Igbo in Nigeria’s first republic

Some history of Nigeria.

During the First Republic, the Igbo nation made an enviable progress in qualitative and coherent leadership, organisational cohesion, fiscal and industrial development, planning, superb educational system, good governance, integrity in political office, and so forth. In fact, this solid foundation was laid before the inception of the First Republic, courtesy of the Ibo State Union and leaders of thought. Notably, government initiatives adequately encouraged farming and other allied produce for food and export. Thus, items such as rice, yam, cassava, cocoyam, vegetables, palm produce and cashew nuts were readily and ordinarily the mainstay of the economy. It was essentially on these that Eastern Nigerian economy thrived and expanded to become the largest growing economy. The Eastern Nigerian government had a clear vision which was progressive, and complementary to the notion of the Ibo State Union. As a result, the Eastern Nigerian Development Corporation (ENDC) was established, which became a tool through which series of development projects emerged, including: University of Nigeria Nsukka, Aba Textile Mills, Shoe Industry Owerri, Nigercem Nkalagu, Enamel Plate Industry Umuahia, Golden Guinea Brewery Umuahia, Obudu Cattle Ranch, Glass Company Port Harcourt, Ulonna Farm Settlement, Niger Steel Company Emene, African Continental Bank (ACB), Hotel Presidential Enugu and Port Harcourt, Co-operative Bank of Eastern Nigeria Ltd (Co-operative and Commerce Bank). The following lines from Nkemjika (2008) explain the motivation behind the industrialization of Alaigbo and Eastern Nigeria:

“ These were the enterprises that engaged secondary school leavers, graduates of technical colleges, polytechnics and universities in productive activities. As a result of that developmental effort, Eastern Nigerians had no need to migrate in their numbers to Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, etc, for employment opportunities (Nkemjika 2008). ”

Nkemjika also emphasizes that these and many other developmental strides were achieved within a ten year period 1957-1967 (Nkemjika 2008). Another time an Igbo-led government set out to accomplish for the Igbo was under the Sam Mbakwe administration when rapid effort was geared towards the industrialization of Igboland amongst others.

It beats one’s imagination how in Igbo States in recent memory, some individuals had had the privilege of occupying the government houses for eight years stretch as governors without any substantive legacy – infrastructurally, industrially or transparency-wise. In many cases, they left the Igbo States in worse situations compared to when they took over the reins of power. As it stands, Igboland degenerates into a steady decline with our youths ever exiting the land in search of better prospects in other parts of Nigeria and the outside world. This mass exodus denies Igboland aspects of the necessary manpower. Where are the jobs that will entice our youths to stay and build Igboland? How can we build the Igbo nation if a section of the youths in Igboland is restive, indulge in vices, such as robbery and kidnapping?

Unless the trend is checked, Igboland will continue to suffer marginalization. When Igbo people in exalted positions fail to put Igboland on the road map to progress, the wishes of our detractors would be served. Then it becomes obvious that our own people are the instruments of marginalization policy against us.

Ironically, while Igboland is deprived, Igbo businessmen and women have their businesses concentrated in other parts of Nigeria, thereby causing rapid development of those non-Igbo areas. Still, the success of the Igbo business people in other parts of Nigeria, especially in Northern Nigeria has caused a backlash against them – hatred, constant killing and looting (destruction) of their businesses. This has become an unending cycle that denies the Igbo people in those hostile areas security of lives and properties, the ability to consolidate and enjoy their prosperity. Above all, the homeland is underdeveloped: beaconing on all sons and daughters to return home. The task that must be done is to build Igboland into an economy that will meet the demands of today.

Compared to the consolidated progress made by the Igbo between 1957 and 1967, the question on everyone’s lips: are the Igbo of today in decline?