Founding an Igbo State ~ By Osita Ebiem
When considering the founding of a new modern Igbo state we have to take into consideration the fact that every existing state or country today has their own unique and peculiar circumstances and conditions that produced them. So, in working to found an Igbo country, we must as much as possible restrict ourselves to the very unique things that make the Igbo who they are.
We cannot take too much liberty at copying too much from outside or it will not be an authentic Igbo society. We must look inwards and rely more on our internal resources rather than trying to fashion this new state on the structures of other people’s experiences. As Igbo people we have had our own unique Igbo experiences that have helped to shape us as a people.
Therefore if we can be honest and sincere enough to base most of our decision and choices of what should be included or excluded in the end we will end up with a brand new country that will be functional and possess most of the factors that will set it on the course of achieving greatness.
In as much as we have to certainly look at other people’s cases with situations that are both similar and dissimilar cases but we should not be carried away by those shining examples and throw caution to the wind to adopt those models hook line and sinker. At every given stage if we bear in mind that what we are aiming for is primarily to create an original and authentic Igbo state then we will not stray too far at the end of the day. We must avoid the situation that our ancestors fell into when they encountered the colonial European people. They threw away and abandoned everything they had ever had; their cultures, customs and general way of life to adopt the new and the foreign. In the end, when the chips are down we are neither here nor there. We lost our indigenous ways and learned so badly the foreign.
In creating this our collective new dream state we should not base it heavily on those things that obtain elsewhere. In those foreign environments whether functional, successful, prosperous or not, their story, their experiences are not Igbo story or experiences. The Igbo have 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 obtained and cherish but only always as mere supplements never as the chief corner stones. The most grievous and devastating mistakes we will make is over reliance outsiders contributions.
If we fail to work hard to formulate simplify, understand thoroughly and be able to communicate effectively and very comprehensively all the rudimentary and indeed every aspect of the principles on which the new society is operating then it might be in the danger of failing. It doesn’t matter who are composed of the citizens of the country. It is this essentially ability to understand, interpret and dispassionately be willing to enforce all the tenets of the principles of the new society will be able to function and succeed. And as a digression, functional societies are those that are based on law and order and laws that work (that people obey easily) are those that evolve from the people’s indigenous ways, cultures and customs.
Experience has shown over time 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 from outside. So, rules, regulations laws are easily accepted and adopted by the locals if they are based on the things they are familiar with over a long period of time.
Brothers and sisters in creating this new modern Igbo state we should aim to be original. And this will come easy for us if we choose to be confident and trust in our gut feelings and proceed along as how we are intuitively persuaded. We must endeavor to be honest and true to these our inner feelers. In founding this new Igbo country let us for a minute pretend that we are the only ones in the whole wide world and wholeheartedly depend on ourselves for all the answers. As an example, America became the world’s greatest country purely based on the founding fathers new and unique American experiment or what they commonly refer to as the American dream.
The American dream is like the people’s aspiration – what they wish to become, what they wish to achieve as individuals and as a collective within that society. So when these goals have been set they create the environment, the enabling conditions that will make those dreams to come true. In the society both the individuals’ and the collective dreams are supposed to be constant and endless with the people continuously challenging themselves to do better and achieve higher.
America when it was founded was not modelled after any existing at the time. What happened is that a few people who were no experts but merely lay people but honest, dedicated and passionate got together and wrote out what they were persuaded, if followed in honesty would help their new country to succeed. That document became known as the constitution (that is what constitutes the new society), what they considered in their innermost being would help them govern the new state. Their constitution was like their code of conduct, their charter or set of guidelines for the dos and don’ts of their new and experimental society.
The larger population chose to adopt those guidelines and conducted their lives and businesses faithfully to those rules. Luckily for them their faith and experiment paid off, it succeeded. It is true that the writers of the 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 adopt any particular set as is. No, they took from each those good things that applied to their peculiar circumstances.
Have you stopped to consider that the original founders of America came from mostly the English system or the British monarchical system which they out rightly and totally rejected. But they set out to experiment with something new, strange and unfamiliar. It is based on this self-evident and incontestable success of the American experiment that we have to warn us to be very cautious with the temptation to overly rely on the so-called experts; people with high-sounding titles and mostly in real life impractical advanced degrees and merely self-adulatory on-paper qualifications.
These people might come up with highly flatulent and impractical theories and they will appeal to the vain and thoughtless part of our people who are already drunk on their insatiable crave for high sounding titles and flamboyant non-utility words. We must stair away this new Igbo state from being overwhelmed by these vain and dishonest members of our society. Beautiful theories many a times look good on the papers they are written and sound great in the halls of academic theorists but disastrous when applied in real life situations.
Karl Marx’s socialistic communism is a good example here. Marx’s well-articulated set of very attractive social, economic and political theories have proved to be a set of mere disaster wherever they have been applied over the years. On the contrary American founding fathers were not and did not rely on experts, there were no experts on the new experiment they were embarking on. They relied solely on themselves, on the convictions of their gut feelings. These gut or intuitive lights will hardly ever mislead you if you follow them honestly and sincerely. The most important thing is to be persuaded, have clearly defined goals and decide not to be distracted by mere frivolities, fads and foreignness.
To illustrate how those American founders depended so much on spontaneity and intuition is that up to the very last day and hour to their inauguration of their head of state they were still undecided on the title to use. Again when they chose the title of president it was original, it was new and it was unique and it was chosen at the very last minute. The American founders were original, unique, honest and sincere to themselves, their persuasion or their dream. These are the qualities and characters we can aspire to emulate and apply to our local unique and indigenous situations.
We don’t need to thoughtlessly some foreign sets of systems just because they are working in other climes. My advice at this point is when we see that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, instead of going to uproot and transfer the grass from across the fence, let us water more the grass we have on our side roll up our sleeves and devote some more time and work gardening and try to be more devoted and innovative at the same time.
A major reason why we should not look across the fence at any European cases 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 detriment. Let me explain 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 continental European wars and upheavals. They had also had continental imperial conquering and dominations.
All these and many other continental catastrophic events in their past had helped them to familiarize the various different and desperate peoples and tended to have unified them forcefully (when might was right) more than the peoples in Africa. We are all familiar with the historical antecedents of the Roman Empire and other imperial powers which had extended their power and influence over very wide varieties of diverse peoples and cultures. In the process they used coaxion to force the peoples to be one for extended periods of time. Under such conditions the peoples must find ways to coexist and cooperate because the overlord wished it so. They found ways to run 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 an overseer who had the responsibility to execute the project. The overseer will recruit the workers and experts and delegate duties. Once the jobsite is set up the workers must work together cooperatively to accomplish the tasks whether they liked each other or not. Each team member did their parts or there would be consequences. Assignments were distributed and individuals were made responsible over different aspects of the project.
So, with these unique experiences the Europeans 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 as he believed could successfully accomplish the project and they will all work at the instance of the overlord or emperor.
We went into the above details to show how dissimilar the European and African especially the Igbo experiences are very different from each other. So with that being the case we cannot apply successfully the same measure in both cases. Whatever circumstance we have described about the European experience are in direct contrast from the Igbo experience. The closest resemblance of European experience that we can use to compare with the Igbo experience is the ancient Greek city states. Each Greek city just like each Igbo town was independent and operated autonomous governments parallel to their neighboring cities and towns.
Despite the fact that all Igbo spoke the same language and had similar cultures and customs but they ran their communities and towns independently. So given this unique experience the Igbo are fiercely independent and autonomous. With this background we cannot justifiably aim for or dream to create a multi ethnic Igbo state. It will amount to trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
At this point in our collective history our aim should be to find ways to build from our familiar 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 to ambitious and overstretch our age old capabilities. Let us in humility adopt a more realistic model that fits well our familiar experience and historical antecedent.
Rather let us work hard at finding realistic ways of finally unifying the greater Igbo into one people and wean them away from the prevailing fierce retrogressive 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 collectively communal and mutually beneficial grand projects. It is after we might have perfected this basic communal survival technic would we then think of ways of working cooperatively with our neighbors and friends.
By way of a caveat, I must say that we can only pay attention to above arguments if our aim for or dream to found a functional and successful modern Igbo state or society. We do not need to pay heed to them if our interest is simply to look and feel pretty like others. 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” people because we are together with strangers as members and citizens of the same country and it does not matter whether we succeed and thrive or not. But if we choose to instead direct our goal to founding a modern successful society then we must reject every structure and frame as initiated or suggested to us by foreigners.
We should totally reject every shape and form that represented the former Eastern Region and all its attendant tragedies. We should go to work and come up with an authentic original modern Igbo state map. This genuine Igbo state will include Igbo land and people everywhere, whether on the eastern or western side of the Niger River. This will be in direct contrast with the defunct old Eastern Region which did not all Igbo territories on both sides of the Niger. Let us with this opportunity go to work to create an Igbo state for the Igbo and by Igbo people.
At this juncture for those who will look at the enormous work that this new beginning will call for and want to balk and want to try to follow along the path of least resistance by adopting old and checkered non practical maps that the days of shoddy jobs are over. At this point in our history the Igbo cannot afford to cut corners and settle for temporary and compromised solutions. We must at this point learn to adopt the spirit of self-reliance and uncompromisingly independent.
This position of an Igbo-only state comes naturally to everyone who can honestly and sincerely devote some time to think on the Igbo need for self-determination and independence from Nigeria. Once anyone takes their time to think about how Ojukwu’s Biafra contrasts from the present Igbo quest for independence, it becomes as clear as the daylight. In reality the two are very fundamentally different from each other. Given the prevailing circumstances and when all things are considered it is not difficult to arrive at this basic conclusion that the only sensible and practical way forward at this point of the urgent need for the Igbo to leave Nigeria is for the Igbo to concentrate their energy and efforts at founding an Igbo-only state.
Nevertheless we will not fail to acknowledge the fact that there may be some other ways as being proffered by so many people but we must remind ourselves that our goal at the end of the day should be to adopt a viable and workable alternative. In the end everything boils down to choice, our choice. We can choose to adopt a model that afford our people a structure that can bring out all the best potentials in our people both now and in the far future. Or we can settle for a populous and fanciful model that is incapable of creating an enabling environment for the citizens to attain their full potentials. When we settle for this last alternative we would have been back to square one, still grappling with compromises to accommodate mediocrity in the name of carrying everybody along while sacrificing excellence, hard work and merit.
Through the back door we will let back in all those factors that caused the fall of the place we are escaping from. However I will recommend that for us to make right choice 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 rewarding. Along the way we may be required to make some adjustments but we cannot afford to compromise any of the fundamentals that contain the very ennobling kernels or seeds that will actually translate the new country into greatness.