Future of Igbo Culture and Tradition: What Hope for our Children Part 3
By Ash Okoro. 08030945601
In traditional Igbo society, hard work, individual and group industry and decent acquisition of wealth were encouraged. The culture of “Aku Udo” was entrenched in the society. In fact Igbo culture and tradition never tolerated laziness. But post war Igbo generations turned their backs to these traditional norms that made the Igbo race thick. Immediately after the war the surviving younger generation went into business-buying and selling, the artisan trade, drugs and advance fee fraud, etc., all in the bid to make quick money for survival. This in turn opened the road for excessive materialism and acquisition of wealth. Hawking by young boys and girls on the streets in major towns in Igbo land became the order of the day, encouraged by parents, and the zeal for education began to suffer. This situation has persisted till today.
In her article on “Living a Virtuous Life in our Generation”, Ifeoma Ben noted that, “youths today are victims of moral relativism, cultural models which are meaningless and ideologies which do not offer high and clear moral guidelines. Moreover, they allow themselves to be seduced by unchecked materialism”. This attitude had fuelled in our youth evils like alcoholism, sexual abuse, and drug abuse, prostitution hidden under different guises, opportunism and rejection of all legitimate authority.
Having made the money and become affluent, most of the richest and distinguished Igbo choose to live and invest outside Igbo land, mainly in Lagos and Abuja. They put behind the Igbo culture of ‘Aku Ruo Ulo’. In this regard, Okeke observed that, “Generally, they enjoy their money in highly visible ways. Coupled with resentment engendered by economic competition with indigenes of non-Igbo towns, the high visibility of the Igbo has often made them targets of ethnic and religious violence in non-Igbo cities”.
Still talking of materialism and unguided pursuit of wealth and the harm they have done to core Igbo cultural values, Igwe Achebe, the Obi of Onitsha, stressed that, “the other issue is that materialism have taken hold, and materialism reflects very strong individualism without reference to norms and standards….even cultures and traditions don’t stand still, they keep advancing with time, with the influence of other cultures; we have to decide what trend we want our traditions to go. It is this insatiable tendency among Ndi Igbo to acquire and own everything, the lack of contentment that makes us a natural target for persecution everywhere outside Igbo land”.
Informal education was the norm in traditional Igbo society. Everything a child or youth ought to know or learn was orally or informally passed down by parents, the elderly or the master craftsman from one generation to the other. There was no room for cheating in an “examination” or purchasing “admission” in traditional “schools”
The colonial era brought formal education and the Igbo grabbed it with full force. By early 1950s they had caught up and surpassed the Yoruba and other coastal people of Nigeria who had first contact with Western education. This trend continued till the end of the war in 1970. With widespread development of public and privately owned Universities and other tertiary institutions all over Igbo land, what kind of “educated children” do we have today? Lazy youth who don’t want to apply themselves to serious study, cultism in secondary schools and tertiary institutions, purchase of admission into higher institutions-encouraged by rich parents and those who can afford it, even if it means borrowing money, sorting to pass examinations-cash for the boys, and cash or in kind for the girls, etc. The result has been a downward trend in the quality of education and the churning out of near empty graduates.
Experience, they say, is the best teacher. This writer experienced this rot in our citadels of learning when he was Head of Department of Research and Documentations at the Imo State Council for Arts and Culture, Owerri. I was constantly confronted with third year or final year undergraduates who could not write a formal application letter to conduct a research or use the Council’s Library. They had very bad handwritings and incomprehensible English were all one could see in their letters. The worst of all was that only one out of ten could express themselves in eloquent English or answer questions intelligently. Most of the time (if I had the time and patience), I would first of all correct the application letter, give it back to the student to rewrite and bring it for formal official treatment. That is the future of our children; Lazy youth who very often are deceived by their parental affluence, cultism, latest trends in music, dance, home video, dressing and social media.
What positive future do Igbo see in their culture and tradition, and what hope are we talking about for our children when a good number of the children have gone ‘nuclear’ in all kinds of criminality. For example, on Saturday, 18th August 2012, the Principal of Holy Ghost College Owerri, Rev. Fr. Cyprian Ogu escaped assassination from suspected cultists in his residence at the college. “The attack which took place at about 1a.m on the fateful day was meant to snuff out Fr. Ogu’s life completely”. There had been a running battle with cultists since he took over as the Principal of the now Catholic school. What was his offence? The battle against the priest as gathered by The Leader, “Is as a result of his efforts to restore sanity in the school and return Holy Ghost College to its former glory. This undoubtedly agitated the cultists and hoodlums in the school who felt threatened by the measures put in place to bring back the ethics of healthy academic and moral upbringing”. To drum their determination into Fr. Ogu’s ears to eliminate him, they left a note at Fr. Ogu’s door post on the night of the attempted assassination, stressing that they have been mandated to capture Holy Ghost College Owerri. Their motto is “Forgiveness is Sin”. In reaction, Archbishop AJV Obinna wondered “how human beings created in God’s image would have as their motto “Forgiveness is Sin”. This is the product of the new society in which we are living”, he stressed. The parents of these secondary school cultists I believe, are in this new society in which we are living.