incapable of defending the land that your ancestors acquired and preserved for you and your future generations, then you are beyond pathetic; you are worthless! In Igbo, a fool is often described as efulefu or ofekhe (Abiriba); a person who has lost the sense of what makes him “the son of his father”.
Before the White man came, we had our own templates for raising young men and women into strong adults well-equipped to sustain their inheritances.
In Abiriba, we had the ikpu uzu and ije uzu, which was eventually copied by other Igbo groups and became what we all know as the Igbo entrepreneurship mentorship system.
You served your master, learnt his trade, leveraged on his experience and contacts and (expectedly) benefited from his reward when you were ready to set up your own shop.
You also moved systematically from the lowest level of cultural initiation and strove to attain the highest. Through all this, you acquired the ability to understand the culture, defend the land and preserve it for the future generations. This was what defined your social stature.
The coming of Western education was meant to confer an “additional brain” to the African. It was not meant to displace his traditional sense of belonging or rob him of his manhood. But unfortunately, that is exactly what it has done to many of us, especially those from the southern parts of Nigeria.
Education gave us certificates and we headed off to the nearest urban area developed by the British colonialists because of the jobs that used to be abundant. There were also limitless opportunities for commerce. Urban dwellers enjoyed power and water supply and modern amenities which were not available in the rural areas. With the massive embrace of education, the urban areas filled up.
The jobs dried up, the amenities which government could not expand became dilapidated, and millions of unemployed, poverty-stricken people became trapped in urban slums. Even today, people are still drifting to big towns like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.
Virile young people abandoned the villages to the weak and elderly who survive on subsistence agriculture. The fertile lands with almost year-round rainfall were no longer cultivated. The richly-endowed southern people rendered themselves vulnerable to a punitive “food blockade” by the North!
Climate change and self-imposed instability has been steadily driving the northern population southwards in the past 20 years. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong or strange about this. It is a natural human instinct to move towards the greener pasture. Once upon a time (between the 1950s and 1980s) the North was once considered by many people in the South as a greener pasture. Many people migrated northwards to earn their livelihood. That is why many people from the South had their birthplaces in the North.
The problem, therefore, is not that Nigerians of northern extraction are drifting southward. When this migration started, nobody complained. Northerners came into the towns and villages as law-abiding citizens and took up honest, menial jobs.
They mended shoes, hawked water, operated commercial motorcycles, worked on the farms and construction sites and generally performed the grunt tasks that southern youth now believe they have become “too big” to do. Minor ethnic skirmishes apart, we have cohabited quite well.