James Ibechi

How Igede nation under-developed itself: Time for paradigm shift in 2023 and beyond

Being a keynote address delivered by Prof. Johnson Onah on the occasion of the Political Summit organised by the Igede in 2023 Movement.

Prof. Johnson Onah


· Preamble

· Defining Igede person

· Historical perspectives

· The transformed Igede Nation- Education

· The Church and development

· Economic structures

· Role of Igede Elite in the development failures

· Indigenous political structure

· Political participation

· The way forward in Igede land from 2023 and beyond.

· Conclusion

1. Preamble

Igede Ihiooo (x3).

It should have been most appropriate to address this esteemed audience in Igede language, but I’m handicapped for two(2) reasons; firstly by my limited ability in Igede oratory and secondly by the limited vocabulary of the language in relation to English language. Please permit me to use the two in a complimentary way for effective communication. I sincerely want to express my heart-felt gratitude to the leadership of IGEDE IN 2023 MOVEMENT the organizers of this gathering, which I believe has long been expected. I appreciate you all tremendously because you‘ve spent the last close to one year working towards the success of this Summit in spite of detractors. The topic for discussion as highlighted might not appeal to some people but it’s my attempt to look inwards into things that generally mitigate against our general performances. In my view, development entails a lot of issues each of which can be isolated and elaborated upon, but I’m taking a holistic view since partician politics is impacting negatively on our collective way of life. Remember the popular philosophy that ACTION AND REACTION ARE EQUAL AND OPPOSITE .

My focus would be on “ whether the standard of living of an average Igede person has significantly improved since 1976” when the Old Oju Local Government Area was created. This presentation is designed to bring out some “inconvenient truths” that many might not agree with, but I’ve chosen to play the devils advocate all the same, so please pardon me.

As far as I’m know, we Igede people are totally responsible for our sorry state as I will highlight the essential factors a little later.


What are the characteristic features that define an Igede person? How do non- Igede observers see as defining characteristics of an Igede person? Fundamentally, Igede people are Republicans in their way of life and so encourage free enterprise. An Igede man may appear timid in out look but behind that façade can be uncompromising determination. He is pathologically unforgiving. When you have an opportunity to engage an Igede person on real issues, you’ll come off concluding that he/she is fastidious or pedantic or a perfectionist. With that state of mind, he/she will never be disposed towards ventures that are unknown. An Igede person is afraid of failure, may in fact be terrified of failure; so again could not be expected exploiting the unknown, a prerequisite for progress or development.

By refusing to take chances of exploring and exploiting the unknown we inflict on ourselves under development at personal and at the societal levels.



It will be unnecessary for me to narrate our oral history here because we know or have an idea of our past. That Ali’igede were driven out of Benin Kingdom because the alleged broken pot must be restored to its’ original form demonstrated unwillingness to forgive and this was actually insane.

The core values of Igede people are Honesty, Hard work, Equity and we’re our brothers keepers. Greed and avarice were strongly condemned and rejected. You’re required to account for your source(s) of income. They knew when to compromise and accept reconciliation. They were diplomatic even during hostile / volatile disagreements.



The arrival of the white man/ colonization has impacted positively and negatively on our religion, culture, traditions, perceptions and attitudes. The most important positive impact was the introduction of EDUCATION and the most negative was abandonment of our culture and tradition, social classification and individualism.

EDUCATION: Education and quality of education is the irreducible minimum for development, so no society can develop without necessary educational skills. The first primary schools were introduced to Igede by Methodist Missionaries between 1930 and 1932. The first secondary school to be established in Igede was Methodist High School Ainu in 1970. The first Indigene of Igede to obtain First School Leaving Certificate was 1939. The first Igede person to obtain a university degree was 1967. Between 1970 and 2012 tremendous strides were achieved judging by the number of university, polythenic, college of education, etc, graduates The weaknesses in rapid educational development has also become obvious today; for example, it has affected our cultural affinity, emphasized greed, created social classes or inequalities and individualism.

Currently in Benue State, Igede Nation can boast of the largest number of holders of Institutional certificates on unit- by- unit basis. The question to ask is: why is Igede Nation not achieved its’ optimum level of development or not developing at a fast rate? Or why has Igede Nation remain stunted in development?

To answer this question we must understand what constitute the benefits (impact) of education. In my view, education has 2 components, i.e. knowledge and understanding. So many of us have knowledge but lack understanding and I dare say that this is one of our major handicaps. When we fail to show understanding, we remain stagnant and in fact degenerate. I make bold to opine that our education process didn’t find it’s root in our traditional core values of character etc. Mahatma Gandhi once said that one of the social sins is Education without character and I say


In our generation we lack so much understanding that we resort to unrestrained emotional out bursts and uncontrollable anger (rage). We’re generally are unforgiving people thus making reconciliation extremely difficult. Our inability to bear with each other creates toxic environments that persist for too long and preclude cooperation for self and community aspirations / actualization. Our Traditional rulers used to berate intellectuals that we have knowledge but lack understanding and wisdom. They couldn’t be more correct judging by the way we conduct and handle conflicts and our commitment to culture and tradition. Any society without culture is like wind that has no direction or control.


One must be very circumspect in commenting about the church and its activities outside the traditional shepherding. However, that the Church was the first to introduce educational institutions to Igede land was a great contribution to the development of Igede society.

This not withstanding, permit me to make the following observations and make an appeal.

· Christians in Igede land have not decided whether to believe and have faith in God or to believe and have faith in culture and traditions. The choices one observes is that of convenience.

· Christians in Igede land don’t show enough respect for their Priests so the society leads the Church instead of the Church leading the society.

· I rarely see the Clergy championing conflict resolutions in Igede land. If the Clergy recognizes this as part of their ordained responsibilities of shepherding, the present toxic environment in Oju LGA in particular would be of interest to them.

· According to reports, during the recent fracas between Ukpa and Ibilla Clans, my in-law was asked to pack out of his residences so that they can torch the property and they did. Rumors had it that a widow suffered similar fate. What type of Christianity are our men of God preaching? How can we develop when we’re so ready to destroy what we already have.

· Where was the clergy in reconciliation efforts in the aftermath. Which God are we serving?

· In societies where there is no leadership recruitment mechanism, the church should fill such gap because of the high moral standards of their religious practices.

· The fallacy that Christians should not actively participate in PARTICIAN politics has resulted in the society being saddled with heartless and godless representatives at various levels in government and cooperate world.


· So the Clergy should please, come to the rescue of Igede Nation.


Please pardon me that I’m not qualified to comment on the philosophy of Economics but I know it’s a Science of Chaos, Economists should seek assistance from Mathematicians.

We’re told that economic development is concerned with improved standard of living, i.e. high literacy rate, reasonable income distribution, increased life expectancy, low unemployment and ability to meet basic needs. According to one Authority, Igede people lack the ability to separate economic from non-economic activities meaning that valuable productive time would be lost pursuing one direction..

The people of Igede from the beginning of time were agrarian, i.e. they rely on agricultural production for sustenance. Basically, they enjoyed food security. In addition to this, they engaged in crafts (which we now call artefacts). Today, one cannot see any form of artistic activities, at least if we cannot innovate we should have been able to carry forward our heritage.

Their economy was so advanced that they smelted iron ore and fabricated tools for various activities. They lived in giant villages that provided security and encouraged cooperative farming. They could travel to neighboring communities to enhance wealth creation.

In our generation with the benefit of Western Education, advances in Science and Technology; a period that agriculture should be advanced really to strengthen the base of our economy, we’ve abandoned everything in search of white colar jobs or slave labor.


In Igede land we have no industries of any kind, not even agro-based. The level of commerce we practice cannot even support the family. There is no single super market in Igede land. How many of us are willing to transform the little spaces in our family grounds into orchards and plantations.

There is no meaningful economic activity in Igede land because we choose to be LAZY. Wage earners are unable to save because of conspicuous consumption exacerbating our failure.

Please let me quote what Dr Samuel Omachi said “ …the Igede people should stop wasting valuable time on recriminations about the past and radically remodel their attitude towards repositioning Igede land for sustainable economic development”. I couldn’t agree with him more.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary “Elite” used as Noun describes a group of people in the society who are powerful and can influence the course of events in the society/ community. This privileged people may be classified into (a) business group, (b) military brass (c) Police and Civil forces, (d) Intelligentsia or Academia (e) Bureaucrats (Civil / Public servants), (f) Etc.

From my observations, Igede Nation does not have a critical mass in any of these groups except to a small degree in “Intelligentsia and bureaucrats“.

Considering bureaucrats, it might not be an exaggeration to state that in Igede land, one can at least find one public servant in every family.

On intelligentsia, recently an Association of Igede Professors was formed the objective(s) of which has not been the focus of activities so far. A little earlier, an Association of Igede in Academia and business was formed, again without defined focus and proper engagements, it has gone moribund if it ever took root. I’m aware of Igede Unity Organization currently in existence with little results after many years. There were several others in 1980s.

The pertinent question should be “ why has these privileged groups failed to

(a) Mobilize their communities towards economic activities, e.g. cooperative agriculture production?

(b)Sensitize their immediate communities towards the role of education in human resource management.

(c)Serving as role models for the younger generation i.e. guiding and directing the younger people toward actualizing their potentials.

(d)Generate the big picture for the entire Igede Nation based on our core values of character, hard work, honesty and entrepreneurship?

(e)Provide meaningful political education to our less privileged in the society.

(f)Form a network of lobbyist to reach out to Government apparatuses, politicians in high places and corporate organizations for support.


Tell me which part of Benue State can boast of a higher number of Professors on a unit-by-unit basis, so why are we so docile? In Igede land today, Clan Associations are very well structured and strong, much stronger that Omi’Nyigede. Why is it difficult for each clan to take it’s destiny in it’s hands and comparative advantage in tackling his development needs / initiatives. When it comes to inter-clan squabbles, huge amounts of money could be generated at the twinkle of an eye, what an irony. With all the education, exposure, experience and very religious inclinations, why do we still return to primitive instincts so readily? What is more destructive that conflict?


Igede Nation is the most democratic society in Benue State from the historical point of view, to the extent that they reject single Rulership but embrace collective decisions and collective responsibilities anchored by Council of Elders. Remember GOD didn’t want His people to have Kings, but they insisted. Since then Jews never had peace again One can claim the Western democracy introduced by the colonial masters was a refinement of Igede democratic principles.

Igede people recognized merit and rewarded it and practiced it. For example, the first District Head ever appointed for Igede people was selected from OCHIMADU (Owo clan), probably because he was the best material at the time for the job. This was followed by another Head from AMUNO ( Ukpa clan). None of these came from the Iyeche clans which was the most senior of them. When the chance came to Igede people to choose the Och’idoma for the entire Idoma Kingdom, Chief Daniel Ochelle from Ada clan was considered but he declined. Chief Ajene Okpabi was finally selected and his ancestral roots was Ogbagba (Oboru clan). We were told that these political positions were filled by consensus, no protests, no rancor whatsoever. OUR FORUNNERS INSISTED ON MERIT; but kept equity in mind. What we practice today is a perversion of meritocracy and we call it zoning so that we can manipulate it. The consequence of not following the workable principle that satisfied our needs for decades has resulted in the present political chaos. Mahatma Gandhi spoke about Politics without Principles as sin. I plead that if our generation cannot improve on this principle, we should not destroy it.
As long as we don’t practice what works for us, our development efforts in whatever direction will suffer irreparably.


Permit me gentlemen to put my idea about political participation in Nigeria as whole, even if crudely, as a conspiracy of the political and military elite to impose themselves on the hapless common man, “What has been described as State Capture”. These gangster organizations have no public interest at heart whichever way imaginable. Up till now all we do is wait, mope and cheer while the so-called Political Parties revolve around individuals. The “big men” decide how and who to vote for and can ensure that political contest is a must win (a do-or-die) affair, in fact, they recycle themselves over and over again.

Their agents straddle the landscape brandishing big names and we seem to have nothing to do. Our learned men and women including erudite Professors just wait helplessly as long as they hope to benefit materially from the moral perversion. It was Edmund Burk who said that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.

Ladies and gentlemen, tell me in all honesty whether you as a Party member have any voice in the affairs of your Party? I hear that at Party Conventions somebody has to write a name of the person you should vote for because you cannot write for yourself. The few Professors and other educated individuals who have participated in partitial politics and represented Igede Nation at various levels and times have failed us hopelessly, you know what I mean. Today in Igede land, politics has become a career and has become an all comer affair. If Igede is going to develop politically and economically, the status quo must change and I expect the youth to get involved because they will be the greatest losers and have always been. I dare to suggest that only young men below 50 years should vie for elective positions in the future. Let the older sons and daughters serve as advisors and consultants.


·Igede people are culturally and traditionally democratic in character and these principles were (are) used to regulate the conduct of the society. These attribute should continue and be emphasized continually.

· Igede people are inherently republican in lifestyle and they also vehemently reject single Kingship. They seek freedom of decision making. This has worked for the society and should continues to be our Gold standard.

· The core values of Igede people are: integrity (honesty), hard work, equity, respect and being brothers keeper. This principle defines Igede society in Benue State and humanity at large. These are worthy values that we just don’t abandon. No alternative in fact.

· In the up coming political activities in 2023 and beyond, Politicians must understand, accept and factor- in these qualities (our gold standard) as our irreducible minimum.

· Leadership recruitment in Igede is a complicated process but must be developed as a great necessity.

· As observed earlier, since the Clan Associations are very strong, they should form our political units and should be centers of leadership recruitment.

· The present composition of the leadership of “Igede in 2023” Movement should be reorganized and strengthened to form the standing coordinating unit for Igede economic, social and political activities. Omi’Nyigede should be the over all Supritendent.

· Modified zoning arrangement whereby each political zone would represent Igede Nation ONCE in all Elective positions should be adapted from 2023. This principle could be reviewed after each cycle.

·The present situation in which political activism is the vocation of everybody is unhealthy. Political participation is very expensive and only few people can afford it. There are other less costly ventures that can help establish a high standard of living for the individual, derived from economic activities and these should be explored.

·It’s my candid opinion that Igede Nation cannot go it alone in Benue politics, so we necessarily have to align with our Idoma brothers. This is going to be our lot until Christ comes. I cannot see any alternative as yet.

·I wish to emphasize that political power cannot be accessed on the platter of gold; it must be acquired one way or another. So far, my view is that Igede people are politically very docile, i.e. not aggressive and forward looking enough. We don’t lobby for anything and we don’t commit resources to anything.

· With the possibility in sight of returning electoral power to the people through direct primaries in party selection processes (internal party democracy), the time for paradigm shift is just here. This new opportunity is for the youth to seize power from the political merchants. The youth now has been entrusted with an opportunity you couldn’t imagine a few years ago.

In the light of this detailed presentation, I imagine that Ali’Igede have an idea of where we’ve came from, where we’re now, why we’re where we’re now and where we’re going. We need a paradigm shift from 2023 to realize our next level of economic and political achievements.


Categories: James Ibechi

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