By Cornelius Onyeulo.

When did Ndigbo become the laughing stock as the least educated ethnic nationality in Nigeria? Some time in recent past, when you listened to the radio, there was an advertisement educating illiterate business persons like Okechukwu Maduegbuna to save their money in the bank. In that advertisement, Okechukwu Maduegbuna owned a shop where he even sleeps. Since obtaining his ‘freedom’-the quoted word is used to depict that one is no more under a master who sometimes treats him like a slave-he saved his money in his drawer. He intended to rent a house as soon as he had saved substantial amount. Then one day, his friend found out that he had been saving his money in the shop and advised him to be wise and put his money in the bank, to forestall fire outbreak or burglary.

‘Okechukwu Maduegbuna’ must have been a fictitious name used in that advertisement, and I mean no harm to anybody who coincidentally bears this name. Why use an Igbo name for that advertisement, I wondered within me. Is it because Ndigbo do not value education these days and prefer to unleash their underage children to go into business? On a second thought, I figured that Ndigbo placed themselves in this situation because since after the war they relegated to the background all values and norms of the Igbo race. What a pity.

Though the war became inevitable for Ndigbo considering the situation they found themselves at that time. But any race that has war history change for the better. Why has Ndigbo retrogressed in their values and norms since after the war? Many of us go about as if all is well. Look at the percentage of young Igbo boys venturing into business without formal education and figure out what will happen in the next fifty or more years. This group will become the Okechukwu Maduegbunas. Their female counterparts are not spared, but stand a better chance than the boys in terms of receiving formal education. Can one compete in the global arena without education?

I have a serious grouse with our Igbo leaders who are supposed to be like the biblical Moses, who did not consider the comfort of the palace of Pharaoh but proved his love for his fellow Jew by defending him. Let our Igbo leaders forget a bit the comfort of their billions and remember their peasant brothers and sisters. Our Igbo leaders are like those Jeremiah prophesized about when he said: “Disaster for the shepherds who lose and scatter the sheep of my pasture, Yahweh declares. This therefore, is what Yahweh, God of Israel says about the shepherds who shepherd my people. You have scattered my flock, you have driven them away and have not taken care of them. Right, I shall take care of you for your misdeeds, Yahweh declares. But the remnant of my flock I myself shall gather from all the countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds, they will be fruitful and increase in numbers. For them I shall raise up shepherds to shepherd them and pasture them. No fear, no terror for them anymore, not one shall be lost, Yahweh declares” (Jer. 23: 1-4).

My prayer: Oh Lord of heaven and earth, please raise up good shepherds for Ndigbo. We are scattered over the world looking for green pastures. Majority of us want to go back to the land you have given us but insecurity and lack of economic wellbeing keep us in foreign lands. For how long will Igbo homeland remain desolate? Lord hear the cries of your children. Raise up for Ndigbo leaders who will lead us to green pastures. There is no economic union among the five state governments in Igbo land on how to regenerate a land ravaged by war and destruction of physical infrastructure. Now we have democracy and our sons and daughters are in position of leadership still we have not fared better. Our leaders are concerned only about their own interest, their families and their cronies. Some of our leaders go as far as to betray their people by joining enemy camps. They play politics with the lives of their kith and kin. Oh Lord, do not abandon us to the vagaries of these ravaging marauders. Nnamdi Kanu has appeared on the scene of Igbo leadership and the existing Igbo leaders seem not to notice him or have not the gut to question his movement. They ought to go into discussion with him to authenticate the veracity of his intentions and either support him or declare their stand without fear. Please Lord, do not tarry but hastily visit your people Ndigbo. Ya mee. Iseeee, Iseeeee.

Majority of poor Igbo families do not send their children to school because they cannot afford it. Education is the right of every child and that is why we are clamouring for free compulsory primary and secondary school education in Igbo land to stop producing the Okechukwu Maduegbunas. Education must be the priority of every government in Igbo land. Ndigbo were ahead of any other ethnic group as far as education was concerned before the war. Ndigbo as a matter of great urgency must get back to that position. We must start thinking home though we have dispersed and we must return. Return to our homeland we must help build it as we helped built other places. Let those who have industries outside Igbo land start setting up branches in ‘ala Igbo’. The Asian Tigers have their headquarters in their homeland with branches over the world. We can do the same and prove that we are not ‘Oka mma na ama’. We cannot be good outside only to do badly at home.

There is no gainsaying that Ohaneze Ndigbo is the father figure for Ndigbo. If Ohaneze Ndigbo had not pragmatically checkmated our political leaders, the time is now because they need our votes to achieve their political ambition. Ohaneze Ndigbo must be extremely vocal that our governors develop our land to stop mass movement of Ndigbo to other places. Ohaneze Ndigbo must not compromise but become vociferous proponent for the regeneration of our homeland. Before Biafra is actualized Ndigbo must begin to negotiate their stake in the Nigerian polity. The new Ohaneze Ndigbo leadership cannot fail this time around and we are happy with what the President General Chief John Nnia Nwodo had said so far. We pray that he remains steadfast even in times of persecution, intimidation and tyranny.

One can observe that of the three major ethnic blocs in Nigeria only the Southeast has no mega city and no development to stem the drift of their graduates to the West and North. If Igbo land is economically viable, our young graduates will remain there and work, thereby plunge back their resources into their father land. The government has a lot to do for the people. One cannot overestimate the involvement of government in the lives of the people. Ala Igbo Foundation should be encouraged to work with Ohaneze Ndigbo so as to create the desired pressure on government to perform and let Ndigbo enjoy dividends of democracy. How do we know those children who are to become the future Okechukwu Maduegbunas and nip the development in the bud? There is work to do. Ndigbo, please wake up to your responsibilities.

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