By Jonas Odocha
The story of the coexistence of the human society is replete with existential challenges which have confronted man in the past and present, as recorded in history. Animals by nature are predominantly territorial with a strong desire to acquire and then secure territorial integrity. This natural instinct is typified by the physical demarcation of land masses occupied by Man into countries and continents, with further divisions even within these recognised boundaries.
The challenges encountered by humanity are presented in different forms and shades but the most worrisome to man are those that translate to the degradation of human dignity.
Nothing degrades man more than ill-treatment or oppression or hostility towards the individual or group which may climax in the putting to death of the individual or group, especially on the grounds of their religious or political beliefs.
In this same corner is also the selective harassment or pestering of the individual or group on the basis of Race which goes on continually. There is just one term that fits into all the above scenario: PERSECUTION.
Persecution is engendered or fanned or fuelled by a Superiority Complex, which confers on one the absolute authority to downgrade the other, to believe in its justification and to manifest it on a continual basis. Any resistance or opposition to this status quo generates immediate conflict which instantaneously triggers off the supremacy mechanism, which ultimately leads to the propagation of class distinction based on religion, politics or race: unfortunately.
There are numerous Biblical accounts of persecutions based on religious grounds. The story of the persecution escapades of Saul before his conversion to Paul, en route Damascus, readily comes to mind.
In the realm of politics one can readily recount the persecutions witnessed in the Roman Empire based on perceived or real rejection of political authority. Do we or do we not still have such persecutions today? But to me the most worrisome of persecutions is that attributable to race because one can decide to renounce one’s religious or political orientation whereas the denunciation or renunciation of one’s race is naturally INESCAPABLE!
Historical account of Race persecution climaxed with the recorded mass murder of over six million European Jews during the Second World War [1939-1945] by the German Nazi regime. Indeed during this period it was not only the Jews who were so persecuted but this included some other groups like the Gypsies and suspected Homosexuals! But why were such large numbers of the Jewish race singled out for extermination?
During the period in question and to the sight and belief of the anti-Semitic Nazi Leader Adolf Hitler, Jews were nothing more than AN INFERIOR RACE! Indeed, to him and his adherents, an alien race which was about to constitute a threat to an acclaimed German Racial Purity and Community!!! In historical context it must be admitted that ANTI-SEMITISM in Europe did not begin or end with Adolf Hitler.
It is true that the use of this term dates only to 1870s, however there is abundance of evidence that hostility towards Jews occurred long before the HOLOCAUST. There is recorded history that even as far back as the ancient world, the Roman authorities continually destroyed and demolished the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, which forced the Jews to leave PALESTINE!
Is it not also remarkable and instructive that after years of Nazi rule in Germany, during which Jews were consistently persecuted, Hitler’s “final solution”- referred to as the HOLOCAUST- came to fruition under the cover of World War with the earlier mentioned mass killings of Jews, carried out in centres constructed in the concentration camps of occupied Poland.
History has recorded that by the spring of 1945 when the German leadership was crumbling and dissolving in the midst of internal dissent, some key Holocaust figures were distancing themselves from Hitler and planning to take over power. Thus in his last will and political testament, dictated in a German bunker in April 1945, Hitler blamed the war on “international Jewry and its helpers” and urged the German leaders and people to follow “the strict observance of the racial laws and with merciless resistance against the universal Poisoners of all peoples”- the Jews!!! The following day he was reported to have committed suicide. What a death wish! This is narrated here to show the degree to which hate based on Race can lead to a concerted effort to exterminate a people from the surface of the earth!
Today the Jews are still a race to be reckoned with, scattered in the different continents of the globe. What could be responsible for this Resilience and Survival? It is my considered view that the Jews believed in themselves and saw their persecution as a clarion call for oneness and unity of purpose. Moreover there was growing empathy towards the Jews in Europe as a result of their determination to pick up the pieces and remain focused as an industrious race. As the Jews were scattered all over Europe and the Americas, they also realised the need to be less visible and vocal, virtually remaining “underground” while plying their lucrative trade. The Holocaust had taught the Jews the very important and hard lesson that the more visible they were as a race had invariably rendered them a ready target for persecution! Till date the bonding of Jews as a race has remained unequalled by any other race in modern history. Thus in America the Jews are best known not as “kings” but rather as “kingmakers.” Who would not recognise and appreciate the role of a kingmaker?
As I was reminiscing over the plight and persecution of the Jews, a common thread of the plight of Ndigbo in Nigeria continued to flash through my mind. Of the major tribes in Nigeria Ndigbo have remained at the receiving end of persecution based on hate and prejudice. Whereas the Nazis saw the Jews as an inferior race which must not be allowed to pollute the pure German race, the other tribes in Nigeria perceive or see the Igbo as believing themselves to be a superior race that must be cut to size! Herein lies the dilemma. Thus from colonial times to post-independence Nigeria, Ndigbo who are scattered like the Jews in different parts of the country, not to talk of the globe, have remained targets of harassment and intimidation whenever conflicts, whether social, political or religious, arise! Not only are they targeted as individuals but also as groups, including individual business interests and group business interests. How else can one explain that religious riots are triggered in Europe or Asia and the fall-out in Nigeria would be the destruction of lives and property of Ndigbo in cities in Nigeria?
The Nigerian Civil War [1967-1970] is a clear case of the attempt to wipe out a whole tribe or race from the Nigerian map or territory. There was political tension in the west of Nigeria and the northern power bloc was determined to quell the crisis which finally led to military intervention. It was to turn out that the eastern region inhabited mostly by Ndigbo ended up being the theatre of a war of attrition, in which weapons of war and starvation and economic blockade were engaged to subdue a race. Like the Jews the Igbo have come out of this crucible resilient but are they as a race or tribe as united and politically powerful as the Jews? The answer is an emphatic No!!!
There are, therefore, lessons Ndigbo are yet to learn from the Jews. Success attracts not only attention but also envy and prejudice. The Igbo must understand that flaunting of success leads to visibility, and the visibility of an achiever does irritate a warped mind. Unfortunately, in the larger human society, most minds are warped!!! Ndigbo must therefore learn to be less “visible and loud” while plying their trade or industry. As the mastermind of the Holocaust once remarked to an interviewer, “I do not have any quarrel with the Jews individually, but COLLECTIVELY.” This is simply the ISSUE with PERSECUTION!!!