IGBO/EUROPEAN CONTACT; ITS SOCIO-POLITICAL EFFECTS ON THE IGBO
1.0 GENERAL INTRODUCTION
It is undeniably clear that coming across any written work with this kind of topic stirs up numerous varied notions in people’s minds. The views of an Igbo man who comes across this topic is bound to be different from that of a European. So will it also be, with any member of the external world not directly affected by this topic.
One might see it as a liberation philosophy, another might see it as an attack on what is European, and another still, might see it as a defensive means applied to transfer the responsibility of the ills found in Igbo land to the European world. None of them can be said to be wrong in his particular opinion unless an explanation of the authors import has been relayed to him and he persists in his stand. For this, it becomes very necessary that at this early moment, a brief explanation of what this topic is aimed at be presented to the reader so that he does not jump to hasty conclusions even before reading this.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The Igbo tribe of Nigeria today experiences so much political, economic, and social crisis both within itself as a tribe and with the other tribes with whom it makes up this one nation called Nigeria. Most of these crises so much affect the Igbos to the extent that they often see themselves as a marginalized tribe in this nation. This has led to their consistent clamor for a Sovereign state of their own (Biafra), not minding the fact of the failure of its first realization attempt during the early days of Nigeria’s independence.
Looking at the present socio-political situation of the Igbos in this multi-tribal nation, one will discover that a greater percentage of the hardships they are facing in their own God-given land cannot be ascertained to have its place rooted in nature. They seem to be man-made, willingly or unwillingly caused, knowingly or unknowingly arrived at. Most of these problems can be said to be aftermaths of some past experiences of the Igbo man both within the confines of his fatherland and outside. It must be acknowledged that the Igbo man has been more at peace with the world around him in the absence of a Nigerian nation than today when he has been forced into a national union with some other tribes. This goes a very long way to prove that some causes of the Igbo mans socio-political predicament can be vividly traced to the period of his being a part of this ‘Lugardian’ amalgamated nation called Nigeria. If this can be said to be so, then her days prior to this amalgamation, especially within the colonial era, when she was being pushed into acting in a way she does not really accept must have played a major role in the many problems she so suffers today.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The Igbo man of today finds himself faced with so much socio-political difficulties in his co-existence with the other tribes that make up this one Nigeria. For this, he so much longs for secession; he longs to have a sovereign state of his own, which will have all its affairs self-piloted and which will have him as its sole controller. He longs for the sovereign state of Biafra where he will be free from the present days’ ‘regrettable Igbo predicament in Nigeria characterized by humiliation, manipulation, and marginalization’.
A look at the socio-political problems of the Igbo man of today, which has produced in him such longings as these, reveals the fact that the colonial amalgamation of the Nigerian nation has a bigger part to play in it. This implies that the Igbo man’s contact with the European world has a hand in such situations and that it is not just a problem caused by the other tribes with whom he shares this one nation. We the Nigerians also have a hand in it, no doubt. It is based on this fact that this work sets out to expose the present socio-political conditions of the Igbo man, tracing it back to his early life without this colonial amalgam called Nigeria, to see how the Europeans in their contact with the Igbo tribe could be said to have caused a problem for the Igbos of today.
1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
In the words of Rev Fr. Collins Ojene, “No continent suffered from the scourge of slavery for centuries as Africa. No continent was so brutalized by colonialism, imperialism, and now neo-colonialism as Africa.” The Igbo nation, we have to note, is part of the African continent and as such the afore-mentioned statement, if it is true, also applies to them. This study serves to ascertain the extent of the damage these (colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism) had caused the Igbo race specifically. In this study, we are interested in seeing if really we can be very right to say that the colonial masters have been our ‘messiahs’, sent from God above to bring us salvation and light (like Christ was believed by the Christians, to have been sent) as shown by some writers of history. To see if they can be seen as, in the words of F. K. Ekechi, expressing the view of the people of the lower Niger on the early Western Catholic Missionaries, “a kind (white man) who came for the welfare of the people.” It is a study aimed at examining the intricacies of these diverse contacts that has existed in history among the Europeans and the African-Igbo world to see what actually has held the Igbo nation spell bound from advancing to the developmental stage the European world of today is in. It is a work born out of an interest in contributing to the growth and development of the Igbo race. This interest to help move the Igbos forward was born in the course of our study of the African philosophy and the many problems facing it. It grew after a realization of the fact that the ancient Egypt of Africa was amongst the first civilized nations but today is nowhere, development wise. On the other hand, it is aimed at producing what can be accounted by us, as the gains and problems created for us by the westerners and by so doing help our people to know what they need in their present rush for the white-mans land (greener pastures) and culture. It is a way of trying to expose us to the reality that not all that glitters is gold and that the European in all he does is never perfect and should never be regarded so.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Fr. Collins Ojene opines, “The African continent (Igbo world) is daily degenerating into possible state of anarchy or even extinction should something not be done concretely and very urgently.” Our socio-political conditions here is getting worse by the day and so resulting to a mad rush for the European (western) world. It serves to give an Igbo mans understanding and approach to the African (Igbo) socio-political predicaments of this world and as well as help save the Igbo race from extinction. It also serves to expose the Igbos to the likely causes of their present condition. At this time when the Igbo youths so much long for the western world and its culture, viewing it as the paradigm, it becomes very necessary that a work of this nature should exist to point to them the possible problems and benefits that may accrue from such escapade. To the world at large, it serves as an eye-opener, pointing, like a signpost, to the road we (Igbos) have to follow in order to arrive at a brighter future destined for the Igbo race by the creator.
1.5 DIVISION OF WORK
This work is broadly divided into five chapters with some sub-sections each.
Chapter One serves as an introduction of what we have set out to do in this work. It presents a clear exposé of what the problems we have set out to handle in this topic is all about. In addition, it gives an outline of our reasons and purpose of writing this work and explains the actual methodology we used in the bid to achieve the desired result.
Chapter Two dwells on a review of some literatures and authors who have said something in relation to this our topic. It discusses them based on the different aspects or points of view from which they had aired their opinions, giving us an insight into the fact that many have observed and said something concerning these contacts we wish to discuss.
Chapter Three discusses in details the three major schemes of Igbo European contact with some issues surrounding them while Chapter four dwells on the positive and negative influences of these contacts. They can be seen as the heart of this work for in them the contacts and their effects are brought to fore. The Igbo socio-political situations, as it concerns our reasons for this write-up was also discussed here. We must note here that the historical contacts of the Igbos and the European world is still on, as such, its effects is bound to continually increase, positively or negatively as the case may be.
Finally, chapter five dwells on a critical examination and an evaluation of the many facts that have been presented in chapter four. It also suggests ways for the Igbos to forge ahead.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
A project like this needs so much of pure historical foundations so that it may be more effectively handled. This not withstanding, there seems to be only a few of such works available to us. Most of the works to be seen on the historical contact of the Europeans with Nigeria and with the Igbos in particular seem to be written by the west or with their influence. Such works, as we know, can scarcely present the distinct problems, constituted to the Igbos by the European colonial masters. More often, it presents the European man as being explicitly caring for the good and growth of the African. In the face of all these, this work has to depend on the available texts dealing on the European/Igbo contact. Other secondary texts seeking to make a justification or an appraisal of those colonial contacts with the Africans in general were also taken into great consideration. The works concerning African/European contacts were accepted because the Igbos as a group also fall within the confines of the African continents.
There were some individual face-to-face inquiries from some individual aged men who have been lucky to have been part of the Igbo experience of the colonial era. From the inquiries we gained some insights of the facts of how these perceived the Europeans and how they still feel about those days even in the light of today’s situation when almost every Igbo man longs for an encounter (contact) with the European world. This very enquiry seems to have been of paramount necessity, and it exposed us to how they felt with their experiences in those days and how they feel about them now. It gave us a specific picture of what that encounter really looked like. In addition, some literate men of integrity were interviewed. Although most of them were not a part of those encounters, our belief that they must have come to build up some specific impressions regarding those contacts, following their quest for more wisdom, which flowed from the fact of their academic literacy, necessitated it.
The method of this study was synthetic, hermeneutical, and analytical. Hermeneutics simply implies interpretation and this work had to be hermeneutical. Most of its aspects had to do with interpretative attempts at understanding activities and actions. It was analytical because such works as this require that one set up concrete evidences from which he can drive his points home. Some arguments here were deductive and others inductive. Equally, there was so much combination of elements in this work and these accounts for the totality of what became our conclusion. This makes our work synthetic. In all, our study did follow a very critical and rational process.
All these not withstanding, the work is presented in a very coherent order such that anyone encountering it finds no difficulty in understanding and appreciating its stand. Rarely would one going through it find a reason to deny its facts because it is truly rational and realistic, unless he seeks for prolonged arguments.
Finally, this research work does not spring from any form of adulterated or biased judgment. Instead, its point of emergence rests solely on the interest in helping the Igbo people move forward to meet up in development and technological advancement with other worlds. For this, the conclusion had to be philosophically constructed carrying along with it, some words of admonition as well as encouragements and suggestions that will aid the African-Igbo in eschewing the psychological trauma precipitated by European imperialism, hence moving his nation (Igbo) forward.
 J. Uwalaka, Igbo: To Be Or Not To Be? (Enugu:Snaap Press Ltd, 2003) P.1
 C. Ojene, “Madonna Mercy Family International, Manual Of Activities And Prayers” (Onitsha: Divine Love Publications, 1993) P.3
 F. K. Ekechi, Missionary Enterprise and Rivalry in Igboland, 1857-1914,(London: Frank Cass Ltd, 1972), P.75