Ikechukwu D. Ikerionwu
Relationship Management Unit
Sterling Bank Plc, Lagos, Nigeria ABSTRACT
The advent of European colonialism radically altered the Igbo consciousness and compelled them to draw upon opportunities of the ‘new order’ to meet social and economic demands. The twentieth century was a period when the Nigerian people had to come to terms with the ‘new order’ introduced by their forceful integration into the global capitalist system. New music had been introduced; new dance steps were required.
This study examines how the Igbo, in response to and in spite of, these dynamics carved a distinct place for themselves in Nigeria’s social and economic development. Indeed, the nature of the place of the Igbo vis-à-vis the country’s socio-economic evolution provokes intellectual fermentation. Are they taking their place in the sun or are they hewers of wood and fetchers of water in the Nigerian super structure? What factors have shaped their development? To what extent have external dynamics shaped the Igbo socio-economic factor? What are the omens for the future?
The Igbo economy was dominated by agriculture, trade and local manufactures. Between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Aro people (whose historical origins are influenced by Ibibio and other riverine links) developments nearly became an economic hegemony over Igboland. This is significant because the Igbo, unlike many other ethnic groups that make up Nigeria, were never wielded into a large empire or state.( http://www.worldlingo.com/ma/enwiki/en/Aro_people) The Aro were both priests and clever traders and traveled and traded extensively in Igbo and Ibibio lands. Consequently, various Aro settlements were established and dominated the local markets. They also specialized in buying and selling of slaves, whereas the coast communities received slaves and other commodities for their vital export trade. Their trade routes in the hinterland that the Aro controlled and monitored radiated in all directions; however, Aro’s domination did not accumulate to a comprehensive political control.(Anene 1979) Following the British destruction of the Ibinu Ukpabi, (the Aro’s central instrument of religious practices and business domination) the process that forcefully brought the Igbo nation into Nigeria commenced. Today, Igbos dominates the South-Eastern Nigeria states of Imo, Abia, Anambra, Enugu, and Ebonyi. These Igbo communities also form sizeable minorities in Delta State that is located west of the River Niger and the semi-coastal of River State.
Igbo Entrepreneurship in the Colonial Period
Pre-colonial Igbo economy had basically three foundations: agriculture, trade and manufactures. Agriculture was the mainstay of the country’s economy. It was largely subsistence in nature and everyone, irrespective of gender, fully participated. Yam was the stable crop. Initially emphases on agriculture supersede that of trade. Ecological differences and varied vegetation were the major factors behind the development of local and regional trade amongst the Igbo. The inhabitants of northern and central Igboland, whose soils were over-farmed, resorted to trade. The discovery of iron ore in Awka, salt in Uburu and Okposi, and lead in Abakaliki encouraged mineral exploitation and the growth of crafts and manufactures such as the famous blacksmithing forges in Awka (Anene 1979). There were commercial links between the Igbo and their Benin, Igalla, Idoma, Ibibio and Ijaw neighbors during the pre-Colonial Era. The Aro extended their commercial links far and wide and thereby subsumed into Aro economic hegemony. It is a fact that the coastal demand for slaves whetted Aro’s greed and did not work successfully with the earlier trade links. During the...