It is true that the Igbos fight among themselves more than any other ethnic group in Nigeria. That is judging from my own observations. When the Igbos fight among themselves, they don’t know where to draw the line. Every fight among the Igbos is an existential fight – that is, they seek to permanently destroy each other. That is why it becomes impossible for them to reconcile after a fight.
For over 20 years as a lawyer in America, I saw a lot of that. Even a divorce between an Igbo woman and an Igbo husband will, on the average, be more bitter than a divorce between non-Igbos or between an Igbo spouse and a non-Igbo spouse. They don’t know how to narrow a fight. They expand every fight into a total war. That is why a divorce case involving two Igbos in America will cost them more than if it were a divorce between two non-Igbos.
It is usually in Igbo-versus-Igbo divorce that one of the spouses will go as far as informing the immigration authorities that the other spouse lied 20 years ago when he or she filed for his or her immigration papers. It is usually in Igbo-versus-Igbo divorce that one spouse will seek the deportation or imprisonment of the other spouse. It is usually in Igbo-versus-Igbo cases that one party informs the authorities about some distant crime the other party committed, which nobody else knew about.
I happened to intervene in a lot of Nigerian-versus-Nigerian disputes in America. I knew that it was worse among the Igbos. For instance, it was very difficult for an Igbo union or Association to hand over power from one administration to another peacefully without going to court. Very rarely! Usually, the new administration will sue the outgoing executive and accuse them of stealing and embezzlement (or any worse offense possible). They can do this over $2000 dispute. The Igbos hardly like mediation. They want their opponent dead, especially if the opponent is a fellow Igbo. And he is willing to lose even his own life to achieve that.
It was in one of such cases that the leader of a new Igbo union administration testified in court against the leader of the outgoing administration. In his testimony in court he said:
“We contributed and contributed and contributed and he ate the money totaling $16,538”. He had to repeat the word ‘contributed’ three times in order to show the judge that they made the contributions on more than one occasion. He was not educated enough to use a word that would have avoided repeating the word. Despite his lack of education, he was the most confident and loudest in court. Typical Igbo man.
The judge was so shocked to hear that a human being “ate” money. So the judge asked: “Do you mean he ate the money?”. The man replied: “Yes, your Honor”. The judge continued: “Even the change, the 38 cents?”. He replied: “He ate every penny of the money we contributted”. The judge winced and the jury were visibly confused.
At that point, I asked to approach the bench. The judge was happy. I explained to the judge that the man only meant that the other party embezzled the money, not that he ingested the money. Only then was the tension doused.
You know in Igbo language, the statement: “He ate rice” will be: “Orili rice” or “Orie rice”. Also, in Igbo language, the statement: “He embezzled money” is “Orili ego” or “Orie ego”. When an uneducated Igbo person wants to say that somebody embezzled money in English, he will likely say: “He ate the money”.
Look at the World Igbo Congress! What happened? After the founding executive, there was so much infighting that they had more than ten lawsuits in American courts and they were still looking for lawyers to file more suits pro bono. That was a terrible experience. The World Igbo Congress would have been the pan Igbo movement that would have advanced the Igbo interest worldwide and bring the Igbos together. But the moment one Igbo Governor gave them a donation of $15,000, some members wanted to overthrow their executive. And because every Igbo fight is war, they spread the fight as far and wide as possible. They challenged the legitimacy of their constitution. They challenged the ethnicity of some of the executive members and claimed they were no longer Igbos, that some of them were from Benue State. It was so bitter that it was impossible to reconcile them. The World Igbo Congress had to die. But Zumunta (the Nothern union) never had such problem. The Yoruba unions did not have anything like that.
When I say these things, some young Igbo men get upset. But I don’t care. Many of them are too young to know history. Many of them are too uneducated to understand what is happening. Many of them lack practical experience they can refer to. For instance, I can refer to World Igbo Congress. One of the Founding leaders of World Igbo Congress is my friend. He is here and will probably read this. So, am I supposed to worry about what some uninformed Igbo brothers say? Not at all.
The Igbos need serious reorientation to be able to make it. If the Federal Government of Nigeria was smart, they would simply have recruited some Igbos and set them against IPOB and watch them destroy themselves. Just get some Igbos. Give them their own radio and tell them to counter Radio Biafra, and they would do it perfectly well.
So, if you are a social scientist and they ask you to evaluate the readiness of the Igbos for anything serious, you will come back and report that they lack cohesion. They lack organizational discipline. An Anambra man will fight an Enugu man any day. Just tell him that Enugu people are backward and Wawa bush men that drink their tea with Okpa, instead of bread. He will fight him. And tell the Enugu man that the Anambra man is an Ijekebee man. (You see: The Igbo people did not invent tea. They did not invent bread. But they will abuse a fellow Igbo for drinking tea with Okpa instead of bread).
So, stop kidding yourselves, guys. You are not ready for anything yet. We need a lot of underground work to prepare our society if that is the direction we want to go. And the first thing we need to do is to be honest to ourselves. We are not the geniuses we think we are. We are actually behind. It is not what you do as an individual that will count, but what you can do as a group. Even the ants are better organized than the Igbos. Ask Nnia Nwodo. Ask Chimaroke and Jim Nwobodo. Ask Jim Nwobodo and CC Onoh. (Yes, I am aware of Awolowo and Akintola, Tinubu and Funsho Williams. Don’t worry, I am well informed).
I wrote the above article a few years ago. But events of today still prove me right. Look at the PDP primaries. The Igbo delegates voted more for non-Igbos, while the Northern candidates stepped down for fellow Northerner. Let’s get to my personal experience. In 2018, Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor volunteered his service (free of charge) to the Nigerian police against me and called a press conference to falsely accuse me of armed robbery. He knew the Charge was fabricated. He offered his services free of charge to help kill me. Ejiofor’s goal was to destroy an Igbo man that seemed more bright with potential. In the case the EFCC filed against me in Nigeria, the EFCC did everything to get Nigerian Embassy officials from Kaduna, Katsina, Plateau States to come to court and lie against me. They all refused, even though they were actually the people that knew what happened. The only person the EFCC managed to get to lie against me was Professor George Obiozor who left the Embassy more than one year before the dispute arose. (Yes, George Obiozor, the current head of Ohaneze). In the end, the EFCC lost the case because Obiozor was totally useless to them because he was not there and did not know what happened. Recently, Emma Powerful of IPOB publicly called me a “serial criminal”. And you expect me not to attack back and prove that IPOB is a criminal terrorist group? I pity the Igbos. During the Civil war, the Igbos kiled hundreds of thousands of fellow Igbos by simply calling them “saboteurs”. Ojukwu loved the Sabo myth because it helped him conceal the truth. The truth was that Biafrans lacked what it would take to win the war. But Ojukwu wanted it to appear that we would win only if we got rid of saboteurs among us. Today, it is happening. If you disagree with IPOB members however so slightly, they will brand you a Sabo or Fulani sperm. I knew long ago that IPOB was doomed to disaster because they all had the disease that hinders our people from progress. They hate themselves so viciously.
Emeka Ugwuonye is a Harvard trained attorney, human rights lawyer and founder of Due Process Advocates International (DPA)