(Being a talk delivered at the UN World Anti-Corruption Day, Abuja, Dec. 9. 2019)
Present here, I fully expect, is the youth contingent of this undertaking. We are still within the United Nations designated Year of the Child, and that makes youth involvement doubly appropriate as an integral part of our encounter.
This is not a mere sentiment. As some of you here may recall, I have referred to my set on occasion as the Wasted Generation.
I recall that this led to some members of the generation after mine referring to theirs as the Lost Generation. It all happened during a lecture, and the speaker’s comment went thus: “Professor Soyinka does not know how lucky he is. His generation has been merely wasted, ours is lost.” I do not know if that speaker was right, or I was, or maybe both were.
Frankly, I am not even sure which is worse – to be lost or to be wasted. All I am certain of is –moral endangerment, the degradation of moral sensibilities in the vulnerable sector of any society, however, defined. That impressionable sector is always at risk wherever abnormalities become accepted as the norm, and the jettisoning of moral restraints is lauded, through example, as the basis of routine existence.
If I may use a notorious example, can anyone of us have failed to remark how the phenomenon of cultism has penetrated downwards, lower and lower in generational infiltration until we now read of it even in some elite primary schools?
Children may not find themselves in situations where they can actually engage in corrupt practices, but they grow up eventually into that stage, and if they have been raised in an environment where adults are exposed as corrupt, even expelled from their positions of status, only to return to their home base, to be lauded by their communities, received with pomp and pageantry and garlanded with chieftaincy titles, it requires no special exercise of the imagination to project what the future holds for overall society.
The principle of “catch them young” is one that pervades most spheres of human activity, so it’s all a question of who does the “catching”. If we are serious and convinced about a foundational principle of social conduct, then we obviously cannot leave others to do the catching.
One of the most telling exercises I have indulged in my creative career was one which evolved from my activities in the Lagos Black Heritage Festival. We initiated a youth item called “The Vision of the Child”. This consisted of members of that yet undefined generation being set a theme for creative interpretation –in painting, essay and even poetic forms. We encouraged them to let their imagination roam free in all directions.
One such theme that I set them was “The Thousand And One Faces of Corruption”. The results were remarkable. If anyone thought that children even at the ‘innocent’ age downwards from thirteen or fourteen all the way down to seven or six, do not know what ‘corruption’ means, how it works, how it affects their lives and their families, they should see some of those visual and literary compositions, talk to their authors and artists, and ask the latter to explain some of the seemingly abstruse images they create.
You would be thoroughly chastened. For example, even I had not thought of dragging Sambisa forest into the geography of corruption, being too preoccupied with the horror of that outrage in itself. They did, albeit inspired by an earlier thematic imposition – THE ROAD TO SAMBISA. This is how it all begins – read their submissions – with corruption overwhelming even basic social and governance responsibilities.
Mr Magu, the chairman of EFCC happened on that exhibition and was sufficiently struck as to request that it tour the nation. We were more than willing. Some of his staff visited the exhibition at Freedom Park and went into preliminaries with our young collaborators. That was – how many years ago? More ruefully, will that exhibition ever travel beyond its present confines?
Since then, that initiative has metamorphosed into an even more elaborate movement with the name Corruption Busters – launched in Lekki in December 2017. I was able to attend just the beginning of the event but, from the evidence of the video recording, the Vice-President threw himself most vigorously into that initiative.
So did a couple of supportive foreign embassies Since then, however, that movement appears to have gone into recession – but I may be wrong. I would be curious to see if they participated in the Walk from EFCC to this venue this morning. If not, Mr Magu, you and I have a problem!
The coincidence of global affirmations of past agreements on social conduct such as the ongoing celebration of the Convention on the Rights of Children, the World Anti-Corruption Day which is today, reinforced by the World Human Rights Day on Tuesday, tomorrow, should be exploited to the fullest, not merely to involve that generation in a progressive seizure of society and humanity, but also to compel adults to see both themselves and the society they have created through the eyes of children, obtain a glimpse of how that generation itself views and assesses the conduct and values of their parents, uncles, aunts, chiefs, their ministers, even their priests and supposed moral exemplars.
Youth participation takes multiple forms, even where the youths are not physically present. Images are useful ‘take-away’ teachers. The venue of this encounter could have been festooned with the results from that – or similar –exhibitions, or other related exercises that represent minds yet under formation.
If you must take on corruption, which runs 24/7 all-year-round, then we must be alert to all opportunities to propagate the counter-gospel 24/7 all year round, with bonus ‘opportunity targets’ – to borrow from military parlances – such as the mentioned triple notations on the UN calendar. Do some of us sometimes perhaps appear obsessed by this problem? Of course.
Long before any government ever thought it to make it its business, hundreds and thousands of Nigerian individuals in their fields of activities have tackled it head-on with all attendant risk. The choice was to ‘join them or fight them’. How many here are old enough to have heard of the civilian Anti-Bribery League headed by the owner – I hopefully recollect — of Lisabi Mills in Yaba? Or later, of the government’s short-lived initiative, the X-Squad with offices in 5(?) Milverton Street, Ikoyi?
Somehow or the other it takes on the intensity of a personal battle, for which agonizing setbacks, such as the assassination of the late Bola Ige, a personal friend, but also Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of this nation, only serve as a further spur. Only the cynical fail to accept that it is a contest that transcends politics, partisanship and even governance, which, in this particular instance, has sunk in recent times to its lowest ebb.
Corruption triggers off numerous collateral activities in institutional conduct and governmental interface with the citizenry, confrontation with its effects is thus plainly transformational.
This means that, for any corruption degraded society, it should be nothing less than revolutionary in approach – call it by that or any other word, it is still a revolutionary undertaking. Revolution Now? Or Soon? Later or Whenever? An anti-corruption focus is surely integral to any revolutionary agenda, often it constitutes its very trigger – checks any society you wish – from Cuba through China to Egypt or Myanmar.
Corruption is hardly ever omitted in the list of indictments that justify that very undertaking called a revolution. Thus, anti-corruption activism is a conscious, revolutionary offensive that aims at the transformation of the totality of the social phenomena. Those agencies, or governments that permit themselves to be terrified by the word had better learn to live with it.
Even governments sometimes pride themselves with claims that they have revolutionized this or that facet of society or indeed, of governance itself., meaning that such a government embarks on a drastic self-transformation in both form and practice. So much, in general terms.
Now we turn our spotlight more specifically on that agency that appears to consider the word treasonable. Has anyone been following recent testimonies in the media by those who have entered the dungeons of the state security agency and lived to tell the tale?
What has emerged in these past few days is that the very agency that recently desecrated the sanctum of justice is itself charged with corruption. It is publicly claimed that extortion has become commonplace, inflicted on helpless citizens, some of whom lack a voice, or influential contacts, unlike the yet ongoing instance of a former media publisher and presidential candidate.
Corruption can only be fought and degraded, if not entirely destroyed, within the reality of an open society. And an open society is built and sustained on the freedom of expression.
And here comes the complement to that assault. We need only veer laterally and consider a recent – perhaps merely fortuitous act of – partnership by another governance installation – the legislative houses.
We must thank the DSS for impressing on us the same obligatory call to interrogate any proposition that curtails that right of free expression, even where camouflaged under the rubric of Hate Speech. Or Fake news. Both, we all agree are not only harmful but cowardly and despicable.
However, combine these recent sample offerings from the two institutional within the context of an Open Society and where do we find ourselves? Let me repeat: a legislature proposes nothing less than capital punishment for what it deems Hate speech.
First, are we really prepared to take on the awful responsibility of telling our children that the rational response to any kind of social outrage is to kill? Does that truly reflect the ascent of humanity from instinctive animal predatoriness? Let us take a moment to follow the trajectory of what amounts to nothing less than a vicious cycle.
This very setting in which we are assembled, Aso Rock, could not be more appropriate for charting the perilous waters into which this nation is being plunged. So, here goes, a reconstruction that should by no means be considered a worst-case scenario.
Society does not operate in virtual reality. We exist palpably. The structure that is constitutionally empowered to determine what is denounced as
Hate or Toxic Speech is rendered ineffectual daily through acts of executive condescension and disdain from the peak of governance. The seal of desecration was finally planted on the institution of law, the sole legitimate adjudicator, by an agency that now stands accused of violating the very principles that this agency, the EFCC and its sister ICPC, were set up to uphold.
Is it excessive to consider the possibility that other potential accusers of that security agency are locked up in dungeons, some forgotten for upwards three to four years? Kindly check the media for testimonies of those who have recently been discharged from or discovered in DSS custody after years in their hellholes.
How would the DSS now respond, given the protection of this ready-to-kill Bill on Hate? Obviously, with a complaint of Hate Attack by the accusers, punishable by death. The agency proceeds to arrest the newspaper staff and the accusers. The case goes to hearing. The judge sets a date and grants the accusers bail.
What happens next? The agency under accusation invades the court, scatters everyone, pounces on the recently bailed ‘felon’ and drags him off struggling desperately for life and liberty. That, I repeat, is not a worst-case scenario, nor is it far-fetched. The blueprint is out in the public domain.
The anti-corruption offensive, on which we are hopefully sincerely engaged, is meaningless without complete openness and without the total liberty of every citizen, subject only to constraints imposed under the law.
It is, therefore, most heart-warming that civil society is waking up to its responsibilities and has called strongly for an apology to the nation from the so-called Directorate of State Services.
We must proceed further. We need from the DSS a list of all its current detainees, their names, addresses and records of confinement. I see no security issue fulfilled in keeping such names secret. Why is any citizen reduced to paying 50,000 Naira to bribe an officer to procure a cellphone, just to let his family know that he is alive but immured in a dungeon?
The right to information must be exercised comprehensively and most certainly in favour of citizen liberty, in conformity to that third United Nations notation – Human Rights – that it has designated for tomorrow. So perhaps something positive will be extracted from this collective violation that this nation has recently undergone.
With that foregoing, Greetings on my own behalf, and on behalf of – shall we call them? – the anxious generation, on this World’s Anti-Corruption Day. Let this morning’s overture, the symbolic walk from the designated citadel of ethical transformation to this venue be absorbed as a walk to freedom within a corruption-free air for those forgotten Nigerians in illegal captivity.
A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, wrote Nelson Mandela, a victim of a vicious system called apartheid. We do not labour under apartheid terror, so let us shorten that walk and open up society by giving voice to the voiceless, and presence to the absent, held under our very noses under inhuman conditions, forced to pay for the privilege of reminding the rest of us, in approximate freedom, that they still exist. In short, let us embrace the liberating, transformative spirit of — if not exactly Revolution Now – then at least, maybe — Liberation Now?
Suffering Citizens And Buhari’s Phantom Regrets
By Jerome-Mario Utomi
If there is any statement in recent times that portrayed President Muhammadu Buhari as a leader with understanding that ‘public order, personal and national security, economic and social programmes, and prosperity is not the natural order of things but depends on the ceaseless efforts and attentions from an honest and effective government that the people elect’, it is his declaration during an interview with The Signature 50 magazine, that he would only feel better as a president when lives of citizens improve.
Buhari in that interview among other things noted that looking back at his five years in office as President, his greatest regret is that despite international ratings, lives of Nigerians are yet to improve as he had expected.While Buhari as part of his achievements expressed happiness that the economy is no longer in the forlorn state that it used to be, he, however, regretted that the progress being made has only reflected on the international rating of the nation’s economy not on the lives of Nigerians.
This is no doubt a constructive declaration that peripherally earned the president a height of respect. Mr. President’s worry becomes particularly more appreciated when one remembers that the challenge of development is one of the greatest problems that have dominated world history. As human beings have always been concerned about how to improve their condition of living and better confront the forces of nature and the environment.
Despite the concerns expressed above, a more constructive understudy of Mr. President’s policies, politics and speed in strategic decision making process in the past five years reveals that impeded improvement of lives in Nigerians was as a result of government’s poor leadership judgements and failure to perform the great roles of planning and acceleration of development processes.
This assertion comes in different forms and shapes.
Fundamentally, aside the ‘ignorance hypothesis theory’ which among other provisions ‘maintains that poor countries are poor because they have a lot of markets failures and because policymakers do not know how to get rid of them and have heeded the wrong advice in the past, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson in their book; Why Nations Fail, provides a compelling understanding of what set the groundwork for Nigerian’s poverty.
The duo classified political and economic institutions as either inclusive or extractive; they argue that countries with extractive institutions tend to be poor, while those with inclusive institutions tend to be rich. While submitting that sustained growth occurs when countries move away from extractive political institutions and towards inclusive ones, they concluded that inclusive political institutions give rise to inclusive economic institutions, which then generate economic growth.
To further demonstrate this belief is the words of Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe who recently wrote; today, our Vice President, Prof Osinbajo, gave a speech on improving the ease of doing business through reforms. A friend in New York sent me the link with this comment: “…your country does not know that the only reform Nigeria needs for foreign investment now is a stable currency. Your problem has gone beyond bureaucracy”.
Similarly, bearing in mind that good governance entails the diligent exercising of the economic, political and administrative authorities to manage a country’s affair at all levels within the rule of law in such a manner that delivers maximum dividends to citizens’, Mr. President need not ask question or regret why the nation’s economy is not impacting in the lives of the people. The reason is simple. By his continued refusal to heed the call by Nigerians that his security votes and other avoidable expenditures need to be slashed, President Buhari has not demonstrated good leadership example.
Going by reports, the 2020 financial estimate shows that Mr. President and His Vice will spend N4.2Billion. Out of this amount, travel will gulp N3.3 Billion, while catering will take N149.1 Billion. This high cost of governance has not only led to poor delivery of democracy dividends but its happening in a country where over 112 million Nigerians now live below the UN poverty line.
Even if Mr. President provides answers to the above source of worries, his inability to stamp out corruption in the country is another obvious reason why Nigerian masses could neither breathe nor their lives improve.
To explain this fact, graft according to Rudy Giuliani is nothing new; it may be the second-oldest profession. Powerful people and those with access to them have always used kickbacks, pay-to-play schemes, and other corrupt practices to feather their nests and gain unfair advantages. And such corruption has always posed a threat to the rule of law and stood in the way of protecting basic civil and economic rights
Corruption is, but a human problem that has existed in some forms. Its fights in Nigeria also dates back to Colonial governments as they (Colonial Overlords) sufficiently legislated against it in the first criminal code ordinance of 1916(No15 of 1916) which elaborately made provisions prohibiting official bribery and corruption by persons in the public service and in the judiciary. Also at independence on October 1, 1960, the criminal code against corruption and abuse of office in Nigeria were in section 98 to 116 and 404 of the code.
What is, however, new is that corruption has recently transformed into an instrument of national strategy. The development has gotten so bad to the extent that if what happened in the time past was a challenge, that of the present is a crisis.
Separate from the corruption crisis rocking the country, there are other legions of reasons why socioeconomic lives of citizens may not improve easily except the Federal Government takes theatrical steps to address the current situation in the country.
More particularly, the present state of poverty, insecurity, infrastructural decay, terrorism, a high rate of out of school children and youths unemployment, unchecked population explosion, technological backwardness, corruption, poor planning and implementation of policies, are but testaments that this administration like its predecessors neither understand nor possess the needed expertise to perform modern jobs of leadership.
To explain, regardless of the field, for one to do any job creditably well, certain steps must be followed. This step in the words of Lance Bettencourt includes; defining what the job requires; identifying and locating the needed inputs; preparing the components and the physical environment; confirming that everything is ready; executing the task; monitoring the results and the environment; making modifications and concluding the job. Because problems can occur at many points in the process, nearly all jobs require problem resolution steps. Some steps are more critical than others, depending on the job, but each is necessary to get the job done successfully.
Regrettably, such logic doesn’t hold-up here.
For example, if the present Government is in the habit of identifying and locating the needed inputs, preparing the components as well as confirming that everything is ready before introducing new policies as specified above, the FG would not have come up with recent order directing all property owners and their agents to charge 6% Stamp Duty on all tenancy and lease agreements they enter into with all leases and remit promptly to the Service
What is more, if Mr President had expressed a little interest in monitoring the outcome of his past actions with the hope of making modifications, maybe, he would have considered as misguided priority the 1.6 billion dollars taken to fix Lagos to Ibadan, the request for 5.3 billion dollars to fix from Ibadan to Kano, 3.2 billion dollars to fix Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, and Lagos to Calabar which is about 11.1billion dollars, If Mr. President had had the interest of Niger Deltans at heart, he would not have declined assent to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as recently passed by the 8th Assembly nor ignored the deafening call by well-meaning Nigerians to have the future of this country discussed. Or better still, have the 2014 national confab report implemented; as the content of that report has the capacity to make this political entity and its integral parts, more efficient, more acceptable, more productive, more functional and above all, more equitable.
Most importantly is the revelation that the solution to our national poverty goes beyond showing mere regrets, to include tackling tragic leadership gaps.
Utomi, a Lagos-Based Media Consultant could be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Housing And The Spirit Of Jakande In Cross River
By Jerome-Mario Utomi
Justice according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is centrally a matter of how individuals are treated, it is also possible to speak of justice for groups – for example when the state is allocating resources between different categories of citizens. Here each group is being treated as though it were a separate individual for purposes of the allocation.
Here there is a contrast with other virtues: we demand justice, but we beg for charity or forgiveness. This also means that justice is a matter of obligation for the agent dispensing it, and that the agent wrongs the recipient if the latter is denied what is due to her.
Definitely not a false argument but there is an important distinction to make.
In a country like Nigeria, the position of justice when allocating resources, in absolute terms, is not a substance of obligation, but largely a function of behaviour, character, habits, of the personality in public office (the agent dispensing justice).
Using as focal points the right to adequate housing which is both a human right and one of the basic needs of man borne out of desire for security, privacy and protection from negative impacts of the environment, it was Alhaji Lateef Jakande as executive governor of Lagos State in 1979, that his administration was sincerely effective, open and implemented the four cardinal policies of; housing, education, transportation and infrastructure.
It is factually documented that he introduced housing and educational programs targeting the poor, building new neighbourhood primary and secondary schools and providing free primary and secondary education. He established the Lagos state University. Jakande’s government constructed over 30,000 housing units. The schools and housing units were built cheaply, but were of great value. Some of the housing units include low cost estates in Amuwo-Odofin, Ijaiye, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ije, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu and Badagry.
To fund some of the projects, Jakande increased the tenement rates and price of plots of land in affluent areas of Victoria Island and Lekki Peninsula and the processing fees for lottery, pools and gaming licenses. He also completed the construction of the General Hospital in Gbagada and Ikorodu and built about 20 health centres within the state. As a governor, he established 23 local government councils which were later disbanded by the military. He also started a metroline project to facilitate mass transit. The project was halted and his tenure as Governor ended when the military seized power on 31 December 1983.
Since that date, the spirit of social housing-an umbrella term used to refer to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organisations, or by a combination of the two, usually with the aim of making it affordable, departed the country.
But however resurfaced recently after about three decade’s this time around in Cross River state, Nigeria.
Its first manifestation in the state was on Friday, May 29, 2020; at Ifiang Ayong- a sleepy riverine community in Bakassi Local Government Area which came alive as dignitaries from all walks of life gathered to witness an epochal and life- changing event. The commissioning of an ultra-modern Estate comprising 52 units of 2- bedroom bungalows built by Governor Ben Ayade. ‘He did not build it for commercial purposes; the sprawling Estate, fully furnished and complete with essential amenities, is the new home to the displaced Bakassi people who lost their ancestral land, homes and livelihoods to the Republic of Cameroon in 2002 following the ceding of the Peninsula to the Central Africa country’.
Looking at commentaries, one major reason that triggered plaudits and encomium for the state government from various quarters across the nation is that in the early 2000s, the Federal Government inaugurated a Special Committee on National Social Housing Scheme (NSHS) with a presidential mandate to provide housing for its less privileged citizens. In the pilot phase of the scheme, the committee was to build 18,000 units of houses across the country before the end of 2006. However, the Committee could not deliver because the principles of social housing and values were yet to permeate the “development and management” of government’s housing plan and delivery systems. And since then, little has been done to translate such objectives into actionable plans. Or clarify processes and opportunities for citizen’s participation in the development and management of social housing in Nigeria.
But before the happiness elicited by the development at Ifiang Ayong could settle, another was up this time around at Obudu Ranch Resort in Obanliku Local Government Area.
Worried by the squalid and deplorable living conditions and abject condition, highlighted by shanties and dilapidations of the host communities of the Obudu Ranch Resort in Obanliku Local Government Area, Cross River State governor, Sir Ben Ayade who was on a one-week working visit to the Obudu Ranch Resort, promised to change their situation with the provision of social housing.
“We are here at the Ranch and when you look to the left and right, what you see in the entire place are the aborigines, the original owners of Obudu Cattle Ranch. “They are relegated to the worst form of human existence; reduced to want, in body, in spirit, in soul and in the most sub-human living conditions with collapsing roofs and huge massive temperatures that run your blood chill and your bones cold.”
And so my government is committed to constructing social housing to change their course and prove to them that God uses humans as a vessel; to make your town and your place look beautiful as well. So, for us as a state, we are committed to exterminating this kind of extreme poverty.
On his one week visit to the Ranch, he disclosed that the visit was meant to give him the opportunity to see things for himself as his administration gets ready to revamp the prime jewel of hospitality in the state.
“I decided to take a guided tour to spend one week with the people to feel their pulse as we prepare to make the Ranch the most attractive centre for visits in Nigeria. I want to see how the citizens, the aborigines have been living side by side with the glaring reality of the luxury of the ranch resort.
In what could be likened to a tale of two cities, Governor Ayade lamented: “It is a shame that where I live which is the presidential Villa is as if am in Europe and just a few minutes walk from there, this is what you find. The contrast is unacceptable to my conscience because I have a background akin to this people and so I understand the feeling. I understand the pain.”
“My performance efficiency should be measured by how much I have lifted people from extreme poverty to comfort not by how many culverts, how many bridges, how many superhighways, how many deep seaports I have built. The real growth is human growth and that is why I do not believe in Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
“I believe in human happiness index. I want to be assessed on the basis of how happy these people are with the onset of me being governor. When I leave office, what will be the difference I have in their lives? Until I make such a difference, I would have failed as governor.”
On his determination to reposition the ranch, Ayade hinted: “Very soon the ranch will be the biggest attraction in this country because we are building an international airport to support the ranch for export of potatoes and export of ornamental flowers.
“So, if we are going to do that, and go into commercial farming in Obudu cattle ranch and industrial tourism, where does that leave the host communities? That is why we are here today to assure them that they have a critical role to play. We had a meeting with the leaders of the community and have assured them that the squalor and the sub-human conditions will be exterminated in the next six months. We will be here and you will see the difference.
“Cross River does not have enough but I care enough to make a difference for them and we surely will as a state.This is my commitment.”
Indeed, this is true justice coming from a man who similar to Pa.Lateef Jakande, loves his people and is passionate about their development. Interestingly also, Ayade in my estimation stands out at the forefront of the crop of patriots wanting the best for his community, state and country, Nigeria.
Utomi is a Lagos-Based Media Consultant. He can be reached on email@example.com.
‘Mr. Thomas Osuji Tells The Greatest Lie About The Igbo’
By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
I am from Owerri; I think that Igbos behavior has to do with our specific psychology. The Igbo is very competitive. He works for his self, not for the collectivity. He wants to succeed at all costs and does not care about other people. In Igbo society you are rewarded if you work hard and compete and succeed. If you fail you are considered a bush animal (anuohia), a no-body, so every person works hard to succeed and not pay attention to the rest of the people.
Mr. Osuji was born in Lagos, grew up in Lagos except for a few months spent in Owerri during the war. He went back to Lagos immediately after the war and went Lagos primary and high schools and from thence to USA. He probably lived in Igboland for a maximum of four years. And did not get any schooling (primary or secondary) in a school with majority Igbo pupils. And therefore very little street education. His further studies has been mostly science with occasional dabbling is philosophy and religion. But no Igbo studies not even as a hobby.
Having not studied Igbo formally or indirectly by living and going to school with his peers, Mr. Osuji often uses his “common sense” to tell incredible stories about the Igbo. Common Sense can be very much misleading. There are many real things that do not conform to Common Sense. The concept of “Evil Forest” is one example, but more on this at a later paper.
The great lie in the Osuji’s thesis (extract above) is this:
In Igbo society you are rewarded if you work hard and compete and succeed. If you fail you are considered a bush animal (anuohia), a no-body, so every person works hard to succeed and not pay attention to the rest of the people.
It is true that the Igbo society encourages hard work and success and rewards people accordingly. But it is absolutely false that Igbo people do not pay attention to the rest of the people.
The truth is that part of the measure of one’s success in Igbo land is “how much one contributes to the welfare of others”. Here are some proofs:
1. The first young people that went to secondary schools from my town and almost all other towns were sponsored by the Town Improvement Union.
2. Nationwide there was Igbo Improvement Union to take care of those living in faraway places like Kano and Lagos. Igbo Improvement Union (IMU) built and managed schools for every town resident in those faraway places for all Igbo or non-Igbo.
3. Most of the first Igbo university students were sponsored by the town unions or by a wealthy brother, uncle, or cousin of nth degree separation.
4. A successful Igbo merchant in Kano would be expected to take with him many from the village to teach them how to succeed and after several years of apprenticeship will “settle” them. To settle here means give them capital to start on their own.
5. Everywhere you go to in Nigeria one would see clusters of Igbo from one SE town. If you probe further one would see the “Big Brother” that brought them there. This applies to all major cities around the world.
6. A common Igbo title name is “O chili O zua” one who gathers (people) and trains them.
7. Many of the pre-war secondary schools in Igboland were founded by town union. There were levies (taxes) imposed on all able residents (at home and abroad) to fund such projects. Not just schools but also hospitals and Town Halls. In some towns there are age grade projects. It is still going on even in USA and EU.
8. There is a negative side to this. The Igbo is likely to support another Igbo even when the support is not merited. Most corrupt politicians are supported because of their contributions to town projects even when the money comes from the constituent budgets and not from the politician’s pockets.
I suggest that Mr. Osuji should do a little research on Igbo people before accusing them of selfishness. It will help if he would join the prominent Imo Organizations that abound in most US cities or even Owerri town union. He will see the serious competition that goes on as towns try to fund development projects. Of course sometimes a crook gets hold of the fund and the project will not be completed.
The Igbo is one of the most patriotic nations in Nigeria. I can attest to that.
~ Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts.
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