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.