By Azuka Onwuka
There is a baseless lie many Northerners and Southwesterners have repeated for long that they now believe it to be true, and they have continued to pass it on to their children. That blatant lie is that the reason they don’t have much property or businesses in Igboland like the Igbos have in other parts of the country is that Igbos don’t sell property to them or rent shops to them.
The Arewa Youths repeated that lie in their letter to the Acting President thus:
“And since the Igbo have virtually infiltrated every nook and cranny of Northern Nigeria where they have been received with open arms as fellow compatriots, we strongly believe that the region is no longer safe and secure in the light of the unfolding threats and the fact that for a long time, the Igbo have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that in their domain in the South East, Northerners and Westerners are as much as possible disenfranchised from owning any businesses whereas, in Kano alone, they own not less than 100,000 shops across all the business districts.”
I have thrown a challenge many times on this but nobody took up my challenge. I made myself available to help anybody buy property in Nnewi and give that person a signed promise that nothing will ever happen to that property and also make my children take over that pledge when I am gone. Mind you, a storey building sells for as much as N200 million in some parts of Nnewi. So don’t think it is some place where nobody wants to buy from.
The simple question to ask those who make this baseless claim is, if Igbos don’t sell property to them, don’t Edos, Efiks, Ijaws, Ur hobos, etc in the South-South sell to them too? How many lands and shops do Northerners and Westerners own in Calabar or Benin or Uyo or Warri, etc?
How much property and stationary businesses do Northerners own in the South-west outside Lagos (former capital)?
How much property and businesses do Yorubas own in the North outside Abuja?
So what is the reason for that?
I have urged some Hausas and Yorubas in Nnewi to buy property but some of them smiled knowingly and kept quiet, while some told me plainly that they can’t take such a risk with the way things are in Nigeria.
The problem is simply fear of the unknown. Most Nigerians – minus the Igbos – have this fear that there will still be trouble in future. So they go into any state outside their region with a bag to do their business and leave when they are done. Many don’t even go with their wife and children for fear of the unknown. They believe that it is only the former FCT (Lagos) or present FCT (Abuja) that is less risky to invest in.
Most people don’t understand what drives Igbos in their business and investment decisions. Igbos don’t buy property in other parts of Nigeria because of any special treatment is given to them by their hosts. They buy property in spite of all that goes with property and the risk involved. They lose their money to fraudsters and omonile regularly in the Southwest. They lose their property to government demolition of the property. Yet they invest in property because they see property as a profitable investment, and they hate to continue to be tenants forever. An Igbo man wants to be his own master (landlord) as quickly as possible.
Igbos have lost their property and businesses to burning, destruction and looting repeatedly in riots in the North. They have even been killed repeatedly. Yet they return to rebuild.
A few years after the abandoned property saga in Port Harcourt, Igbos returned to Port Harcourt and began buying property again like crazy. Even when they are warned of the possibility of a repeat of 1970, they still go ahead to invest in property.
Obasanjo has had some land in Enugu since the 1970s when he was head of state. He has not developed the land till today. Buhari said in his asset declaration that he has some land in Port Harcourt (probably given to him free of charge). He doesn’t even know where the land is, not to talk of developing it. Yet these are heads of state who fought for the unity of this nation and are always talking about one Nigeria and need to believe in Nigeria. Yet they don’t even have faith in investing outside their regions or FCT.
Igbos believe that crisis and loss will not make one not to make an investment decision. Their thinking is: “What if I don’t invest and nothing happens eventually to the businesses or property around? Will I bring back the hand of the clock? But even if I invest and it is lost, life goes on. Life is a risk.”
It sounds like a crazy way to think but that is how they are. No other Nigerian ethnic group thinks like this. That is why some people who don’t travel assume that the reason Igbos live in large numbers in other ethnic groups and even return to places where they are killed is that Igboland is not developed. Even if you have never travelled to Igboland, please Google the CBN report of the six states that control 90% cash transactions in Nigeria.
The simple reality is that Igbos are weird risk takers when it comes to business and investment. Other ethnic groups don’t have such trait. People are different.
The reason we do these intermittent interventions is to ensure that things are put in their right perspective, for those who care for the truth; for it was such falsehood that was spread in 1966 and used as a justification for the genocide against the Igbos that year.
Shops are available in Igboland if you have the money and have the thick skin to compete. The land is available for purchase in all parts of Igboland if you have the money. Igbos are business-oriented. They sell or rent their property to the highest bidder. And once the transaction is done, it is done. No stories.
Just keeping the record straight.