Aladimma: Developmental Trajectory of Igbo People

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GUEST COLUMNIST

BY CHIMAROKE NNAMANI

The concept of Aladimma in the Igbo world view is not a claim of having it all and good at all times, and certainly not built on sitting in recrimination over the disaster of a consequential war waged on them and the other Eastern Nigerians in an avoidable chain of actions escalated by the egos of otherwise professional soldiers who departed their careers and delved into statecraft for which they were ill-prepared.

The concept of Aladimma is a prognosis of the would-be, anchoring on the best that had been of the past, relegating the flash points of conflict in present interactions in a multi dimensional state system as Nigeria, without bowing to the hues and cries for chiselling a people into one pattern of behaviour.

In then considering the factors which give vent to social agglomeration or blending of multiple values into a functional loose society of nation State, Frank Wallasey in his work, “Emerging New States after the great war, declares, “the state is not built on amorphous claims, but founded on the relationship between nation and state, between culture and society, and between values and covenants.”

Put differently, the modern State must take into consideration the pre-existing or organic values, character and interests from which the careful blending of the society of the state would commence and proceed without relenting.

If then we are challenged as we are today, in sorting out the Igbo character, which, when fully understood, provides a spur of the individual and group in irrevocable pursuit of inclusion within the Nigeria State, it is not asking for too much to demand a reinvention of the glorious past added with values of the present, and which is capable of gainful influences in the Nigeria context. 

Unknown to many an Igbo and other Nigerians, what has, at present, thrust itself forward, threatening to be considered as the all-time character and aspiration of Ndigbo in Nigeria has tended to be disruptive tendencies and a desire to attainment of a separate State in the name or the like of Biafra.

I strongly think differently. Remember, Biafra had arisen on the reality of failure of the State in protecting the people of old Eastern Nigeria origin from repeated and then enduring deadly mob attacks by their fellow countrymen. Such had then suggested that the abdication of the primary duty of the State in protecting her citizens was a confirmation of a State policy to be perpetrated as exclusion of some. It was simply unacceptable. And, yes, the hurt was deep. The disruption of the social order was total, and the oddities were even surpassed in the proportion of injury by post-war state policies, such as the abandoned property, twenty Pounds limitation mockery, and indigenisation programmes. Since these have yet to be removed, they have remained as strongest suggestions of a design to relegate and stunt the people already traumatised by war.

The question now is whether, in the face of typecasting the people as affronting the State in the drive to a separate State of Biafra, have the people themselves reflected on the best options in either holding out and excelling even against all odds or adopting a Pro-State principle, which would give vent to achieving both at the same time, leaving no one in injury or further agitation? 

Now, get me right. The drive for a separate state is no more rewarding in actualisation than first getting the acts together, especially in bounding and streamlining of the myriad rewarding character traits from days of the past to the present.

How do I mean? The question may not have been asked of the lines or matters between physical Biafra, which is of territory and restricted in geographical outreach against fiscal Biafra, which is individual and group economic culture, boundless in pattern, endless extent and outreach and capable of repetition, recreation and remodelling. It is also global in influence. Now, what does one offer, either for or against the other?

The physical Biafra offers a near monolithic State which shall have the arduous task of commencing the journey of nation building if after recovery from the pangs of birth of a State, with its attendant physical and psychological destructions, pillaging and traumatisation. Such pangs usually run on the same lines of a revolution, which has operated on the principle of consuming its best and brightest, also in oftentimes, relegation of the prior target principles in setting out. As certainly disruptive and usually violent, the price of vacuous liberty sometimes may tend to outweigh the gains of the new project if not dwarfed by the private desires of the prime actors. What tends to unsettle in such is that often times, the seeming group objectives often tend to differ from the personal political and social aspiration of some select individual leadership figures, who though, are smart and strong to impose their characters and wills on the people; always charismatic, even if not cerebral. The first hint of this is the adulation in songs, chants and popular calls which explore the emotions of the common herd. Yet, some situations compel this option in sifting and building a safe and continuity nests necessary for the perpetuation of a people. Yes, people who are threatened with extinction by political actions of others.

The fiscal Biafra is not a negation of a possible physical type, rather, it is a consolidation of the foundation on which a reliable and realistic State can be constructed whether it is within or outside a particular State. It is also more tasking in achieving as it is more demanding of the intellect and managerial skills of the people. It simply means the economic foundation which enables the individual man of the region to aspire, apply the well stated competitive strength, perseverance and varieties. A good example of this was in the immediate post-war commencement of  Nnewi as the nucleus of a commercial and industrial hub, which in a space of 45 years achieved the feat of the fastest developing single close-nit industrial/commercial town in Nigeria. Nnewi did not commence as a protest venture. It was a protective strategy against excitement, fears of domination and hostility against Igbo entrepreneurs in other parts of Nigeria. It was therefore a necessity. Self preservation is the first law of nature, they say.

Of course, we had before Nnewi the Onitsha and Aba commercial hubs, which though were laid to waste in the Nigeria – Biafra war, have continued to serve as vast and rewarding business incubation centres for all time. The question now is this: if Onitsha and Aba have been sitting and giving vent to the Igbo character in enterprise and industry, and the emergent Nnewi has added to the commercial and industrial clout of the region, providing platforms for thirsts, commencement, self actualisation, wealth and sense of well being, why have Ndigbo not attempted to create another, even as they have remained the single largest group motivators of the economies of other parts of Nigeria?

Elsewhere, somebody had argued that the government had the single responsibility to so venture into creating such an ambitious town. I dare say, this is wrong. Nnewi, in the first instance, was a creation of the Nnewi Town Union. Looking then back at what befell the Igbo during the crises of 1966, but worse, what happened to their investments afterwards, it was only wise to create a platform and home landing point for at least a fraction of their fortunes. The indigenes who first embraced this venture were sufficiently creative to envision a centre capable of standing both as a supportive base for other enterprises outside ani-Igbo and the nucleus of businesses without such fears of inviting the envy of less competitive elements of Nigeria.

In effect, even where it may be difficult to create a multiplicity of ‘Nnewi’ all over the region, the reality of the Nigeria situation and necessity of economic foundational setting of the Igbo region demands at least one  extra‘Nnewi’ in every State where Igbo industry and enterprise is strongly evident. This, in no way, is an advocacy in favour of total Igbo withdrawal from Nigeria. Often, protagonists of physical Biafra have prefixed their strong propositions on the birth of the State of Israel. Yes, it is welcome. But it is often done in total negation of the true accounts of deciding factors in the emergence of the Jewish nation. Sojourning all over the world, including parts of Africa, as a stateless people, they first built this enterprise and intellectual leadership caste of their elements, right to the point of myth, all over the world. When therefore the project got underway, it was irresistible as it was powerful, riding also on the fillip of rage of unparalleled persecution. What then we leave out is this fact that without the intellectual muscle, entrepreneurial leadership and organisation, there would not have been the telling of the story of the Jew, let alone garnering the powerful backing that made the emergence of the State possible. In other words, no quantum of anger, feeling of deprivation, persecution and mass murder, without the enabling power of appearing in the right courts of world power, would have given a birth to a new State. In our case recently, the injury was terrible, yet ignoring us as the world did, was too loud and costly.

The thinking in this direction is the seed of the concept of Aladimma, the departure from the thirst of physical Biafra for the necessity of the urge for fiscal Biafra. If you cast your mind to the Barcelona region of Spain, Scotland of the United Kingdom, etc, it would be simpler in conception. Also, if your understand the basic economic principle of forming a foundational platform unto which a disturbed plane can land, first to reassess and recommence the journey of reinvention, you would appreciate the necessity of a base.

There is something not in doubt about the Igbo whether of the South East geopolitical zone or the others in the Middle Belt (Benue and Kogi), South-South and even outside Nigeria (Diaspora). That is industry, entrepreneurship, creation of wealth, innovation, pioneering strength, perseverance and hunger for material success (often wrongly termed greed). These attributes are usually natural especially when the native values compel a process of participation in the community activities fuelling these traits.

Yet, these attributes, had as given, but which have proven to force a state of incompleteness among the people, now command that a terminus for perpetuation must be instituted. That is Aladimma – the Fiscal Biafra.

Right ‘before our very eyes’ the State of Lagos, Nigeria, has proven the viability of a region of Nigeria despite all odds. Indeed despite the revenue from the Federal Account. This was a State that went to a constitutional battle with the federal government over the legal status of the local government in states. In the three or more years while the battle lasted, Lagos was denied the due federal allocation for operations of the local government administration. This action forced out the creative revenue strength of the State and soon, its internally generated revenue soared and it became a question of evolving more creative strategies to deploy the new wealth.

For once, please stop and ask the question. If the Igbo, in their investment wisdom and entrepreneurial skills contributed at least 35 per cent of what has become the vast foundational wealth of another State in another region, why has nobody considered the possibilities in creating an economic funnelling process/culture for the emboweling of the excess or additional fortune of the Igbo at places in Igbo land? We say that the concept of akuluo uno is inexorable among the Igbo. Yes, it is. That is why the best architectural edifice of the Igbo man is erected in his village. He even builds a tarred road to his palace. He arranges and installs electricity, security and more, for his palace and the adjoining neighbourhood. But does this not fall within the derided docility of wealth? It does, as long as it is not in further creation of wealth more than it is of ostentatious display of affluence. This is where Aladimma is a gainful extension and deepening of aku luo uno. In simple general terms, these mean the same thing. But in the present context, one is a platform for funnelling of wealth solely for the purpose of extension/perpetuation/recreation/rejuvenation, while the other is the village endorsement, spelling affluence and proclaiming opulence. One is economic, the other is social. One is industrial initiative, the other is social prestige.

The later, as a family gesture needs to and must continue, but its continuity can only be guaranteed by the former. Now, in looking back at Aladimma or if you like, our modern industrial/commercial/business clusters, we can even check and confirm that we are not proposing in futility.          

The past, the present (future). That is the connect. Our memories have not faded of the Mbala Opi Bazaar, Akpugoeze Bazaars, Iji-Nike Fair, Otuocha Trade Concerts, Nyawezi Bazaars, Ujele Trade Feasts, Oru Trade Fairs, Ogbede Seasonal Fairs, etc. These were long before the births of successor commercial centres, which though were centres of arduous slave sales points still played their paths in the agglomeration of the Igbo nation. Already, or at moment, we have some sleepy and vibrant pro-commercial/industrial centres created almost unconsciously by their statuses as junction towns. What these towns need is the consciousness of the people to act to evolve as strong medium power economic beltways. Ninth Mile, Ozala, Okigwe, Awomama, Amaraku, Otuocha, Oji River, Anara (Anghara), Uga, etc. Where the conceptualisation of the project is deep and well thought out as starting completely a kind of Nnewi, these commercial junction towns would be some healthy feeder settlements for realisation of more modern industrial hubs.

Some questions have arisen recently over the possibility of these propositions:

  1. Are territorial specialisations possible in these?
  2. Which area should engage in what or undertake the one?
  3. What is the role and where is the blame of the “docile elite” class?

For the first, there is a room for territorial specialisation. Nnewi started as primarily an automobile spare parts town. It has continued in that stead as its strongest selling point, now to the effect that manufacture and assembly have kicked off other ranges and classes of businesses. 

The determinants of sub-regional roles can be consciously designed or allowed to emerge on the strength of economies of scale. If the Ozubulu/Enugu Agidi in Anambra State are past masters in building material trade, dating back to a century, who then can take it and run faster than the masters; if Akpugo/Obe is a strong arm in the entertainment industry; if Orlu/Ideato is the birth place of pharmaceutical manufacture and enterprise; if Aba is the bastion of west coast intercontinental trade; if  Nsukka is the haulage base of local foodstuff, etc, the water finds its level as it sweeps the plain and ditches.

Now, the engaging question is the so called ‘docile elite.’ It is my intension to deal with matters of the so called docile elite in a subsequent piece in the future, but it is important to consider the introduction now as we try to establish the thread between Aladimma and Akuluo uno. In ever accepting that there is a concept called docile elite, we are not returning to Lenin’s theory of lumpen bourgeoisie and the proletariat counterpart. Frederik Maas considers the docile elites as the leaders of the society living lazily in either long established wealth or on well appointed offices and professions. Their contributions to industrialisation or founding of economic clusters can be enormous. They are the significant few whose life styles define the taste, choices and aspirations of the other members of the society. Where they live or eventually settle is a matter of influence for growth of new towns and cities.

Ani-Igbo is one part of Nigeria where, safe Nnewi, no single modern (major or Minor)  town has been created by the Igbo, themselves and for themselves. When the talk of a proposed Etiti-Igbo State was high and frequent, a revelation was made of the potentialities of the areas which would have been carved out as the first ever such distinct modern town. It was the proposed melding of land areas of Awgu/Aninri/Oji River(Enugu),Ohaozara(Ebonyi), Orumba North and South/Ihiala (Anambra), Orlu/Ideato (Imo) and Isuochi/Isuikwuato(Abia), from which a central modern City would be carved to spin speedy development of such final destination town of the Igbo elite. The docile elites, rather than erecting mind blowing palaces which elicit derision in the locales in Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere, would commence in development of their ultimate Aku luo uno. So, whereas there has been the akuluo uno of the ultimate village destination, there has not been a pan-Igbo agglomerating Aku luo uno City. It is even possible that many have not considered that while these elite erect the intimating edifices expending hundreds of millions of Naira, artisans from or living in their native home towns – uno would never have earned any living from the hands of their kinsmen, let alone honing their skills.

 Like the mysterious Phoenix Ndigbo have risen from the ashes of the civil war, deprivation, marginalization, lack, regional infrastructural neglect, exclusion from central governance, to the mainstay as far as the Nigerian economy is concerned.

The Jews migrate, disperse, settle and work like us.  Yesso, not vice versa since mankind’s dispersal started in the African motherland. The Jews of Arabia share similar ethnology with the Ndi Igbo Africana. The Jews, until of recent had nowhere to call their home. Through struggle, determination and divine providence, today apart from having their homeland (Israel), they have became a global empire in the diaspora. They are a highly industrialized nation, a trade and commercial superpower and wizards in technological advancement. 

Like the Jews our homeland can rise here in Aladimma, South East Nigeria within her jurisdictional control and authority that is One Nigeria with neither a Flag nor National Anthem but with inherent, foundational and native inalienable sovereignty.  Infact with little or no study of political science, I believe sovereignty resides permanently with the people and those in authority exercise it on their behalf.

We are here domiciled in Nigeria neither homeless nor stateless while retaining our sovereignty.  Thus, we are more than many centuries ahead of the state of Israel after the inception of the Jews odyssey.   

We at least have a place to call our homeland.  We can rebuild our own homeland inside the nation called Nigeria.

We can develop our Aladimma using our talent and intellect working together with our brethren in the diaspora.

Nike nike ka anyi ji alu olu! Onye obuna Nike Nike!

Chimaroke Nnamani-writes from Ojiagu-Agbani, near Enugu, Nigeria.