I have tried to measure the contribution of the Igbos to the development of the Nigerian project and the conclusion I have reached is that Nigeria must do everything possible to get the Igbos to remain in the Nigerian union. They (Igbos) have contributed unprecedentedly to the development of Nigeria in EVERY sector. The Igbos are an exceptional Nigerian race; they are born entrepreneurs, geniuses, capitalists, industrialists, academics, adventurists and you name it. A Nigeria without these set of people and their drive for economic success might be boring and uninteresting.
Industrial Spirit: The Igbos are probably the only tribe that has built several indigenous industrial estates in Nigeria. In 1997, an Igbo engineer by the name Ezekiel Izuogu produced Nigeria’s first indigenous prototype car in Imo State. Africa was excited by his ingenuity. However, due to financial constraint and dirty Nigerian politics, the Izuogu Z-600 car model could not hit the Nigerian market in mass produce. His workshop was later vandalized and his efforts destroyed. The dream died. Few decades later another Igbo by the name Innocent Chukwuma launched his Innoson cars, making him the first indigenous car producer in and from Nigeria. Anambra and Enugu alone has over six indigenous estates. By indigenous I mean industrial estates built by indigenes and with little or no government support. Nigeria’s first indigenous car is made in one of those estates- Nnewi precisely. The industrial estates are a host to several indigenous manufacturing companies. One of those estates houses one of the biggest plastic manufacturing plants in Africa. You will be shocked to see what the Igbos are producing in their indigenous industrial estates. It will not be wrong to say that Igbos are driving the indigenous manufacturing sector of the Nigerian economy with little or no government patronage. The first indigenous Nigerian company to produce Nigeria’s first internationally certified branded computers – Zinox is Igbo by the name Stanley Nnamdi Ekeh from Imo State. The Igbos dominate the electronics market and have built series of what they call ‘computer village’ across Nigeria. Nigeria’s leading pharmaceutical companies are Igbo owned; Emzor, Juhel, Orange, Rico, etc. Anabel Mobile is the first indigenous Nigerian phone manufacturer; Igbo. There are several countless industrial breakthroughs the Igbos have made for Nigeria that I cannot go on to list here.
On Trade: The Igbos are the most successful traders not just in Nigeria but possibly around the world. Across Nigerian cities they not just control various markets, they equally dominate certain industries. In Kano, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, and many more Nigerian cities, the Igbos not only dominate the markets, they control certain sectors of the trade business. They are synonymous with the phrase ‘importer’. Their natural drive towards capitalism has driven them across the globe in search for opportunities. There is barely any country in the world where there is no Igbo man doing one legitimate or illegitimate business. The Igbos have proven to the rest of Nigeria that beyond reasonable doubt they are not a lazy people.
Unlike Lagos and Abuja that was built by special federal government interventions through their FCT status, the Igbos have built self-sustainable cities with little federal govt support.
In Literature: The father of modern African Literature is an Igbo man by the name Chinua Achebe. His work titled ‘Things Fall Apart” has remained one of Africa’s most read book which brought international attention to Nigerian literature. Chinua Achebe remains an inspiration to most African writers. Nigeria gets the glory.
In Politics: The Igbos are the first and only tribe in Nigeria to have successfully coordinated and executed Nigeria’s first and only political revolution; other military revolutions (coup) that followed were merely revenge and hunger for military political power. In 1966, a group of senior Igbo officers executed Nigeria’s first set of corrupt politicians in a bloody coup. Although their plan was to install an imprisoned opposition leader by the name Obafemi Awolowo as president, unfortunately the coup was altered by another senior Igbo officer by the name Aguiyi Ironsi who not only distorted the plans but ended up making himself a military ruler and at the same time ended Nigeria’s federalism by decreeing unitarism. The Igbos laid the foundation for political revolutions in Nigeria. And they have paid dearĺy for that move. Today, they are demanding for an independent nation. The Igbos like to fight for what they believe in and they always do damn the consequences.
The Igbos control a fair share of the oil & gas servicing industry in Nigeria. The biggest indigenous oil servicing contractor in Nigeria today is Igbo owned. The first indigenous and independently (without government funding) owned gas power plant is built by an Igbo in Aba – Geometric Power Limited. From haulage to logistics to procurement to real estate, finance, sports, entertainment, manufacturing, engineering to medicine, science and you name it. The Igbos have made Nigeria proud; locally and internationally. The Igbos might be arrogant and even exploitative in their quest for profit and expansionism yet Nigeria cannot afford to lose them. They technically control the formal and informal sector of Nigerian economy and they are everywhere, with or without political patronage, they are making progress. I was shocked to find out sometime last year that Igbos still engage in rural-riverine-onshore trading across the remotest villages of the Niger Delta. At this remote village near the Atlantic ocean in Bayelsa State that is only accessible by water and air, these Igbos designed a floating market. They bring in their goods, dock their big boats once in two weeks, make sales and move to another village along that dangerous terrain. A business idea the indigenes of that area have not considered venturing into. The Igbos are risk takers!
In this community where I have stayed for the past few months here in Anambra state, the number of modern houses (duplexes) in this non-industrial, non-commercial small Igbo village is higher than any I have seen in all the oil communities I have visited in the Niger Delta put together. The Igbos are that successful and they always do remember home.
The Igbo influence in the Roman Catholic Church worldwide is amazing. An Igbo by the name Cardinal Arinze was once rumored to become the first black Pope! The Igbos have a strong affinity with the Roman Catholic Church and they have made a mark globally.
Anybody who think the Igbos cannot survive as an independent nation might need to have a rethink. Just less than four decades after they were defeated in a bloody civil war and denied their property and work space across Nigeria, the Igbos have risen to produce one of the highest number of billionaires, entreprenuers, industrialists, etc in Nigeria. They have risen from being a defeated tribe to become the dominating factor of Nigeria’s economy. They have built indigenous industrial cities, turned out to be the most literate people in Nigeria, dominated several industries and have made Nigeria proud in the world scene. If a people can rise to achieve these with little or no government support, one can only imagine what they will become as a republic of Biafra.
Enugu has sufficient coal to power the coal need of an industrial country. Anambra, Abia and Imo states have abundant reserve of crude oil and natural gas. They also have access to the sea through the Imo and Niger river. Anambra has three commercial and industrial cities concentrating on manufacturing and trade. Ebonyi is the agriculture base of Igbo land; producing rice, salt, and other farm produce. Abia has Aba and over 100 untapped oil wells with series of indigenous manufacturing firms.
In contemporary politics, the Igbo states have managed to stay afloat and sustain recurrent and capital expenditure even when major oil producing states are already endangered. Anambra, Enugu and other Igbo states have proven that there is an economy beyond federal allocations and free oil money. They have scored high in security, education, health care, job creation, entrepreneurship, sports, trade, etc.
Many people have argued that the Igbos would lose their investment across Nigeria if Biafra happens. This is an archaic and primitive way of thinking. An independent Biafran nation will not alter any Igbo socio-economic relationship with the outside world, Nigeria inclusive. An independent Biafran nation will not stop Innoson vehicles from been sold in Nigerian market. It will not stop Juhel pharmarcy products from been sold in Nigerian market. A new Biafran nation will not stop any Igbo man from being a landlord in Abuja, Kano or Port Harcourt. It will not stop an Hausa man from still trading at Onitsha. An independent Biafran will only give the Igbos a political status in the world order which will in turn further stimulate the orientation of profit repatriation, sustainability, economic diversification and the need to further develop homelands and eradicate the perception of federal neocolonialism by the skewed federal government of Nigeria. An independent Biafran Nation has the potential of becoming the Japan of Africa.
The Igbos want autonomy and control of their life without feeling been marginalized and oppressed. Nigeria can give them this sense of autonomy without necessarily losing them. This is the direction every sensible federal leader should be looking at. How do we satisfy the desire for autonomy by the Igbos and other Nigerian tribes without necessarily losing them as members of Nigeria? This is where true federalism comes in.
True federalism will not only give the Igbos the sense of autonomy but will equally position them to further drive the national economy through healthy competition and regional integration. True Federalism will enhance the possibility of Igbo land becoming the Japan of Nigeria. It is possible.
Nigeria has a choice to restructure or let the Igbos go. If the Federal government does not make this choice right, the Igbos will make it for themselves and Nigeria will be the loser.
The determination of the Igbos towards their sovereign nation should not be undermined by the federal government of Nigeria. I believe boundaries should be destroyed and not further created in our time, this is why I believe in restructure rather than secession. The Igbos have nothing to lose with their secession agenda, it is Nigeria that will lose. This is why Nigeria should now be proffering solutions and not fuelling the agitation.
I believe the Igbos will be better positioned under a restructured Nigeria.
I do not believe in secession as a solution even though I respect their right to secession.
I believe true federalism will fix Nigeria and give the Igbos their desired autonomy while remaining as Nigerians. I believe we all have a choice to make true federalism happen ASAP before Nigeria gets to its elastic point.
Again I repeat, Nigeria must not let the Igbos leave the Nigerian union.