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In a move that marked a major departure from the usual habit of fleeing to the East during previous crises, Igbos have been asked to stay wherever they are residing now and weather the recent bloodshed that followed the introduction of Sharia in the North. The call was made by the former Biafran leader and Ikemba Nnewi, Chief C. Odumegwu Ojukwu, while commenting on the reported killing of Igbos in Sharia riots in Kaduna State.

Since the Civil War, Ndiigbo have dispersed throughout Nigeria in large numbers and massive return to the East always meant great losses in lives and resources because most end up returning to their bases after tensions cool down. This novel stance for Ndiigbo may also be indicative of a more assertive role for their political leadership in contemporary Nigeria. Of all the more than 250 ethnic nationalities that comprise Nigeria, Ndiigbo are by far the most widely dispersed throughout all the nooks and corners of the country. Most are actively engaged in virile business activities, wherever they are domiciled, as artisans, shopkeepers and ambulatory merchants. Their large numbers in major cities in the North and Lagos metropolis make Ndiigbo particularly vulnerable in almost all the violent unrests that episodically erupt in all parts of Nigeria.

In the recent Sharia-instigated riots in Kaduna State and elsewhere, hundreds of Ndiigbo were feared to have lost their lives. Their properties, which included household effects, commercial goods, buildings and residential homes were either looted or torched by rampaging hordes. The decision by Ndiigbo to stay at their places of domicile instead of the normal practice of fleeing to a safe haven in the East could mean that Ndiigbo now regard the entire Nigerian territory as their home base while the Southeast zone becomes the Igbo heartland. The implication of this new stance is the commitment of Ndiigbo to making contemporary Nigeria a common home for all the ethnopolitical groups in the country, irrespective of their states of origin. In order words, Ndiigbo have practically demonstrated their age-old belief that all parts of Nigeria belong to us all.

The Survival Struggle for Ndiigbo

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