The Igbo people of the Southeastern part of the Country called Niger-Area (Nigeria) by the British were once resilient and proud people. They believed in honour and good names. They were never known for giving-in to comfort and surviving for survival’s sake. Not only that, but they held firmly on their dignity and good name. They preferred dying to live under the guise of lies and slavery. History cannot forget the tale of ‘The tragic yet resilient story of Igbo slaves who committed mass suicide off U.S. coast in 1803”. These slaves were good examples of what the Igbo spirit used to be. They believed in dying in dignity than remaining forever slaves.
To comprehend their motivations, it is necessary to understand that among the Igbo, what mattered was not really your wealth, but the respect attached to who you are. We believed more in good names than in wealth, and that is why we had names like “Nwakaego” a child is better than money, “Ezigbo aha ka ego” – a good name is better than money. We believed in the sacredness of the family and the force of the collectivity. Parents and elderly people played a critical role in the Igbo family setup. The sacredness of parents was depicted through names like Nnedinso – Mother is sacred, Nnabuike – father is the strength, Nnaemeka – Father did well, Nnadiugwu – Father is honourable. Nneamaka – mother is precious, etc. Igbo society was classified among age grades, and no one was higher than his age-mates.
But today, the Igbo Nation has lost its honour, we have desecrated both our cultural values and our national integrity. We, the Igbo, have deserted from searching for good names and embraced wealth procuration. Today we respect not people with good names but big wealth. Individual names have digressed from good name centred to wealth-centred. Today no one bears names that praise honor. It is all about wealth. “Ego n’achi” – money reigns, “Ego bu ugwu” – money draws respect, “Ego bu oga” – Money makes one a king. Everything is now money, and even in families, respect for the elderly lost its importance, and few wealthy ones are the centers of attraction.
And since then, all sorts of atrocities can be boldly committed without hurting the image of the nation – which no longer exists. Elders who, among the Igbo, were respected are today kidnapped and sometimes raped, all in a quest for money and popularity. Nothing is regarded as sacred as the law of the jungle has become the norm.
But when did the mighty fall so low? I would not want to blame Christianity for it brought good things to our land. We have twins among the Igbo today because Mary Slessor, an Irish missionary, fought against their execution. Some would say, we are educated today because of the missionaries, but I have come to think that Christian missionaries were not the only panacea for education. There were also Arab scholars and we had an informal education system before the arrival of the missionaries. All the same, the Igbo nation had good values that it takes a lot to find today.
The worst is that religion has taken over everything among the Igbo today. You can hardly detect the goat among the sheep as every Igbo man and woman has become an evangelist, pastor, priest, sisters, and name it. The problem is that contrary to what is expected of such an attitude, crimes, violence, and offences are growing on a daily based. And the Igboness has disappeared as all that hold our society together, the sacred of our belief systems and cultural heritages, have been befouled. No one honors good names any longer and our youths can go to any length to acquire wealth. Respect is now accorded to only those who acquired money independent of where and how it was acquired. The Igboness of the Nation is now almost a thing of the past, for no one recognizes what really is ours and what is strange to our cultural values and systems.
Ali C. Nnaemeka (firstname.lastname@example.org)
”The truth might be hard to say, painful to bear or even drastic for the truth sayer but still needed to be said”. ALISON.