Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ezigbo Mmadu: An Exploration of the Igbo Concept of a Good Person

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ezigbo Mmadu: An Exploration of the Igbo Concept of a Good Person

Article excerpt

Introduction

In this paper, I examine the Igbo concept of a good person (ezigbo mmadu, in the Igbo language). In the discussion, I will consider, among other things, who the Igbo would normally regard as a good person, those special qualities of life that they think qualify an individual to be called a good person. In discussing this theme, some vital questions may be posed as follows: How may a good person be distinguished from a bad person? Is the concept good one that can be defined or characterised? Or is it, as some philosophers are wont to say, a word that is indefinable? These are some of the questions that this paper will seek to provide answers to.

But before I get into the discussion proper, it will be necessary to make a few general remarks about the history and demography of the Igbo. To capture it in form of a query: who are the Igbo, and what place do they occupy in history? A simple answer to the question would be to say that the Igbo constitute one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria. The other two groups are the Yoruba and the Hausa-Fulani.

In terms of the exact number of communities or language groups in the country, no consensus of opinion exists among scholars. However, some have surmised that there are about 370 ethnic communities while others have identified about 250 language groups. But as one informed opinion captures it, from all the suggestions provided, it may be safe to conclude that there are between 248 languages and 374 community groups in Nigeria (see Eluwa et al. 1988, p. xii & Dioka 1977, 55). It is worth remarking that the number of dialects spoken by the assemblage of groups in the country are too numerous to list or catalogue. However, in spite of the diversity of social norms, languages, and traditions among Nigeria's various groups, great effort is constantly being made to blend or unify the disparate groups into an agreeable whole.

Nigeria's population is estimated to be about 140 million. However, many are skeptical concerning the accuracy of this figure. The reason is that census figures have always been contested in Nigeria because they are often manipulated for political advantage. But although Nigerians may disagree about their census figure, what is not a subject of controversy is the fact that it is the largest country in Africa by population, and the tenth among all countries of the world. Going by United Nations projection, Nigeria's population will reach 289 million by the 2050. If this estimation is anything to go by, what it means is that in less than four decades from now, Nigeria will end up as the 8th most populous country on the globe (see http://esa.un.org/unpp/). The only major factor that may greatly hamper this population boom is the rapid spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which is rapidly decimating the populations of many countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigeria's population growth merely reflects the growth of its different units. With particular reference to the Igbo group, population estimates put their number at a little over 20 million. Again, this figure is a matter of conjecture, as the Igbo, like the other peoples of Nigeria, complain of a deliberate under-estimation of their population figure by Federal estimators in order to place them in a position of disadvantage in the distribution or allocation of resources in the society! Here, we need to remark that as long as the country bases the allocation of resources on population size, Nigerians will never cease crying about the manipulation of such figures. Having said this much, it should be remarked that the issue of Nigeria's demography is not the focus of this paper; neither can the controversy surrounding it be resolved here. I have merely alluded to the issue of population as a background to the work and to provide a basis for the discussions that follow in this paper. The issues I have adumbrated above are preliminary and general in nature. …

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