Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Challenges of Ndi Igbo

Igbo Nation 
 History, Challenges of Rebirth and Development (Volume One )
By S Okechukwu Mezu and T Uzodinma Nwala

Igbo Nation: History, Challenges of Rebirth and Development is a chronicle of the Igbo past, the challenges Ndi Igbo have faced across the centuries, how Igbos have survived discrimination, pogrom, genocide and how now they stand on the threshold of a new renaissance that will make their numbers and business, intellectual and scientific acumen manifest the world over. They probably constitute the single largest ethnic group in the world and geographically, Ndi Igbo regard Igboland as the center of the earth. Present state of Igbo studies and research tend to lend credence to the postulation that Ndi Igbo were part of the original inhabitants of the earth before their migration to other parts of the world as we know it today.


Response by Adeyinka Makinde

I would like to browse/read through this at some point in the future. My fear is that much of the content of this work will contain assertions and thesis of debatable historicity.

What one looks for as we struggle to discover and re-define the black African soul is a substantive level of introspection in the tradition of hermetic thinking. How deep does this work attempt to penetrate the psyche of the Igbo-African? Or is it just another exercise in expressions of a crudely contrived nationalism. A lot of cultures consider themselves to be at the centre of the universe. 

The Yoruba of western Nigeria have the Oduduwa myth of the man descended from heaven to an earthly watery waste on a chain while holding a cockerel, earth and a palm nut. The Japanese on the other had have the godess Amaterasu-omikami and the creation of Yamato culture.

I have never before heard of this thesis of Igboland being at the centre of the world.The purported similarities between Igbo and Japanese words needs to be handled with extreme caution. There are other Nigerian/African languages which have words which are same or similar to Japanese. In fact, there has been enough research to ascribe to Far East Asian languages a near African languages theory.

There will be those who will smirk at certain Igbos attempting to position themselves with Japanese and wonder whether this effort has supplanted the previous efforts to ascribe Igbos with Hebrew-Judaic origins.

Why is less effort being put into discovering the links with fellow black Africans particularly with those in West Africa who form the ‘Kwa’ language group? Igbo is like Ashanti, Yoruba, Bini etc a member of this language group. The Igbos are a black African people and attempts geared towards ‘proving’ links with Jews and Japanese people may be suggestive of having an inferiority complex.

Recent Igbo history has been mired by persecution, pogrom, marginalisation: all palpable evidence of rejection by their neighbours. But such rejection also applies to the wider world particularly to the United States and Western European nations who for the most part did not support their bid for secession in the 1960s.

All this talk of a renaissance is misguided. We can admire the remnants of discovered artefacts from the civilisation of Igbo-Ukwu. But the existence of a presumed empire of Biafra is thoroughly discredited. The Igbos were a disparate group of village-dwelling farmers, artisans, hunters etc who arguably did not develop into a feudal system of social organisation.

Igbo communities, particularly the Aro were involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Where does this fit into the scheme of effecting a renaissance? I have heard of Igbos constituting much of the slave populations in the Americas with much pride being expended on Igbo descendants been part of ‘Igbo landing’ in the Carolinas and slave revolts.

They acknowledge that Igbo were the most plentiful of African groups in Haiti scene of the first independent, black-run country in the Western Hemisphere. But Haiti remains the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere.

A different course needs to be taken among African intellectuals in terms of how history is constructed. The aura of superficiality pervades a lot of works and I fear this is the case here - no matter how detailed it is.

If this work fails to carry out a detailed deconstruction of the psyche of the Igbo-African mind and critically explores the underlying impulses behind his creativity, enterprise and self-destructive tendencies then it is an utterly worthless endeavour.