Several years back, the Lagos-based Volkswagen vehicle assembly outfit noticed with considerable apprehension that its gigantic in men and machinery as well as dominant leadership position in the low-end car market in Nigeria were being significantly imperilled by the burgeoning demand for the Kaduna-based Peugeot automotive assembly plant’s Peugeot 504 saloon car.
Volkswagen didn’t push back with a price cut as many had expected given that the Beetle’s target market is highly price-sensitive. The car assembler knew only too well the possible traps attendant with such a pricing-cutting strategy. While a lower price may buy market share, for instance, it hardly buys brand loyalty as customers would easily shift to Peugeot 504 should its price be cut lower than the Beetle’s.
Besides, there’s the more worrying probability of Peugeot having longer staying power by virtue of having deeper cash reserves, should a pricing war ensue.
So, what did Volkswagen decide to do? It surmised that it was cheaper to maintain the existing price and raise perceived quality by remodelling the Beetle into a very fashionable and elegant brand! In effect, Volks was willing to suffer a partial diminution in its market share and profitability in the near-term, while expecting long-term increase in profitability when just a small rise in car sales would generate a more-than proportionate increase in the bottom line.
To further add bite to its profit-maximisation objective, Volks ramped up the advertising budget to scale up the customer value hierarchy from the core product level to the augmented level, using a classical television storyline that lauded the longer staying power of its brand: “(All the infrastructural and climatic challenges notwithstanding) there’s no killing the Beetle!”
But this essay isn’t a lecture on product marketing strategies. It’s just that as I sat down this morning (Wednesday) to write my weekly piece, I read a bombshell report on a social media news portal of the General Overseer of the Auchi-based Omega Fire Ministry, Apostle Johnson Suleman, speaking ill of “the Shameless Igbos” during last Sunday’s service. As a muted cry of “O Lord, not again!” slipped out of my mouth, the imagery of Volk’s iconic TV ad sprung into my consciousness.
Like the Beetle car, like Ndigbo! At the end of the civil war, physically, psychologically and economically stressed-out war-stricken members of the Igbo ethnic nationality were desperately seeking consolation and succour after sacrificing so much in their abortive struggle for self-rule. The victorious Nigerian side ventilated the big lies of “the 3Rs” (Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reintegration) and the clichéd slogan of “No Victor, No Vanquished!”
But what ‘rehabilitation’ could there be in a financially-stifling policy to give 20 Nigerian Pounds to every ‘Biafran’ adult with verifiable evidence of having operated an account with a Nigerian bank prior to the onset of the war, notwithstanding the amounts that were in those accounts? The official reason given for the obviously punitive measure was that the deadline for the conversion of old notes to new Nigerian currencies had elapsed. For crying out loud, how could the affected parties have beaten the deadline when they were still holed up in war-torn Biafra!
But the real reason for the the malicious currency policy was unveiled when less than two years later, a vast majority of the federal government’s investments in all sectors were sold off at give-away prices under the guise of an Indigenisation Policy, as dispossessed and impoverished Ndigbo watched the other ethnic nationalities greedily gobble up our collective patrimony.
What ‘reconstruction’ could there be when communities, markets, healthcare facilities, schools and transport infrastructures devastated by instruments of war were entirely left to the ‘losers’ to rebuild through communal levies and self-help projects?
As for ‘reintegration,’ Ndigbo accomplished that strictly through self-help as – born with a knack for business and commerce – necessity was thrust on us to take the bull by the horns and migrate nationwide. As it is said, “If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed it is who must’ve to go to the mountain!”
But more was to come. As new states were being carved out from time to time – ostensibly to take governance closer to the grass roots – the South-East became the only geopolitical zone with just five states. Considering the major bases for sharing federally-collected revenues and filling appointive and elective positions, it is understandable why Ndigbo have been groaning under the weight of brazen travesty of justice and man’s inhumanity to man.
“It is only at the tree loaded with fruit,” posits a French proverb, “that the people throw stones.” So, rather than become paranoid or develop a persecution complex, we must remain ever more stoic and continue to absorb the stones and sticks hurled at us as they simply constitute the price that must be paid; it is only a tree that has nothing to offer that is completely ignored by all and sundry.
The undue attention that Nigerians unabatedly pay to Ndigbo – even if mostly unkind – is proof that we are reliable dispensers and dispersers of beneficial dividends that we ourselves may simply take for granted or be blissfully unconscious of. “Some folks rail against other folks,” averred 18th century English novelist Henry Fielding, “because other folks have what some folks would be glad of.”
That’s why I seize every opportunity available to me to counsel Igbo youths to stop destroying the few hard-to-replace infrastructures in the South-East. They must stop – or be made to stop – endangering the livelihoods and welfare of their kith and kin through incessant lock-downs as well as put an immediate end to Igbo-on-Igbo killings, more so when such acts are undertaken in the name of “fighting for liberation and Biafra.”
What I never ever imagined – and which I find very baffling – is that ministers of the Gospel are now trying to outdo one another in the carnal and demonic act of turning one or more tribes against a fellow Nigerian tribe! But on second thoughts, I ought not to be too surprised. In my piece of February 16 titled “The Rev. Fr. James Anelu Still In All Of Us,” I had written, inter alia: “As a matter of fact, there are many family-owned Christian denominations where non-indigenous nationalities – particularly Ndigbo – constitute a significant proportion of the membership and major revenue source. But the founders/General Overseers are too street-smart to be caught on camera committing such an embarrassing socially impolite and reprehensible faux pas like Anelu’s.”
Guess what? Our “men of God” subsequently decided to call my bluff by slithering like worms out of rotting wood works! Since Rev. Fr. Anelu, the dance of the macabre is being monopolised by self-righteous apostles of the Pentecostal genre, with not less than four of them – and still counting – taking their turns in ghoulish Igbo-bashing. And here’s why the trend constitutes a clear and present danger to the unity and survival of this nation: Given their solid corporate governance structure, the leadership of establishment denominations can move very quickly to preemptively identify and douse a potentional inferno, as the Catholic Church exemplarily did in the case of Rev. Fr. Anelu.
But who within the system have the temerity and ‘animal boldness’ to tell the imperial emperors of family-owned mega-churches that they are dancing naked in the market square? Hence their capacity and willingness to plant the seeds of internecine discord and fan raging flames of cataclysmic annihilation is limitless, more so when a vast majority of them are fully persuaded that it is a sign of weakness and carnal-mindedness to utter those four precious words of “I am TRULY sorry!”
I fully believe that it isn’t a mere coincidence that these clerics are talking this way now that increasing numbers of Nigerians whose consciences as human beings have been pricked into conceding that the time has finally come to bring full closure to the long-lasting state-sponsored marginalisation of Ndigbo with ceding the 2023 Presidency to the South-East. They are only deliberately trying to totally staunch the snowballing craving for remorse, penitence and atonement for past and continuing wrongs.
It speaks volumes when clerics superintending large congregations, among whom are significant numbers of Ndigbo, are spewing inciting and provocative gibberish from their hallowed podiums when they ought to be divine agents of forgiveness, reconciliation and other Christ-like qualities.
Even if we assume, while not conceding, that there’s some degree of validity in their unguarded utterances, what exactly are they trying to achieve with their foot-in-the-mouth ‘table-shaking’ in such an unusual election year? Are fellow-Christian Ndigbo their real enemy? 18th century English poet and mystic William Blake it was who bellowed that “A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies one can invent.”
Two pertinent questions are begging for answers. First, just how can these clerics look their Igbo members in the eye after such Frankenstein-like public spectacles and still preach hocus-pocus, business-as-usual sermons without blinking an eyelid or skipping a heartbeat? Second, how can Igbo members still remain under the ministerial umbrella of such persons who look down on them with so much contempt and disdain without trooping out en masse? Between each loud-mouthed cleric and his mesmerised Igbo members, one party clearly has the conscience seared with a hot iron!
But make no mistake about it: as long as the South-East continues to be denied the equal rights and justice it rightly deserves as a major stakeholder in the Nigerian Project, so long will all of us as Nigerians, along with our motherland, continue to make motions with movement and convulse with all manner of crises. Why? Because there’s just too much blood of innocent people who died in nationwide killing sprees, state-sponsored starvation and the injustice of “abandoned properties” in their own country, crying up to God. There’s just no killing the Igbo beetle!
Okoye writes from Abuja, Nigeria.