Igbo Unity tends to be an elusive concept to some because to achieve it, hard work and time in conjunction with other factors must be expended. Interestingly, very many people would not want to make personal sacrifices required to address the issue. Rather, they would be on the sidelines to criticize and point fingers at people toiling selflessly for a better tomorrow. Yet others exploit the division among the ethnic group for their own narrow interests.
Nevertheless, it is my humble opinion that Igbo unity is both a necessary and sufficient condition for any meaningful economic and political enhancement of Ndi-Igbo everywhere. Achieving unity among Ndi-Igbo both in the Diaspora and in Nigeria seems to be a difficult task because of competing selfish interests. This is primarily because we have not looked deep enough to address factors necessary for achieving unity.
All along, we have been looking at unity in isolation. We often talk about lack of Igbo unity in many quarters as an impediment to the economic and political success of Ndi-Igbo in general in the Nigerian socio-political context and also in the Diaspora. People could not enter into a business partnership for long before a bitter disagreement exacerbated by greed would rend what was once conceived as a viable venture. It has been recognized that lack of unity among our people, coupled with high degree of selfishness of Ndi-Igbo, is a perennial problem. When there are disagreements among people, we frequently focus on the by products of the problem. Most often, we tend to shy away from the crux of the problem or even lack the temerity to deal with the root causes of such bitter disagreements among Ndi-Igbo for fear of offending any party.
In any case, normal differences of opinion or leadership styles should be valued. Many ideas emanate from constructive dialogue and debate. However, it is vital that we change our attitude so that we would work together to ensure the presence of trust, honesty, accountability, transparency, unselfishness, commitment, and vision among us. It is paramount that the forgoing virtues, as well as leadership with conscience and an intense focus on the group’s overarching goal flourish among the Igbo race.
It is imperative that we have an open mind and forgive one another. However, if you have been untruthful or dishonest to a fellow Igbo, it is your responsibility to go to that individual or individuals, explain the circumstance(s) with remorse, and ask for forgiveness. It is manly to do that. By doing so, you have created a line of communication filled with a reason for building trust. Trust, as you know, is an ingredient for unity. Some of us may have cheated our brothers or sisters in some dealings thereby creating enmity. It is incumbent upon us to go back to our brothers or sisters to ask for forgiveness and possibly pay restitution. Accounting and taking responsibility for our actions is a noble thing to do. Accountability and honesty produce trust. It is important that we reestablish trust so that we will be able to create a conducive environment where Ndi-Igbo can work together to accomplish meaningful collective goals. It is not going to be easy, but we must be committed to do just that. Leadership is of great importance in this area. Leaders with vision are proactive. They are prone to prevent and manage crisis well. They are trustworthy, honest, and accountable. Unselfish leaders do not thrive on crisis; they prevent it. If it involves making a personal sacrifice, they will do so for peace.
Let me devote this paragraph to talk about honesty in a different way. We may conclude that honesty is one of the factors that help build trust. As a result, if we want to build trust among Ndi-Igbo, we must not only be honest to others, but also to ourselves. Our public and private pronouncements must be consistent with our actions. When we make promises or pledges, we should fulfill them. We will endeavor to mean what we say and say what we mean. When promises are made and circumstances change, we should be able to accommodate. That is when it is communicated appropriately. Honesty helps us build trust. In achieving unity, TRUST must be present.
Leadership struggle should not have a negative connotation. The struggle or contest must be ingrained in competing ideas and issues and not marred with fraudulent activities. We should work together after a contest or an election to harness and implement the prevailing ideas. No one should be left behind. It is the responsibility of the leader to create an enabling environment where harmony will flourish in the face of constructive dialogue. We should bear in mind that Igbo affinity should transcend geographic location. It should not matter where one comes from, as long as one possesses the skills to lead us it is incumbent upon us to support the person. We should focus on ideas and issues and not on personality. We should respect the leadership and be good followers. We can only have one flagbearer at a time. That does not mean that opposition or contrary opinion is unhealthy for Ndi-Igbo. Militancy should never be an approach of choice to demonstrate opposition. If we have the interest of a group at heart, we will not carry actions that would destabilize the group. Constructive criticism must be allowed at all times. However, members of a group must ensure the veracity of their utterances. In the same token our leaders must know that they are not representing their individual interests, but that of the community. There should be a consequence for them should they fail to represent the interest of their respective constituencies. They have to be accountable!
While it is important to have unity of purpose, it is the responsibility of our leaders to articulate the vision and goals for the group. The vision must be clearly communicated to the members of the group. It is the responsibility of everyone to focus on the collective interest, the common goal of the group. We may be successful as individuals, but as a group, as a race, we may not be successful in today’s socio-political context. We will be successful as a group if we do not let our individual interest to override our collective interest. It takes every member of the group to work together to accomplish the goal. That is unity! Persons in a group will not be committed to the common goal if they do not trust each other. In the same token, they will not trust each other if the leadership lacks responsibility and vision.
Commitment is an influential factor for accomplishing goals and objectives of a group. Members of a group must make some personal sacrifices in order to accomplish the common goal of the group. Remember that one will find it difficult to commit to a group if he/she does not trust members. It is pertinent also to distinguish between lack of commitment to a group caused by selfish interest and that caused by the absence of trust and accountability.
Personally, I encourage each individual, every Igbo person, to have a self-reflection on his/her activities and separate those activities that may impede progress toward Igbo unity. Every person is responsible to make sure we experience unity. This must be both individual and collective effort. Always do your own part! I am committed and will continue to work hard and make personal sacrifices for Igbo unity. Igbo unity is my goal no matter where or what capacity I may find myself in. However, as we find ways to achieve unity or harmony, we must always be reminded of what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant when he eloquently stated, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice.”