Fr Angelo Chidi Unegbu (06.02.2022)

In Port-Harcourt, I met a young lady who visited the family that was hosting me at the time. I started speaking in Igbo language to her. “I don’t speak Igbo,” she said. “What is your name?” I asked. “Oluchi”, she replied. “How is it that an Igbo does not speak Igbo.” “I am not Igbo” she retorted. “Where are you from?” – “Rivers”. “Where did your village belong to before the creation of River State?” I asked. She kept quiet. “What is the meaning of Oluchi?” I queried further. “Work of God,” she said. “And you are not Igbo?” “Yes”, she said emphatically. Meanwhile, I had an earring I had wanted to give her as a present. As she was about to receive it from me I said: “I can only give you this earring if you accept that you are Igbo”. “Oluchi, are you Igbo?” I asked. She answered: “yes”, and I gave her the earring. We all laughed and she left.

Alone in my room I began wondering what really went wrong with many of our Igbo brothers and sisters in River State and other states that they are ready to choose death than identifying themselves as Igbo. Some say it was as a result of one betrayal during the war, others say it is because of the issue of abandoned property and so on. But none of these reasons, for me, is enough to make one habour such animosity against one’s own brothers and sisters or against one’s identity.

All over the world, everyone wants to know his or her genealogy or ancestral lineage. Many have spent time and resources trying to find out where they originated from. Some Europeans have traced their origins to India and yet they are not satisfied. They are still digging to find out more. One black American I met in America some years ago, told me that her greatest sadness is that she does not know her ancestral lineage.

How on earth can someone decide to deny his identity as a way of vengeance? Do they not know that denying their roots means depriving themselves the opportunity to discover themselves and to improve on their abilities and weaknesses? Do they not realize that such behaviour renders them more vulnerable to external attack? “Man know yourself” is the beginning of any human development.

However, I have come to develop some interest on that system that could make a group of people who bear Igbo names (and of course, speak Igbo language, and whose villages bear Igbo names) to deny being Igbo with passion. Such system of education should be studied by experts because it is likely to be the most effective system of education the world has ever known. We need such system of education in educating our youths against OKE-ITE, mkpurummiri and ‘yahoo-yahoo’. We need such a system to instruct our politicians against bribery and corruption.

The truth of the matter is that rejecting one’s identity as a way of punishing some relatives is nothing but cutting of one’s nose to spite one’s face. It is ridiculous and unintelligent. Of course, it cannot last. One day, an Oluchi will ask why she bears Igbo names and ancestry but is not allowed own up her Igbo identity.

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