Before the people of Israel were able to receive their first true king (according to the kingdom of men) from God, David, a man after God’s heart, they were under a traditional rule. What then was the setting of their traditional rulership? How were they able to hold to the norms which made them integrated, focused and unique? It was the fear of their God who gave them principles for life and for living. Every kingdom which must be confident and focused, even in the face of extinction, must be founded and rooted in The Light of our presence here. God is that light, whatever science or atheists say notwithstanding. The first king who came about through men’s agitations (in response to what they saw of other nations who had no grounded principles for life and for living), Saul, brought about many woes in Israel because the fall and failures of a king is a communion which everyone under the kingdom must partake of. Saul fell, not because he had no “good intentions” for the people; no, he fell because he failed to see that the laws of God are the laws for life and for true living. He failed to understand why the potter would care more for the works of his hands than a bigger pottery in which other potteries may be kept for safety by the potter himself. This is the failure of our rulers – starting from those saddled with keeping and propagating traditional norms to those who preach our Lord Jesus Christ, and now to the Sauls in politics today all over Igboland. They believe they care more than the creator of life who had said, “Love your neighbor as yourself!”
The traditional rulers are our today’s bridge between our ancestral heritage and our ignorant posterity. Their position is the position of passage: passing what was, to become the norms of the now, until our generations in the future come to take their place and continue the legacy. Before the Westerners came with Christianity, Western education and Human Rights, our fathers, the Igbo, had already established a dim form of democracy. This explains the term, “Igbo Enwe Eze” which, far from meaning that the Igbo have no king, actually means that every true leadership must be bent on being beneficial, both to the people of the now and to posterity – in agreement with Ọha. The Igbo have always had kings, surrounded by council of elders who, after deliberation, comes up with a singular voice which the king will now represent. In those days, abomination is called Arụ, and is treated as such. Not even the king dares allow an abomination to thrive, less it flushes him and his lineage out of the throne because Ofụ mkpụrụ aka rụta mmanụ, ozuo ọha.
What has happened with our traditional pride and norms? The answer is “the burden of a One-Nigeria” on the Igbo. The government, in doing everything to frustrate the peoples’ root and self-image, removed the divine powers of the traditional rulers and made them crowned sycophants. However, these rulers, if they truly know their position and duly represent it, know that no government institutions can utterly remove divine powers because it comes from the spirit of the land and of the people. This is where you, the rulers, are not free from culpability. Therefore, I address you regarding your children and regarding the kidnappings with which they have invaded your Obi and toppled your sacred crowns, knowing fully well that no Igbo son would dare commit such sacrilege (even for money or fame) unless he has lost faith in the values of the traditional rulers of our time.
The slave trading in the days of ignorance, when our people dealt in making slaves from amongst us, was often carried out on people considered to be lazy for farm works and only fit for either the “White man’s education” or as a slave so as to teach them, in a difficult way, to be manly. Amongst other reasons why our people shamelessly but ignorantly indulged in this (like so many men of the earth) was a situation where a debtor was not able to redeem his financial debt. But, thanks to the message which came through Christianity; the rights for all to live were reawakened and the slave business lost fashion. Then came the genocide of the 60s which was carried out by the Nigerian government against all Igbo. What followed the defeat of Biafra of the then (because we have always been Biafrans, even before the Biafran Independence declaration in the May of 1967) was a psychological defeat which results against Ndigbo are everywhere today and still ravages Anigbo. Gowon, Awolowo, the Northern oligarchy and a few cowards in our midst who sold their generations only for the pleasure of being recognized amongst those who hate us, plundered not only the Igbo resources but the Igbo spirit.
It’s been over 40 years since Nigeria carried out genocidal crimes against our traditional homeland and desecrated our norms, values and self-recognition, yet the structures set by the then Gowon-led government to keep the Igbo down have survived to date solely because those, the traditional rulers, who had the ultimate rights to our “Ọffọ na Ogu” lost focus and doubted the power of their thrones. They refused to wake up, and so, those they thus lead in sleep went ahead of them to snore and to slumber. That sleep and slumber drove the enemy, once again, right into our Obis. Worse still, it made our children slave masters who now have mastered the art of making slaves of our traditional rulers. The question then is: why did the Igbo spirit allow the Igbo to degenerate to where we are today? I provide a few answers below:
1. Our traditional rulers and the custodians of our integral values have left their posts. They are now political job-hunters in traditional attires and wearing kings’ crowns.
2. Our traditional rulers have forsaken both our ancestral heritage and their sworn purpose to assure an informed posterity.
3. Although the governors and politicians of the day have been made to have power over our traditional rulers, in every sense, these politicians came from traditional enclaves in Igboland but had no recourse to their root, purpose and focus. Therefore, they have continued to fail because the custodians of the land were sleeping.
4. Our traditional leaders forgot that their leadership has more of a divine source than a government source, and therefore, should be more productive than in wearing the garments of the government of any day.
5. The loss of direction, the sleep and silence of our traditional rulers produced Igbo children with no collective focus; Igbo children who have run even into the very door of their enemies to make their safest abode.
6. As these leaders sleep and snore while their children, subjects and posterity are continually endangered, their children took recourse to vile and violent means to demonstrate their hopelessness and lack of trust of every Igbo leadership. All men went their ways and Igbo lost their king. Yet no one has ever successfully replaced God, our true king.
7. 7. Today, as our children kidnap our leaders and make every unthinkable demand, it could be that the Igbo spirit will yet use this opportunity to awaken our traditional rulers to their core duties.
Finally, I would have our traditional rulers know that, their continued silence could injure the Igbo-consciousness the more and could bring about the loss of the Igbo in books of the great nations of which we were ordained as one. Yet they and their lineage may not be spared for their failures and neglect. I, therefore, humbly advice that it’s high time our traditional rulers woke up from their sleep and look at their children to ascertain and meet their demands which is nothing else but the realization of self-worth and the return to our root, the Igbo-consciousness. Ndi Eze, please, go back to our Chi-Ụkwụ, to Chineke, and understand that He desires the freedom of His children and an unsoiled seed for His posterity. Our youths must be reached in every way possible. Today, as all indications show, the Igbo is no longer a part of the political Nigeria, which only gives voice to prove that our place was not ordained to be in Nigeria. This the Igbo spirit reveals even through the ever-declining happenings in our Igbo society. You ask me if removing ourselves from Nigeria would bring back the true Igbo; I say, yes! The youths have been marginalized, disenfranchised, denied of an equal competing stand, and of their future in the One-Nigeria, and these denials have produced Igbo leaders who no longer know why they lead the Igbo. Bring yourselves together, carry out your findings and understand that the only message your children have revealed clearly today through many ways is that Nigeria chokes the Igbo spirit. Boko Haram did not come because the children of the Northern oligarchy were denied their place; No, they came because they are fighting, in agreement with their traditional, religious and political fathers, to remain the rulers and the dominion of Nigeria and the Igbo, as Ahmadu Bellow once said, “…We use the minorities in the North as willing tools and the South as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us and never allow them to have control over their future”. Until and unless the cries of the Igbo children are considered, starting from our traditional rulers who are the custodians of our values and origin, our children may progress from kidnapping our traditional rulers to burning our traditional places. And when these increase, both the helpers of these custodians of traditions, the religious and political rulers, will no longer find safety in their sources of safety. You then ask me if this progress is a true progress. My answer: Set your children free from the curse of Nigeria!
By Ikechukwu Enyiagu,