The Igbo Identity Ouestion

At the twilight of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term as a civilian president, the world Igbo Congress rose from a meeting in the US, somewhere in Boston – if my memory serves me right and unanimously agreed that Pat Utomi should be supported by all Igbo to vie for the presidential seat of Nigeria.

This was after a careful deliberation amongst all Igbo indigenes gathered there, that among the many eligible Igbo sons and daughters who could have a shot at the presidency, Orji Uzor Kalu towered tallest in all ramifications in that time, but unfortunately, he would not be delivered, accepted and returned by all Nigerians given the fact that he OUK was having political battles with President Olusegun Obasanjo – to the extent of having his Airline stopped from flying the Nigerian airspace. The Igbo Congress knew that Obj will work against OUK, having the powers then.

Now down the pecking order, only Prof Pat Utomi had the next requisite attributes of what the World Igbo Congress was looking at.

So Pat Utomi was picked almost unanimously there in the United States.

Back to Nigeria and precisely at Enugu, just a few days after the US nomination, Pat Utomi was vehemently refused by another gathering of Igbo sons and daughters in the presence of Ohaneze nd’igbo and with those that were at the US Congress. Prof Pat Utomi’s Igbo nomination died there.
His only offense was that “he wasn’t a true Igbo from the center” – in other words, he wasn’t from any of Anambra, Imo, Abia or Enugu States. Not even from the least of Igbo states, Ebonyi, but from Delta State. It was almost an abomination to the gathering in Enugu and hence his rejection.

Before then, Prof Pat Utomi had contributed immensely to Ohaneze ndigbo even as once a secretary of the Igbo cultural group. He could speak the Igbo dialect of his ancestors as an Ibusa man of the Anioma of Delta State.

I brought this to the fore again as I had on numerous occasions in public and on Twitter spaces, excruciatingly spoken and written against this anormally of ethnic segregation, biases and profiling by our kits and kins at the center of Igbo land.

We have started again with the appointment of Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla.
What an aberration, a slight and an embarrassment to our brother who has had a sterling profession with the Nigeria Navy. One whose academic exploits and intelligence ought to be appreciated as examplary of the “Can – Do” spirit of the ever resilient Igbo man. But here we are trivialising on his state of origin and region.

A man who was born in Enugu, bearing Okechukwu Ogalla. A name given to him by his ancestors. What a shame!

We delude ourselves with ethnic jargons to our own detriment. We have become laughing stocks because of primodial sentiment borne out of our not studying our own history thoroughly.

Person wey dey kee him own brother no be Odogwu!

What would Ikechukwu Ogalla tell his children if they accost him, like “Dad, but you told us we are Igbo, why all this from people who we thought are our own?”

What about the unending but embarrassing equivocations about his ethnic identity from his colleges?

Have we ever thought about the trauma such obnoxious denial of ones ethnicity could have on ones well-being and psyche.

It is this segregation from our brothers and sisters at the center that have made a lot of Igbo tribes at the fringes of Igbo home land to not want to associate or be identified with those at the center. And thus, a Sunday Okechukwu Olise – former Super Eagle player and Coach, could stand on national television and say he is not Igbo – though he is from Abavo near Agbor of the Anioma people in Delta State.

And so are the Wikes of this world.
With these hostilities of the Igbo people at the center, they lose their brothers at the fringes of Igbo land such as the Aniomas, Ikweres, those in Kogi, Benue, Akwa Ibom, etc, they also lose the natural endowment – both human and natural resources. They lose their respect and sympathy.
And they are told to continue to build unending bridges while other tribes who also have these differences in their culture but have accepted themselves as one, arrogate leadership to themselves.

Let it be understood that you at the center of Igbo home land is not MORE Igbo than I at the fringes. Though our tongue may differ, but we should be one – in fact, we are one.

We must stop looking down or downgrading other Igbo sons and daughters whose tongues are different. Whose culture are slightly different. At least not all Igbo indigenes have same culture as those from Aro, the ancestral home of the Igbo people.

I am an Igbo man and so will my sons be and their own sons too.


fcn 2023

By osibanews

Eliel Otote A is an Actor and Filmmaker, with a bias for journalism. He was a freelance feature writer with the Nigerian Observer in the 80's in Benin City, he also presented programmes on both radio and television. Eliel is the Editor and Publisher of OSIBAnews Network Magazine, of which this blog is an affiliate.

  1. This is a masterpiece. I delayed reading till I could find the time. It is the truth and it’s a shame.

    Profiling of any kind is an aberration. The piece is timely, and a wake up from what sets us backwards – the bring him down syndrome when it has to do with selfish interest. Over the years, it has not helped us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *