IT IS important to understand the meaning of this phrase to fully grasp the persuasive nature of this call to action, which urges the Igbos to start thinking about bringing their wealth back to their homeland, Alaigbo. The phrase ‘Aku ruo Ulo’ is an Igbo expression that means: “let’s bring our wealth home”.
The initiative underscores succinctly the concept of an Igbo adage that says: ‘Ana esi ulo mara mma puwa na ama’ (Beauty begins from home to outside). The broader meaning is also accentuated by the Gambian proverb which unequivocally says that: “No matter how long a log of wood stays in the pond of water, it can never be like a Crocodile”. The Igbo concept of Aku Ruo Ulo is a strategic thought or direction to Ndigbo to move their energies and wealth to develop Eastern Nigeria.
Over the years, many Igbos have left their region in search of better opportunities in other parts of the country. They settle, invest and conduct their businesses there. The South-East region of Nigeria is facing a major issue of brain drain, as many of its educated youths tend to leave the region and settle in other parts of the country. This deprives the region of the valuable contribution that these young minds could make towards its economic development. In other words, the best and brightest minds of the region end up leaving and settling elsewhere, instead of staying and helping in the development of their region, Alaigbo.
On account of abandoning the region, Igbo investments in other parts of the country are put on average at $2 trillion, according to elder statesman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, who is also the President of Ohaneze Ndigbo. He gave the revelation in January 2021 when the leadership of the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, conferred on him the award as its grand patron in Owerri, the Imo State capital. Similarly, writing from Lagos in an article titled: “The Igbos have more at stake in Nigeria”, Clement Udegbe, a lawyer, (published in Vanguard on August 13, 2013), affirmed the enormity of the investment worth of the Igbos in Nigeria. “My unaided estimates, for want of verifiable statistics, show that in Lagos, Igbo investment is not less than N300 trillion; it is double in Abuja at about N600 trillion. In Kano and Kaduna, Igbo investments run up to N10 trillion respectively; while in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states, Igbo investments run into N5 trillion respectively. In Plateau State, Igbo investment is hovering over N15 trillion! I can confidently add that there is no state in Nigeria where Igbo investments in business do not exceed N5 billion,” he stated.
In 2007, the then Minister for FCT, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai declared that “Igbos have acquired about 73 percent of landed property in Abuja”. He was addressing a gathering of South-East elected officials.
Subscribing to the Aku Ruo Olu philosophy, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa bemoaned the situation where Ndigbo largely abandoned homes for foreign lands. “And everywhere we go, we settle down, build our businesses, grow our families, build houses, and begin to develop those areas. Yet, every so often, the people we have helped to develop their areas turn around to threaten us. In many cases, our lives and assets are assaulted and destroyed. It is true that perhaps learning from our experiences during the Civil War, many of us have built houses at home. But most of the houses are only guest houses visited once or twice a year. The entire South-East Nigeria is ravaged by poverty, essentially because of low investment in the region”.
The call for the Aku Ruo Ulo initiative was fuelled by various factors, including the threat made by the Oba of Lagos to throw the Igbo people into the Atlantic Ocean during the 2015 elections, as well as the subsequent notices from the Arewa Youths to the Igbos to leave the North. These incidents have been seen as wake-up calls by Lawrence Okwuosa and his team, who documented them in their expose titled: “The Post-War Era in Nigeria and the Resilience of Igbo Communal System”.
The obvious discrimination against the Igbo by Buhari’s regime added impetus to the need for Ndigbo to begin to think HOME and Invest Home. The recent burning of markets in Lagos, which destroyed millions of goods belonging to the Igbos, along with the alleged biased demolition of Igbo-owned properties by the Lagos State Government, has led to an increase in calls for Igbos to stop investing in other regions of the country and instead focus on the South-East region.
Even beyond the borders of Nigeria, the same message is being sent. No thanks to the Xenophobia attacks on Nigerians, in South Africa, where those affected were Ndigbo amongst other Nigerian groups. Again, there are rampant cases of flagrant negative profiling of Ndigbo at every given space in some parts of the country. Fresh in the mind is the political persecution of Ndigbo in the same Lagos due to their choice of candidates in the 2023 February and March general elections.
While investing outside one’s land is not a human crime, it is however an act of irresponsibility for one to develop other areas of their abode, this time, other parts of the country of Nigeria, and abandon one’s region. One of the obvious implications of this sad reality is that the region continues producing a population under a destitute economic environment that compels the youths of the land to migrate to other areas, including abroad in search of greener pastures. Nigerians from other regions are not attracted to reside in Igbo land and invest in its economy because of the obvious lack in economic attractions.
However, certain challenges need to be addressed to successfully give the Aku Ruo Ulo philosophy the wings to fly. These challenges include issues of political will, lack of effective leadership, and the proliferation of arms and ammunition across the South-East geo-political zone.
In evaluating the state of affairs in the South-East, with regards to the festering security challenges, keen watchers of the unfolding political developments in the region say that the Aku Ruo Ulo initiative cannot thrive under the ferocious festering security challenges prevailing and pervading the entires South-East. For the initiative to get its hands on the ball, an atmosphere of peace must be achieved. Not to do so is “like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice”
Story by, CHARLES OZOEMENA,
Report by, Chibuike Ezekwesili
News Editor: Okuh Clement Ikeme
Published by, Odoh Ngozi