Without being conscious of what he was doing, transport and logistics billionaire, Dr Chidi Anyaegbu of the Chisco Transport fame, may have triggered what will likely define – no, redefine – the attitude and approach of the Igbo-speaking tribe in the southeast, south-south, and even in some parts of north-central Nigeria in their engagement with the Nigerian state.
The story was told of how Anyaegbu, at a birthday ceremony of a young real estate titan, Ikem Ume-Ezeoke, made a promise to host a larger gathering of Igbo people in Lagos to expand the frontiers of bonding and further the spirit of brotherhood that he observed at that birthday ceremony. He did not hide his surprise that in Lagos, with the rat race (a good number of Igbos in Lagos have long gone beyond the level of this cliché) taking the 59 hours in everybody’s day to come together to honour a fellow Igbo on his birthday, hence, his determination to bring them and even more people together once again.
Through my friend, Ikem Victor Ugo (there are already three Ikems in this article, my humble self inclusive), I got the invitation to an event where I found myself in the midst of scores of under 50 Igbo billionaires living in Lagos. Beyond the familiar boisterousness of most Igbo gatherings, I sensed there was something in the air; I sensed a people that were becoming intensely sensitive of the prevailing political atmosphere in the country that appears to be heavily and conspiratorially locking Igbo people outside the theatre of Nigeria’s leadership.
Anyaegbu’s emphasis on unity among Igbo people resonated with the leader of Umunna Lekki, Ikem Ume-Ezeoke, who, during his speech, also mentioned the group’s mission to include business networking, mentorship, and intervention in critical national issues. And while those in attendance were still chewing these against the backdrop of the nebulous political clouds hovering over Nigeria, communications scholar and former General Manager, Anambra State Broadcasting Service, Dr Uche Nworah arrived to send the house on a journey of lingering “ponderment”, with his riveting keynote lecture titled, Akuluouno Model, and the Social, Cultural and Economic Development of Igboland
The first paragraph of this lecture said it all. According to the lecturer, who is also a traditional high chief in his Enugwu Ukwu, Anambra State community, “Akuluouno, in the true Igbo spirit, is people helping their people to succeed. The philosophy means taking one’s wealth home where it is most needed, from the Diaspora, and letting one’s kinsmen and larger community benefit from the wealth and resources that God has blessed one with. There is a proverb in Igboland that says, ‘Aku Luo Uno, Okwuo Onye Kpataluya’, it is when one’s wealth reaches home that the source of the wealth and the individual so blessed with the wealth manifests”.
Nworah’s paper stoked the emotions of those who understand the Igbo predicament in Nigeria, where every slight nudge on the country’s extremely frail and sensitive ethnic button almost always triggers a vindictive eruption, with the blood and businesses of Igbo people as the trophies. So, when Uche’s paper spoke about the idea of “insuring” the safety of Igbo people’s businesses in the relative safety of Igbo land, the applause it drew was not unexpected.
As recently as the murder of Deborah Samuel by irate fundamentalists in a college of education in Sokoto State, Igbo businesses became immediate targets, even when Deborah was from Niger State. There are other previous examples. So, when the conversation between Igbo people revolved around Aku lue uno, it gains immediate resonance. It is known that without Igbo Diaspora remittances and investments, the homeland would not be what it is today.
But we just need to ponder and think about this philosophy and what it means to us as Igbo people, assuming all of us imbibe its manifest prescriptions as religiously as people recommend at the peak of challenging emotions; key into this philosophy and turn it into a movement? What does it portend for us in the larger scheme of things?
I strongly believe, and in this article, I am going to make a case for the re-dimensioning of the business and welfarist underpinnings of Aku lue uno, to reflect a forward-thinking engagement movement through which wealthy Igbo people will invest in political, leadership, and civic reorientation among the Igbos anywhere and everywhere they find themselves. This is a survivalist readjustment of a worthy business philosophy, one which will further provide pillars for another business mantra, which says that, Ebe onye bi ka o na-awachi (where a person resides, he protects)”.
In preparing to put this article together, I did a small research and what I found was as curious as it should give us sleepless nights. I went on the internet, with queries on the population of the major tribes in Nigeria. My findings showed that the Igbo constitute 15.2 percent of Nigeria. I searched for the Yoruba tribe and the stat was 15.5 percent, while the Hausa population was 30 percent. Curiously, the Fulani population stood at only 6%.
At this stage, I am wondering if these findings are provoking in you the kinds of thoughts it provoked in me? Can we ask ourselves why, with a population of 15.5 percent, our Yoruba brothers were given the magic carpet to rule Nigeria? This is as the Igbo representation on the population data is by every indication, grossly unrealistic, because it is doubtful if the large contingent of Igbo people residing in other parts of Nigeria were properly captured in those numbers. If Igbo people in Lagos are counted, for instance, there is no way the number will not be in the north of six – eight million.
But this is not something that should bother us. The issue now is now to maximise the wealth we all believe Igbo people possess to essentially and purposively work for our good in our businesses, our social lives as well as our political relevance in this country. And this is why I speak of the re-dimensioning of Aku Lue Uno into a much more all-encompassing Ka Aku Muo N’ulo.
Ka Aku Muo N’ulo simply suggests that we must invest our wealth towards procreation. The Igbo wealth must not just be caused to reach home for business and commercial purposes, it must be intentionally invested in all enterprises and interests, including political leadership in the larger Nigerian space.
This paradigm shift, in my view, will bring about conscious political incubation, result-oriented, centripetal engagement with the Nigerian state, and deliberate, united participation that will bring our voice (not the cacophonous voices we presently muster) to the Nigerian dialogue. The items in the Nigerian political leadership basket have continued to be apportioned and shared without regard to the Igbo people as important factors, and there is no way this has to continue.
In doing this, we would not be the first. Prior to 1945, the current state of Israel was not in existence. The people were scattered all around the world, and in Germany and other parts of eastern Europe, the Jews faced all sorts of issues, culminating in the holocaust that occurred during the second world war.
But Jews responded by not withdrawing from the world. On the contrary, they began to mobilise and pool resources together, sending back their people to where they saw as their homeland in batches until they had the numbers to declare the State of Israel on 13th May 1945. To achieve this, all Jews did not begin to jostle for leadership. What they did was to raise monies and resources that provided pillars for those identified as capable leaders to stand on. Today, Israel stands as one of the strongest military and economic powers in the world.
Those that have been ruling Israel are not their richest men. On the contrary, they are the strongest men in military, diplomacy and statecraft.
This is what Ka Aku Muo N’ulo will do for the Igbo. It will identify and provide support for proven people with love in their hearts; people capable of engaging the Nigerian state with purpose, fairness, and balance as their overriding objectives. Because we have been using wealth to chase wealth, what has happened is that those with capacity to deliver on advancing the Igbo cause have been left in the cold, leaving the space for mercantilist politicians who, at the Nigerian table, negotiate into their purses, rather than into our common baskets.
In saying this, I am not advocating for the “withdrawal method” that some of our brothers have been investing in. We have invested too much for the survival of Nigeria for this strategy to make sense. But there has to be a way to utilise our resources, mobilise them into a pool for a sustained engagement that will give us results.
This investment will have to be given the DNA that is not like our transactional approach to business. On the contrary, we have to take a long-term view of our challenges, and map short, medium and long-term goals that will progressively continue to yield results until the arrival at the Nigerian national political table,
Igbo people were critical to the struggles that led to the return of democracy in 1999. I was going through a publication in The Nation newspapers where veteran journalist and pro-democracy activist, Chief Segun Osoba mentioned those that were the foundations of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). Instructively, of all the people he listed as behind the struggle to oust the General Sani Abacha regime, the very first name was Okwadike Igboukwu, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife. He went further to mention Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Chief Sam Mbakwe, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, and Alhaji Abdulazeez Ude, as leading lights in the NADECO struggle.
But history and the Nigerian table appear to have deliberately locked these frontline fighters out of the space, and when Nigeria was rewarding the Yoruba for the role their people played in the return of democracy, little regard was paid to these great Igbo men who were pioneers of the life-threatening fight.
It was not because they were not as brave as others. I would say it was because the mass of their people did not factor the long-term advantages of supporting and propping their own First Eleven to their deserved political positions. We have been so consumed in our private struggles to pay the due attention required to raise the giants among us to national relevance.
This is what Ka Aku Muo N’ulo should do for us. We must deploy the resources of wealth that God has given as manures that will energise political growth. This is the only way to earn our due in Nigeria. Waiting for power to be given to us cannot make the changes that we desire to happen. We must invest in it and wait for the fruits.
Okuhu is a specialist brand critic and strategist, serial author, among other competencies. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish.
This article was first published in https://ikemsjournal.com.ng/