There are reasons many finds it difficult to understand Igbo people. Some people fears the Igbo. Not that Igbo people are bad people, yet they fear them. It was this same fear that made slave owners to stop buying Igbo slaves even when they know that Igbo people are intelligent and hard working. It was as a result of this fear that spurred Britain in to working against the Igbo interests in Nigeria. It was this fear that plays against Biafra in 1967-70. There is this fear about Biafra becoming another Japan in Africa. So many refused to support Biafra as a result of this fear.
The understanding of the Igbo towards life is different when compared to Fulani, Hausa and Yoruba.
In Igbo land, no one wants to know your father. You hardly see people say, ‘Do you know who my father is’. What your father owns is nothing when you are being rated. An Igbo man is rated not with his father’s achievements, but with what he is able to achieve. Respect isn’t transferable from Father to son in Igbo land. You need to rise up and climb the ladder of success yourself. No one is accorded respect because of his father’s achievements.
Achebe in his classical work ‘Things Fall Apart’ presented the character of Okonkwo, whose father is not only poor, but also lazy. Unoka, Okonkwo’s father will always go to the Priestest to lay sacrifice to the gods, instead of going to work like a man. But Okonkwo rose up to achieve greatness, irrespective of whom his father was. He got riches and was welcomed to the table of elders. Ọ kwa Igbo si na Nwatakịrị kwọchaa aka, o soro Okenye rie nri.
While others will choose to respect and honor children’s of their elites, the Igbo will rather give every one the same opportunity to climb the ladder of success or be forgotten.
Zik of Africa, Nnamdi Azikiwe was the greatest of them all in his time, but today no one hears about his sons. It is a competition for the Igbo people. Igbo don’t create gods among themselves. That’s why it is very difficult to create someone like Tinubu among the Igbo people. Why others have same reoccurring names in their regional politics, the Igbo keep changing leadership.
Igbo people can rally round someone without money and make him king simply because of his dedication and sincerity. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu rose to power without drinking the dirty waters of Nigeria politics. He was never a governor, neither was he a Senator. But today, he is the most respected person in Igbo land. He got the greatest followership.
This culture or way of life of the Igbo encourages competition and the spirit of survival. A son of a poor man in Igbo land dreams of making it big in the future. A father that were able to learn machanic during his own time will deny himself a lot of things to make sure his son becomes a Doctor or a Lawyer. It was this spirit of the Igbo man that made them survive the war and recover within a short period of time. A lot have been said of single Igbo mothers that raised university graduates.
Some of those that feared the Igbo accuse them of being domineering. One wonders how the Igbo is domineering when they are not invading peoples lands, or leading Nigeria. But a quick look at the resilience of the Igbo tells it all.
An Igbo young man can travel to Lagos with nothing and yet become gradually rich. I have seen a Westerner who was trumpeting how Igbo business men engages in money rituals. It was actually an Igbo that went through Igbo apprenticeship system, got settled after 7 years of service to his master, started his own business, survived out of strict discipline, that were accused of money rituals. While his counterparts from other ethnic groups were enjoying parties, he sleeps in his shop, building his business. Soon he owns his own house, only to be accused of being domineering. Success they say attract envy. This is the crime of the Igbo. Succeeding where others failed.
Igbo is never domineering. They are rather aggressively successful.
Elochukwu Ohagi, Philosopher, Teacher And Activist, 2021.