Ndigbo - Strategising for the Future

By Daniel Kanu

The Issue of formidable unity and the way forward for Ndigbo was at the front burner recently, at a dinner organised by Ndigbo Lagos, in honour of the new president-general of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, Ambassador Raph Uwechue.

It was as if the gathering was designed to mark a new dawn of Igbo unity - in Nigeria and the Diaspora.

It was a gathering of prominent Igbo sons in search of a solution to re-enact their cherished values as an enterprising and hard working people.

Most especially the occasion provided a veritable platform for soul searching, articulation of a roadmap for a new beginning and a re-awakening for a people that have suffered pronounced set-back and socio-economic and political neglect since the end of the civil war.

The fate of Ndigbo in contemporary Nigeria was brought to the fore at the occasion. Although some believe that Ndigbo have had much talk shop on the issue of their neglect, many still believe that what is important is to develop the will power to confront any problem, no matter how monstrous it may appear.

From the beginning of Independence till date, a lot of economic and political blue prints have been marshalled out to make Ndigbo able to stand on its own and cater for the overall needs of their people. But, somewhere along the line, they have become political issues, which eventually end up in the dustbin of history.

The very robust ones put in place during the First Republic could not stand the test of time because they too were abandoned, as crude oil boomed, to the detriment of the people. Today, the zone is grappling with a lot of problems that have refused to go away.

But, Ambassador Uwechue set the tone when he asserted: "I feel greatly elated by the event we are witnessing today. Let us not forget our past, for I can recall that when things were based on merit, fairness, equity and justice we know where we were in relation to other ethnic groups. Nobody should feel apologetic. No Igbo person has any reason to apologise to any person, because we built and sustained this nation.

"We will use our population to our advantage. Unity is our strength, we should stop mouthing it rather, we should practice it. Let every Igbo stop bothering about what others think about us, rather let us rise and speak with one voice and, no group can match us.

" I am speaking today not as a diplomat, but as a full-blooded Igbo. Any greatness that was recorded at any point in time has Onye-Igbo as partner in that feat. Let's even look at recent records: the Charles Soludo, Oby Ezekwesili, Mrs Okonjo Iweala, Mrs Dora Akunyili, etc., - all left their imprint. There is every reason for us to celebrate among ourselves, among brothers, friends and sisters."

According to the diplomat, what the Igbo want is very simple: the best for Nigeria, because, when it is good for Nigeria, it will also be good for Ndigbo.

"It's high time we retraced our steps with a view to reversing the trend. And, we must do it now for the sake of our children," he stressed.

The challenges facing Ndigbo, Uwechue, said are the Igbo unity, networking and empowerment, gradual disappearance of Igbo language, cultural heritage and identity.

The newly elected President who held the gathering spell bound also threw another challenge to his kinsmen, when he chargrd: "Some of us are now asking the inevitable question: what the fate of Ndigbo existence is in the near future, with this growing challenges and constraint? One would have thought that in the face of the growing global ethnic identity drive, Ndigbo would need to look to our strengths which increasingly will lie in the talent and diligence of our people: our demography, our capacity and ability to refocus and re-educate ourselves and bounce back."

Ndigbo, he advised, should to shun selfishness and internal strife in order to progress and, above all, take their collective destiny in their hands if they must make headway; as selfishness, bickering and other vice must be jettisoned, if they must get to the promised land."

For Dr Sylvan Ebigwei, President-General, Aka Ikenga, an intellectual think tank of Ndigbo, there is the need to take vital step that will be aimed at re-orientating, re-branding and re-focusing the psyche of Ndigbo, to properly integrate in a society it has paid so much sacrifice, including a civil war.

Ebigwei stated: "We are a strong people. We are an enterprising and creative people. We have competitive spirit and self-confidence. We are daringly adventurous and can take ourselves to any height. We, therefore, have no business remaining backward, even if any adversary wishes us to remain down."

Mrs Njideka Anyadike, former governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), stressed that the era when Ndigbo were treated with disdain and levity because of absence of a leadership structure was over, urging all to continue to forge a formidable umbrella organisation that would always champion their cause.

She urged the new leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo in the country under the able leadership of Uwechue to be tolerant and to accommodate all kinds of opinion, while members should accord the leadership their loyalty and commitment to achieve success.

" We shall marshal new development strategy and pass the information to all our kindred to abreast them on the new wave of Igbo unity, and those groups that believe that Ndigbo cannot unite will be living in old times."

The major problem, bedeviling the people of the South East geo-political zone, in the thinking of many, is not that of building infrastructures or increasing the statutory allocation to the five states in the zone, but that of harnessing and galvanising the vast potentials that abound in the zone.

It is believed that some of the things that ought to have become a thing of the past are now major issues for discussion, leading to cries of marginalisation and the wanton deprivation suffered by the people everywhere including their very communities.

To many, it appears the economic status of the zone has taken a nosedive into the abyss, while the very infrastructure which the successive administrations have claimed to build have all given way and the people are merely existing in their states and communities, wasting away, and virtually eating out of the bread of sorrow.

Dr Ossai Ossai told Daily Independent that Ndigbo has remained an endangered specie in Nigeria as they have remained haunted.

"Elsewhere across the nation, Igbo people are being haunted down and butchered in different ethnic, political and other crises, which had engulfed the nation at one time or the other."

The reason for this continuous heavy loss on the side of the Igbo in various parts of the nation, like the recent happening in Jos, Plateau capital, to many analysts, is not far-fetched. It stems, they say, from the fact that their leaders have failed woefully to understand the endowment that God has bestowed on them, or if they do, have failed woefully to harness them to their advantage.

There is also the contention that those speaking for Ndigbo have not sincerely carried the groups' interest along, rather their personal interests.

" They had not only abandoned their responsibility to those who put them into power, but have aligned with others to undermine and impoverish, as well as risk the people's lives," regretted an aggrieved Igbo lady who pleaded for anonymity.

"In stead of speaking with one voice at different fora, these our leaders are more conscious of how the benefit of their current engagements can provide insurance for their fourth generations," she added.

It appears it was in the realisation of this woeful failure of leadership that the present call for change is coming.

Saint Iyk Ekeh argued that it would be counter productive if the unity of the South East, continued to be subsumed in the partisan politics of Igbo leaders and their followers, positing that it is only then would the area be able to undertake projects as a united body which would trigger economic growth as well as generate employment.

According to Ekeh, "the beauty of the gathering lies in the message of its import that sent a serious signal to those who thought that Ndigbo couldn't work together. We have discountenanced our diverse religious, cultural and political inclinations to work together for the common good of our people."

Many who spoke at the occasion including former Governor of Lagos State, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, alluded to disunity in Igboland, which had contributed much to their sorry position in the nation's polity.

Joe Igbokwe stated, pointblank, that it is either Ndigbo work together for the good of the people or risk being consigned into obscurity, stressing that Nigeria is becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex.

Igbokwe said that Ndigbo must defend themselves politically because it would be in their disadvantage to separate in a country they have suffered to ensure its development.

He said the country was rubbing the South East close to N400 billion since the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, pronounced that an additional state would be added to the region.

"For the past 38 years - after the unfortunate civil war - Ndigbo has been in constant search of a vibrant and virile leadership. This lack of leadership has robbed the people of the social, economic and political benefits due to them, and left the people, painfully, marginalized," he reasoned.

Igbokwe, who argued that the thinking that any Igbo man could be bought, described such a notion as not only nauseating but a negative allusion

It is believed that Ndigbo lost great opportunities that came their way in their march to nationhood, but what is important is that the people have demonstrated in unmistakable terms in their different submissions at the occasion that they are ready for moral renewal and rearmament.

But, to some observers, what the people of the region are asking for is no longer long speeches and verbose expositions, but action on the part of its leadership. The people are not only expecting the putting in place of infrastructure such as roads, industries that would create employment opportunities for their teeming youth, but above all unity among the people.

In the majority view, the challenge is now to present a united front politically with visionary leadership.

© Daily Independent
29 /12/2008


Rulers Move To Save Igbo Language

From Lawrence Njoku

AS part of effort to save Igbo language from extinction, the South East Council of Traditional Rulers, yesterday in Enugu, asked the Federal Government to make the language a compulsory subject in all federal and state universities as well as other higher institutions in the south east.

The traditional rulers also advocated for the establishment of a department solely dedicated to the study of the language in all institutions of higher learning in the zone, they also urged that the subject be made compulsory, like English and Mathematics at the secondary school level.

The royal fathers said they were working round the clock to ensure that the cultural heritage of the Igbos were fully exposed to the younger generation through a book it intends to launch on May 21, this year.

Briefing reporters in Enugu, the chairman of the launching committee and chairman of Ebonyi Council of Traditional rulers, Eze Agom Eze, said that the royal fathers as custodians of Igbo culture and tradition were disturbed at the rate at which the study of Igbo language was declining.

He stated that the soon-to-be- launched book entitled, Themes in Igbo Culture, History and Development written by the immediate past Deputy Vice Chancellor of Imo State University, Owerri and the institution's Director of the Centre for Igbo Studies, Prof. Ukachukwu Anyanwu was one of the steps already taken to rescue Igbo language from extinction.
Source: The Guardian, 10th April 2010.



Benin monarch decries neglect of local languages

From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin

THE Benin monarch, Oba Erediauwa, has blamed parents for the inability of their children to speak their native dialects, saying that they have failed in their parental responsibilities to such kids.

He said this development had led to children drifting away to the Western culture, which he added, was alien to Africa.

The Oba made this observation yesterday when he was awarded the Monarch of the Millennium by Edo Legacy Foundation.

Also speaking at the ceremony, the Esogban of Benin Kingdom, David Edebiri, lamented situations where even parents preferred foreign languages to their own.

What is more annoying, according to him, was the adoption of "Warri and Sapele Pidgin English", which he said, had become the first language almost every Nigerian spoke.

He said it was a sign of irresponsibility on the part of those who could not speak their mother tongue any longer and that such trend was a threat to the existence of many languages in Nigeria. He, therefore, called for a reversal of such practices, adding that there was need to enlighten children on traditions and customs "for our future generation".

A statement by the Information Officer, Benin Traditional Council, Robinson Osayamwen, yesterday quoted the president of the foundation, Pedro Aghahowa, as saying that the group was to promote "Edo culture, assist less privileged children in the society and raise awareness on the importance of our historical monuments".
The Guardian, 11th August 2009




The Town Crier In Igboland
By Henry Enwereonye

THE Igbo people occupy the present southeastern part of Nigeria and, parts of Delta State. Their area is bounded in the South by the Ogoni, Kalabari and Western Ijaw speaking people, in the east by the Ibibio and the Cross Rivers groups, in the West by the Edo speaking people and in the North by the Igala and Idoma.

The town crier is the link between the traditional governing council of any community and the people. He is not a member of cabinet of the traditional ruler but he conveys the decision of the council that is necessary for the people to know so that the people will be carried along in every decision taken that concerns them. In his role as the spokesman of the traditional governing council he gives members of the community vital information.

In Igboland, the town crier is either elected or appointed by the community; but in most cases he is appointed. The person must have retentive memory to retail instructions given and recall them at different spots he has to make the announcements, clear tone, must be courageous and effective in the use of his dialect. The town crier must equally be resonant in voice, which is, he could be heard even in remote corners of the village. He should be a man of perseverance and patience since he has to go distances at odd times. He should be able to respond on time if he is called upon. He knows his culture and interprets it to fit the objectives of his community. He should not only be respected and revered but also regarded as authoritative and credible source of information. Finally, the sound from his communication medium; the gong, ekwe, ikoro, or the drum should be decoded appropriately and receive attention from the audiences to whom they are addressed. In most cases, the town crier is always a man of forty (40) years and above.

Occasionally, the town crier could be called to attend the traditional governing council meetings where vital decisions are taken, but generally, information are often pass to him so that he in turn informs the community. The town crier passes the information when people would have returned from their different locations; taken their super, usually before bedtime or at the early hours of the day say between 5 and 6 am. The town crier disseminates information on dates of festivals, communal works, visits of an important person to the community such as the Governor Commissioner, Local Government Chairman, Political rally etc. Though, in some emergency occasions, the town crier could be summoned at any time of the day as the occasion demands to pass the emergency information, for example, an attack on the community by a wild animal, the town crier could be called to summon all able bodied men to kill such wild animal before any damage is done to the community.

The town crier is remunerated in the execution of his duty, For example, in Umuegwu- Okpuala in Afugiri, Umuahia North Local Government area of Imo State, and 'Umuediabali-Ihite Aforukwu, in Ahiazu Local Government area of lmo State and Ihitte-Uboma in Etiti Local Government area also in Imo State; individuals pay the town crier at least two hundred naira (N200) to pass information to the community. For instance, information on a missing item like goat. Also, in the sharing of item(s) within the traditional ruling council of the community, the town crier is given portion of anything shared.

The role of the town crier could be supervisory in some occasions. For instance, in Egbema in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government area of Imo State, during communal work to keep the community clean, the town crier will sound his metal gong at dawn to summon the people to work site. When the work commences, he sounds his gong in a rhythmic tone to encourage the people to work hard. He determines when work should stop acting on instruction from the traditional council. He recommends those to be fined to the governing council for one offence or the other committed at the work site. The media through which he alerts members of the community before he passes his information could be a metal gong, ekwe, ikoro, or drum. .

In the general context, the credibility of the town crier simply means that he tells his audience the truth (nke bu eziokwu) It is credibility that defines the relationship between the communicator and the recipient or What is communicated and it is untold strategy that controls the implementation and success in the operation and landscape of mass communication. The communicator is conferred with communicative competence and prestige when credibility is guaranteed.

Again, "know your audience is the first rule of practical communication. In essence, the success of a communicator. in the dissemination of information depends on the audience. In the context of communication theory, the audience is the public that is dispersed in its social set-up. Audience is in this case, a public made up of independent persons or groups of persons who are more or less separated in time and space. The audience of the town crier is his own community.

Suffice it to say that the town crier is therefore, the most reliable sources of authentic information as regards the dissemination of affairs of the community. In this regard he is very important for the smooth running of the administrative set up of the community. He is a man of public relations and also for external affairs through the Ikoro message system. He is both the channel of communication and at the same time the communicator. This dualism of roles explains further his characteristic as a powerful organ of information in the village or community.

On rare occasions when the need arises, women engage themselves as town criers in the villages or communities. This role is mostly performed on issues concerning them. For instance, if they are to have an important meeting or if a serious offence is committed in the community and the women need to intervene in the matter. This role is occasional and not as prominent and conspicuous as that of the male town crier.

  • Enwereonye discussed this topic at the National War Museum Umuahia, recently.
  • Source: The Guardian, 23rd February 2008.





What Igboukwu means to the Igbos - Chukwuemeka Ezeife

Wednesday Sun, February 20, 2008

Former Governor of Anambra, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife has argued that Igbo-Ukwu, a town in Anambra is the centre of culture in the Southern Nigeria just as Argungu in Kebbi State is the same in the Northern Nigeria.

The politician who spoke to Daily Sun in Ilorin, Kwara State recently, hinted that he derives pleasure in discussing the culture of a people. According to him, he grew up in Igbo-Ukwu, with the interest in the culture of his people at heart and as he grew up, he started comparing his culture with that of others. Ezeife observed further that his town Igboukwu could be said to be the Southern Cultural Centre since Igbo-Ukwu was dated to the nineth century.

By this, after Nok culture, the next is Igbo-Ukwu. “ Igbo-Ukwu people were said to be the origin of not only Igbo people but black people. Igbo as a group are not pushing it. In fact, Nri is more mentioned than Igboukwu. But Nri people originated from Igala in the 17th century after a war in Igala. When I was governor of Anambra State, I put a small museum in Igbo-Ukwu. The Federal Government is building a museum right now. The same Federal Government last year commissioned National Gallery of Art in Igbo-Ukwu. Also Federal government last year built a Yam house, after the Fishing Village of Argungu Fishing Festival Kebbi State in the North. Argungu is in the North as a traditional cultural centre. In the same way, we have Igbo-Ukwu as the cultural centre.’’

Archaeology in Igbo-Ukwu
Igboukwu is an archaeological town where Professor Thurstan Shaw did some excavations which led to the second oldest culture in Nigeria. Igbo-Ukwu was dated nineth century. So after Nok culture, the next is Igbo-Ukwu. The issue is that it is not just Igbo-Ukwu affair. It is an Igbo affair. The problem is that we do not know how to sell ourselves. Formerly our people were said not to have history.

Visit of Archaeologists in the 60s
I was lucky to be home when international archaeologist came to Igbo-Ukwu. We moved around with them, this was in 1960’s. Their task was to look at those things of 19th century and compare with the piece of artifacts available at the time they visited. They found that there is the same motif with the art in Udo shrine and in Umudege. Umudege is a group and the claim by our people is that Igbo was founded by Dege. Igbo Dege whether it is a human being or man is not clear. When we say Dege founded Igbo, it may not just be Igbo-Ukwu because those who know tell us that any distance left, right or centre are equal distance to all the people speaking Igbo. And in all Igbo culture if you are going left it is the same distance, right, forward, and backward. There is something unique about the location. It is so central and there is no water there.

Igboukwu, the origin of black race
Igboukwu people were said to be the origin of not only Igbo people but black people. Igbo as a group are not pushing it. In fact, Nri is more mentioned than Igbo-Ukwu. But Nri people came across from Igala in the 17th century after a war in Igala. That was eight centuries after Igbo-Ukwu origin. Nri came and found aka mkpsi in that location and the dwarfs are the custodians of the Nri culture. They crown everybody. There is no tradition of igbu-ichi or ichi-ozo in Igala from where Nri originated. So, they came and met things in Igbo land. But they were in-charge of religion. Every body obeyed religion even today, if there is a cleansing job to be done, they do not look for an Igbo-Ukwu person. An Nri person must be summoned to do it. So Nri takes its toll as the people in charge of religion.

Yam House in Igbo-Ukwu
The Federal Government did so much in Igbo-Ukwu when I was governor of Anambra State a small museum is now in place although this was decided before I came but I started the work. Then Federal Government is building a museum right now. The same Federal government last year commissioned National Gallery of Art in Igbo-Ukwu. Also, Federal Government last year built a Yam house, after the Fishing Village of Argungu Fishing Festival Kebbi State in the North. Argungu is in the north as a traditional cultural centre. In the south we have Igbo-Ukwu as the cultural centre. They built a Yam House for Igbo people.

2007 New Yam Festival
The best New Yam Festival was held in Igbo-Ukwu last year. Every State in the South-east contributed some cultural troupes. Some Ezes and Igwes from across South-east came to join in that celebration. So, people are becoming more and more aware of the culture. Going to the archaeological history, I should be proud that what they got was from my mother’s compound.

I did not attend a secondary school
I was born in Igboukwu in Aguata Local Government area of Anambra State. I was brought up in the village and did the things people do in the village. One of the most interesting was killing of lizards and conduction of funeral ceremonies of lizards as if they are human beings. Then I was always imitating what our parents did. I did my primary school at Salvation Army and Anglican. I did not attend any secondary school. I eventually spent two years in Teachers Training School. In fact, I equipped myself with secondary education through correspondence courses. In 1959, I took the G.C.E. It was a qualification test and it qualified me to take G.C.E advanced level. I did and passed three papers. It became the route through which I entered the university.

Complex in the university
I entered University College Ibadan in 1961 where I studied Economics. I trusted God always. Initially, I had inferiority complex because all those who left standard six with me had been to the university. I met them in the university, some of them had already got all manners of qualifications. So I found myself competing with people who have been thoroughly trained in the system. The first year was very impressive.

After the first examinations, I started from the bottom to look for my name as we were more than two hundred. I found my name in number eighteen. That encouraged me. In the second examinations, I was able to beat everyone. That was the Bsc part one. I won the faculty prize. I became number one and I thanked God that I completed my course.




Let’s Rubbish Ndigbo

"Ndigbo! A people talked about but hardly understood – not even by themselves"
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahajioku Lecture 1994.

Long before the politics and ego of big men with small character got in the way of excellence, Ohanaeze Ndigbo resolved (and rightly so) to set aside a day in every year to celebrate the origin, identity and values of Ndigbo, and, among others, to commemorate the lives of victims of various massacres in Nigeria since 1948. The Igbo Day is not all about celebration but more about commemoration, sober reflection and prayers to God for guidance.

The day decided by our elders happens to be every September 29. The elders were driven by the philosophy that "Every adversity has the seed of a greater benefit, and ‘introspection’ is the key." So, if everywhere Ndigbo reside all over the world, they decide to observe that day, what is wrong with that? So if the executives of the apex organisation of Ndigbo decide on some symbolism by gathering in fellowship to pray, remember the mistakes or persecutions of the past and reaffirm their desires and determination for a better tomorrow for their children, what is wrong with that? To organise such a gathering surely would involve some cost – so if the South East governors are requested to help, what on earth is wrong with that? Now, if after the event, some journalist unprompted by anyone decided to put on paper what he observed on the day and allowed his thoughts to flow towards their instinctive directions, how does that involve the leadership of Ohanaeze? But the Igbo day of 2007 and its aftermath opened a new door to x-ray Ohanaeze Ndigbo and rubbish it by those who mistake servility for loyalty.

The first to throw mud at his elders was a certain Ethelbert Okere. By his last name, he may be an Igbo man and by his writings, I suspect he must be very young and still thanking God for the multiple entry visa he has been given to the Government House, Owerri. So if throwing mud at his elders would sustain that visa, why not? Okere entertained us with his concern for the "shameless elders" of Ndigbo and his glowing encomiums for his master. About the Ohanaeze, he said the following:

*There is a final emergence of two parallel camps of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and that should worry well-meaning Igbo.

*Weeks before the Igbo day "celebration", the leaders engaged themselves in the most sordid and shameful acts by "begging" the governors for money and intending to "celebrate" Igbo day at two separate venues on the same day. "This is too frightening to any well-meaning Igbo".

*Efforts by well-meaning Igbo leaders to break the logjam and "save" Ndigbo from embarrassment met with hard and childish posturing by the shameless elders.

(d) Ohanaeze has never been able to influence the direction of politics in Igboland, etc.

About his master, he said one of the Igbo "leaders" who made frantic efforts to "save" Ndigbo from embarrassment, Governor Ikedi Ohakim, was so scandalised by the avalanche of letters from each group claiming to be the authentic Ohanaeze; so he suggested a suspension of the Igbo day pending resolution of matters. To Okere, that remains the wisest and most patriotic move anybody could make. Okere is a good boy. But which camp?

Please note that Ohakim, a "foremost Igbo leader", does not know the authentic Ohanaeze. Can you see why I suspect that Okere must be very young? First, he knows nothing about the significance of Igbo day, which he calls a "celebration" and hence it cannot be sacrosanct. Secondly, in trying to praise his master, he raised certain questions. So there are two parallel camps of Ohanaeze, yeah? Everybody knows Dr. Dozie Ikedife heads one. Who heads the other? Ndigbo are law-abiding citizens, loyal to the law and not personalities.

Okere tried to expose his master as one more concerned about personalities than principles. Since he is an Igbo leader and in the forefront of Igbo emancipation, what did he do or say when an attempt was made for tenure elongation in Ohanaeze and the same people sold out to the emperor of Ota by supporting the emperor’s own tenure elongation attempt; a dream that was clearly not of Igbo interest? Okere said ‘Solomon’ Ohakim saw in each camp men he had a lot of respect for. So it was about personalities not principles. Every true Igbo elder knows that there is only one Ohanaeze and currently headed by Ikedife. Maybe a new one showed up in Owerri by "highly respected people" whose first outing is asking Solomon for money to "celebrate" Igbo Day.

It is obvious that the implications of Okere’s write-up was discussed by concerned aides hence the decision to polish it by calling in the guru himself, Chief Pini Jason. When I read Jason’s piece, ‘Now that we have had Igbo Day’, I wept. If gold rust, what would iron do? Jason is an Igbo patriot of conviction and I can say with authority that he has done more for Ndigbo than all the governors put together. But times change and condition makes crayfish to bend. He was fully involved in fighting those who needed to rubbish the Igbp for selfish reasons – but today he has special duties to perform. ‘Prophet’ Dayo Sobowale saw all these coming and he screamed aloud about the trend of advocates of the people transforming to become advocates of government.

The powerful pens now take sides with men whose lust for power is far greater than any dream to make a difference. How come Jason was surprised that he got many calls that made him wonder if he was special adviser on Ohanaeze? It is simply because he had a track record on Igbo struggles that most of the ‘miracle’ governors don’t have. We shall miss the real Pini and await his return in four years time or is it eight years? Somehow, he admitted the efforts of Senator Uche Chukwumerije (a constant, principled, Igbo son) on Ralph Uwazuruike’s case, but forgets to mention that the senator is a strong member of Ohanaeze, who has remained in touch and in rhythm with its aspirations. The organisation can use any of its sons or daughters to achieve a goal without blowing the ethnic whistle. The fight for Uwazuruike is a fight for justice and against double standards. However, Uwazuruike is out for now, which faction did he and Chukwumerije go to? When Ohakim went to World Igbo Congress meeting in the United States, who did he acknowledge as the true Ohanaeze leader: the unnamed faction in Owerri or Ikedife? The message is clear and Jason knows. But a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, yeah? The painful question is: Must we rubbish Ndigbo?

Nothing has any meaning except the meaning we give it. In a tribally-conscious country like Nigeria, where the Igbo have been trying in vain to be more Nigerian than others, if we say our apex organisation is rubbish, so it shall be. When we rubbish our own Ohanaeze, how can they influence the politics of Ndigbo when the Abuja riggers invade the land? If a day set aside for collective reflection is not sacrosanct, why won’t a Maurice Iwu offer any state to the governor of his own choice?

For the records, Ikedife went to one of the best medical schools in Britain, graduated in ‘flying colours’ and returned straight home to give his services to people in his village. Money was not his motivation, for he is naturally public-spirited just like Dr. Akanu Ibiam, who he holds in esteem. I need not reel out his CV here before I’m accused of working for him. But it is noteworthy to say he is a contented man with a track record of selfless public service. This should be the criteria for stardom in Igboland, which we are yet to realise. The spirit of altruism is given by God – you don’t acquire it. Chukwumerije, before he became a senator, had a track record of service to Ndigbo, so was Ben Obi, and they made a difference at the Senate. Other than Chris Ngige, who also had a record of public service in Aka Ikenga and Alor Union, which of these miracle governors did we ever see at any pan-Igbo meeting? Suddenly they become "Igbo leaders". Thanks to Iwu. Those write-ups by the governors’ aides were surely not "let’s showcase the new Igbo star" in Owerri, No! The message was "let’s rubbish Ndigbo". How necessary is that? What impression do we really want to give? If ever one is opportuned to serve anybody in power, I surely will spend my time making friends for that person and not enemies. I am not Femi FK and it is fruitless to be.
•Onwudiwe, an attorney wrote in from Lagos









Kola Nut: A True Symbol Of Our Culture

Kola Nut


Kola nut is a very important aspect of the tradition in Nigeria, which holds great social significance for many ethnic groups. LEADERSHIP WEEKEND’S Victoria Ozohu Mayaki, writes on the significance of the kola nut.

Kola nut comes from a plant which grows as a big tree in the tropical forests of West Africa. The kola nut is given as a symbol of hospitality, friendship and respect; and is presented to guests at important social events such as weddings, funerals, and infant naming ceremonies; as well as for medicinal purposes. Kola nuts are grown in the western part of Nigeria, the Yoruba land, and among the Yorubas, there is a thriving kola nut farming business. The Yorubas plant them  in large quantity and sell it to other parts of Nigeria.

The Hausas are known to eat kola nut a lot and till date, it is believed amongst the people that kola nut discolours the teeth of an average Hausa man from constant eating. Traditionally, kola nut is regarded as a sacred nut used to communicate with the gods, being that it was chosen by the elders as the head or king of all seeds. As a sacred nut, it is used in so many ways as a mediating factor, whereby it becomes necessary to present it first in every occasion. In Nigeria, most marriage ceremonies are not complete until a kola nut is shared between the couple and their parents. Also, they are a common staple in a bride’s dowry; and during weddings, they are served to symbolize the couple’s ability and willingness to heal differences in their marriage and always help each other. Couples choose to share a kola nut during the ceremony, and then keep a kola nut displayed in their home after the wedding as a symbol of their promise to work out any problems that may occur.

There are different species of kola nut, kola acuminata or atrophora, kola alba and kola nitida. Not all of these kola nuts are used for traditional purposes. In Igbo land for instance, Kola acuminata is the kind mainly used for occasions or ceremonies. Kola nut is served at many Igbo ceremonies such as marriages and new yam festivals. It is also used in settling disputes between siblings or neighbours and served at burials, peacemaking mission, meeting of the elders and, when a guest visits, he will not say his mission until after the kola nut has been presented to him. Prayers are offered beckoning on their forefathers to come and guide and protect the mission that brings the people together. After that, the kola nut is broken and shared amongst everybody. The Yoruba’s believe that kola nut is the favourite food of ifa, the divination deity and this is the reason why they give reverence to a specific kind of kola nut they call obi abata.

In some communities, the eldest person in the family says the prayers, while in some, only traditional title holders are eligible to say the prayers. Usually, it is the privilege of the eldest man in a group to offer prayers and thanksgiving when the kola-nut is about to be broken and shared. In some parts of Igbo land, the youngest breaks the kola-nut. Investigations show that in some other areas, the youngest person shares out the kola-nut, though the eldest man still prays for the well-being of all present. In some parts of Hausa land, the youngest one is called upon to break kola nut because, it is believed that he is innocent of certain atrocities such as sinful acts so, whatever he prays for will be answered.

Among the Igbos, it is an abomination for a woman or girl to break kola nut. In an all female gathering, no female would be allowed to pray over or break a kola nut; rather a young boy could be called in to perform this act regardless of his age. This obtains because women do not offer rituals. It is also believed that one cannot break the kola nut in the presence of one’s in-laws because they are supposed to pray for you and not you pray for them. It is believed that Kola nut has meaning in terms of its cotyledon and as a result of this, the elder check each kola nut and interpret the meaning before breaking it.

Aside its use for cultural purposes, it has other valuable uses: it helps the physical body in combating sleep in a very natural way, an advantage over coffee.
Source: Leadership, 7th May 2011.