British anthropologists and Senior administrative officer C. K. Meek between 1929 and 1934, observed some of the characters and customs of the Igbos. Some of these characters made it extremely difficult to rule or conquer the minds of the Igbos. A conquering power can conquer a people physically, but if they fail to conquer the mind of the people, the victory will only be temporary. Daryll Forde and G. I Jones in the 1940s summarised these Igbo characteristics as follows:
“..Considerable control over women is exercised by their own associations and courts, and as they largely control the food supplies they can influence the men and bring the sanctions of female ancestral spirits to bear upon them. Women will also resort to strikes, ridicule and cursing if they have no formal means of gaining their ends. The widespread riots of 1929 will long stand as an example of the unity, power and determination which Ibo women can display…………………………. The Ibo are generally held to be tolerant, ultra-democratic and highly individualistic. They dislike and suspect any form of external government and authority. They have developed a strong commercial sense and a practical unromantic approach to life.”
Ø Women were strong, powerful and highly influential
Ø Igbos of old were very tolerant (The “Biri ka’m biri” philosophy)
Ø Igbos were extremely democratic
Ø Hate for external government and influence
Ø Ultimate respect for individual ability and exploits
Ø Outstanding businessmen
Ø More driven by proof and practice.
However, by 1972, J Van Allen observed that the Ibos had already lost some of these values, especially regarding the strong political institution of women that the British colonialists suppressed and destroyed after the Aba women riot.
Let us hold on to those things that make Igbos great.