Igbo: I Go Before Others – A Divine Mandate

The name a person bears often tells more about that person than what he/she claims to be. There is power in the name we bear as individuals, or as a group. Today, most people try to change their names to something better, which will actually speak well of them, or reflect what they believe for themselves, both now and in the future. The name “Igbo” which I see today as an acronym of “I Go Before Others” is a challenge to the Igbo people with the position of leadership. This tells us that the Igbo who are presently living in Nigeria are actually a ruling class, and this leadership quality is a mandate from God.

Though occupying the South Eastern part of Nigeria made up of five States: Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, the Igbo have their people settling in almost every parts of the world. All the Igbo States of Nigeria are densely populated, even when majority of the Igbo live outside Igboland. It is a fact that the Igbo race is business inclined, yet majority of its population are well educated. This is because the Igbo people embraced Western Education as early as the coming of the Whiteman. This has also contributed to the respected positions they occupy today.

Western education can be said to be the desire of every Igbo man either to acquire it personally or to sponsor his/her ward for same. The Igbo man has come to recognize that western education is the shortest way to attain greatness in social circles, and so goes for its acquisition. It is in pursuit of this aspiration, that between 1977 and 1979 there was a proliferation of primary and secondary schools in that part of the country by communities through communal efforts. However, the States within this geo-political region established some tertiary institutions in order to meet the growing demand of the Igbo populace. Schools like Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Oko Polytechnic, Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Anambra State University, Imo State University and a host of others were established.

The Igbo people, having drawn up inspirations from their fellow Igbo men who acquired western education, have come to realize that for any man to be a leader, he must surely be educated. Indeed “Knowledge is Power”. It is this understanding that makes one distinguished in midst of his equals. Personalities like the ZIK of Africa, the Mbadiwe’s, the Chike Obi’s, the Chinua Achebe’s and a host of other well-meaning Igbo people were sources of encouragement from where the Igboman built up his desire to pursue this aspiration. People are today intimidated by the influence of the Igboman in a0ny angle. This could be the reason behind the nonchalant attitude of the government towards providing free education in any of the Oriental States, as was the case of the Yorubas in the West during the time of Pa Awo when he was the Premier of the defunct Western Region.

In this part of Nigeria, education at all levels has become very costly, yet parents realizing its importance, are striving to sponsor their wards no matter hard the situation may be. However, the dilapidated nature of our primary and secondary schools, lack of essential academic equipment and non payment of teachers’ salary in our institutions today, is something that keeps an average Igbo man constantly thinking. The presence of all these bottlenecks are seen as a calculated attempt towards disorientating the Igbo race and handing them over to false beliefs that leadership is not all about formal education, but has its root in wealth.

As a result, most Igbo people are truly buying the idea that education without wealth is nothing. This idea has robbed the Igboman so much that majority of the people no longer sees education as an important asset. The situation is now critical because as those in the other parts of Nigeria are receiving and utilizing government grants to make up for the education of the girl-child, their Igbo brothers are sisters are busy looking for greener pastures for survival. It should be noted that in Igboland today, boy-child education on the decline. The former effort of the communities to sponsor their children and wards is becoming history due to the activities of certain uninformed individuals and groups, who now see western education as a long process of acquiring wealth. The belief is that wealth can be acquired by training young men in business rather than through formal education. As a matter of fact, more children are being withdrawn from schools or denied education simply because their parents need the money faster!

This attitude therefore suggests that the effort being made by the Igboman towards education in establishing schools will soon become a futile exercise. In view of this trend, and in realization of the objective of establishing schools in the South-Eastern Nigeria, the various state governments should make it compulsory for every teenager to have a right to education. This will help in building up and harnessing the leadership qualities of the Igboman and thus accomplishing the divine mandate.