Title: THE WEALTHCODE OF THE IGBOS – Revealed: How the Igbos Build Thriving Businesses from Nothing
Author: ‘Dunsin Oluwasuji
Publisher: The Extra Company
Place of Publication: Lagos
Date of Publication: 2021
Number of Pages: 149
Reviewer: Isaac N. Obasi
Creativity was at its best when Oluwadunsin Oluwasuji put his pen on paper to produce an excitingly captivating book titled The Wealthcode of the Igbos in which he splendidly ‘revealed how the Igbos build thriving businesses from nothing’. Both the writer’s creativity and the creativity driving the Igbos’ spirit of industry (his subject matter) were dazzlingly displayed.
Starting with the Dedication, a reader is thrilled on what to expect in this very remarkable book. The Dedication reads: To a nation that rose from the ashes of war and to her people: Sojourners who had nothing but courage and grit, who formed bonds of fellowship, who build empires in strange lands, who enabled the cycle of prosperity, who nurture their young…(p. i). And proceeding further, the author rightly stated that ‘the qualities discussed in this book are not exclusive to the Igbos, but are prevalent amongst them.’
And again to wet the readers’ appetite, the author asked the important question: can wealth be ethnic or are we just playing into a stereotype? After discussing some Nigerian stereotypes in the Preface, Dunsin Oluwasuji cited some authoritative studies on the Jews such as those of Dershowitz Alan, Bush Lawrence, Lipset Seymour and Raab Earl, Siberman Charles, and Steven Silbiger, to go beyond typical stereotypes and present interesting and persuasive evidence to demonstrate that “wealth and success can indeed reside more with one ethnic group than the other” (p.v). With these as background, Dunsin’s thesis is out there in the intellectual market place for further critical inquiry by scholarly minds (and not by intellectual passers-by) in this important area of research.
Structure and Contents of the Book
The book is broadly divided into two parts, namely (a) the author’s own observations, and (b) ‘excerpts from interviews with successful Igbo business owners to see if any patterns emerge’ (p.iii).
Part 1 titled: Why the Igbos build thriving businesses: My observation is made up 14 well-crafted chapters. In this part, the author creatively identified and discussed such vital themes as ‘Igbos learn before they leap’ (Chapter 1); ‘Igbos love to leave’ (Chapter 2); through other chapters like ‘Igbos know how to drive a soft bargain’ (Chapter 6); Igbos mind their pennies’ (Chapter 11); down to other scintillating and perhaps controversial themes as ‘Igbos have a wealth culture’ (Chapter 13), and ‘Igbos are more selfless’ (Chapter 14). This first part of the book provides demonstrative evidence of what I meant earlier about the writer’s creativity being at its best. This part actually demonstrated that theoretically speaking, the writer elevated his thoughts to the level where intellectual minds would be juxtaposing his work with those earlier cited authorities on the industrious spirit of the Jewish people..
One distinguishing feature of each of the 14 chapters is the use of appropriate scriptural quotations to back up his postulations. For example, Chapter 2 titled; ‘Igbos love to leave’ was supported with the Biblical quotation as The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will give you (Genesis 12 v 1). Another example is Chapter 13 titled: ‘Igbos have a wealth culture’ which is supported with Proverbs 22 v 6 which says: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Part 2 of the book titled: The Igbos tell it All (Interviews), is no less impressive as Part 1. In this part, the author went further empirical to provide observational and experiential foundation for his theoretical postulations in Part 1. His investigative methodology was superb as he went into the field to interview very successful Igbo entrepreneurs. Specifically, he brought out vividly the experiential benefits of seven business gurus and magnates which he recorded for posterity.
Creatively, the writer gave each of the seven interviews an appropriate title in a manner that provides intellectual evidence and support to his efforts to develop more theoretical principles that are consistent with his earlier postulations in Part 1. For example, the first interview was appropriately titled: The Igbos and the Jews, an Accident of Interaction? The discussions here resonate well with his earlier evidence that wealth and success can indeed reside more with one ethnic group than the other. Some other themes in this part include: the Competitive and collaborative nature of the Igbos; Nature Vs Nurture; The Apprenticeship Advantage; and Trust, Collaboration, Shared Risk: The Strengths of the Igbo.
It will be interesting to compare the chapter on The Competitive and Collaborative nature of the Igbos, with a common view by not-a-few of the Igbos themselves, that the Igbos, do not love themselves. The peddling of this erroneous idea perhaps originated from the historical and political fact that the Igbos, are republican in nature. The idea that the ‘Igbos have no king’ derived from this republican spirit. The common notion that the Igbos do not cooperate among themselves is however well contradicted by the empirical facts emerging from Dunsin’s thesis. Perhaps in politics this may hold some water, but in commerce and industry, this notion is farther away from the truth.
Is the Igbos’ culture of apprenticeship in decline? This is the last issue examined in the book and the discussion leaves everyone in no doubt that this culture will continue to thrive as it is beneficial to the apprentice and to the master. As the author rightly said, mentorship is key.
A Book for Everyone and for all Generations
The Wealthcode of the Igbos is relevant to everyone and indeed all generations of the Igbos – the very young ones (about 7-10 years old) who need to be well-groomed with the early knowledge of their cultural heritage; the adolescents (around 12-19 years) and young adults (around 20-30 years) who need the knowledge of what they are to practise as they grow older in life; the middle aged or older adults less than 64 years, and the elderly (65 years and above) who are preservers and transmitters of good cultural values and practices in family, educational and entrepreneurial life. They all need the book in order help sustain the industrious culture of the Igbos.
Indeed, The Wealthcode of the Igbos is a book for all times as its relevance would continue to resonate with every generation of the Igbos. But in particular, its relevance to the youthful generation cannot be over-emphasised as the values it promotes would greatly help to move them away from the scourge of prevailing ‘violent disease’ afflicting Igbo land. As every Igbo knows, the type and level of violence currently being experienced in Igbo land is strange to its culture.
The author of The Wealthcode of the Igbos is a rare Nigerian who took the pains to carry out a research on the entrepreneurial culture of another ethnic group outside his own. One can rightly describe the author of the book as a cosmopolitan Yoruba and a bridge builder with a farsighted mind. His undiluted love for shared humanity expresses itself in the contents of the book. His book therefore, is very insightful as it confirms with strong empirical evidence the industrious and flourishing apprenticeship practice of the Igbos – a subject matter which has already captured the research attention of the Harvard University in the United States.
•Isaac Obasi is a professor in the Department of Public Administration, University of Abuja, Nigeria.