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“Why are Igbo Boys & Girls denied their own Stories?” | Speech by Chude Jideonwo at Ola ndi Igbo Summit in Enugu

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Ola ndi IgboThe Ola ndi Igbo Summit took place in Enugu on the 17th of October 2015.

Ola Ndi Igbo is convened as a biennial summit to promote values driven change in Igboland and celebrate
remarkable Igbo achievers all over the world.

In 2013, a group of young professionals based in the United States, Europe and Nigeria coined the term – Ola Ndi Igbo – “Jewel of the Igbo” and organized the first convening of Our Global Best in Lagos, Nigeria to celebrate people of Igbo descent who have demonstrated excellence, values-based leadership and a work ethic to rise to the top of their professions globally.

Following its launch in 2013, a range of initiatives were launched to promote development in Igbo land including the creation of an entrepreneurship and vocational training centre for youth in the Southeast, a soul searching summit titled Olu Ndi Igbo and a business training programme for Igbo traders in Alaba Market.

This speech by Chude Jideonwo was delivered at the plenary session of the summit.

****

I made the quick dash to this event from The RED Summit, our 4-day celebration of the 10th anniversary of our media group.

Just yesterday, at our celebration gala, former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi told an interesting story, about our subsidiary, StateCraft which was appointed by him to handle communication for President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign this year, and the journey to convincing the president to wear a suit for the first time – for the photo-shoot that re-introduced him to the Nigerian electorate in December of 2014.

One shoot, one image, the governor said, went viral across the nation and outside, effectively changing, in one swoop, the narrative for a former Nigerian Head of State, and one who had run for office three times prior.

He was talking about our role in that crucial historic movement, but what struck me yet again was the media, and its limitless capacity to change the world. How one photograph can do what decades of a distinguished career and a reputation for integrity could not do.

You know, despite 15 years in the media, it continues to amaze me, its power to transform, to change, to recreate. Its immense ability to tell stories (and to go beyond telling stories) that transform systems and societies, to enable and build movements, to truly change the world.

This observation becomes urgent because I have asked today to speak about changing mindsets leveraging the media.

And so the question occurs to me immediately: Do we understand that the lack of powerful media telling powerful stories about Nigerians who have stood with integrity, ignored ignoble wealth, built earth shaking brands and institutions, is the major part of whywe have entire generations who do not understand that greatness truly lies within us?

We have an entire generation who have endlessly heard stories of thieving governors, spineless presidents, and conscience-less businessmen. But this is also the country of Innoson, of Obiageli Ezekwesili, of Chinua Achebe, and not just for his writing.

That’s why I decided I must come today, because I have a sense of our history and our present, and I am inspired by it. And I know that it is possible in this country to do great things even despite the tragedy of hopeless governance, mindless business opportunities, even feckless activism.

And that is why it is an tragedy that we have so many Nigerian media companies that want to tell African stories to the world, and very few focused on telling proper African stories to Africans.

That’s not the urgency that we need. The world is not ignoring us because of a lack of powerful media talking about our mountains and hills to the world. The world is ignoring us because of a lack of power stories from within our continent shaping the minds of its youth – so that our future is greater than our present.

That’s why one act of bold leadership by Fashola during the time of Ebola did more to burnish the image of our country than five young women dancing in a commercial to ‘sell’ Nigeria playing 10 times a day on CNN.

We need to tell stories and spread action of the incredible work that happens on our soil. On telling people the magic that Sullivan Chime performs here in Enugu – transforming road networks, urban renewal, education, even when according to most accounts he was not fully healthy. We need to tell the story of incredible innovation by Peter Obi in Anambra state, evidenced in massive leaps in school enrolments, WAEC successes, education indexes.

We need to focus on telling people why Obiageli Ezekwesili is special. In a country with so much failure, so few role models, to have a person so consistent in words and on deed, in and out of government, no blemish to be found on her record.

We need to tell those stories to ourselves, and to our children, and to our brothers and to our sisters.

This is what Americans, Britons, Rwandans, South Africans understand. That’s why they have powerful media talking to their own citizens. That’s why they tell the stories everyday – the Civil War, D-Day, the Genocide, Christopher Colombus‘ arrival, Mandela’s birthday, Martin Luther King‘s death. We hear it every year, every time, movies, TV specials, news editorials, documentaries.

But what do we have here? Someone at the video censors board banned the showing of Half of a Yellow Sun! My God! People so desperate to shut down all stories and all conversation about a civil war that took the lives of almost a million Nigerian citizens?

Some leaders daring to say this is in the past and we should forget it. Forget it? Forget it?! Forget the stories of courage and innovation, of survival and the rebuilding of societies torn down by war, and the rebuilding and reconstruction of businesses by people who only received 20 pounds each when they returned to their homes?

Why are Igbo boys and girls denied such powerful stories? Why have they not heard of the impressive powerful people who changed the world right here on this soil so they can draw inspiration because those people walked these same roads, drank this same water, spoke this same Igbo? Why?

How dare we?

We need to tell the stories. We need strong powerful media in Nigeria telling Nigerian stories to Nigeria’s young and old and inspiring them to take charge of their destinies, of their communities, of their country.

And especially when you are an endangered species like the Igbo seem to be in Nigeria these days, with threats to throw us into the see, show us pepper for voting wrong and all kinds of insanity, it becomes crucial to affirm our identity. And identities are not affirmed by transactional constitutional conferences and dodgy population census. They are affirmed to the self, and then to others by re telling and then telling again, our important stories.

Of course, not just the Igbo, but Nigerians as a whole.

At our company, Red Media Africa, that’s the job we have chosen. Because, in this century. The media can no longer be a bystander. We are working hard to build massive pan-Nigerian, pan-African media platforms.

Because Nigeria will not be changed by boreholes, by piecemeal incremental change, by stops and starts. Nigeria will not be changed by ministerial screenings and endless problems. Nigeria will be changed by its people. By unleashing their potential, by affirming the common decency and roaring aspiration of young and old minds. Nigeria will be changed only by a movement of inspired people working hard everyday to reach a common, inspired vision.

To do that, you need to connect with their hearts, with their souls. You need to help them believe, have faith, stand strong, not waiver, keep going, keep trying, convinced in their very beings that it is possible for Nigeria to change, for their destinies to be fulfilled, for greatness to come to their country.

We need to deploy the media to inspire millions of young people across Ebonyi, Delta, Enugu, Imo, Anambra, Abia, and everywhere Igbo boys and girls exist – in the language they understand. Wherever Nigerian boys and girls exist, in the language they understand.

Because there are over 32 million Igbos waiting to be inspired. Over 180 millions Nigerians begging to be empowered. We need to build powerful local and global platforms that speak to these audiences, that answer their questions.

Stop underestimating the power of a story. The power of an inspired person; the power of the inspired, empowered Igbo youth.The power of the inspired, empowered Nigerian youth.

We have so much work to do.

23 Comments

  1. mrs chidukane

    October 19, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Brilliant speech. We need inspiring stories so our youth can see that entertainment is not the only way to make it in life.

  2. odi

    October 19, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I didn’t even bother reading his speech but I will say this directly to him:

    You can’t be asking why Igbo boys and girls are denied their own stories when you were very instrumental in the plot to oust the one president who was giving the igbos a place and voice once again in nigeria.
    Not only did you take him out but you replaced him with someone who’s past and present actions continue to capture his disdain for igbos.

    Don’t come making long speeches like you care about the plight of the ordinary igbo man. Go and enjoy the bags of money you were payed for your efforts. Nobody is envious of you. Just don’t be a hypocrite about it.

    • Hmm

      October 19, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      The thing still dey pain you people, you better move on and focus on the way forward
      @ odi

    • mrs chidukane

      October 19, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      I want to honestly ask what Jonathan did for Igbo people and how he gave them a voice? I really need someone to explain it to me please. Don’t tell me I won’t understand and I’m biased. I need an answer please.

  3. nnenne

    October 19, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Again the question is; Why is Nigeria scared of stories being told? Of People like Nnamdi Kalu?
    And we don’t mean single sided stories.
    If Nigeria has, is doing the right thing, then there should not be any reason to shut people down.
    A clear conscience, fears no accusations.

    • Bola

      October 19, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      @nnene, you are a big hypocrite. Nnamdi Kalu on radio Biafra calls for the killing of Yorubas and Hausas/ Fulani, is that the type of story the government is supposed to allow. Insiteful speech like that us how Boko haram started. When Oba said the thing about lagoon you and other Igbos were rightly upset yet you expect other tribes and the government to turn an eye when that man goes on radio calling for the killing of our tribes and his illiterate callers call in and say how many if their Yoruba and Hausa neighbors they will kill! He says Igbos should not patronize Yoruba businesses or go to Yoruba Chuches, is that the story we should be allowing? When other tribes retaliate you will be quick to cry victimization yet you have no problem with someone promoting hate speech against other tribes! You are a big disgrace

    • Nonso

      October 19, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      Nnamdi Kanu has never called for the killing of ANY ethnic group. He tends to speak in disparaging tones about Yorubas and Hausas but if you listen to him regularly you will find that has said even harsher things to igbos! His delivery borders on insults towards Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Africans, Black people but it is his style of jarring listeners to pay attention to what he says.

      He has on occasion even called for the Yoruba and Hausa commoners to fight against their unique injustices. Yes, you read that. He tends to be overly passionate, but there is an edge of reason in what he is trying to do. He has on several occasions politely engaged Yoruba callers on his show.

      I agree that he antagonizes Yoruba and Hausas for historical reasons sometimes (as he does even to Igbos) but calling for Igbos to KILL Yorubas and Hausas? Lies and propaganda as it seems to be order of things these days! His so called insulting words do not even match t vitriol and THREATS meted out on Igbos by the political elite and common man on a daily basis.

      By the length, passion and “propagating” tone in your post I can guess confidently that you are Yoruba. Please, I enjoin you to quit spreading hearsay and actually listen to 2 or more archived broadcasts to get past the irreverence and REALLY UNDERSTAND the main message.

      I’m tired of Igbos being dragged on halftruths when evidence to the contrary is present. That Igbos hardly defend themselves in these media attacks such as their Yoruba counterparts passionately do baffles me. Are Nigerian Igbos that subservient or uneducated as the stereotype entails?

    • nene+

      October 19, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      @Bola seems you are just a talking empty regional drum.

      How many Igbos have supporters splitting since you started jumping all around BN vituperating?

      Do you understand Igbo? Who told you what Nnamdi said? Stop being a big girls blouse ,Buhari does not like you any better.

      As for Chidukane mrs dont worry enjoy the good things buhari is doing for ndi igbo since Jonathan did nothing for them. You hate Ndi Igbo no doubt, May i ask what Buhari has done for you?

  4. Abey

    October 19, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    I have listened to Radio Biafra and it is highly offensive, they even threatened Pastor Kumuyi of Deeper life that he mustn’t come to the East. The man had to host his crusade in the Army Barracks for security ! Many of his callers call in threatening to kill other Nigerians of other tribes. Nnamdi calls Okorocha names like Hausa bastard simply because the man is APC . He calls Buhari pediophile and terrorists , Nigeria a zoo! Threatening that he has weapons to turn Nigeria to Somalia! Abeg Nonso , speak the thruth and let the devil be ashamed. Nnamdi Is a terrorist and I am glad Buhari is nipping it in the bud. This is how Boko haram got out of hand

    • Nonso

      October 19, 2015 at 6:07 pm

      Again, I listen to Radio Biafra regularly and I have NEVER heard Nnamdi Kanu commanding Igbos to Kill Yorubas/Hausas. Neither have I listened in to callers talking about killing Yoruba and Hausa people. Please stop these lies!

      Pastor Kumuyi being barred and threatened from coming to the East, I agree with, and I can say is a little crude, but look past this for a second understand the dynamic between mega churches (owned by mostly Yorubas) and parishioners (championed by Igbos who are predominantly Christian unlike their Yoruba counterparts).

      Tribalism aside, most objective thinkers know that new age, prosperity churches are highly exploitative in terms of money. The tribal angle, ugly as it is, will be the subject of interest in shows like Radio Biafra. Pastor Kumuyi’s planned trip to Abia state was a hot button topic as a result . But guess what? He DID visit the East anyway with no hassle despite this. Says much about how “hateful” igbos are compared to Hausas that have killed others in multitudes and Yorubas who disenfranchise igbos by closing their shops, gang-beating their ezes and so on.

      Rochas is a very special case. His undoing has always be deprecating igbos in the public space. I’m sure Yorubas won’t take kindly to Tinubu if he calls Yorubas divisive, naive, politicallynching inept, and other insulting terms.

  5. Nonso

    October 19, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    And let me add – Nnamdi Kanu isn’t even pro-PDP as implied in one of the comments here. He antagonizes virtually every leader from the East regardless of political affiliation. He has very harsh words for Peter Obi, TA Orji, and the likes and they are PDP. He didn’t even want Easterners to vote at all in th just concluded elections as he has unreserved hatred for Nigerian politics and parties. He is anti-Nigerian and very pro-Biafran even to the detriment of his Igbo lineage (which he castigates as much as Yorubas and Hausas).

  6. yes

    October 19, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Ola ndi Igbo Summit ? Really? We should be channeling one Nigeria and close all bars of tribalism. Chude this is rather disappointing=ting o

  7. Verity

    October 19, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    ……and I repeat, tell your story right or someone else will tell it wrong. Americans tell theirs, they make movies, write books, poems about their wars, they immortalise their heroes and tell tales of the vanquish. Its their history, and they tell it, because they know, that, if they don’t tell it, someone will tell it, and tell it wrong. Teach the history in schools, let the young ones know their roots, let them know who fought and lost. Let us hear it told, repeat it!! Tell the story of how we struggled for our own sovereignty. How we lost, and lost woefully. How we were betrayed. How we were abandoned. How we starved, and were killed by hunger, insects, bombs. How we surrendered. How we still hope. How we still build because we are a nation. Tell Nigeria’s story, so that when someone else tells it wrong, Nigerians will not believe, because we know our story right.

  8. Ndubuisi

    October 19, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Umu igbo bi obodo Oyibo Biko na akuziri umu unu asusu Igbo. Igbo kwenu!

    • Teris

      October 20, 2015 at 8:28 am

      you see you.

  9. Teris

    October 20, 2015 at 9:13 am

    Anyhoo… i did not read the article… looked too long and my tiny screen res is not helping. however, based on the title alone… who is stopping Igbos from telling their tales?
    2. is it a function of the manner/forum of the telling? or is it with respect to having a “functional” “political voice”?
    3. Nollywood has been predominantly driven by actors and movie-makers from the East…may be he shud bark up that particular tree.
    4. Of all the books i read in school/younger, the narratives were mostly based in the East/on “East-ern” characters.

    Where is this (argument-title) stemming from?
    unless perhaps the title, “Why are Igbo Boys & Girls denied their own Stories?” means the keepers-of-lore are denying their young origin-stories.

    • Ovadje

      October 20, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      Perhaps you should read the article first before responding , because sadly you just put an ‘ass’ before ‘u’ and ‘me’.

  10. Yawn

    October 20, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Nigeria can never ever be united as one nation if everyone is calling on all ‘Igbos” and “Yorubas” and “Hausas” and what have you. I think we should stop trying to “tell stories” too because YOU WILL NEVER hear the truth. All you will hear is jaded accounts of what happened and who or what was at fault. Can we learn from our collective past as a nation an move on please? It is long due. For the folks at Red Media, let me say this, I hope at the end of the day you get what you are looking for, courting politicians here and there. The future of this nation has been sold on the platter of trips to exotic locations and keeping up appearances. All you guys are doing is creating a group of elitists to take over from these thieves that parade themselves as our leaders.

  11. Whyallthis

    October 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Honestly I’m tired of all this Igbo this, another tribe that. Can we all be Nigerians please? At least claim where you were born and where contributed the most to make you who you are today so in this case, Lagos. Tired of all this tribalism in my generation

    • Ovadje

      October 20, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      @Whyallthis, please explain exactly how being Igbo (and, only for the record, I am not Igbo) is mutually-exclusive or incompatible with being Nigerian? Or how being Igbo is any less Nigerian than being Welsh or Scottish (or even English) is with being British? Our real problem is not that we are ethnically (or culturally) diverse or different, or that we even occasionally celebrate our different cultures or ethnicity. Rather, it is that people with a mindset like YOURS can only see cleavage and polarisation in the reality that is our diversity – and sadly it is exactly that mindset that leads folks to persecute and even kill those that are culturally and ethnically different.

  12. EDO4Lyfe

    October 20, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    All Igbos know how to do is cry and moan. Why can’t IGBOS tell their fellow Igbos some of these so called “great stories ? Stop acting like Nigeria has to do everything for Igbos. Get off your lazy asses and tell your children yourselves.

    • Ovadje

      October 20, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Read the article and quit being lazy responding to headlines. It’s exactly this sought of laziness that has seen hundreds of our women telling their own stories of staring up at the ceiling from Italy to Eastern Europe (obviously our $75m World Bank “loan” hasn’t trickled down yet), while the “crying and moaning” Ibos are controlling mercantile commerce up and down West Africa!

  13. Idomagirl

    October 21, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    How are Igbo people denied their stories? Igbo people have dominated Nigerian literature and won recognition for decades (nothing wrong with that) and most of these stories are about Igbo characters in Igbo communities.

    Some of us learnt Igbo parables and aspects of Igbo culture and traditions from reading these books, I even learnt how certain Igbo words and phrases were spelt sef (thanks mainly to Prof. Achebe).

    In addition to literature, Nollywood has been dominated by Igbo people also, producers and the marketers who until fairly recently had so much power (remember when certain actors were ‘banned’ by them for a variety of reasons). So many Nollywood movies are written, produced and directed by Igbos – movies like Igodo, Egg of Life etc.

    It was wrong for the censors board to attempt to ban HOAYS and I disagree with people who say we shouldn’t discuss the civil war, but I think saying that Igbos are denied their stories is a bit of an exaggeration.

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