We salute the resilient Igbo spirit, the dogged and indomitable spirit of the Igbo, their enduring and enterprising spirit, as well as the ability of the Igbo to adapt to any situation no matter how awkward or discomforting.
The Igbo are like the old Volkswagen Beatle car, the never-say-die. Put them anywhere no matter how bad the situation is, they will always find a way out.
The Igbo are forward looking, hardworking and industrious. Olaudah Equiano, a 19th century former Igbo slave boy, described the Igbo of his day as “happy, clean people, without unemployment, without prostitution, without drunkards, and without beggars”.
The Igbo do not make pretenses. They do not play double games. Their yes is their yes, and their no is their no. They are steadfast in their beliefs and convictions, and no amount of threats, intimidation, coercion, or bribery, will sway them from their set goal, or make them lose focus, or change their stand.
When circumstances had dictated on the Igbo to leave Nigeria, and to seek refuge in the Biafran nation, they wholly and totally supported it. They fought like wounded lions in order to ensure that Biafra survived. For three odd years, with practically nothing, save their sheer determination to survive, the Igbo succeeded in holding the entire Nigeria to ransom.
When however Biafra failed to materialize, the Igbo spirit refused to die, subdued, or defeated. The Igbo forgot the past, came back to Nigeria, and went ahead with their normal life, not minding that they were given only forty naira to start life anew. Through their industry and hard work, the Igbo, in no time, established themselves and became the envy of many other Nigerians.
They say that Igbo people love money, (but who hates money?), that notwithstanding, once the Igbo take a stand on any issue, they hardly renege or change their course of action. That does not mean that there are no Judases among the people. There may be some of them, but they are clearly in the minority.
The Igbo know where they are destined to, where their destiny lies. Even though they may have no kings in the sense of the Hausa/Fulani Emir, or the Yoruba Oba, who wield absolute power and authority, who own everything, both land and everything therein, the Igbo kings are not absolute. They are mere caretakers. They rule by consultations, or consensus of opinion, and once a decision is taken on any issue, it would be binding on everybody.
The Igbo are the only true and authentic Nigerians. They are universalistic. They are detribalized. Go to any remotest part of Nigeria, you will find an Igbo man there, living and doing business. They speak the language of the people. They build their own houses there, eat the people’s food, and marry their girls.
The Igbo were the last to come into the Nigerian political scene and the last to come into contact with any foreign culture, but when later they came face to face with these realities, they turned full circle, and embraced them, with all their strength and might.
As far back as the 16th century when the Hausa/Fulani were already firmly established in Nigeria, and had got many Islamic scholars, doctors, lawyers, merchants, etc., who crisscrossed the Sahara Desert with their camels, either on religious pilgrimage, or on trading missions to Saudi Arabia and other places in the Middle East, and the 18th century, when the Yoruba were already in warm contacts with several European missionaries and merchants, the Igbo were still holed up in their thick forests. The only external contact they had before then was with those who came to steal their young men and women in the name of slavery.
Even as late as the 1920s when the Igbo produced their first university graduate, the Yoruba already had many lawyers, surveyors, doctors, engineers, and other professionals who dominated the Nigerian political and economic environment. But before the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war in 1967, the Igbo had not only caught up with these other Nigerians, but had indeed, surpassed them.
In the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections, the Igbo were the real winners. They were the victors. The Igbo, both at home, and those outside the shores of Igbo land, spoke with one voice in that election. They made a very big statement with their votes, and Nigeria was quaking.
The Igbo knew what they wanted and they went all out for that. It was not a decision imposed on them from outside, but what they had decided by themselves, based on their conviction. It was their collective will, the united Igbo spirit, “onye aghana nwanne ya”.