A DISCUSSION WITH THE COUNCIL OF IGBO STATES IN AMERICA (CISA) AT THE 2023 IGBO WORLDWIDE FESTIVAL, ST SIMONS ISLAND, IGBO LANDING, GEORGIA, USA. BY AGBALANZE CHIKE MADUEKE, PRESIDENT, AKA IKENGA
12TH AUGUST 2023
Aka Ikenga is the premier policy and strategy think-tank of Ndi Igbo. We operate by proactively analyzing programmes, policies and states of affairs that may affect Ndigbo. We seek to promote, propagate and sustain the relevance of our people wherever they are; in government, corporate world or commerce, in Nigeria and or the diaspora.
Aka Ikenga is the policy research and analytical resource of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the general Igbo political, and socio- economic leadership. We also, through our influence intercede on issues concerning ndi be anyi, regarding advancement in businesses, political Integration and general enfranchisement.
Generally, and in leading with our objectives, we promote and defend activities and policies that would enhance the unity, stability and socio-economic development of Ndigbo and Nigeria.
I wish to thank the President, the executive of Igbo Council of States in America and the Planning Committee for extending an invitation to me to participate in the activities of the 2023 Igbo Worldwide Festival of Arts and Culture holding today at the historic St Simons Island Georgia, a place otherwise known as The Igbo Landing . This visit is the first time I set my foot on the soils of this island where our ancestors chose death over slavery: hence the name Igbo Landing. I came here with so much trepidations and apprehension. As I stand here, my eyes are filled with tears as I contemplate the physical and mental trauma our ancestors endured on that horrendous journey that made them opt for death instead of anything this new land could portend. As I stand on this soil, my hands quiver, knowing full well that if provoked by even a fraction of that mental and physical torture meted on my ancestors in May 1803, I may choose the same action damning the consequences. This is because of the same Igbo fire and passion – the abhorrence of injustice, burns in me as well, know in Igboland that na ife di njo di njo.. I term this attitude the DIKE ana akpa ogwu na anya spirit. It is in our DNA, just like it was with the DIKE spirit in the the legendary Okonkwo of Things Fall Apart who would rather die than stomach the humiliating treatment of Nwa DC, Colonial officer.
THE IGBO DNA
When we call out and we say in our parlance, Igbo bụ Igbo, we are calling out to that man, that woman, that child who has our blood running in his veins and whoever possesses the unalloyed DNA components of Onye Igbo. If you research the genetic code of the Igbo person, you will see amongst others, three principal genetic markers.
Number One is the DNA of DIKE ana akpa ogwu n’anya. The gene that allows a man
to sit without quivering as thorns are extracted from his or her eyeball.
Obviously, this is in a metaphysical sense that speaks of our ability to endure great deprivation when we are in the right.
Number Two is the DNA of NWANNE. The gene that commits all of us to a sense of community; Ezi na ụlọ. The concept of ọnụrụ ube nwanne agbala ọsọ. In the diaspora, it finds immediate manifestation when you send money home to develop a village you have not visited in a while, or when you ensure the return of the remains of one of your members for burial in Ala-Igbo. The gene of Onye aghala nwanne ya remains strong.
Number Three is the DNA of AGỤ ÓWÚRÚ, the Lion and king of the jungle. This gene ensures that you excel in every endeavor despite the competition or unfavorable conditions. This attitude is manifest not just in Nigeria where our existence remains precarious, but around the world where we arrive with nothing, and we make something from the nothing. Those are the genetic codes common to Ndi Igbo amongst other thousand of genes that make us who we are.
OUR NATURAL TENDENCIES
Our natural tendencies are embedded in our DNA and they typify us in type and character. We can only imagine with apprehension the struggle of our tribesmen in 1803 to overpower the ship owners and walk hand in hand back to the seas in confirmation of the creed Onye aghala NWANNE ya, believing in their God and maker who will deliver their spirits home. It is the D – Dike ana Akpa ogwu n’anya in us. It is the N – Nwanne, onye aghana nwanne ya. It is the A – Agụ ówúrú, the Lion heart in all of us. Our DNA has tremendous influence on who we are, what we do and how we do and justify them. It is the Igbo DNA that propelled these our ancestors to proudly embrace death over enslavement. It is instructive that many of us here present, if provoked by way of the mental torture and trauma faced by the captured may do the same thing today.
The question therefore is how well have these traits saved us and how do we cope with these traits in the 21st Century and going forward.
WHAT LESSONS? ….1/2
As we gather here to pay tribute and share memories of our tribesmen who walked into the sea singing, it is important that we reflect on the impact of these actions on our lives, even in these modern times. This is because, certain Igbo narratives, when left un-interrogated for a while tend to become a dogma and being so, tend to cause irreparable damages. For instance, we are here to celebrate the “Igbo landing” epitomized by the drowning of about 75 number of our people, who opted to drown in these waters of St Simon’s Islands here instead of enslavement. Whilst we do not intend to diminish the great sacrifice these individuals bore to protest what they consider unjust; it comes from the risk we run as Ndi Igbo in holding up such actions as societal virtues. People strive to become what their society extol. Ndigbo run the risk of raising a generation that adopts an “I-rather-die” attitude as an everyday life or even as a strategy in political realms. Unsurprisingly, the “Sit-at-Home” Mondays as being enforced by certain members of our folks as a political strategy without realizing that it is self destructive as is being dramatized in the dwindling economic activities and living standards of our people in South East Nigeria is a stark example of such.
WHAT LESSONS …..2/2
These suicidal tendencies appear to be gradually seeping into Igbo politics. For instance, since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, Ndigbo have cast a near block-vote for any candidate who aligned sufficiently with their egalitarian ethos. In some cases, Ndigbo voted against Igbo candidates in national elections – a tendency akin to If-I-die-I-die arrogance. This approach which comes to us naturally is quite disturbing. The worrying aspect is what some Ndigbo adopt in post-election periods as they seek to brand – as “saboteurs” – those who hold different political views. They almost pronounce death on such persons as if life no longer mean anything in our lives. That attitude does not align with the Igbo ethos of “Onye kwuo ọnụ ya,” when each should have their say, nor “Égbé bere Ugo bere’ which allows the eagle to perch and so too should the egret. It is also disturbing when people fail to learn that politics is a game of the possible: interests, concessions, and compromises. I commend the organizers of this festival as these events exhaust effort and resources. However, it is important that we do not promote suicide as a political strategy given the damage it would exert on the psyche of our people living and the yet unborn. Suicide cannot therefore be a rallying ethos.
There is need to tweak our obedience to some of the ethos we toe. For instance, the Dike ana akpa ogwu n’anya philosophy (the aspect of removing thorns from
the eye of the brave without anesthesia as a test of his bravery) must be modified knowing fully the outcome of such in real life today. The same goes for the “I-rather-die” attitude in our ways of life. This is because there must be better ways of facing challenges rather than dying and not facing them. Incidentally, these suicidal tendencies are gradually seeping into our everyday lives as we witness in the ‘sit-at-home” phenomenon in the Southeast States of Nigeria. Shall we continue to exemplify and unknowingly transferring these suicidal tendencies as the solution to our political exigencies and human existence challenges? The answer is NO! Our elders tell us in Igbo folklores that “it is from the comfort of the balcony of a living weakling that you point at the ruins of what used to be a brave man’s house”. Let us apply some caution. Let us therefore choose Wisdom.
Once again, I thank the President and members of CISA for the 2023 Worldwide Igbo Cultural Festival holding today, at a most remarkable location in our life and in memory of our ancestors who walked into the sea out of their conviction that it was better to die than be slaves. It is hoped that this occasion will continue to hold as an annual event in order to stimulate consciousness, togetherness and connection with us in Africa and us in the Americas. We continue to salute the courage of the drowned ancestors as we caution the living to learn from the drowned by saying “Ozo Emezina”
May the souls of our dauntless tribesmen who walked into this sea to protest man’s inhumanity to man continue to rest in peace. I thank you.
AGBALANZE CHIKE MADUEKE
PRESIDENT, AKA IKENGA