The question about what Igbos want has been around for as long as I can recall. It must have been agitating the minds of those who rushed off to rein in the so-called rebels after the declaration of the State of Biafra in 1967. That the question keeps popping up since hostilities ceased nearly 50 years ago can only mean one thing: an adequate answer has not been found.

During one presidential media chat, it was a visibly rankled Buhari that had to once more confront a question that refuses to go away, especially against the backdrop of a resurgent campaign for the restoration of Biafra.

Maybe the president does not truly know what Igbos want or maybe like millions of other Nigerians, he is frustrated by the fact that Igbos seem impossible to satisfy. Either way, I think it is incumbent on me to address the question.

There is an insightful story in the Bible told in the form of a parable that I’m going to lean heavily on to drive my thesis. It is found in Mark chapter 25, verses 14 – 30 (The 2011 edition of the English Standard Version).   

A rich man, before embarking on a journey gave various sums of money to his servants to invest on his behalf. What each got was commensurate with their demonstrable ability (read talent). Servant A got N5 million, servant B N2 million and servant C N1 million.

After a long time, the rich man returned and called the servants to render account.

Servant A: Master, you gave me N5 million; here I have made N5 million more.              Master: Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little. I’m going to entrust you with much more…

Servant B: Master you gave me N2 million and I now have N4 million.                            Master: Well done, my good and reliable servant. You’ve really made me proud, and I’ll ensure you’re adequately rewarded.

Servant C: Master, I know you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you invested nothing. So I was afraid and hid the money in the ground. Here’s your N1 million back.                                                                                                        Master (visibly livid): You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew I reap where I haven’t sown and demand returns where I’ve made no investment? You should at least have put the money in a bank and it would have yielded interest. Take that N1 million from him and give it to Servant A (among other harsh but well deserved punishment)…

Knowing the parable’s narrator, Jesus, it is quite possible he had Nigeria’s current testy political and socio-economic situation in mind when he spoke thousands of years ago. That would mean the 3 servants represent Nigeria’s three major nationalities: Hausas, Igbos and Yorubas. I’ll go out further on a limb and suggest that Igbos are Servant A. Here’s my justification from verse 16 of the Biblical text: “He who received the five talents went AT ONCE and TRADED with them and made five talents more.” (Emphases mine) When this is combined with the indubitable fact of Igbo industry, the assumption makes a whole lot of sense.

So what do Igbos want?

1. Honest commendation for their vast, visible contributions to Nigeria’s well-being.

2. Increased deliberate and sustained investment to improve capacity to do even much more.

Servant A did not have to lobby to be given servant C’s redundant N1 million. Even a half-witted investor would have come to the same decision.

The Nigerian scenario presents the picture of Igbos being constantly booed and blamed for many of the nation’s ills. And there appears to be official policy to impose a regimen on them that is far beneath their proven capacity. It is injustice, it is inequity, and it is lunacy of the socio-economic sort.

If by some contrived system of parity servant A and servant C are rated and treated as equals, why should we complain that servant A is alleging marginalization? Chronic marginalization breeds a type of frustration that eventually metastasizes into a terminal condition many will rather not call Biafra.

May the days ahead provide adequate answers to our many hard questions!


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