In Are Ndi-Igbo on the brink, Chinweizu considers the Igbo losing their homeland a distinct possibility and explains why.
The historical record is littered with the names of nations and peoples that have vanished, that no longer exist. The Bible is full of names like the Canaanites, Samaritans, Jebusites, Amorites, etc. Herodotus records names of the Scythians, Trausi, Medes, Massagetae, Assyrians, and others. Where are they now? Each of them disappeared as a people as its homeland was overrun by conquerors, and their biological descendants were overwhelmed or scattered and merged with another people, like raindrops falling into a river.
The Jews too would have disappeared during the two millennia of their dispersal after they lost their homeland but for their distinctive religion whose priesthood shepherded and kept them together.
Even now that they still live in their homeland, Ndi-Igbo have no distinctive religion whose priesthood is holding them together. What will happen once they lose their homeland and the survivors disperse to other parts of the world? The Igbo language, which is not robust among them even now, isn’t enough to hold them together. Language alone has never been enough to hold a people together, and Igbos don’t even have that to give them some minimal cohesion and solidarity.
Some harsh realities of the struggle for survival among peoples and nations
It should be emphasized that, whatever the human rights political doctrines and pundits may claim, there’s no biological right to life for any person, group or nation. If you don’t get things right, you die. If you clutch a 220 volts live wire with your bare hands, you will be electrocuted. Ask any NEPA linesman. If, without a parachute, you jump off a plane that’s cruising among the clouds, it’s your funeral. You’ll be dead on arrival when you hit the ground. If a people fail to do whatever is necessary to save themselves, they will be defeated and eliminated by their enemies. No cries and protests against genocide will save them. No invocation of “morality” will save them. Nature is tough, terrible and monstrous. War is life and life is war. Life kills and feeds on life to live. As Hindu sages stated long ago, in international relations the governing rule is the matsya nyaya, (“law of the fish”): the big ones eat the little ones and the little ones have to be smart. Or as the Athenians told the Melians: “The strong do as they will; the weak suffer what they must.”
Some Igbos protest the genocide of Igbos in Nigeria. They seem to believe that genocide is immoral or uncivilized. But is it? Maybe it takes naivety and utopianism to believe that genocide will be stopped simply because it is immoral and a violation of some so-called human rights.
Who are they protesting to, appealing to, anyway? The European and American great powers? People who have never committed genocide? Who will not commit it again when it serves their interest? Don’t the protesters know that in the last six centuries Europeans and their diaspora committed genocide in Tasmania, Australia, Namibia, North America, South America, Europe, etc.? Screaming against genocide to them is like shouting ‘Thief, thief!’ when you are robbed in a town of thieves. You think they will troop out and help you stop the thieves robbing you?
If you think genocide is immoral, unholy, unsacred, unchristian, … (add whatever immorality adjectives you want), then you haven’t looked to see who decreed it. Take a look at the Bible (Deuteronomy 7: 2, 5-6, 16, 23) and see where the Israelites were commanded to inflict it on others. Who commanded them? None other than Jehovah, the God of Israel and of Christians. And the God of the Igbos from the time Igbos converted to and embraced Christianity. That is to say: Genocide is holy, is sacred, because it is sponsored and commanded by your own Christian God. Why complain when victors do to you what your own god prescribed should be done to the defeated? Why not stop this moral screaming against genocide and learn how to protect yourselves from it?
On might and right
Sentimental persons addicted to moralizing would do well to note that might may not be right; but the only right you are likely to enjoy is the right that might, your own or your allies, enforces for you.
As India’s sages stated millennia ago:
“Might is above right; right proceeds from might; right has its support in might, as living beings in the soil. As smoke the wind, so right must follow might. Right in itself has no authority; it leans on might as the creeper on the tree.”
The anvil and the hammer
“Man is a beast of prey …The one who lacks courage to be a hammer comes off in the role of the anvil”Oswald Spengler
Some sentimental minds dislike these harsh truths. But such is the world. And as Joseph Campbell observed “If one cannot see it this way or bear to see it this way, the fault is not with the world.”
Furthermore, as some wise man said: “reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
Here are Some factors conducive to the disappearance of Ndi-Igbo
1] Excessive individualism
In his 1985 Ahiajoku Lecture, Prof. Nwabueze lamented that
“Our sense of common identity as Igbos is too fragile, and must be strengthened. Igbos must learn to restrain the propensity for intra-group feuds. It is a tragedy of Igbo historical development in Nigeria that, in their pursuit of excessive individualism and self-centredness, Igbos have lost the co-operative spirit and sense of obligation to family, village and clan which characterized them during the period 1930-1950 and enabled them to achieve an almost revolutionary breakthrough in the educational field. That spirit needs to be revived.”
2] A fragile attachment to Igbo culture
In his 1983 book, The Trouble with Nigeria, Chinua Achebe noted “the inclination of the Igbo to jettison his traditions (including his history) if he sees personal advancement accruing from such abandonment.”
Unfortunately, Igbos seem to have, for centuries, lacked a strong attachment to their Igbo culture, and seem to have a propensity to abandon or easily lose their Igbo identity. Evidence?
How many Igbo communities have survived in the Americas from the Slave Trade era, speaking Igbo and practicing Igbo religion and culture? This contrasts with the Yoruba in Brazil and Cuba who have kept the Orisha rites of Yoruba religion and their Yoruba cultural identity. Even the recaptives in Sierra Leone, how well have the Igbos among them kept their Igbo culture? The Yoruba recaptives in Sierra Leone have tended to preserve their Yoruba culture and names. (e.g. Eldred Durosimi Jones: the Durosimi is recognizably Yoruba) whereas their Igbo counterparts have tended not to. (e.g. John Karefa-Smart: the Karefa is not recognizably Igbo, and hides the Igbo name, Okoroafor.
Even within Nigeria, Igbos gratuitously hide their Igbo identity. Example? I heard of an Igbo named Jideofor in Lagos who shortened his name to Jide, and pronounced it as in Yoruba Akinjide/Olajide, rather than the Igbo way. When confronted, he admitted that it was Jideofor.
These are examples of the tendency of Igbos to desert their language at any opportunity. But as Cheikh Anta Diop reminded us: “Flight from one’s own language is the quickest shortcut to cultural alienation.”
Another example. After Ndi-Igbo were defeated in 1970, some Igbo communities disclaimed their Igbo identity. They changed the names of their villages. Umuokoro became Rumuokoro, Umuigbo became Rumuigbo. The intention was to make them not look or sound like Igbo names. With this change of name, they gave themselves a fake historical consciousness. This is an example of how Igbos are ever ready to jettison their collective historical consciousness. But once again, Cheikh Anta Diop reminds us that
“Collective historical consciousness is one of man’s chief means of survival and a source of creation. Destroy or stifle it and the chances of survival of a people becomes questionable.”
You can imagine what would happen if Ndi-Igbo lost their homeland–a shared territory which, together with a shared but not robustly used language, has given them a partial but insufficient basis for political solidarity.
As Chiekh Anta Diop further pointed out culture is “a rampart which protects a people, a collectivity. Culture must above all play a protective role, it must ensure the cohesion of the group.”
Certainly, a culture is maladaptive if it fails at this protective function, this cohesion function. If a people are in flight from their own language; if they easily abandon their shared historical consciousness, their culture is maladaptive. Unfortunately, the examples cited above indicate that Igbo culture has become maladaptive.
With this maladaptive culture poised to promote their disappearance after they lose their homeland, the question arises: If Ndi-Igbo are not to disappear, what is to be done? What are they to do?
PART II: On how To prevent this calamity
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