By: Hyginus Banko Okibe, Ph.D.
In recent times, Governor Peter Ndubuisi Mbah has been making concerted efforts to rationalize the ban/cancellation of sit-at-home, to reinvent Enugu State’s economy and save many households from the pending adversity, which the worsening economic conditions in Nigeria have begun to manifest in harsh policies of the government. These efforts are marks of goal-oriented and selfless leadership.
Some people seem not to appreciate these visionary leadership efforts for lack of knowledge of what Enugu people have lost and continue to lose to sit-at-home. Many lives have been lost, economic gains drained and social lives stabbed. No sensible people can continue with this journey and hope to be regarded as responsible and poised to build the future of the next generation for posterity.
Mass poverty is fast eclipsing Igbos and blind people pretend the looming danger. Igbos are sinking, Enugu state was malfunctioning but is now being rescued to start a new life. Enugu is the center of the Igbo nation and the amalgam of Igbo success and failure. Known as a civil service state, Governor Peter Mbah has vowed to transform Enugu into an economic hub in Southeast Nigeria.
Sit-at-home is tantamount to sit-on-poverty, and Igbos are not destined to sit-at-home, with the corollary, sit-on-poverty. Let us open this discourse with a few interrogations. These questions are in themselves the reason Enugu should shun sit-at-home and forge ahead with life at this trying moment.
Why has the command of the destruction of Igbo people and her economy based in places outside of Igboland? Why is sit-at-home applicable to only Igbos in Igboland and not all Igbos in every part of the world? What is wrong with the present Igbo generation that no longer attaches meaning to Igbo traditions and values?
The foregoing questions open an insight into other contradictions in the problems of the Igbo people. It becomes important to know or ask: Who are now the enemies of Igbos that have refreshed this previously abhorred fall of Igbo industry and economy? Again, who is now killing, and maiming Igbos, and how or where does the sense of destroying Igbo’s common heritage come from?
In a diverse entity where fingers of enmity, oppression, and marginalization are pointing in many directions, who do Igbos accuse of bringing Igbo to its knees? Not long ago, Igbos poured out venom on Asari Dokubo for masterminding the killings in Igboland. But I could not see anyone who also accused him of being responsible for the sit-at-home in Igboland and the destruction of the Igbo economy.
It is a time Igbos realize that they are the architect of their woes in Nigeria and there is none they can run to, to anchor the struggle for self-defence in a war declared against its self-interest for its self-destruction. This realization will halt the misplaced blame game and refocus Igbo energy on righting their wrongs, and the time to do this is now.
Every life has a purpose and how each life is lived makes meaning. Destiny is a journey in progress and not an effort in retardation. Destiny is either divine or man-made. Either way, it hinges on choice and not imposed. This is why God gave man the freedom to choose the way he lives his life. But this choice is individualistic and not collective except where it is collectively accepted as a binding fate.
Several forces interact to shape the life and existence of man in his environment. These forces can be positive or negative. The one that overrides the other in a rivalry to assert control over human thought formation, belief system, and action dominates the human space. This is the logic of life and existence.
Every human community has an origin. Each set of groups possesses certain distinguishing attributes and shares biological factors that keep the genealogy of their forebears, values, and legacies continually rekindled. This is the fulcrum of identity symbols and communion with one another in the course of shared life.
The aspirations and instincts of each group to be exceptional in their environment and manifest their potential for success in different circumstances are well-established knowledge. A study of such people is a navigation voyage in which the takeoff and the landing are warped in mixed tepid in the archives.
For this similar reasons, Frantz Fanon began his philosophical narrative and metaphysical reasoning about a man and his craving with a dictum, “Every generation must out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, betray it or fulfill it”. What consists of these missions that can be discovered, betrayed, or fulfilled? This is an investigation that should preoccupy our attention and curiosity.
On the surface, there is no serious alarm in the assertion of a mission statement by Fanon but to the great thinkers, the emphasis aptly encapsulates the matrix of living and dying for a purpose. The purpose is mutually inclusive and it is found in the communion of people who are bound together by history, traditions, and shared existential affliction.
The people of the Igbo nation fit into this metaphorically dicey conjecture, which replicates the stylish description of a group that lost its sense of mission and direction. As a group once visited by the hatred that the human species encounter in the journey of life, the Igbo group is neither conscious of their history nor interested in mending their mindset to reflect the realities of their lives and where they live.
In a significant way, the likes of Frantz Fanon would be amazed at how this presumptive summation of emptiness in Igbo new ways of life now portrays Igbo situations in present-day Nigeria where the initial efforts to fulfill its mission have suddenly turned into self-sabotage by unguarded rivalries among the separatist agitators, which targeted the destruction of Igbo self-esteem and survival.
From its inception, Igbos are industrious people, who traverse the universe in search of wealth, to lift their families, relatives, and community members out of poverty and squalor. By so doing, Igbos detest laziness and would mock anyone who takes the vocation leading to poverty. For the Igbos, poverty is a curse that hard work and perseverance could break and the curse is broken in several instances.
Igbos are united in morals and financial support to help one another choose the part of an occupation that would enable the person to cater to their family. Those who live on borrowed food perish in destitution and are branded good-for-nothing fellows. This explains why begging was initially taboo in Igboland, though the culture has changed tremendously.
The Igbo people who seem to fail in their handiwork, trade, and career services outside Igboland easily come back to their roots to begin a new life with some level of assistance from relatives and family members. Thus, integration into the community and local economy is usually flexible enough to accommodate anyone who shows interest in kick-starting a new occupation.
In Igboland too, idleness is visibly loathed and not welcomed when every other person works and none largely depends on the other. The rule of all hands on deck nourished the pride of an Igboman as one who fends for himself and his family and is not a liability to society. Loafers are watched for criminal tendencies and none is shielded when they violate public peace or become threats to public security.
When wealth, no matter the size, is evenly distributed, (Umunna Nwezuo Aku) it boosts peaceful coexistence and also preserves unity and love among a group of people. The Igbo people are no exception and it lends credence to the Igbo industry and stupendous enterprises in wealth creation.
Igbo brothers and sisters who are outside Igboland are usually cemented by the values of (Onye Aghana Nwanneya) being your brothers or sisters’ keepers and the well-being of Igbos at home is usually a priority. Bringing or repatriating wealth home (Aku Ruo Uno) is the pride of every successful Igbo business person, including others who succeed in their careers.
Jointly, developing villages and coming back to Igboland is always a burning desire that every Igbo person nurses, irrespective of his/her location and the travelling cost implications. Nobody could foretell that a time shall come when the Igbos in diaspora would be the sponsor of the crisis in Igboland.
Years back, Igboland and its economy were booming and the progressive transformation compensated Igbos for the great losses in the civil war when everything owned by the Igbos was destroyed and Igbos were stripped naked economically and emotionally. The spirit of success, even where failure was obvious, possessed Igbos and they thrived and flourished in splendour.
The later collapse of the Igbo industry, economy, peace, unity, and love, were symbols of the civil war devastations. It crushed everything in Igboland to a state of despondency. The crumbling of the Igbo economy mirrored the tacit conspiracy and envious prompting of the enemies. It was irresistible and the frenzy was tormenting and intoxicating to tame. This has remained in the domain of history.
But after the fall of Igbos, the survivors swore not to allow the repeat of such carnage in their history. This resolve made Igbos begin the journey of climbing the ladder of economic life afresh, with renewed hope, determination, and confidence. This progress saw the Igbos migrating to all parts of the world.
The first ambition expressed by the Igbo people was to reverse their pitiable post-war material conditions in Nigeria and secondly, to clamp down on the envious posturing of their once-labelled enemies, who are not Igbos and who hate any development in Igboland with passion.
Sit-at-home germinated like a promising good tree, and people celebrated its initial rapid growth until it started to bear evil fruits. Those who watered and fertilized the tree as an action plan to coerce the federal government to do their bidding are now wondering if they ever bargained for such repulsive fallout from the original plan. But a wrong plan does not result in good action, and every bad action has a negative repercussion.
The sensible and even the acclaimed daft in Igboland are now confirming that the sit-at-home policy gathered momentum on a misleading wrong notion and has proven to be defeatist in every way. The question is: What are Igbos sitting at home to achieve? IPOB fanatics will quickly respond, to facilitate the prompt and unconditional release of MNK.
In my wildest imagination, none of the patrons of sit-at-home is reasonable to ask another crucial question: Which government in Igboland keeps MNK in its custody, or who in Igboland is happy that a freedom fighter like MNK is suffering for daring to tell the world that Igbos are refugees in their own country? Distributing the pain of an injury inflicted on one person does not cure the main injury.
Not addressing these issues are the wrong reasons why Igbos left the knife that should be blamed for their collective slaughter to turn back and heap the blames on themselves. The same enemy whom the arrow of Igbos first targeted have since gone into jubilation when they saw that the religious Igbos who invoke Holy Ghost Fire to consume their enemies have begun to be consumed by the same burning fire without firefighters to quench the inferno. What a fate!
One thing that has kept the present Igbos in an awkward economic and political situation is that some learned people easily convert to an illiterate class when matters that needed skills and knowledge beckon. Otherwise, the Igbo people would have known that sit-at-home is like the blockade policy that the Nigerian government enforced to cripple Biafra during the civil war.
In that policy lay the obstruction of the supply of weapons and food to Biafra at the peak of the civil war. It brought about forceful disarmament, hunger, malnourishment, diseases, and all manner of afflictions to the Igbo people. This is part of the reason MNK and his predecessors in the struggle for Biafra could not contemplate returning Igbos to another Egypt, worse than the one they seek to gain their freedom.
Any memory of the federal government’s mass murder of Igbos, which engineered the economic destruction policy that the sit-at-home has resembled, will cause the older Igbos who witnessed the civil war to be in a sober mood. It will cause something to begin to remind them that the Nigerian government was right in introducing a policy that caused more than a million deaths of Igbo children if Igbos can bring such oppression and genocide upon themselves.
Where are our senses as a people? When does self-destruction become a weapon of warfare against enemies? What strength do people whose economy is lying prostate and in comatose conditions have to fight for freedom? How do people seek to erect animal farm camps, where might will become right and still think that the empire is habitable? It is not, and that is the unmistakable answer to our inanity.
Who is thinking right to caution that Igbos in the diaspora should cease to fund and promote sit-at-home? When Igbos lose the substance of life and the essence of living, they also lose their stake in a proposed ruined society that emits only deadly smells of despair, confusion, and frustration. After all, what is Biafra without the Biafrans and what is life without a sustainable means of livelihood?
We must shun sit-at-home, return to business and promote our prosperity. Mazi Kanu will be released, and sit-at-home is not part of the bond. A stitch in time saves nine.