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Trends of Migrant Political Organization in Nigeria

Eghosa E. Osaghae

III. Development and patterns of IGBO associational ethnicity in Kano

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1The number of Igbo in Kano was estimated at 2.5 million by the end of 1993, making it the preponderant migrant ethnic group in the state. Although this has not always been so, as we saw in the last chapter, they have remained the dominant migrant group since overtaking the Yoruba who previously had that status in the mid-1940s. The peak period of initial Igbo expansion was the mid-1960s, although during the same period the Igbo suffered a temporary setback as a result of the national crisis which led to a civil war. The crisis has been described as a watershed in the pattern of migrations to northern cities, serving to differentiate established patterns under colonial rule from those of the post colonial period (Udo, 1983).

  • 1 For example, posters were displayed which showed a victorious Igbo soldier sitting atop a conquere (...)

2As is well known, the Igbo were at the centre of the crisis, since the coup of January 15th 1966 which overthrew the First Republic was seen as an attempt by the Igbo-led Eastern region to capture federal power and dominate the federation. This view was particularly rife in the north which had dominated federal power until then, and whose top officers in the army were killed in the coup (Dudley, 1973). Events under General Aguiyi-Ironsi, an Igbo, who became Head of State following the coup, seemed to confirm the fears and suspicions of Igbo ascendancy. Matters were not helped by the behaviour of some Igbo resident in the north which suggested that, at last, they had ‘conquered’ the Hausa/Fulani.1 The crisis reached a head in May 1966 when Ironsi promulgated decree 34 which, to all intents and purposes, abrogated the country’s federal system and, in its place, established a unitary system. As far as most northerners were concerned, this would open the way for southern domination, which had been feared all along and which the federal solution was meant to prevent. The reaction was, therefore, spontaneous. Mobilized by the educated elite in Ahmadu Bello University, other higher institutions in the north, and the civil service, riots took place in northern cities in which several hundreds of Igbo were massacred. Then, in July 1966, another coup which Dudley (1973) argues was actually a mutiny, took place and this somewhat restored northern control of the Federal Government with Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon, from the northern minority Angas, becoming Head of State. This counter-coup had vengeance as its overriding motive and propelled another round of Igbo massacres in the north which did not stop until the civil war erupted in 1967. That war had the Igbo-Easterners and Hausa/Fulani/other regions as the main antagonists.

3Several Igbo were killed in Kano in the pogrom which preceded the war, and those who survived fled to the Eastern Region to join the Biafran secessionist movement. Though the civil war adversely affected Igbo settlers in Kano, the brotherly manner in which hostilities were brought to an end facilitated their early return to and rehabilitation in Kano. The present Eze Igbo was one of the earliest Igbo to resettle in Kano after the war, and he records that many Hausa were quite sympathetic towards the Biafran cause, and gladly welcomed them back to Kano, even helping to resettle them in many cases. Since the war, the Igbo have returned with even greater vigour to the point where they have, once again become the dominant migrant group in Kano State. In this chapter, we examine the hows and whys of Igbo migration to Kano, the evolution and development of associational ethnicity, who the Igbo of reference really are, etc., as a necessary first step to considering the emergence of the migrant ethnic empire association in the next chapter.


  • 2 Following incessant riots in northern cities which claimed several Igbo lives and destroyed much p (...)

4It is not known when exactly the first Igbo migrants arrived in Kano, or who they were. What is known is that, like other southern groups, the migration of the Igbo to Kano began as colonial migration and later transformed into urbanization migration, to borrow Green’s (1974) perceptive classification. In other words, there were no Igbo migrants in pre-colonial Kano. It was the completion of the railway line in 1911 and, afterwards, the development of north-south road networks that opened up Kano and the north within the context of an emergent Nigerian state. The Nigerian state context of this migration should be emphasized because it influenced the pattern of Igbo relations with the host Kano community as well as with people from other southern and northern groups in Kano. To put it more specifically, it will be found that most of the conflicts between Hausas/Muslims and Igbo (and other non-Muslim migrants) in Kano had their origins in national rather than local politics. For example, the 1953 riot was the consequence of disagreement over the date for self-government between northern and southern leaders. Similarly, the massacres of the Igbo in 1966 were not due to any problem within Kano itself. In general, the resentment of southern domination as well as the containment of the spread of Christianity have continued to condition inter-group relations. The other point that needs emphasis is that the vigour with which the natives of Kano engaged in commercial activities made it attractive for migrants who were also interested in commerce — traders, self-employed artisans, businessmen and other categories of merchants. This explains why the bulk of Igbo and other southern migrants have been private sector employees and entrepreneurs at various levels. The vast majority of the Igbo in Kano have, since the 1970s been in the spare parts trade, a trade which the Igbo virtually monopolize in most parts of the country.2 A significant number of the Igbo have, however, been employed in the federal civil service and other government agencies, e.g., the Railways, Posts and Telegraph Department, banks and federal agencies and only a few are employed in the Kano State government service.

5As is consistent with the historical practice of settling strangers in separate quarters, which led to the establishment of Sabon Gari as the abode of southern Nigeria migrants in 1911, Igbo migrants have been concentrated in Sabon Gari in Kano since the arrival of the first migrants. Their preponderance in Sabon Gari has made some of them describe the quarter as an ‘Igbo state’ within Kano State. However not all the Igbo in Kano city reside in Sabon Gari. Today, population pressure and high rents have forced those of lesser means to areas like Brigade, Maitara, Rigele-Meru and even localities outside the city. On the other hand, affluent Igbo who consider Sabon Gari too much of a slum, reside in low density areas like Bompai, Nassarawa, Naibawa and Gyedi Gyedi. The current Eze, Q. T. Nnadi, lives in Gyedi Gyedi. In spite of those living in these other areas, roughly 85 per cent of the Igbo in Kano live in Sabon Gari, which has come to be regarded as ‘home away from home’.

  • 3 The Ikwerre, an Igbo speaking group in Rivers State are, however, said to have discarded their Igb (...)

6Who are the Igbo of reference in this study? This question is necessary because, in the urban context, fluid and all-inclusive ethnic categories develop which may or may not have much in common with the narrower primordial identities. In fact, large group identities like the Igbo and Yoruba developed within the context of urban situations, which has brought together people from sometimes disparate but related groups. The Igbo are the dominant group of the former Eastern Region who, today, are to be found mainly in four states: Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Imo. Although there are other Igbo groups in Rivers State (this includes the Ikwerre)3 and Delta State where the old Western Igbo are now located, the ‘east’ is regarded as the Igbo homeland. To a large extent, the Igbo ethnic group, like the Yoruba, is a 20th century creation which emerged within the context of the Nigerian state, and was enabled by the regionalization of the country’s politics (cf. Dike, 1956:5-7; Coleman, 1958:333-340). As it were, although a distinct Igbo identity emerged in the 1920s, helped in part by the missionaries and the Igbo State Union which was in the vanguard of the process of getting it together, the domination of the Eastern Region by the Igbo reinforced the desire to keep a united Igbo ethnic group as the only way of sustaining the political advantage of domination.

7Prior to the advent of colonial rule, what is now the Igbo ethnic group was a collection of various groups with different myths of common origin which, given the prevalent norm of non-centralized political organization, were largely autonomous. There is a history of inter-group conflicts and conquests, notably conquests by the Arochukwu group, but these never reached the scale of the internecine Yoruba wars of the 19th century (cf. Afigbo, 1981). All the Igbo sub-groups, however, shared some things in common which, in the 20th century, became the grounds for mobilizing an Igbo group into existence (Uchendu, 1966). First, they all spoke dialects of essentially the same language. Christian missionaries and Igbo linguists worked hard to standardize and produce a common Igbo language which, today is the most important characteristic used in identifying the group. As the President of the Igbo Community Association in Kano puts it, language is the major criterion for Igbo identity and affiliation. Second, the sub-groups occupied contiguous territory, and with the exception of the western Igbo, who were cut off from the others by the River Niger, they all lived in the former Eastern Region. This made it easier to mobilize a sense of common destiny. Third, the groups had common cultural practices and socio-political organization. The clan or village was the primary unit of communal organization, and the responsibility of every man to his kin and community was emphasized. Festivals like the new yam festival, marriage customs and religious practices were also commonly shared. Finally, colonial rule engendered a generalized Igbo culture and identity built around ‘warrant chiefs’, and provided the nation-state framework within which the Igbo group became sharply differentiated from others.

Taking these antecedents into account:
It would be a mistake to think that the Igbo are a strictly homogeneous unit. Though, indeed, they speak a common language and occupy a contiguous territory, there are marked dialectical and cultural variations between their subdivisions (Ezera, 1957: 15; also Ejiofor, 1981).

8The reality of Igbo identity has continued to oscillate between the clan/village and pan-Igbo group, though the creation of ‘Igbo states’ has made for a mid-way categorization. Igbo associational ethnicity in Kano and elsewhere, reflects these sub-group and macro-group realities. As indicated in chapter 1, the anthropological theory of segmentary opposition provides an appropriate framework for analyzing intra-group and inter-group relations as parts of the same process. The theory postulates that, depending on the level of conflict and issues at stake, sub-groups can be in conflict with each other or in union against other groups. Thus, although it is the macro Igbo group that is of relevance to this study, the theory of segmentary opposition tells us that ethnic relations are a variable that, of necessity, includes considerations of sub-group relations.

9By its very nature, as earlier indicated, the all-inclusive ethnic group-as-a-whole identity is most relevant and is found in urban centres. This is usually because urban migrants do not find that they are in sufficient numbers to sustain sub-group ethnicity or, even where the numbers are sufficient, aggregate ethnicity is found to be much more effective in bringing about desired goals. As much as possible, ethnic groups in towns try to speak with ‘one voice’. It is the effort to have one voice that has pushed Igbo associational ethnicity in Kano to the point of establishing a migrant empire. Group-level ethnicity in urban centres is mobilized and sustained by all-inclusive ethnic associations, which bring together people from the various sub-groups who may, in fact, organize other more particularistic associations.

  • 4 In other words, the fact that they are currently inactive is not sufficient reason to explain

10Along these lines, the Igbo in Kano have first and foremost, the pan-Igbo identity in addition to their sub-group identities. Their interactions with other migrant groups in Sabon Gari, as well as with the host Hausa community, have strengthened the pan-Igbo identity which is nurtured and sustained by a complex organization. In terms of the ethnic home area, the Kano Igbo organization is largely that of the Igbo from the four Igbo states of Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Imo. The Western Igbo and Ikwerre have not featured significantly in this organization, which may be a consequence of their low numbers, but also because these groups are not defined as part of the Igbo of reference in the Igbo Community Association Constitution (ICA). This constitution restricts membership to the Igbo from the four states. Nevertheless, one Western Igbo leader is a member of the Eze Igbo’s Cabinet, and the ICA Secretary regards Western Igbo insignificance as a result of their dormant articulation, which is equally true of some other inactive sub-groups.4 Essentially, therefore, the Igbo in Kano are a ‘new’ group whose existence is determined by the circumstances in which the migrants find themselves in Kano. According to the current Eze Igbo, the Kano Igbo are more united than those in the south; ‘We accept aspects of Igbo culture that are good and discard those that are bad. We are recreating what you might call “the new conservation”’. Given the variety of Igbo (sub) cultures, an attempt has been made to blend them. Individual town unions get together, for example, to organize state cultural days like Anambra day and Imo day. The ICA once set up a committee to work on blending the cultures in an effort to establish a basis for Igbo unity in Kano. The ICA has actually worked hard at this unifying process, and it is to this consideration that we now turn.


11The Igbo have a long history of associational ethnicity. In fact, the Igbo Sate Union which was formed in 1923 was the second major ethnic union in Nigeria. That Union was based in Lagos, and had branches all over the country, including Kano, having been fully established there in the 1940s. Like other southern migrants, the Igbo in Kano maintained close links with ‘home’, where they took wives, built houses, and continued to partake in major customary practices, including festivals. In essence, they regarded Kano as a temporary abode, notwithstanding that, by the 1960s, some of them were second-generation migrants, born and bred in Kano. A commissioned study on the long-term development of Kano observed that the Igbo ‘appear to feel as strangers in Kano despite the duration of their stay’ (Trevallion, 1966). The slant of associational ethnicity amongst Igbo migrants reflected these realities for a long time.

12The ethnic unions were formed primarily to meet the welfare needs of members and to make the adaptation of new migrants easier. Nzimiro (1965) has described the central union as a classic example of a welfare association, as each member was encouraged to assist unemployed ones in securing jobs. In fact, unemployed members were entitled to a monthly subsistence allowance of seven shillings and six pence until they were fully rehabilitated or returned home. The various town clans, as well as the central union (called Igbo Community Association from 1964) also supported members in times of need — during funeral and marriage ceremonies, for example and provided soft loans for members who were in financial distress. From time to time, the unions organized cultural activities whose objective was to ensure that migrants did not lose their cultural identity. The most progressive welfare functions of the central union were the establishment of Igbo primary and secondary schools in Sabon Gari and a scholarship scheme. The establishment of schools was necessitated by the fact that there were too few schools to admit the large number of Igbo children.

13The ethnic unions were also involved in developing their home towns. Town halls, schools, post offices, scholarship schemes and other projects were executed at home, and a few of them, like the Nnewi Town Union, built town halls in Sabon Gari. At the level of the all-inclusive ICA, the home town of reference was blurred and development efforts were directed at the Eastern Igbo areas as a whole. This point demonstrates that the Igbo group and identity in Kano were emergent structures which are best described in terms of a melting pot which none the less did not destroy the sub-group identities. The emergent identity was particularly useful for political purposes. The ICA was closely affiliated with the NCNC which, from highly nationalistic foundations became an Igbo-dominated regional party in the 1950s. The ICA, as the voice of the Igbo in Kano made demands on the Kano authorities, and joined other non-indigenous ethnic and interest associations to make collective demands on matters which affected the Sabon Gari community as a whole. In November 1944, for example, leaders of 10 ethnic groups, workers’ and landlords associations jointly petitioned the Senior Resident over the demolition of houses which were declared ‘illegal’ structures.

14In structural or organizational terms, the ICA was and remains a federation of numerous town, clan and village unions. The basis of organization differed from group to group, and often depended on how many migrants there were from the clan, village, or town. Where the numbers were sufficient, it was normal to have clan, village and town associations, with roughly the same members. For example, an Igbo leader interviewed by this author belonged to the Unhunhun Clan Association, the Okaika village Association and the Umuahia Town Union. These sub-groups were then federated, by affiliation as it were, to form the ICA. The main point of distinction was in the manner of membership. Whereas there was direct individual membership of town and village unions, membership of ICA was indirect, as these unions sent representatives to it.

15As was stated at the beginning of this chapter, the civil war marked a watershed in the experience of Igbo migrants in Kano. In the immediate post-war period, Igbo returnees and fresh migrants attached great importance to associational ethnicity at every level, though, understandably, the emphasis was on central organization. It was in these circumstances that the ICA was reorganized by Barrister L.L. Ezetta and a few others.


16The ICA is the central body of Igbo unions in Kano. Every town union is affiliated to it and, in fact, the ICA depends on the town unions for its finances. This could suggest that the constituent unions are somewhat stronger than the central authority which, in theory, cannot function outside the financial and administrative limits set by the units. But in practice, the ICA is stronger than the constituent unions, some of which now depend on occasional grants-in-aid from the association. The strengthening of the ICA and its increased pre­eminence over all town unions can be attributed to the acknowledgement of the benefits of having one Igbo ‘voice’ rather than several, and to the need to approximate the levels of organization of other migrant associational groups in Kano. There is, for example, the Yoruba community association which comprises 54 town unions. These same factors are important in explaining the emergence of the Eze Igbo. At the present time, there are about 160 town unions which make up the ICA, though not all of them are active. Each town union is represented by two members, usually the chairman and secretary, and pays an annual due, in addition to special levies and contributions for specific projects. Although membership of the ICA is not compulsory for town unions, virtually all Igbo town unions belong to it. For purposes of elections and decision making, however, only paid-up financial members are regarded as members. In the absence of sanctions, the ICA executive committee relies on persuasion to get town unions to belong and pay up dues. In every other respect, the town unions continue to operate autonomously without interference from the ICA, except in the event of serious intra-group and inter-group conflicts that need mediation. Finally, although membership of the ICA is indirect for most Igbo, as pointed out earlier on, they participate actively in its activities and its effective mediatory and representational functions, in particular, have made it relevant and important to every Igbo man in Kano.

17Because of the diversity of interests amongst the 160 member unions of the ICA and differentiation on the basis of states, one would expect friction and conflict in the determination of what constitutes Igbo interests or, even conflict between the ICA and member town unions. Such conflicts have been remarkably few, partly because the ICA operates as an autonomous body within the limits specified by its constitution. At the behavioural level, this makes it possible for its individual members to see themselves as Igbo leaders in general, rather than town union representatives, though care is taken to make the ICA executive and the Eze’s cabinet (see next chapter) reflective of the diversity of member unions. Conflicts do, however, occur from time to time amongst town unions and within them. When these are dealt with by the ICA, the emphasis is on furthering solidarity rather than punishing the guilty. All this is not to suggest that the ICA has always found it easy to mobilize the Igbo around common interests, or even to determine what these interests are. But, within the context of dealing with people from other groups and projecting an Igbo image and identity in Kano, conflicts are virtually unknown. This situation has also been helped by the evolution of the Eze Igbo which can be seen as the completion of the process of centralizing Igbo interests in Kano.

18The functions of the ICA centre around the welfare of the Igbo in Kano. While the town unions deal with narrower needs of members and are more concerned with maintaining links with the home town, the ICA takes Kano and, in many respects, Sabon Gari, specifically as its area of development. On invitation, however, the ICA contributes to development projects in the Igbo states at all levels — state, local government, town, village, etc. It contributed to the Imo Airport Project and the Anambra State Educational Foundation. It has equally contributed to development projects in Kano State as it did in 1991 when it contributed N100,000 to the Kano State Foundation. The activities of the ICA are Sabon Gari-centred, and the reasons for this have been given thus:

We regard Sabon Gari as a state in a state. It is utterly neglected as evidenced by bad roads, lack of potable water, uncleared refuse, and erratic power supply, though we pay tax. We want to use our own money to develop the place and not wait any longer for government. We stay here in Sabon Gari for the greater part of our lives — many of us stay here for 11 months in the year, and spend only 2 or 3 weeks at home during Christmas time.

19The development of Sabon Gari is, however, based largely on expressions of hope rather than reality because up until the end of 1993 when this author conducted his research no concrete plans had been made to improve the area. It is also doubtful whether the Igbo can unilaterally take over the development of Sabon Gari, particularly as there are an equally large number of Yoruba, Edo, Urhobo, and others who like the Igbo, have come to regard Sabon Gari as home.

20The non-indigenes consultative committee which was formed by the migrant groups in Sabon Gari (and is, in a sense, a continuation of the practice in the 1930s and 1940s of having Sabon Gari-wide associations which resulted in the institution of the Seriki of Sabon Gari) provides a platform from which the Igbo can involve the other groups. At present, the activities of this committee are focused on protecting the lives and property of non-indigenes. Indeed, the committee, which comprises representatives of the central ethnic associations, was formed in the wake of incessant riots of a religious character which usually took the form of Kano/Hausa/Muslim attacks on Sabon Gari/non-indigenes/Christians, often based on the assumption that every southerner, especially Igbo, is Christian.

21These riots began in 1980 and 1982 with the Maitatsine riots whose origins and character show them to be a consequence of Muslim inter-sect conflicts mixed with political party conflicts (Tamuno, 1991:173-184, Nigeria, 1981).

22The religious crises of the 1980s which swept across major northern cities was the consequence of worsening Muslim-Christian relations in the country. This was intensely politicized following Nigeria’s reported membership of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in January 1986. Christians, led by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) saw this reported membership as an attempt to abrogate the country’s secularity and make it an Islamic state. They protested in various ways, including writing petitions to government and holding public demonstrations in towns like Kaduna. The OIC affair sharpened Muslim-Christian divisions, especially in the north which is the bastion of Islam in Nigeria. As a consequence, riots and crises which arose easily assumed a religious character and in the north, these took the form of Muslim attacks on Christians (for example, the Kaduna and Zaria riots of 1987 in which churches and property of southerners and Christians were burnt and vandalized and many lives were lost).

23After a period of relative calm in Kano, following the turbulence of the 1980s, there was a Hausa/Muslim attack on Sabon Gari in 1991. This time, it was a spontaneous protest against a planned crusade organized by Christians (under the auspices of CAN, Kano branch) tagged ‘Kano for Christ’, and which was to be conducted by the German evangelist Reinhard Bonke. Petrol stations, churches and houses in Sabon Gari were either burned or destroyed, and over 500 people were estimated to have lost their lives (Newswatch, 28 October, 1991). Many southerners, middle-belt indigenes and especially northerners from southern Zaria fled from Kano, and some of them left permanently. According to a news report, an average of 10 trailers, loaded with people and property, left Kano daily (African Concord, 25 November, 1991). The 1991 riot was very significant in one respect, which is of utmost relevance to this study. Unlike previous riots in Kano, in which the Igbo had been the main target and had suffered the heaviest casualties of all Sabon Gari residents; this time it was mainly the Yoruba and middle-belt northerners, and also groups like Etsako (Edo), who had all along enjoyed a somewhat closer association with the host Kano community, who suffered the major casualties. In fact, Igbo leaders claim that no single Igbo life was lost.

24Another significant aspect of the riot was the fact that the killing and destruction of property took place outside Sabon Gari, in areas like Brigade and Ungwar Rimi which, in any case, had very few Igbo residents. Part of what saved Sabon Gari, as it were, was that the Igbo organized a ‘resistance movement’ to protect lives and property there after an initial attack had been made on France Road. Even so, the rioters are reported to have made it clear that the Igbo were not the object of their attack. It is not exactly clear why there was this sudden change of heart towards the Igbo. One plausible reason, which most Sabon Gari dwellers agree with, is that the rioters saw that the Igbo were well armed and prepared to resist any form of attack. In fact, it is known that many of the rioters were either killed or wounded when the initial attack on France Road was repelled.

25Another possible reason lies in the fact that the Igbo in Kano and most other northern cities have become ‘indispensable’ settlers, as they either control or monopolize important areas of the informal economy, like automobile spare parts trade and pharmaceuticals. The appreciation of their economic importance may have moderated the instincts of the riot leaders. This reason is also important in explaining the unwillingness of Igbo settlers in Kano to leave the city at the slightest threat, as had been the case in the past. For most of them, their huge investments in the city make it unlikely that they would flee Kano because of ‘ordinary’ riots: ‘we have invested too much money here. There is no way we cannot regard Kano as our home’.

26Thus, in 1991, while many other southern settlers, particularly the Yoruba and Etsako fled, the Igbo remained, and became the rallying point for the formation of the non-indigenes consultative committee, whose first chairman was L.L. Ezeatta, a prominent Igbo lawyer and leader. Although the activities of the consultative committee continue to revolve round protecting the lives and property of non-indigenes in Sabon Gari, they have been extended to include dealing with the neglect of Sabon Gari and promoting healthy living among the non-indigenes. The committee was also very useful in the aftermath of the annulment of the June 12 presidential election in 1993, when non-indigenes in most parts of the country, fearing a possible outbreak of civil war, fled to their home states. The Kano State government used the committee as well as the central ethnic associations to appeal to non-indigenes not to flee.

27All told, the ICA provides the institutional basis for the measure of security which the Igbo have enjoyed during periods of crisis in Kano. But even in normal times, according to the secretary of the ICA, the association has given every Igbo man his ‘rightful’ place in the city. In matters of loss of property and life during riots, concerted action against attacks, and demands for compensation, the ICA has been a rallying point for constitutive Igbo interests. In representing and furthering these interests, the association has served as the link between the Igbo community, the emirate council, and local and state governments, depending on the level at which an issue arises.

28Another area in which the ICA has functioned well is that of mediating in conflicts amongst the Igbo at individual and town union levels, and between them and people from other ethnic groups. As a rule, however, disputes of a criminal nature are left to the police and security agencies, while those related to culture and tradition, or which seem to be too difficult for the ICA are referred to the Eze and his cabinet. The cabinets of the ICA and Eze Igbo do, in fact, have legal sub-committees which deal with these matters. The level of adjudication has not, however, reached that of the Yoruba community Oba, to whom matters of Yoruba custom, especially matrimonial ones, have been referred by area and magistrate courts. As pointed out earlier and, as is consistent with the philosophy of justice in African political thought, adjudication aims at strengthening Igbo solidarity rather than punishing the guilty. The wide acceptance of the authority of the ICA and Eze Igbo-in-council by most Igbo, notwithstanding class, gender or religion, has greatly enhanced these mediatory functions.

29In terms of serving welfare needs, the ICA complements the role of the town unions. It contributes to funeral, marriage and other major ceremonies involving the Igbo and, in fact, has a special fund for such purposes, though only members who are financially up to date in their town unions may enjoy such privileges. Depending on the level of involvement in, and contributions to Igbo activities in general, a member who dies may have the education of his children and other responsibilities taken over. In recognition of the importance of education for the children, the ICA plans to institute a scholarship scheme, as well as build primary and secondary schools as was done before the civil war. To strengthen the welfare functions of the ICA, the Eze-Igbo-in-council and the ICA executive set up a 13-member sub-committee called Igbo Community Development and Welfare Committee in 1993. This committee which is headed by Chief Larry Nweke, a member of the Eze’s cabinet, is charged with, amongst others, drawing up the broad framework and strategies for the welfare of the Igbo in Kano, attending to their security and protection, providing legal services where necessary and identifying development projects and the ways in which funds can be raised to execute them. This committee played a crucial role in persuading the Igbo not to flee Kano in the aftermath of the annulment of the June 12 election. The committee reached the people through their town unions, and organized rallies which were fully supported by the state government which provided vehicles and public address systems. It even contemplated imposing fines on anyone who fled, to dissuade them from doing so, but as we have already said, more and more Igbo have decided, partly for economic reasons, to make Kano a home from which they are not likely to be scared away easily. It is this settlement orientation, as opposed to the temporary sojourner orientation, that encouraged the creation of a migrant ethnic empire as will be discussed in the next chapter.


1 For example, posters were displayed which showed a victorious Igbo soldier sitting atop a conquered and fallen Sarduana of Sokoto.

2 Following incessant riots in northern cities which claimed several Igbo lives and destroyed much property in the 1980s and early 1990s. This monopoly of the spare parts industry was used as a bargaining tool to negotiate and encourage them to stay. This was only after many of them had fled to the east and refused to return, a situation which seriously threatened the economic life of the northern cities.

3 The Ikwerre, an Igbo speaking group in Rivers State are, however, said to have discarded their Igbo identity following discrimination against them by the mainstream Igbo during the civil war. Since the war ended, however, it is becoming fashionable once again for the Ikwerre to identify themselves with the Igbo.

4 In other words, the fact that they are currently inactive is not sufficient reason to explain

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1994

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