erhaps I should begin with a disclaimer. This is not an attempt to claim superiority over any tribe in Nigeria, or to denigrate others, especially in the recent era of Fani Kayode brouhaha. If you feel that I have exaggerated, embellished, or totally wrong in my assumptions, I sincerely apologize. Nevertheless, these are my thoughts, my opinions, they are not designed to offend, and at the very least I should be entitled to my opinions. But I also recognize that I do not have a monopoly on this issue and would readily stand corrected if convinced otherwise. Those who have followed my writings would by now know that I mostly stick to facts, and what I believe in. Some of my articles must have offended Obama, Jonathan, and my sweet mother nearly disowned me when I wrote something about Nigeria's men of God and made the blasphemous mistake of mentioning T.B. Joshua by name, a man whom my mom follows passionately. So if you are offended it is not intentional, but you are in excellent company.
Recently, I posted a mundane article highlighting the few developments I have witnessed in the city of Enugu, and invited people to take a second look at the city. Surprisingly, it generated an unprecedented amount of feedback and comments. I noticed from the comments that came mostly but not exclusively from the Igbos, a mentioning of Enugu population, Igbo population, etc. Some felt the Igbos have remained small because of low birth rate; others thought that late marriages are part of the reason, and so forth. I was amazed that these comments came up a lot, especially since I did not even mention anything about population in that article. But it set my mind racing towards the inevitable question; what is really the true population of Igbos.
The Southeast is the only zone in Nigeria with five states instead of the usual six. Ohaneze and several prominent Igbo politicians have repeatedly cried for the creation of an additional state in the Southeast. Shockingly to many in my private conversations, I have argued that their cries are without merit. According to the last Nigeria's census in 2006, the Southeast combined have a total population of around sixteen million. Kano state alone is about ten million, and Lagos state not that far behind Kano. (Please let's disregard all the claims and counter claims of Lagos and others and stick to our official census figures conducted under the presidency of Obasanjo) If therefore creation of states in Nigeria is based on population alone, then the Southeast, as far as I am concerned does not merit an additional state. But there is something far more significant that I have noticed in Nigeria for quite some time. The Igbo is consistently referred to as the smallest of the three major tribes in Nigeria. I sincerely believe that this assumption is grossly flawed.
I believe that upwards of 80% of Igbos do not live in the traditional Igbo enclave of the Southeast. In my earlier years I used to attribute our unusual outward migration to the failure of our leaders (governors) to develop Igbo Land. At some point I thought that the federal government was to blame for failing to bring about comparable development in Igboland. I even searched my torchlight back to our colonial masters, thinking that they have favored the Yorubas and the Housas, which necessitated the Igbos migrating to those areas. The truth is that none of these have anything to do with the migration of the Igbos. The Igbos are simply very republic in nature, and would easily uproot themselves and their families to greener pastures without qualms. When I use the phrase greener pastures, it does not necessarily represent better developed areas. Just better opportunities, and when they can't find one upon arrival would create one for themselves.
Most Igbos have migrated from somewhere within Igboland in the last two thousand years. Some, like the Onitsha people and others migrated from Delta, Edo, and beyond. My part of Awka migrated from Agulu Umana in Eziagu local government of Enugu state. Umudioka village in Awka migrated from Atakwu village in Akagbe Ugwu area of Nkanu, yet some Awka villages came from Iza in Ebonyi, and others from Ida. Later, many Awka people migrated to areas like Ida, Igala, and beyond. In the past century and half, however, Igbos have been migrating further away from Igboland. Think of this, Zik was born in Zungeru, in Northern Nigeria in 1904. Ojukwu was also born in the same Zungeru in the North in 1933, and so forth. In my immediate family, a couple of my siblings were born in the North, one in Lagos, and I was born in Warri. Sometimes when I think of some of the villages my where father had lived in the North or somewhere like Nikorowa in Delta, I can't even find any of them in the maps. Surely, my home town of Awka, an ancient "developed" town must be better than some of those places my father had lived.
Today many of Igbo neighboring states like Delta, Rivers, etc, have upwards of 40% Igbo indigenes among their population. These are not recent migrants either, to some, it has been their home for thousands of years. Every major city in the North today, from Kano to Kaduna, from Bauchi to Jos, has upwards of 20% of their population as Igbos. Places like Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, have upwards of 40% Igbo population, yet Nigeria population census never counts them as Igbos. They are simply counted as people who live in Kano or people who live in Lagos, etc. The truth is that if we do a proper census in Nigeria where every citizen would give his or her tribe of origin, I suspect that Nigeria would be shocked at what she would discover. Perhaps one reason why this has never happened and would most likely never happen.
In the UK, and particularly London, I believe that the Yorubas outnumber the Igbos. However, when you look at the total number of Nigerians in the Diaspora I suspect that the Igbos would account for up to 40% or more. These guys are just about everywhere. I was in Bangladesh of all places last year and saw a significant number of Igbo young men living there. A few were footballers and others were just doing business there. Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, Peru, Ethiopia, there is no part of this world today you will not find a significant number of Igbos residing. In late 2001 when President Bush was about to attack Afghanistan after the World Trade Center bombing, President Obasanjo sent a Boeing 747 to airlift Nigerians living in Afghanistan. More than 400 Nigerians showed up, and I could not believe my eyes when I read most of the names in the newspaper. What are Igbos doing in Taliban controlled Afghanistan I asked, then I remembered that they have opium and heroin, and I quickly arrested my thoughts. It would be wrong to assume that all Nigerians in Afghanistan were dealing in heroin, but that was my only conclusion at the time.
It would be indeed difficult if not impossible to quantify the number of Igbos living outside the boundaries of our current traditional Igbo enclave of the Southeast Nigeria. For the sake of this article, let us forget about all those in the Diaspora, if you factor in all the Igbos living all over Nigeria in the North, the West, and the South, along with those in the Southeast, the population of Igbos would easily be far greater than any other tribe in Nigeria. I have resisted putting a number because I truly don't have the full statistics to do so. But I do believe without any shadow of doubt that my assumptions are not farfetched, and that anyone that examines this subject with an objective mind may come to the same conclusion. However, people are entitled to disagree with me on this, it is only my opinion.