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Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju Compcros Comparative Cognitive Processes and Systems Exploring Every Corner of the Cosmos in Search of Knowledge
Two Igbo writers who present vastly different perspectives on Ndigbo, Nigeria's Igbo ethnic group, are Chinua Achebe and Ozodi Osuji. Osuji writes across a broad range of subjects, from Western philosophy and contemporary science to the character of Ndigbo. His writing is done mainly on Nigerian and African centred online communities, specifically listserves and ChatAfrik, and in his Print on Demand books, some of which are published by Lulu. Achebe is globally famous as one of the world's great writers for his fiction, particularly his novels, and his essays have also achieved broad appeal. Both writers demonstrate contrastive perspectives on the contemporary history of Ndigbo as members of Nigeria which may be profitably compared. One point I have had to concede to Osuji after reading Achebe's last year's Guardian essay and some of the comments on it by some Igbo who agree with him, was that I saw in Achebe's largely regrettable comments a problematic sense of Igbo exceptionalism. Osuji claims that is a general problem of Ndigbo but that was my first encounter with it, having worked with and had friends among Igbo people for years. I also observed in Achebe's stance and that of some of his supporters a manifestation of Osuji's description of a tendency to set oneself up for attack in the name of one's ethnicity for no reason, except that one does not realize that in a community of different peoples, setting oneself up in opposition to others in a way that unnecessarily tries to demean others makes them fight back. Osuji argues that such unproductive ethnic celebration goes together with an uncritical sense of ethnic victimisation. I have seen these attitudes at work in the debates on Biafra, a state where Igbos were at the centre, the failed secession of that state being at the heart of the Nigerian civil war of 1967 -1970. Such counter-productive strategies of ethnic celebration in relation to questionable claims of ethnic victimisation that rhyme with Osuji's summations I understand as prominent in debates on Biafra.
These attitudes were highlighted by the tenor of Achebe's summation on the war and the contemporary state of Ndigbo in Nigeria. He ignited a flurry of similar responses mainly from Ndigbo, some of whom see him as an ethnic spokesman. I personally, and I expect, many other Nigerians, am convinced that Ndigbo are striking in their capacity for trade in various kinds of goods, in their migratory dynamism and adaptability, in their ability to prosper in a broad range of fields, qualities, which, taken together, are most marked and most visible among Ndigbo as a group, in my limited observation so far of various Nigerian ethnicities. The manner in which Ndigbo, centrally, among others, prosecuted the Nigerian Civil War, is most admirable, in spite of the many strategic mistakes made by Biafra. I have written on these mistakes in my various essays on Biafra, but, what almost anyone would agree about, is the resilience and creativity of Biafra in that war. That resilience may be understood as short-sighted and deluded, but it is most admirable as a demonstration of the ability to fight for a belief, however others may see that belief. The recovery of Ndigbo after the terrible ravages of the war and the challenges they faced as exsecessionists is most admirable and a testimony to that resilience and creativity I have referred to. It should be possible to recognize all these points, which I think are historical and social facts, without falling into the hole of Igbo exceptionalism, and of refusal to acknowledge one's mistakes or the questionable character of one's decisions, as with the Biafran leadership bartering the lives of their starving and dying citizens for global sympathy to enable them keep fighting a losing war, using that sympathy to smuggle in more weapons on food planes to keep fighting as the starving people continued to die and some Ndigbo and their sympathizers later arguing about that starvation policy as an attempt at an anti-Igbo genocide in the face of the fact that it is the duty of your opponent in war to make sure you don’t have food, not vice versa, that being one of the easiest ways to end a war with reduced bloodshed, creating the opportunity to exchange surrender for continued combat and deaths on both sides. Civilians who choose to ignore or are uniformed about the realities of fundamental military strategy as demonstrated in military history, in a move that I don’t think the Biafran military head of state, Odumegwu Ojukwu, the commander of the Biafran army Alexander Madiebo or the famous Biafran commander Joe "Hannibal" Achuzia, or the last military head of state of Biafra, Philip Efiong, ever made, keep insisting on Nigeria apologizing for or paying for a legitimate war strategy. Achebe expands such unrealistic thinking in making a claim that makes little or no sense, of Ndigbo not being integrated into Nigeria 42 years after the war ended in 1970. Hubert Ekwe-Ekwe makes the odd claim that Igbo land is still occupied by Nigeria, even though only Ndigbo are allowed centrality in managing states in their region, as is the case in all Nigerian ethnic sectors. Obododimma Oha argues that Nigeria is still fighting with Ndigbo. Another view asserts that the genocide claim inspires Ndigbo's vision for a new nation, all such, being, in my view, ultimately unserious assessments of a war fought both gallantly and cruelly on both sides, with both sides guilty of atrocities, though more pronounced on the Nigerian side perhaps because they had more opportunity, being the stronger side.
Even though Ndigbo did not enjoy perfect assimilation after the war things have improved significantly, points which these figures don't want to acknowledge. Their claims, however, may be seen as helpful in inspiring valuable public debate on serious issues. Ndigbo should allow others to admire them by not creating unnecessary obstacles to such admiration. Admiring you does not mean the person doing the admiring does not have qualities you too can learn from or that such admiration means you must now assume that status of a king, who has to be so recognized for stable social relations to prevail. Take your place among other groups, each with their own strengths and weaknesses like you have yours and build something in unity. Ndigbo in Nigeria are doing this, building across the nation in a realistic fashion with other Nigerians, but deluded self-proclaimed Igbo spokesmen like Achebe and those in his camp want to substitute their illusions for the daily reality of Ndigbo in Nigeria.