Dealing With Internal Antagonism In Igbo Land, By Ifeanyi Okali

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We the people of South East must shun hate and strife amongst ourselves if we must move forward like the rest of the regions.

There is no tribe in Nigeria where infighting and deep rooted animosity has deeply been entrenched like the Igbo. Lack of love and mutual respect for one another has for decades been our greatest undoing. Sadly, we still carry on as if we have learnt nothing.

This has contributed so much to why our political fortune at the national stage has consistently dwindled, yet our inability to speak with one voice and bring our challenges to front burner has made us appear relegated to the back seat. It has been recognized that lack of unity among our people, coupled with high degree of selfishness of Ndi-Igbo, is a perennial problem. When there are disagreements among people, we frequently focus on the by products of the problem rather than fashion a way to deal with them.

We usually see any slight window as an opportunity to berate and lampoon our leaders and throw tantrums without any justification, a practice you can hardly see among other regions in the country. We vilify out leaders, pour venoms and cast aspersions on their persons in such a way that their fighting spirit for our common good is fatally injured.

This has made the clamour for self determination a journey too far. If some people are craving to have a nation of their own and this visible lack of love and unity is allowed to reign supreme, it amounts to own goal and a suicide mission. They will be used as an example of how not to be a nation.

The avalanche of insults that trailed the announcement of Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu as the Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate last week on the social media is what every Igbo son and daughter should be bothered about. More disturbing, those who engaged in this festival of name-calling have not met Kalu in person or engaged in any meaningful discussion with him. They see social media as a leveler where they can vent out grievances that emanated from the stable of envy and pull-him-down syndrome.

This is the same region that has decried non inclusion in the APC led government. One would ordinarily have assumed that we will welcome the appointment with gratitude for the developmental impacts it will have on our region. No. That wasn’t the case. People resorted to using the social media to call others unprintable names for no just course.

A people so engrossed with palpable antagonism against each other without a reason can never move forward. This is a trait that is so common with us the Igbo. Nobody wants the other person to be the figurehead and all manner of means is deployed to cause confusion. This is not proper. Hardly will you see a Yoruba or Hausa person or people of other regions engage in openly calling their leaders our in such a manner laced with poisonous venoms disrespectful approach.

How can we be our own enemies and expect others to come fight for us? Is this how we want to achieve the Igbo presidency we have for decades craved for? What happened in the last general election where the presidential candidate of PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar favoured a particular candidate as his running mate, yet from the moon emerged another candidate who saw himself to be better and right person for the job, a move that almost tore the zone apart. This tells you the kind of people we are.

Such can never happen in other tribes. When Goodluck Jonathan favoured Namadi Sambo as his vice, following the demise of his boss, Umar Musa Yar’Adua, the entire Northerners queued behind and supported him without any attempt to ruin the opportunity. The same was the case when Muhammadu Buhari chose Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo as his running mate in 2015 and 2019. So why is it we the Igbo cannot learn from others and learn how to apply unity and presenting our common fronts?

Other regions have had their own share of the Presidency just because they understand the strength in unity. Yet because of a principal office in the senate, some people have gone overboard with with display of lack of unity and hate among us. No people can move forward with such a spirit. We must learn how to criticize constructively and shun smear campaign against those who labour hard to have us well represented at the centre.

While it is important to have unity of purpose, it is the responsibility of our leaders to articulate the vision and goals for our region. The vision must be clearly communicated to the our people. It is the responsibility of everyone to focus on the collective interest, the common goal of the Igbo region. We may be successful as individuals, but as a group, as a race, we may not be successful in today’s socio-political context. We will be successful as a group if we do not let our individual interest and desperate attempt to pull others down to override our collective interest. It takes every member of a group to work together to accomplish the goal. That is unity! Persons in a group will not be committed to the common goal if they do not trust each other. This is why we must rally round and support our own.

Love for one another, unity, desire for our collective interest is the way to go. This antagonism against ourselves has proven to be counterproductive. The record is there for all to see. A time to take a cue from broom, unite and achieve a set goal is now. Only in so doing can we have our fair share in a nation we have contributed so much to build.

Ifeanyi Okali writes from Umuahia

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