EXAMINING THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF ANYIAM-OSIGWE’S GROUP MIND PRINCIPLE
Part 2 of a 6-part scholarly examination by Tetsekela Michelle Anyiam-Osigwe of the Igbo condition in Nigeria from the perspective of her grandfather’s (Sage Philosopher Chief Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe) Group Mind Principle.
The Kaduna Declaration
“ The Igbo people of the South-East, without remorse for the carnage they wrought on the nation in the 1960s, are today boldly reliving those sinister intentions connoted by the Biafran agitation that led to the very first bloody insurrection in Nigeria’s history…Emboldened by the apparent indifference of the Nigerian authorities, the Igbo secessionist tendency is widening in scope and action at every stage, with adverse effects on the law-abiding people of other regions residing in or passing through the East, while the Igbo leaders and elders by their utterances and direct action or inaction appear to support and encourage it…This is happening irrespective of the undisputable fact that the cruel Igbos have done and are doing more damage to our collective nationhood than any other ethnic group; being responsible for the first violent interference with democracy in Nigeria resulting in a prolonged counter-productive chain of military dictatorship…The Igbos similarly orchestrated the first, and so far, the only civil war in Nigeria that consumed millions of lives and sowed the seed of the current mutual suspicion and distrust.”
- Kaduna Declaration, “The Igbo Quit Notice” (June 2016)
Making real sense of the Igbo condition:
Beyond the embers of ethnic rivalry and a simple “us” and “them” dichotomy
The issue of marginalisation
The present reality confronting the nation is not a problem with the Igbos as a people. Instead, it is the deliberate exclusion of some ethnic groups, where which the Igbos are arguably the most significant given her status as the third largest ethnic group in the country. The imperative of today’s Biafra seems to be, in large part, a challenge to the continued denial of rights and exclusion of the South-East, whose people share a common identity as one-time Biafrans. It is this resurgent identity, “an indigene of Biafra, but forced to be a ‘citizen’ of Nigeria,” and the marginalisation of those with this identity, with the former being a consequence of the latter, that is the bedrock of dissent and violent conflict. It is not violence/agitation for its own sake.
Indeed, from Anyiam-Osigwe’s Group Mind perspective, the most potent source of violence is identity. Crucially, it is not solely because of cultural incompatibility, but the exclusion of some groups, like the Igbos, who, tired of being marginalised, perhaps have no choice but to mobilise around their own smaller group identity.
Anyiam-Osigwe, in his postulations, recognises that the Group Mind in Africa as a whole, and within her countries, was severely affected by colonisation. He observes that, “the forced amalgamation of nations and communities of different belief systems and cultural expressions has engendered a high level of incompatibility among peoples, nations, and states.” To him, “the coercive integration of communities with different and opposing, and in some cases apparently hostile cultures, violates the principle of voluntarism which is the hub of the Group Mind.” He argues therefore that, “the Group Mind has never perfectly functioned when that discretion of the individual to participate or co-mingle is violated.” In his view, the forced amalgamation of opposing cultures neither enhances integration nor encourages the fruition of the Group Mind phenomenon in the resultant enforced community or society. Rather, it has weakened the social and political institutions of modern societies and is accountable for the prevalence of poverty, indecorum as well as irreconcilable differences and perennial social conflicts.
Anyiam-Osigwe maintains however that even within this state, nationhood is possible. Yet, prerequisite to any unification is a development of a positive and contemporary identity for Nigerians that would negate any feeling of significant dissimilarity amongst her ethnically diverse people. Only then can we not simply exist as a Nigerian population, but as Nigerians with a Group Mind in which we intuit with the same mission, vision and objective for the nation. 50 years after the Nigerian civil war, there still appears to be an identity crisis of our Nigerian personality, dividing and thereby endangering this mission, vision and objective we are supposed to have for the nation.
Tetsekela Michelle Anyiam-Osigwe a writer and social commentator wrote in from London