Primordial republicanism, stereotypism and Igbo leadership syndrome

In the post civil war Igbo man is a wild constellation of survival and resilience in a straitjacket of stereotypes and primordial republicanism.

Maduabuchi Dukor

The post colonial and post civil war vestiges impacted on different phases of Ndigbo Interface with both foreign culture and modernizing agencies. These can be seen in Christian moral values, education and technological innovations on the one hand and,on the other hand,are cultural alienation and primordial or stereotypical predicates in social relations. Edie Irohin his book, Toads of War,surrealistically captured Igbo man as a “toad of war” entangled in fervour of volunteerism to “fight the vandals to finish” championed by“the cold blood that flowed freely at various battle fronts”, even as “conscription replaced volunteer enlistment” and volunteers were “duckers and dodgers in the backyards and back valleys of the urban centres by-ways and pathways of villages” (Iroh, 1979: 49). Are Ndigbo still toads of war in modern geopolitical Nigeria? An affirmative answer to this question captures the resilience of the Igbo man in alienated political order. He has become a political scavenger with leadership syndrome.

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In the post civil war Igbo man is a wild constellation of survival and resilience in a straitjacket of stereotypes and primordial republicanism. These are bad habits and uncritical thinking which weigh down republicanness in Igbo political culture. The rapture of a deprived or retarded culture is better imagined than observed in a first hand, sensible and perceptible knowledge. Dominance of the ethos of uncontrolled, uncontrollable collective unconscious in an imminent implosion in Igbo can be observed from trends of things. Education and ideology would, however, reverse this trend and would be needed to unbundle contemporary Igbo leadership.

Chinua Achebe’s in his Things Fall Apart, x-rayed African problem with a literary phenomenology of the assault and decapitation of Igbo culture and values by colonialism. It is symbolic that the legendary hero Okonkwo hanged himself because of this (Achebe 1958). Such is,however, the fate of every people and culture, to lesser or greater extent, in black Africa. The Igbo survived colonialism, however, with an open mind to what is called civilization and modernization, yet, with clear and questionable elements of primordial republicanism; a government of the people, by the people and for the people, albeit, a mob rulership. This is what we capture as the bane of Igbo leadership. Ndigbo needs cultural innovations to revise and reverse this phenomenon.

In the postcolonial era and before the Nigerian civil war the republican system of chiefdom was contrasted by the political leadership represented by Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, AkanuIbiam and so on. The later, good enough,is a brand of political leadership that engenders civilization and modernization as well as cosmopolitanism and globalization. The effervescence of Igbo leadership within and outside Igbo society from 1930s to 1963 is something to reckon about. However, the aftermath of the civil war resulted to thinking out of the box, survival of the fittest and resiliencewith the “insurgence” of stereotypical and primordial republicanism that endures against collective bargain in contemporary Igbo politics.

Before the civil war Igbo were the most educated, and highest ranking officers in the Nigeria’s military. They dominated the pre and post independent first class crop of civil servants who were ready to take over from the Europeans the mantles of civil and public services in an independent Nigeria. Although the Yorubas had the first contacts with the West along with its education and Christianity, the deluge of the Igbo in education and academics overwhelmed the former. As brands and pacesetters it was as if it was their destiny to inherit leadership roles in most institutions such as University College Ibadan where Professor Kenneth Dike was the first black Principal and Professor Eni Njoku, the first Vice-Chancellor of University of Lagos.

With the crescendo of Igbo intellectual and philosophic leadership in Nigeria then it would have been unthinkable for the sagacities of Dangotes, Rabius, Otedolas and Adenugas today to challenge the doyens of commerce and entrepreneurship of Nnewi and Abiriba in Igbo land. If not for the over-confidence and too much trust General Aguiyi Ironsi allegedly had on the Nigeria’s military and alleged blatant and overzealous miscalculation of Nzeogwu military putsch the Igbo would have remained the unbeatable flagship in the Nigeria’s armed forces, civil service and entrepreneurship. But the blame is more on Igbo themselves than on the subcultural and historical lapses.

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Igbo people are responsible for their leadership debacles collectively and severally accounted by: One, common sense adage that too much of anything is bad; two, Igbo adage that a matured man should not be there when a domestic goat died in her rope; three, Chinua Achebe reflection that if you don’t know where the rain started beating you, you are most likely not to know where it stopped; four, without a sense of history the future would be blighted and, five, Jean Paul Sartre’s ever enduring foresight that action without thought is empty and thought without action is blind. Ndigbo should collectively take their political destiny in their hands. There is a somewhat recrudescence of Igbo leadership in the immediate post independent Nigeria. But this backpedaled following the Nigerian civil war which is the second “Things Fall Apart” for the Igbo after the epic Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. The later, the first, is as a result of the colonial philosophical carnage on the Igbo and Africans in general.

The civil war period is a period of darkness and desert where nothing is accounted for, yet the Igbo man in that period of distress could improvise, invent and innovate in a resilience and sustainable drive. Such technologically diversified paradigms as Ogbunigwe (colossal killer) and Ojunkwu Bunker were rapid response and retreat war improvement and empowerment that stunned the enemies and technologically advanced countries. Social capitals emerged on the throes of the war. According to Elechi

Amadi in his book, Estrangement, “the war had encroached on names. Hotels, Inns, guest houses were named after towns and villages like “Hotel de Aburi”Obolo-Eke, Obolo-Afo, Gakem, Opietc (Amadi,1986: 35).

Another tragic and third “Things Fall Apart” for the Igbo is the colossal failure of Igbo leadership recruitment as a result of reinvention of some Igbo archetypical stereotypical primordiality. This is a quantum fall from the Igbo leadership revivalism of the early 60s,albeit, the military interregnum, through the unsustained and transitory Nnamdi Azikiwe and Alex Ekwueme leadership symbolic blueprints, to this new era of Igbo nouveau riche Politic. It is within the cubicle of this nouveau riche leadership syndrome that one finds the current dispensation of basal, melancholic, frail, pale and stereotypical Igbo leadership that runs contrary to the consensual egalitarianism of Igbo chiefdom and the entrepreneurial and visionary spirit of Igbo world view. This political eclipse occurred in a no distant past with a wrong leadership recruitment that found traders willing tools and participants in the calculations of political parties which stormed Alaba, ASPANDA and Balogun International markets. Since then, every person has become a leader with an eye on financial gain.

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From 2003 the stage was unduly set for a reborn of neo-Ndigbo republicanism. Its stereotypes were inherited from the primordial consciousness of precolonial era, trampled upon by colonialism, disinherited by the neo independent Nigerian Igbo elites in the early 60s, castrated by the civil war, subdued by the awesome military interregnum and resurfaced in its negative form in the insurgency of crude power that now retard the growth and development of Igbo race. The dialectical turban of this zigzag historical trajectory of Igbo people resulted to a new era of unreformed primordial stereotypical and archetypical insurgency.

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Prof. Dukor is President/editor-in-chief of ESSENCE LIBRARY and teaches Philosophy at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka

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Author: Tokunbo David