THE DANGER OF ‘IGBOS-DO-NOT-LOVE-THEMSELVES’

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July 19 2020 | The Biafra Restoration Voice

My childhood was more accumulative in learning than inquisitive. Just like a ruminant animal, browsing the green field for food and to regurgitate at a later time for proper digestion to take place, I was just accumulating knowledge. Not necessarily to regurgitate over the knowledge but simply to fit in in the society as expected of me. This knowledge included the long-held narratives of my identity and some societal paradigms that defines a man. Now as an adult, I have realized that the veracity of these knowledge needs to be questioned; and I have come to seek comfort, if there is any, in their validity.

I learnt that human beings were tabula rasa at birth. And if that is true, that means I became Igbo without knowing it. And if I should extend this trace of identity to every Igbo person, it then means that we all are Igbo without knowing it. And because this original identity is not what we have the luxurious privilege to exercise choice over, we are perpetually Igbo before any other ethic identification. Okay, let's say that human beings have the power or the luxury to choose what tribe or ethnic nationality they would like to be identified with at birth. And if this is also true, that means I chose to be Igbo. What a choice! And if I should extend this choice of identity to every Igbo person as well, it then means that we all chose to be Igbo over other ethnic identifications.

And so, from either of the ways, I am Igbo, we are Igbo. And now, I would say that I am a very proud one at such. I became so proud of my Igbo because I realized that Igbo is also part of humanity. And because humanity is bestowed with the providential powers to exercise and express emotions, whether or not the emotions are repressible or impressible, I, as an Igbo person, am a complete and total human. Because I have these providential powers to exercise and express emotions.

I have the powers to be angry and to express anger especially when situations or circumstances that are anger-invoking arise. I have the powers to love and to be loved and even to express my love to people who I feel are deserving of it. I have the powers to hate and to be hated and my hatred for people who deserve it can be expressed through my words, my actions and my demeanours. I also have to powers to envy. And to be jealous. And to be wicked. And to be kind. And to covet. And even to be nothing, to feel just nothing. These powers did not come to me because I am Igbo. They came to me because I am human.

Now because I am Igbo, I have been raised to contain and suppress some of these emotions. What my being Igbo did was to separate, isolate and hide some of these emotions; because my being Igbo considered some of these emotions non-sellable. My being Igbo did not expunge the non-sellable emotions in me. They only suppressed and hid them. And because these non-sellable emotions are only suppressed and hidden, they have the ability to crop up at any given circumstance.

My Igbo did this through familial trainings and societal doctrines. Because in Igbo people, we believe that although a child is born into a family, the family alone does own the child. Both the family and the society own the child; hence it becomes the responsibility of the family and the society to raise the child. The family imbibes what it considers good conducts in the child while the society exposes the child to the societal norms and paradigms. This was how familial and societal doctrines shaped the emotions and the character I express today as an Igbo person.

Now, as a very proud and concerned Igbo person, I am deeply worried about some of the narratives on Ndi-Igbo. The reason for my worry is because, most of these narratives are nothing but single stories that have now seem to be become a yardstick to qualify or judge Ndi Igbo. Maybe these single stories are from a single individual or a group of individuals who based their stories on personal encounters and experiences. And I know that stories are written from personal encounters and experiences but no one can write a complete story about a people from personal experiences and encounters. Because personal experiences and encounters are microscopic in scale to tell a complete story of a people. Not only that these personal experiences and encounters from which these single stories are told are untrue, they are incomplete. They are stereotypic. They are debasing. And they have the capacity to place a people on a blacklist.

"Igbos do not love themselves." This is one the single stories on Ndi Igbo that is irritably humiliating. And what is more incongruous about this story is that 'love' is an emotional entity whose impulsive affective connections are based on personal experience and encounter. The impulse to love or to show love is predicted on personal attraction. How then is it quite easy to say Ndi Igbo do not love themselves? Is it that this people - this Ndi Igbo, I mean all the Igbo people, dead and alive, had an encounter with the originator of this narrative that made him or her to come to this conclusion?

My friend, Kelechi, told me how he was badly treated by an Igbo police man on the road. Kelechi was more angry that an Igbo man, a fellow Igbo man like him, could treat him that way even when he spoke Igbo with him very fluently. And Kelechi, concluded that it is true that "Igbos do not love themselves." Meanwhile, Kelechi had never met that police man before and there are chances that he might not meet him again. But his first encounter with an Igbo police man has given him the impression that not only that 'Igbo police officers do not love themselves, Igbos, in general, do not love themselves.'

Just yesterday, I was arguing with Mike on issues like this, and I ask him why is it that in Igbo land, they would say, "if you see a snake and see an Mbaise person, you should first kill an Mbaise person before you kill the snake." Fortunate enough, Mike is from Mbaise. And I went further to ask him, 'is it possible to see a snake and an Mbaise person at the same time?' Because all the while I was with Mike, I didn't see any snake around.

And in an attempt to answer my question, Mike told me the origin of that single story. A group of musicians called 'Oriental Brothers' whose musical might resonate with time had problem, and one of them called 'Kabaka' decided to be on his own. And in the course of Kabaka's rhythms and lyrics, he said "if you see an Mbaise person and see a snake, you should first kill an Mbaise person before you kill snake.' If the origin of this single story is true as told by Mike, it then means that the story is based on personal encounter and experience. And because it is based on personal encounter and experience, it cannot capture the whole essence of the people of Mbaise for which the story is told.

Single stories have a way of forming and soothing our thoughts and actions. Single stories create impressions about the people or the issues for which the stories are told. And in most cases these thoughts, these actions and these impressions are not always on the positive side of the people or the issues for which they arise.  And that is the problem - having a preconceived stance against a people even before meeting them. It makes it difficult to be satisfied with whatever thing the "already-judged-person" does. And in cases where the preconceived stance is in favour of the "already-judged-person," the person is often laden with too much expectations. And when the expectations are cut short by human inadequacies the person carries, disappointment often sets in, and in the end, a terrible story of failure may be told. But if the person succeeds and meets the expectations, then a glorifying story of the success may be told. And that means, "much more expectations."

I have taken time to study some of the reasons why these single stories are told about Ndi Igbo. And I have come to realize that all the reasons are based on emotional sentiments. My friend, Kelechi agreed that "Igbos do not love themselves" because of his encounter with an Igbo police man. And “Kabaka" felt, if we should go with Mike, it is proper to first kill an Mbaise person before killing a snake. That also is based on personal encounter. And because these judgements are based on emotional sentiments, they cannot be used to qualify Ndi Igbo. Emotional attributes do not recognize race or tribe. They are blind to colour. And every human being including Ndi Igbo have the capacity to express them.

Ndi Igbo should be qualified by their cultural heritage. They should be judged by their civilizations. They should be qualified by their occupational dispositions that have made it possible for the Igbo region to have the lowest poverty rate in Africa. Yes! I said in Africa. They should be judged by their consistent rebellious stance against oppression and subjugation. Ndi Igbo should be qualified with their ability to turn a desert into a paradise.

Let me tell you how Ndi Igbo love themselves. Ndi Igbo so love themselves that when they travelled to a foreign land, they will form associations in order to look after one another. This they do by having a routine meeting where they pay dues and donations to cater for each other. Just like those in Pakistan recently gathered and raised money to bail out their brother that was held captive, that is how Ndi Igbo love themselves. And because this love is so abundant, they also extend the love to the host community by carrying out developmental projects.

It was this love that the world saw in Ndi Igbo even in the dark ages, and today, the world has democracy.

Written by:
Chukwuezugo J. Uduorji
For: The Biafra Restoration Voice – TBRV

Published by:
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: The Biafra Restoration Voice – TBRV

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