Nigeria’s growth is stunted and its development rests in the bosom of socio-political shenanigans based on politics of ethno-religious suspicion and systemic exclusion.
After the gubernatorial elections and the garb in ethnic colours, it became imperative to look at these concepts to make an understanding of the situation as regards the politics of ethnicity in Nigeria in concert with the Igbo.
Nelson Mandela in 1995 gave a speech in Alexandra, a township in Johannesburg, he said, “It saddens and angers me to see the rising hatred of foreigners, we cannot blame other people for our troubles.”
He said this a year after becoming the South African president over the xenophobic attacks on immigrants. South Africa has suffered xenophobia which the indigenes attack foreigners especially, the fellow Africans who live in the country. Nigerians, Zimbabweans, Ethiopians and Congolese are often the targets of sentiments over resources and that “people had fought for freedom over a long time but hadn’t reaped the benefits. Instead, foreigners from other countries were the ones advancing.” as The Africa Report wrote.
The people have advanced xenophobia by launching Operation Dudula – force out in Zulu language, organised to force out African immigrants, Al jazeera explained.
In 2019, at the heat of xenophobia in South Africa, Nigerians were up to condemn the attacks and demanded that South Africa should explain. They demanded from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa a “sincere public apology to Nigeria, other countries affected by the attacks and the entire continent for the tragic hostility and harm perpetrated against their citizens.”
That reaction was commendable but in Nigeria’s 2023 elections with its many recorded malpractices and recruitment of thugs to determine who won the elections through violence, will not be talked about without the blatant exhibition of Igbophobia.
Igbophobia just like xenophobia is hatred against the Igbo people. It is a systemic hostile behaviour towards Igbo people that involves social and political exclusion, discrimination and marginalisation.
This is born out of envy and out of fear of the indomitable spirit of the Igbo person in pursuit of his personal and common good.
It was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who stated in his 1947 ‘Address to the Ibo People’, he said, “Socially, the British Press has not been sparing in describing us as ‘the most hated in Nigeria’. In this unholy crusade, the Daily Mirror, The Times, The Economist, News Review and the Daily Mail have been in the forefront. In the Nigerian Press, you are living witnesses of what has happened in the last eighteen months, when Lagos, Zaria and Calabar sections of the Nigerian Press were virtually encouraged to provoke us to tendentious propaganda.”
It is worth knowing that Igbophobia is at the foundation of Nigeria and has since been deployed at several times. It played out even when they were victims of the 30-month war that was carried out on them. Whatever the Igbo do, is viewed with suspicion.
Despite the contributions of the Igbo to the growth and development of the country and the Lagos state, there was an orchestrated propaganda and violence that led to the disenfranchisement of the Igbo and others caught in the mix, in the gubernatorial election of the Lagos state where their taxes are paid. There were outbursts that the Igbo should be forced out of the state. When the Igbo returned to their region prior to the civil war as was a viable option at the time, Nigeria waged a war on them and forced them back in the guise of keeping Nigeria one.
The igbophobia may not be solely out of envy and fear, but also out of suspicion of domination. Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, once said in an interview that, “The Igbos are more or less the type of people whose desire is mainly to dominate everybody” This mindset propelled the ethnic slur and further deprivation and disenfranchisement of the Igbo and in utter humiliation, were largely prevented from voting in Lagos state. The main driver of the deprivation was that Igbo people will dominate the Yoruba through their kin whose mother is Igbo under the guise of propaganda that the Igbo have claimed that “Lagos is a no man’s land”.
This statement could not have emanated from the Igbo who out of their grit save money to buy properties in the state and elsewhere. They did not steal these properties that were allocated to them by the state government.
The ethnic tension may have been born out of the Yoruba people’s nationalistic tendency to protect their land and unmet competition in the arena of success. Even when it is understandable, the root of the ethnic nationalism is different from what is presented. Some indigenous Lagos people claim that the Yorubas from other states are dominating them while drawing the Igbo into the quagmire. “I’m a bonafide indigene. The usurpers in the APC are determined that no indigene of Lagos must direct our affairs.” a Twitter user wrote.
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” French President Emmanuel Macron said. He continued, “By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others’, we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values.”
While I may not completely agree with Mr. Macron on his definition of patriotism versus nationalism, I agree that the pursuit of interest with no regard to others amounts to injustice and unfairness. As other Nigerian ethnic groups pursue their own nationalistic interests, Igbophobia is utilised to deny the Igbo her own fair interest based on equity.
Famous writer Chinua Achebe wrote in ‘There Was a Country’, “The original idea of one Nigeria was pressed by the leaders and intellectuals from the Eastern Region. With all their shortcomings, they had this idea to build the country as one. The first to object were the Northerners led by the Sardauna, who were followed closely by the Awolowo clique that had created the Action Group. The Northern Peoples Congress of the Sardaunians was supposed to be a national party, yet it refused to change its name from Northern to Nigerian Peoples Congress, even for the sake of appearances. It refused right up to the end of the civilian regime.”
One Nigeria as thought was to build a nation out of her diversities. Nigeria is a nation with many ethnic groups. Building a nation out of that has eluded the peoples. One Nigeria is often affirmed by different groups and maintained almost only on paper.
Unity out of diversity is what the preachers of multiculturalism preach. It is the melting pot – where different cultures are integrated into a single society. If the single society entices the western world, it does not entice Nigerians, simply because as the Igbo strive for progress, bigots may devote time hating on them.
Igbophobia is retarding the growth and development of Nigeria and if the country truly believes it is one, she will recognise, accept, respect and celebrate her cultural and ethnic diversity. She will seek the inclusion and contributions of her diverse peoples while maintaining respect for their differences.
In igbophobia, Nigeria may not move forward. The foundation of hate towards one of her constituents should be systemically dealt with; otherwise, Nigeria’s growth will be where it has been since amalgamation; running in circles.