That is, historically, the Igbo missed nothing and have lost nothing in not allegedly having built an empire or ran tyrannical systems. Our institutional belief in the inherent equality of men before Ofo, is and has been before old Europe fled to institute such in America and become Yankees. It is a global standard everybody is returning to; the nobility first envisioned and practised by the Igbo. We should be congratulated for our prescience and not belittled. And the best is to expect others, either consciously or otherwise to turn up Yankee Americans or Oru-Igbo, whichever of the two synonyms they choose.
We will give one further example of pre-pilgrim fathers, Yankee vision of the Igbo. For many Igbo, the Oru are the Igbo who live by the banks or across the banks. Yet this characterisation is meaningless. In fact, the underlay of Oru in Igbo cosmology is that Oru is a world, the new world, which the Igbo constructed as a cultural EPZ.
So, Oru was a free land, a kind of America, where peoples unfettered by the burdens of being Igbo, may reach out to new visions and vistas, attend to and interact with brave new others. In that sense Oru is what America is to the old Europe. Oru was the new but exotic world for high cultural experimentation and re-export, back to the Igbo heartland. Just as America has prospered Europe by the experimentations, that was to be possible only in the new world, Oru was set up by the Igbo to filter in choices that are to prosper and enrich Ndi-Igbo in a new composite world of Oru na Igbo. This is similar to what you have in America/the new world, and Europe/the old world, which together constitute the West or their own Oru na Igbo. That is to say Igbo were Yankees again before Americans.
All this may sound exotic even to several Igbo scholars. But their disabilities are known and not peculiar to them. It is the problem of province-bounded scholars, coming against the ingrained orthography or halo of metropolitan powers. These powers come in the guise of curriculum administrators of the present stock of “world knowledge”. These administrators, it is worthy to note, are the men who fix what is to be known, and even more importantly how it is to be known.
Now, the first great step of all colonists is to disparage the underwriting culture of their client nations or provinces. It is upon this trickery that colonised peoples are administratively grouped as barbarians, or taunted as inferior cultures. And it appears “self-evident”, even if false, after all you have been defeated. The book Orientalism by the Arab-American sociologist, Edward Said, is worthy of your time dear reader.
And examples abound in history, cataloguing the ways of the empire in distorting the existential credibility of the conquered. That is why every translation and transmission of originary or generative concepts, words or categories from the province, is studiedly diminished or belittled. It is in this light that one has to appreciate the why and how there was no mention of Christ by imperial educators, historians, poets, dramatists, thugs… fools in Rome or their agents in Palestine. In fact, they so diminished and belittled the Christ phenomenon in their imaginations, it may never have existed. This is the key to not reporting or historicising Christ by Rome. To them, Christ was just another jester and His message, if so dignified, is all humour, not worthy of the attention of conquering and mighty Rome. And to recall that the Jews never had an empire, what barbarians, the Romans will charge in further derision. Is this too far from the unjust levy on the Igbo that they failed in an examination they never took, that they failed to fabricate an empire when the Ofo specifically canvasses, even rules against it? Wholesomely put, we don’t need kings and empires, we already have Ofo.
So, the colonialists, external or his internal cousins are set on a mission, which is to translate, perhaps, truncate Igbo language and concepts say, into forced English on one hand, and to run Igbo history say, as if it was created to be an imitation of the thuggish history of colonial or conquering masters. It was, to give a classic example, like trying to interpret the bible as if it was a parchment of Ovid or Virgil; or portray that Moses was a Jewish Romulus. The assumption here is that the metropolitan language and history are supreme and contain all human experiences. This is, of course, false. And Ezra Pound was quick to tell us so. He writes; “the sum of human wisdom is not contained in any one language and no single language is capable of expressing all forms and degrees of human comprehension.” As it is for language, so also it is for experiences and for histories one can easily conjecture.
So, in a sense, the hierarchal positioning or perception of contact-societies may have to be altered for translations or comparisons to be truly meaningful. To aid in this, the British translator and theoretician, Arthur Waley, made the distinctions; (1) of philological translation, that is translation, corresponding to what the originals meant to the age in which they were created, and (2) of literary translation, that is translation, as the originals are currently interpreted. We must add a third, and we call it sociological or brace translation. And that third is translation, as it could have evolved in meaning, if its host or producing society was equal to the other metropolitan communities. That is, it is to be a translation in which it is supposed that English say, was a language in use in a parallel universe that, perhaps, never colonised the Igbo, say.
But a more practical way of sociological translation is to translate, say Igbo into English (as if the Igbo were the imperial powers and why not, at least, even if only imaginatively). If you do, what you will get is a revelation. Why? It is because there is always the diffidence that robs the unwary province-struck scholar and stops him from knowing that he and not Rome could be the cosmopolitan, the Attic, the Greek. What Rome, the imperial capital, may be, is metropolitan. Being cosmopolitan is any man’s game. That is why Christ came. The greatest man, who ever was, really was the son of a provincial carpenter, whose peoples never built a Coliseum. And Christ never left Palestine, a Roman backwater region. And Christ never visited or knew Rome, the Abuja or Washington of his day. And Christ didn’t have to. In fact, it is our game and gain that Christ never did. Yet he, not Caesar, was the most cosmopolitan of men. In fact, to be Caesar, to be empire, is to be only metropolitan (slime) and hardly more.
If one thought of it further, one could like the constitutional lawyers ask, what are the intentions of the Igbo fathers say, in founding Oru, in preferring and running a Switzerland-style web-loose federation, presciently? Are there clues and hints, as embedded in her extant, especially organic records, like proverbs, fables, tales, histories and above all patterns of re/migration? What would Oru have grown to be, if we imagined a world where the intercourse or rape by the British overlords of our maidenly Igbo, did not lead to the abortion of our development, from its internally guided rhythms and trajectories? These are the important and vital steps to institute if we are to recover the existential glory that our fathers founded and purposed for us.
Perhaps, this is the hour to put it on notice that the greatest, the finest works of human imagination, were all under the auspices and inspiration of anti-empire sentiments. The Bible/New Testament, Tao, Ofo and E=MC2. Of the last or of its consequences, Einstein himself specifically confirmed, he wouldn’t have ventured, were it not to stop Kaiser, sorry Hitler.
And it should be reminded all of us that the Igbo, through Ofo, has provided two of the profoundest Cartesian or working coordinates, perhaps, working graces, if you liked, ever. They are in: Eziokwu bu ndu and Ikuku bu ndu. The two defining coordinates translate; truth is the breath of life and freedom is the breath of life. With these two holy testaments, a people can achieve anything, anywhere and anytime. And we can confess we are beneficiaries of this, as is Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart is a quintessential production of Ofo, just like our brace theory of Minorities as Competitive Overlords. All that is needed is to join as one with the two, and you three shall be made a trinity, shall be made a generative whole. Whether in religion or in mathematics, the power of trinity or generative wholeness, if properly understood and deployed is unstoppable. It is what led the Americans unto being the greatest power on earth. It is the secret of Jewish genius. It is open and free to Igbo and Oru, to Jews and goyim. The point is, don’t believe; appropriate it. It works. Its flipside is the terrific reminder that he who lies, dies, whether it is in Ofo or in Christ.
Perhaps, what we should be doing now is to abolish, repackage and return to sender, to OBJ and Murtala, all these traditional rulers and their princes they infested Igbo land with. May be, their own people will need them. What Igbo need now or needed in the past, as never before, are not kings and princes or empires. What the Igbo need now, are physicists, mathematicians, philologists, historians, computer geeks, etc., if only to make or win the race to produce the black, or if you liked the Igbo bomb, maka ndi uta. So, let the victors keep their Rome and allow us our Jerusalem; let them keep their Emirate or Oyo Empires and we preserve, are preserved and prosper in our Ofo na Ogu. We are sufficient and well pleased in these and no parties need be troubled. Yes, that we are one country, may be a new fangled religion, Gowon et al. But that we are one people, one culture, is pure apocrypha. And we need not worship by these lies. Or we die.
On a final note on empires or lack of empire-type historical credits, we close with this quotation, obviously Christian, but to be better read as metaphor. Sinners shall never find rest; the righteous do not need it. Ahiazuwa.
Minorities as Competitive Overlords, by Jimanze Ego-Alowes: Available at PATABAH Bookshops, Shoprite Complex, Surulere, Lagos.