If you rely only on Internet websites and on some Nigeria news media for information, you might get the impression that the Igbo are 8 ft tall; weigh 400 lbs; would break an iron rod on their knees; and would easily kill a tiger with their muscular hands. This is not true and never was. But to some Nigerians their reaction to an Igbo in position of power gives the impression that an Igbo can do anything that God can do.
Consider the reactions to an Igbo presidency, to Okonjo-Iweala tenure as minister; to Diezani, etc. And to Army chief of Staff Ihejirika.
The fear of Igbo domination is not a new fear and comes up even when there are no bases for it. There had not been an occasion when the Igbo dominated Nigeria or any part of Nigerian political or economic segment. NCNC was a political party that had significant Igbo membership but was not dominated by the Igbo, not in the sense of Yoruba in Action Group or Hausa/Fulani in NPC. There was powerful Yoruba presence in NCNC and with the alliance with NEPU significant Northern presence. One could not say the same for AG/UMBC alliance. Before the Civil War the Federal Government and Civil Service had significant Igbo presence but not a dominant position; not any more than the Yoruba or Hausa/Fulani.
Even after one had classified all Easterners as Igbo.
Even in Eastern Nigeria the dominant role was not true. There was a non Igbo government leader in Eastern Nigeria . There was never a non Yoruba leader in the West even though Midwestern Nigerians had minorities. There was never a non Hausa/Fulani Government Leader in the North even though there are many minority ethnic groups in the region.
Why are the Igbo so feared?
On the other hand there were many occasions when the Igbo had been marginalized. In the first 30 years after the Civil War there were no Igbo of any worthwhile rank in the Nigerian Armed Forces or police. Few headed any powerful ministries, or parastatals, or headed the civil services. The economy is now dominated by the Yoruba/Hausa/Fulani oligarchy and now one is complaining. After the indigenization decree nearly 60% of Nigerian economy was in the hands of Yoruba and there was no word from the Igbo or other Nigerians about domination. A review of the Federal Government foreign indebtedness from 1960-2007 shows that the East, especially the SE, was very poorly served.
But all Nigerians paid for and are paying the loans.
The only part of Nigerian life one would find Igbo domination is in the number of Nigerians who live outside their states of origin. There are more Igbo in this case than any other ethnic group. But these people moved on their own, are often engaged in petty trading or practicing some kind of trade funded by their sweat. There is no government handout involved and they do not work for any government.
Why should anybody be envious?
This essay was prompted by the insidious attacks on Chief of Staff Ihejirika. This writer had written in the past that non political appointments ought to be based solely on merits while political appointments would try to take into consideration the national character concept. I still hold this belief. But analyzing the recent army promotions and deployments, one sees that the national character concepts was very much in evidence. Could it be that in this instance the marginalization of the Igbo was not as obvious as in the past and therefore people are afraid that the Igbo might come back?
There is nothing to fear. The Igbo had never dominated anything, are not planning to dominate anybody and would be unable to do so even if they tried.
The Igbo is just like the rest of Nigerians.
There are no 8 ft tall Igbo.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
Boston , Massachusetts
February 7, 2013