Africans that gave the Italian mafia some headache, even on their turf in Napoli at some time in the recent past, were Igbo), amongst other nefarious activities Nigerians (and in the eyes of many Nigerians, Igbos) perpetrate within Nigeria, and abroad, that makes them easy target for xenophobic attacks in places like South Africa and India in recent times.
Igbo children would have to beat higher cutoff marks to be able to go to unity schools in Nigeria, with their fellow Nigerians with very low cutoffs, and yet still have the least opportunities in getting jobs with government agencies, ministries and parastatals, as recent recruitments into the Department of State Services, DSS for instance, highlight. The presidency is even all but stripped them because a Nigerian of Igbo descent, who lived most of his life in the North, and spoke more Hausa than he did Igbo, led the first coup in Nigeria, that ultimately turned one-sided because of the insincerity of his lieutenants. And even though the Igbo were the last of the major ethnic groups that asked to leave Nigeria, after investing disproportionately more than others in its unity, they suffered through a war that was fought to return them into a Commonwealth where it became and still is, “official” state policy to leave them marginalized. But marginalization hasn’t stopped the Igbo from developing their region through self help and their town
unions spread across the nooks and crannies of the world, where they have found peaceful abode, only that infrastructure especially those that behooves the federal government continue to elude them.
So, each day, even away from Hollywood, you are inundated with strides of Igbo sons and daughters in Europe and America and elsewhere, in fields such as science, sports, technology, academia and the likes. The only place Nigeria has refused to incorporate the quota system, whose aims seem to be, the curbing of Igbo progress, is in sports, where you could see a full football (or any other sport for that matter) squad devoid of a single northerner as player, athlete or the likes, though once a while you might see a coach from the north. These Igbo men and women bring glory to a country that hardly appreciates them, while abroad. Some of them gain international repute and recognition plying their trade within the country. I once responded to someone who asked me why I like traveling cross-country with luxury buses, and I responded by saying that in doing so, I celebrate Igbo industry. You won’t understand the ramifications of that, till you cultivate that habit, and because I would need a full blog post to elucidate what I mean by this, I wouldn’t go further to do so here.
It is my belief, that the fact that the Igbo can be as good as the best of them, and as bad as the worst, lies at the heart of what is the IGBO CURSE, as well as his BLESSING. There’s no escaping it, unfortunately our neighbours don’t understand this, in Nas’ words, they “hate what they don’t know, they fear what they can’t conquer“, hence why for the sins of one, the Igbo suffer as a people wherever they are, unfortunately when it is for good, they are embraced by all, even by their worst enemies. Sadly enough, in history when a slave ship conveying mainly Igbo slaves to America was set upon by the slaves and sunk midsea, their River God, “Omanbala” who in the homeland would swallow enemies wishing to cross it (River Omanbala), in order to go make war against his people, couldn’t save them from drowning, as even if some of them could swim, swimming prowess in a river for leisure, was far removed from the like in the middle of the ocean, right in the middle of nowhere. These Igbo (possibly from Anambra) eventually gave in, consoled that in the end they found rest in the belly of their River God, even if they were never going to tread the path of the living, but they also never got to suffer the indignity of slavery, saving their would-be descendants from a scar that’s bone deep, even as Free Men.
– Uche Ogoemeka