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Founding An Igbo State

 

There cannot be a better time than now for all Igbo to demonstrate their pride and patriotism to their Igbo national heritage. This is the right time for all Igbo to show their unquestionable self-confidence and a feeling of self-sufficiency in who they are as individuals and as a nation.

by Osita Ebiem

The Nigerian state has demonstrated over and over again that it is unwilling to provide for and protect Igbo lives and property in the country or elsewhere. It has shown times without number its readiness to remorselessly kill, maim and destroy Igbo lives and property. From so many incontestable evidences it has always been very clear that the Igbo have been roundly rejected by Nigeria and Nigerians as a part of the country’s stakeholders. It is in the light of this and other reasons that there cannot be a better time than now for the Igbo nation to seek for an alternative national sovereign and independent state. 

As a matter of urgency the Igbo nation must now found a different state outside Nigeria where they will be in control of all the instrument of state power. It is by so doing will they be able to secure and provide for the wellbeing of their people and homeland. The need to found an alternative independent Igbo national state outside Nigeria is urgent and should be the Igbo nation’s priority now. 

In the founding of a new modern Igbo state there is this possibility that the players will be tempted to look outside and try to model their country after some foreign successful national stories. In doing this they will tend to overlook the fact that every existing state or country today was founded based on their own unique and peculiar circumstances and conditions. Just like in individuals there are no two nation states whose stories are the same. So, in working to found an Igbo country, we must look inwards and try as much as possible to restrict ourselves to the very unique things that make the Igbo who they are. We cannot take too much liberty at copying from outside or whatever we will produce in the end will not be an authentic Igbo society. In my opinion, I think that we are not at much liberty to create a country that will look anything but Igbo. The truth is that the Igbo in its real state is good and sufficient and no one should be ashamed to own that identity. 

There cannot be a better time than now for all Igbo to demonstrate their pride and patriotism to their Igbo national heritage. This is the right time for all Igbo to show their unquestionable self-confidence and a feeling of self-sufficiency in who they are as individuals and as a nation. It is this pride in our Igboness that will compel us at this very critical moment to look more inwards and rely more on our internal resources and initiatives as we join hands to create a brand new country that we can all proudly call our own. 

It is our pride in this collective Igbo heritage that will guide us and constantly remind us every step of the way to be true to ourselves and shun the temptation of trying to fashion this new state on the structures, images and likenesses of strangers and other people’s experiences. As Igbo people we must create a state after our image and likeness. As Igbo people we have over the years had our own unique Igbo experiences that have helped to shape us as a people. It goes without saying that success will await us in the end if we can be honest and sincere and disciplined enough to base our decisions and choices of what should be included or excluded in our new state. As long as we remain faithful and true to our collective Igbo heritage in the end we will end up with a brand new country that will be functional and will possess most of the factors that will set the country on the path of success and attaining greatness.

In as much as we have to certainly acknowledge and look outside at other people’s cases with situations that are both similar and dissimilar to our own but we should not be carried away by those shining examples from strange places so as to throw caution to the wind and begin to adopt those wonderful models hook line and sinker. As we work towards our goal of founding a brand new state, if we feel at every given stage that we owe it to ourselves and our coming generations that what we want to create is primarily an original and authentic Igbo state then we will not have strayed too far when the finished result will be unveiled. 


This particular time in our history is so critical that if we miss it now it will take many more generations and pains to get it right. This time can be compared with the time when our parents encountered the European strangers. And this generation must be careful to avoid the situation that our ancestors fell into when they encountered the colonial Europeans. Upon contact with the Europeans our people threw away and abandoned everything they had ever had in way of cultures, customs and way of life and adopted the strange and foreign ways. In the end, hundreds of years afterwards when the chips are down we are neither here nor there. The generality of the Igbo lost their indigenous ways while having learned so badly these foreign ways. 

In order to avoid most of the mistakes of our fathers in the creation of this our collective dream new state we should not base it heavily on those things that obtain elsewhere. We should realize that in those foreign environments whether functional, successful, prosperous or not that their stories and their experiences are not the same as Igbo story or experience. The Igbo have had their own unique and peculiar circumstances and we must think and base our new state along those lines. The input and contributions of outsiders should be sought for, obtained and cherished but only always as mere supplements and references but never as the chief corner stones and bedrocks on which our new country should be laid. The most grievous and devastating mistake which must be avoided is to tend to over rely on inspiration from outside and on outsiders contributions. 

Brothers and sister if we fail to work hard to structure the new state on familiar and indigenous principles and avoid the wholesale adoption of foreign isms then we will find it difficult to effectively articulate, simplify and thoroughly understand the most effective ways to communicate comprehensively all aspects of the principles of the new state. We do not need a soothsayer to tell us that when we fail to communicate to all and sundry the basic operating principles of our new country then we will be in danger of failing. This failure will be bound to happen no matter the kind of people that make up the citizenship of the country. It is this necessary ability to understand, interpret and dispassionately enforce the rules and principles of the state that will create the right climate in which the state can succeed and thrive. 

It is worth repeating here as most of us already know that functional societies are those that are based on and operated under the principles of law and order. And repeatedly, experiences have proved that, societies’ laws that tend to work; that the people are most likely to obey easily, are those that evolved from the people’s indigenous ways, cultures and customs. Down through history evidences abound to prove beyond doubts that laws and edicts that are imposed from outside are always easily flouted by the locals and they find it easy to explain away their actions because their inner persons sincerely reject those restrictions imposed from outside. So, rules, regulations laws are easily accepted and adopted by the locals if they are based on the ways and cultures the people have been used to through their history.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is paramount that in creating this new modern Igbo national state we should aim to be original. And this will be easy for us to do if we rely wholly on our innate self-confidence while trusting our gut feelings. We must proceed on this path believing that we will be led right if we depend completely on our collective intuition. We must endeavor to be honest and true to these our inner feelers. In founding this brand new Igbo country let us for a minute pretend that we are the only ones in this whole wide world and as such we should resolve to wholeheartedly depend on ourselves for all the answers. 

As an example, America became the world’s greatest country purely based on its founding fathers’ new and unique American experiment or what they commonly refer to as the American dream. Another way to look at the American dream is to see it as American people’s aspiration – what they wish to become, what they wish to achieve as individuals and as a collective within the boundaries of the American society. Why it is important for a society to clearly define its goals or dreams is that with a clear picture of what their collective aspirations are, they will endeavor to create the environment, the enabling conditions that will aid them in fulfilling those dreams. In any society both the individuals’ and the collective dreams are supposed to be a constant work in progress. The people must continuously challenge themselves to work harder and better towards those collective social standards. 

We must bear in mind that America when it was founded was not modelled after any existing state at the time. What happened is that a few people who were no experts but merely lay people but were honest, dedicated and passionate enough to get together and wrote out a social framework based on how they were persuaded. In writing what later became popular as the American constitution they were convinced that if the people followed the set of rules honesty that the new country would succeed. The document became known as the national constitution; that is what constituted the new country. The core contents of the document are those things that the writers were convinced in their innermost being would help them govern their new state. The constitution became the people’s code of conduct, their national charter or a set of guidelines for the dos and don’ts in their new and experimental society. The larger American population chose to adopt those guidelines and conducted their lives and businesses faithfully to the rules of this constitution. Through work and planning their faith and experiment paid off, the society succeeded. It is true that the writers of the American constitution were inspired by the ancient Greek’s philosophy of democracy, the old English Bill of Rights and the nascent French revolution but they did not set out to adopt any particular set as is. No, they took from each only those good things that applied to their peculiar circumstances. 

While we are discussing the founding of the United States of America we should not lose sight of the fact that the original founders of America came from the background of mostly the British or the English system of government. The British or the English system then was and still is mostly monarchical and the Americans set out to out rightly and totally reject to model their new country after the British system. Instead they chose to experiment with something new, something strange and unfamiliar. And based on this self-evident and incontestable success story of the American experiment we must warn us to be wary and not fall to the temptation of overly relying on the so-called experts or slick talkers. We must try by all means to avoid listening to those people with high-sounding titles and mostly in-real-life-impractical advanced academic degrees and pedigrees. Such vain and phony folks are merely experts at self-adulatory and their peddled qualifications are wonderful mostly on paper. These “experts” are very often only good at coming up with highly flatulent and impractical theories that appeal to mostly the vain and the thoughtless part of our society. In the recent time it seems like the majority of Igbo people have gotten so drunk on the insatiable crave for high sounding titles and flamboyant non-utility empty words and titles. As we contemplate the shape and foundation of this new Igbo country we must do our best to stair it away from those vain and dishonest members of our society who will attempt to use flatteries and deceit to overwhelm the foundational fabrics of the new country. 

Beautiful theories more often than not tend to look and sound good mostly on the paper they are written on. Some people who have studied many past great theories have long known that they are very often only good in the academic halls of fantastic theories but they prove to be disastrous when applied in real life situations. Karl Marx’s socialistic communism is a good example here. Over the years Marx’s well-articulated set of very attractive social, economic and political theories have proved to be a great disaster wherever they have been applied in real life situations. When Marx is contrasted with the American system which was drafted not by experts but by ordinary lay people who did not lay claim to any form of expertise in social engineering but relied entirely on their passion to fashion out a different unique and a more perfect union it’s not hard to conclude on which is superior. The American founding fathers relied solely on themselves, on the convictions of their gut feelings. 

Going by the example of the American experience we can safely conclude that any group of people who can sincerely depend on their national gut feelings or intuition will hardly ever be misled when they are strictly honest and sincere to themselves. The most important tool the crafters of any new society should endeavor to possess is to be persuaded in their clearly articulated national goals and the resolve to not be distracted by mere frivolities, fads and foreignness. To further illustrate how those American founders were very willing to depend on spontaneity and intuition is that up to the very last day and hour to the inauguration of their head of state they were still undecided on the title to use for the head of state. And when they finally chose the title of president it was original as it was new and unique and, it was chosen at the very last minute. In all the American founders were original, unique, honest and sincere to themselves and followed their persuasion or collective dream. 

Needless to say that it will pay us handsomely if we can emulate these American characters and qualities of originality, uniqueness, honesty and sincerity as we aspire to apply same to our own local unique and indigenous situation. We don’t need to thoughtlessly copy some foreign sets of systems just because they are working in other climes. We do not need to formulate any national system that is familiar to the rest of the world but strange to us. We do not owe anyone else any apology for being who we are. Our aim must be to remain true to our authentic Igbo selves and present to the world the best of us as we work hard to convince any doubting part of the world that the Igbo can contribute Igbo greatness, Igbo excellence and Igbo perfection to the universal commonwealth of our common humanity. It is my humble advice at this point that when we see the grass greener on the other side of the fence, instead of going to uproot and transfer the grass from across the fence, let us stay back home and patiently water more the grass we have on our side. We should roll up our sleeves and try to devote more time to tending to what we have while we try our hands on some new technics of modern gardening. We can also try to become more devoted and innovative as we approach this onerous task of nation building. 

A major reason why we cannot look across the fence at any European example of say their successful multi ethnic unions for inspiration is that ours is an African situation and that difference matters. African and European civilizations evolved separately and very differently. We can only ignore this fact to our own undoing. Let me explain it further in a plain language why this difference cannot be ignored. In the case of European peoples and societies, over the years they had interacted more with each other than the African peoples. Over the years they had had pan continental European wars and other cataclysmic upheavals. They also had continental imperial conquering powers and forceful dominations. All these and many other continental catastrophic events in their past had helped to shape Europe as they helped the various European nations to familiarize themselves with their different and disparate continental peoples. The Europeans were lucky that these and some other factors though painful while they lasted had helped to unify them better than the African peoples’ experience. During the European formative years might was still right and the corporative spirit of diverse peoples working together to accomplish unitary projects was easier, by force. 

Most of us listening or reading this will likely be familiar with the historical antecedents of the Roman and other Asian and European imperial powers which had in the past extended their power and influence over very wide varieties of diverse peoples and cultures. In the process of their imperialistic activities they used force to compel different peoples to become one for extended periods of time. Under such conditions the peoples must find ways to coexist and cooperate in spite of their differences because the imperial overlords wished it so. They found ways to execute successfully projects for communal interests or to the pleasures of the overlords. The people collectively executed these projects without necessarily agreeing with or accepting the people they were working with. They did not even have to believe in the project for them to work on it. Once the overlord at any given time had decided to carry out a project he set out the objectives to be achieved and provided the means and appointed overseers who had the responsibility to execute the project. The overseers recruited workers and experts and delegated duties. Once the jobsites were laid out and the blueprints were clearly communicated, the workers must work together cooperatively, to accomplish the tasks whether they liked each other or not. Each team member did their parts or they will be made to face adverse consequences. So, in the light of these unique and different experiences, the Europeans and even the Asians, over time got used to working cooperatively with one another without necessarily agreeing totally with one another or without even knowing each other well. All they needed was to be told for instance that a road was needed to be built from point A to point B, a head person was selected and he had the duty to assemble his team of workers whom he believed could successfully accomplish the project and they will all work and accomplish at the instance and satisfaction of the overlords or emperors. 

We went into the above details purely to show how dissimilar the African and, especially the Igbo experience is from the European’s. So going by this understanding we cannot dream to apply successfully the European ways in our Igbo situation because whatever circumstances we have described about the European experience are in direct contrast from our Igbo experience. Except for the British the Igbo had never had any imperial or foreign powers dominating them like the Europeans of the past. The closest resemblance of European experience that we can use to compare with the Igbo experience is the ancient Greek city states. In the past each Greek city just like each Igbo town was independent and operated autonomous government that was parallel to their neighboring cities and towns. It is true that despite the fact that all Igbo towns spoke the same language and had similar cultures and customs but they ran their communities and towns independently. It is the effect of this Igbo’s unique national experience that helped to shape the people into becoming fiercely independent and tend to thrive better as individuals rather than as a collective. 

If we are willing to be guided in present decisions by the lessons as we see them through the hindsight of history we cannot justifiably aim to create a multi ethnic Igbo state. Any multi ethnic experiment modelled after the European example within the Igbo context will lead to an inexorable failure as that will amount to trying to force a square peg in a round hole. At this point in our collective history our aim should be to find ways to build our new state from our familiar Igbo experience and history. For thousands of years we had been used to running our affairs in smaller administrative social units and should not suddenly become too ambitious and inadvertently overstretch our age old innate capabilities. In our ambitions, let us in humility adopt a more realistic state model that fits well our familiar experience and historical antecedent. Rather than longingly eye the strange and the foreign, let us work hard at finding realistic ways of finally unifying the greater Igbo communities into one big family and try to wean our people away from every vestige of the prevailing retrogressive fierce Igbo individualism. In this present Igbo journey towards self-actualization, self-determination and independence our aim should be to find creative and innovative ways to teach the Igbo how to accomplish grand projects collectively for the mutual benefits of the greater Igbo country and people. It is after we might have perfected within our Igbo collective consciousness this basic communal survival technic of working together and being our Igbo brothers’ keepers would we then justifiably think of ways of working cooperatively with our non-Igbo neighbors and friends. In this matter the disbursement of Igbo charity must begin from Igbo homeland and towards its people. 

By way of a caveat though, I must not forget to say that we are only advised to accept the above arguments if our dream in this state creation is to found a functional and successful modern Igbo state or society. We don’t have to pay any heed to them if our interest in founding the new state is simply to look good and feel pretty like other peoples around us. If our goal is to simply want to pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves that we now belong in the “big league of civilized cosmopolitan” peoples because we are now together with diverse strangers with conflicting world views as members and citizens of the same country and that we don’t care whether the state succeeds and thrives, then by Jove let’s discard without consideration the points raised here. 

On the other hand if we chose to instead aim for the founding of a modern successful society then we must reject every structure and frame as initiated or suggested to us by foreigners or as extant in foreign contexts. Then we should totally reject every shape and form that represents the former Nigerian Eastern Region with all its attendant tragedies. We should go to work and come up with an authentic and original modern Igbo state map. This genuine Igbo state will include Igbo lands and people everywhere, whether they are on the eastern or western side of the Niger River. This will be in direct contrast with the defunct Nigeria’s Eastern Region which did not include all Igbo territories as they exist on both sides of the Niger. At this point in our Igbo national crossroads let us choose wisely and seize the opportunity to go to work to create an authentic Igbo state for the Igbo and by Igbo people.

At this juncture, and for those who will look at the enormous work that this new beginning will call for and want to balk and even back out, my advice is that we should try to avoid being tempted to follow along the path of least resistance. Liberty, success and functioning states or societies are expensive. People really think, work and sweat through vigilance to achieve such enviable level of statehood for their good and those of anyone within the country. Therefore, we cannot for goodness sake follow those maps as inherited by us from the colonialists. Days of adopting shoddy jobs for the sake of convenience are over. Everything must become new. At this point in our history the Igbo cannot afford to cut corners and settle for temporary and compromised solutions, at least not anymore. We must at this point learn to adopt the spirit of self-reliance and uncompromising independence. This will require lots of extra work from us. 

It will not be farfetched when we say that this position of an Igbo-only state comes naturally to everyone who can devote little time to think honestly and independently on this Igbo need for self-determination and independence from Nigeria. It might surprise some to note that once they can take little time to reflect on Ojukwu’s Biafra in the light of the present Igbo quest for independence that the dissimilarities and contrasts are so glaring and very irreconcilable. The undeniable truth is that the two are very fundamentally different from each other. In the case of the new struggle within the context of prevailing circumstances of the Igbo in Nigeria and after projecting far into the future of a new state and after considering many currently real and anticipated events and conditions it is all natural to arrive at this basic conclusion that the only sensible and practical way forward for the Igbo is to urgently leave Nigeria not in league with any other ethnic nationality but all by themselves by concentrating their energy and efforts at founding an Igbo-only state. 

In concluding this humble submission we will not fail to acknowledge the fact that there may be some other ways that are being proffered by many other people, indeed there are a ton of other suggestions. But we must remind ourselves that our goal at the end of the day should be to adopt a viable and workable alternative. In arriving at such viable model we must face squarely the dilemma of choice and our ability to choose right. We can choose to adopt a model that affords our people a structure that can bring out the best potentials in our people both now and in the future. Or we can settle for a populous and fanciful but non-viable model that is incapable of creating any enabling environment for the citizens to attain their full potentials within their own state. If we decide for this last alternative we would have been back to square one as obtained in the present Nigerian state. With that choice we will still be grappling with compromises and mediocrity as we struggle to accommodate incompetence, nepotism and corruption in the new state all in the name of trying to carry everybody along while sacrificing competence, excellence, hard work and merit. If we give in to this scandal we would have succeeded in bringing in albeit through the back door all those factors that caused the fall of the place we are escaping from. However I will recommend that for us to make right choices at this most important point in our history that we must decide to become bold and learn to have more confidence in ourselves. We must settle for choices which may be harder and require more work but which at the end of the day will be more fulfilling and rewarding. Along the way we may be required to make some adjustments but we cannot be pushed to compromise any of the fundamental principles that contain the very ennobling kernels or seeds that will finally translate the new country into a great one.

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