A LETTER TO IGBO YOUTH
BY M A C ODU
In all humility I write to acquaint you, with as much candour as I can muster, the condition of our nation, the Igbo nation, as I languidly wallow in the ranks of senior citizens of Nigeria now unable to do much to change the rather unpleasant degenerative condition you all have now inherited from our own generation. The generation before us was a pioneer generation. They failed to orientate our people to our system and how we may use our system to better address the needs of our people. They were carried away by the benefits of power and foreign symbols of development and civilization and strayed from positive values in our own root culture and lost for all of us relevance to in a fast changing world.
That generation was extremely vain and cast no gaze at their people and their roots to see how best to preserve our pristine values and move us into civilization in our own idiom. They provided excuse for the military to step in and almost irreversibly afflict our futures. The military saw to it that your future was short-changed with programmes of a defeated. No blame need lie to the military. It is a tradition for them to regard those they rule as conquered people. Citizens became their captives. A conqueror calls the shots and does all in his power to ram his rules of conduct down the throats of the conquered. Unfortunately they did not have enough understanding of leadership to do any better than political leaders before them. That is what we have experienced, no victor no vanquished sing-song notwithstanding. What now matters most is that we have become enemies of our positive heritage and in consequence we have consigned ourselves to the ranks of the never-do-wells and people incapable of positive evolution. We have lost our pristine cognateness and homogeneity. We have pauperized our spirits with so much concentration on material welfare. The irony is that we have become lip-service Christians in droves but have less humanity in our hearts.
I confess that my generation failed to provide appropriate leads to all of you to latch on and find your profitable ways through life in Nigeria and the world when it mattered most. We could have established our misdirection by our preceding generation and changed the course of our evolution with little effort. Yes we had obstacles too heavy to ponder. The military hung on to power too long and left little room for some of us with ideas for change to hit sensitive minds and motivate change. But that will not be offered here as an excuse for failure. A generation must discharge itself creditably in order to deserve the ancestral staff which it ought to pass on to the next generation without stain. We ought to have fought hard and sent the military packing earlier than they did. Materialism floored us too. Our generation was decimated by the military as we yielded to allurements which the military offered. The ranks of our Igbo Elite were fractionated with divide and rule tactics. Tokens were offered groups to stray from the common courses we espoused. We belonged to all parties as soon as the military gave room and had no ideology for belonging wherever we found ourselves save seeking crumbs from the masters’ tables.
Even the academic establishment was subjugated. No one spoke forth until General Abacha rankled us too deep and National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) came to our rescue. We were near slaves in our own land. Only a few of our people like Rear Admiral Godwin Ndubisi Kanu, could see that the trend was nauseating. We drifted and our leaders crumbled for offers of seeming comfort.
I should once again introduce myself again for the third time. I had done so twice before. I had sent a letter to Nigerian youth in 1995 when I wrote The Nigerian Condition in 1995, for I was worried sore of the trajectory that had led and is still leading to our sinking, which was traceable to the incapacity of the military to offer appropriate leadership to a gifted nation. I wrote again to Nigerian Youth before 2011 elections on the need to make sound choices. There was little room for youth to impress their vision on the electorate by regarding the vote as serious business. You with your majority in the population played to the transient whims of the political overlords who used you for fateful ends and abandoned you shortly after elections. The amount of fraud that has taken place in our nation’s history is now mind bugling. It should have transformed our population to a productive specie of humanity were the miscreants been prevented from reaching public office. We have lost tremendous opportunity to work with the rest of the world in contributing to the advancement of humanity. We are still speaking about food and shelter when other nations are feeding well and establishing systems to ease human drudgery with machines and robotics. We still farm like our grandparents. We still cook with wood and kerosene since we have no power to latch into modern power-based industrial products. Jobs are consequently not available to those who qualify. And few qualify because there is no technology-based education left. Our educational system is screwed up in favour of theory. Few machines feature in our technological institutions as Hi-tech Products hit production centres in advanced nations of the world. Machines go quickly out of production and we are caught in a web of tomfoolery from year to year. We had Projects Development Agency PRODA, in Enugu Igboland immediately after the war. It has been allowed to degenerate into nothingness by the Nigerian power elite and our own sons who could not remove their blinkers woven of vanity and myopia and greed. We are left with craftsmen at Aba and Onitsha who make machines without design and engineering drawing which last only for a few weeks and are scrapped because our creative people have no sound education. Our own engineers are in foreign lands fuelling and powering foreign systems.
The immediate past elections showed that you have become aware of your role especially in Imo and Anambra where you called a halt to the worthless drift of our people into the hands of worthless people posturing as leaders. You have now become aware that you command sixty percent of the population and wherever you stand and resolve to vote, there shall leadership lie. More is expected in other parts of Igboland in the years ahead. The other Igbo youth in other cognate states and zones should identify themselves and bring Igbo nation into homogeneity with Imo and Anambra. There shall lie our new relevance in Nigeria and the world. Ndigbo in the Diaspora should be fully aware of the fact that their sojourn in foreign land should attract only one benefit. That benefit is transferring foreign technology to our own land Igboland. No one should listen to the frightful impression that crime is pervasive in Igboland so investments should not be brought home. It is atrocious. It is untrue. We have had cycles of beginning again induced by our fellow Nigerians to slow us down. They cause us to lose our investments in their own lands and force us to use our capital resources to better their own lands. Their lands provide us employment and resources to improve their own ranges of choices. We have monuments of capital in country homes and nothing else. We have few plants producing our needs. We have strong traders, no manufacturers. Yet we trigger industrialism in other lands in the world. You youth are endangered. Poverty is roaring at the distance. It must be stopped. You must insist on proper leadership with your votes. Proper leadership must be provided by people who have communicated their vision and goals which the people find appropriate for their level of development. No one should access power without first being heard in these paradigms: Where are we? Why are we here? Where should we now go? How do we get there? The answers to these questions must be unique to Ndigbo. They must draw fully from our system. They must assure growth for all time. No one should be found on the portals of leadership without vision and satisfying mission that answers these questions.
I entered the Nigerian nation in the womb of my mother on the 14th day of April 1944. Although I touched down in my village Amohuo in Ngurunweke, Aboh Mbaise, my father in service of Nigerian Railways at the time wished me off to a town called Lafia within two days of my birth and had me formally registered as a citizen of Lafia. I was baptised by a Catholic priest Father Donovan of St. Williams Catholic Church within two days of our arrival there. Registration of birth was quickly accomplished then through the churches. My first real and conscious contact was with Hausa speaking people. I was privileged to regard myself as a citizen among them. At that time all Nigerians were equal in all parts of the country. Independence was still afar off and there were no spoils to distract us. We were colonized by the British decades before my birth and during that period, our colonizers ensured that they looked after one another at home and in foreign lands.
Yes we came into a dilemma of the incursion of the military. I played my part in fighting them aiming at salvaging our corporate psyche afflicted by pogrom in the North of our country. I led students of University of Nigeria into revolt against the pogrom and this revolt materialized into clamour for the sovereign state of Biafra in 1968. Unfortunately, I was not home to participate in that movement and its actualization for I was on a mission to destroy Jebba Bridge and got caught by Nigeria Police in Ibadan and consequently was kept in detention for the entire period of fratricidal conflict. That probably was the only reason I am alive today because I may have carried out many irrational and dastardly acts in Biafra were I to have been there to experience firsthand the profligacy that spelt the doom of our experiment in forming our own nation.
I have however persuaded myself that all systems are ordered by the volitions which people hold and leaders to fulfill such volitions arise and play their roles of up-building or down-destruction in accordance with their volitions.
I am writing to acquaint you all with how my generation failed. I will continue this letter later. In the meantime brace up for change.