‘You have an Igbo mentality’. The statement seems derogatory to both the speaker and the receiver. Even most Igbo natives don’t want to be told ‘You have an Igbo mentality’ because the term is understood to be derogatory, archaic, not trendy, and not depicting ‘wokeness’. This idiosyncrasy has affected the positive lifestyle of the Igbo person and fuelled the present cultural shift. Stay with me.
After much research and findings, I have come to tell you all that I have the ‘Igbo mentality’. I don’t know about you. In fact, whenever you see me, say it to me and I will dash you a million (na joke ooo). The Igbo culture is something beautiful that every Igbo person should be proud of. I am not saying that a lifestyle should not be amended if it infringes on the right to live. That aside, the Igbo culture in entirety is BEAUTIFUL. Stay with me.
Some time ago, in a discussion with a Westerner, I bluntly told her that aside development and the need to explore, I would always prefer here (Igbo-Nigeria) to there (Foreign Lands), and she couldn’t stop looking at me in disbelief. The crass Western mentality of ‘your life, your business’ is too vapid. It cannot in any way be compared to the Igbo mentality of ‘onye aghala nwanne ya (no one should leave his brother behind)’ and ‘igwe bụ ike (strength in community)’.
I am not in any way condemning any culture but the joy in communal eating, farming together, ‘nwa ịbụ nwa ọha’ that anybody can correct, knowing that you don’t own yourself even after 18 years of age, that ‘enwere ndị nwe gị (you do not own yourself alone)’. That an erring person can be summoned to the ‘ụmụnna (kinsfolk)’ meeting, that the first sons or daughters or the richest person in a family as the case may be is expected to train others yet there is no written law stating this explicitly. It is just the Igbo mentality! Not to mention those who gave up their life pursuits just for their sick parents or siblings or for their younger ones to pursue their career (May God bless them all. They deserve all accolades).
This Igbo mentality does not end amongst family members, it extends to the whole Igbo race where a wealthy person trains another in the trade he excels in ‘ịgba bọị (apprenticeship)’ and after some years of training, he establishes the trainee and makes him independent. It is also the Igbo mentality that makes it seem as though Igbos are in every part of the world because a person who finds a greener pasture, goes to call his brethren for them to also make a living. This unique mentality is not just confined amongst the Igbo, they also extend it to foreigners just as an overflowing river. They go to a foreign land and help them develop their land because they see there as home too and the natives of the land as ‘ụmụnne (brothers/sisters)’. It is a pity that this ‘help’ is misconstrued in present times.
I have read of a 38 years old British lady who died in her apartment of heart failure. She was discovered after two years of her death only when her landlady came for her rent (Read about Joyce Carol Vincent). I still can’t believe it, TWO YEARS?
One night I slept deeply. I couldn’t hear my phone ring (this is unusual). Some friends had already planned on how to pull my door down. How about a friend whom I have a good rapport with? He decided to seclude for a whole month, if not that he picked up his call (after 100 missed calls) to explain, he would have heard his name on the news as a missing person. Nobody has the right to keep another worried just because you want to seclude. Not in the Igbo lifestyle. You must explain to those who need to be informed then you can go ahead with your seclusion. Some would say it’s ‘my life, my space’ but we say, ‘we live for one another’ – ‘onye aghala nwanne ya (no one should leave his brother aside)’.
Nevertheless, no culture is inferior to the other. But you see this Igbo mentality, ‘ejila ya egwusi m egwu (do not joke with me on this)’. Now I ask, do you still dread to hear someone say, “you have an Igbo mentality?” Let me hear your view below.
Lilian Njoku (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer and professional linguist. She is focused on culture, lifestyle and language. She is a Guest Author at De Critic’s blog. DeCritic is a multi-award-winning top copywriting/PR agency in Nigeria and Africa. email@example.com +234 8119832176.