AZỤBỤEZE: BACKWARD INTEGRATION IN IGBO ENTREPRENEURSHIP PHILOSOPHY.

In 1962, a Great Igbo son, Michael Ọkpala asked a very critical question thus, “I have never understood why Nigeria should export 41,947 tons of raw cotton in 1961 valued at £9.5 million while importing 177, 684, 000 square yards of textiles valued at £19 million. Why should we continue to import such heavy commodities as cement when limestone abounds in this country?”

Ụmụnne, before we delve into this critical question, I think it is proper to first examine the Igbo concept “Azụbụeze” especially how it affects the Igbo entrepreneurship philosophy. The word “Azụbụeze” is made up of three (3) words, “Azụ” “Bụ” “Eze”. We will start from the right to left in the words/terms analysis (you will understand the reason for this Right to left movement if you are Nwa afọ Igbo).

Eze comes from the root verb “ze” (same with the word Nze) depicting “to avoid” and “to help”. You can also see “ze” as depicting “help” in the word “Arinze” meaning “thanks for help”, using it in a sentence it will be like, “Arinze gị, kedụ ịfe m kalụ iji welụ zụọ ụmụ m nni tata n’ọ bụlụ n’ i nyeghị m ji a? (Thanks for your help, what would I have used to feed my children today if you didn’t give me this yam?)”. Therefore, in Igbo cosmology, Eze (and Nze) means a person who abstains from something (especially evil) and offers help. The Nssụkka axis of Ana Igbo calls God “Ezechitoke” (The Great Helper who creates and shares). I think the phrase “Chukwu bụ Eze” is a short form of “Chukwu Bụ Ezechitoke”. Looking at it from the Nze na Ọzọ institution, while Nze HELPS keep Ọmenaana as pure as it should be, Ọzọ (from the root verb “zọ” meaning “to protect”) PROTECTS Ọmenaana, both have similar responsibilies and also both are obliged to abstain from something. Ọmenaana is the ethno-cultural religion that defines and unites Ana Igbo, it is the foundation of the Igbo society.

The word “King” do not have any direct meaning in Igbo language because Ndị Igbo see the concept of “King” from the perspective of “a Priest” (whose core responsibility is to HELP), therefore “Eze” means Priest (who Abstains and Helps). You can see this clearly from the role played by the “EZEANA” of every Igbo community and clan. Ana Igbo is a PRIESTLY NATION; a democratic society where everybody is a priest (Eze) in his house, that’s why you hear phrases like “Ọjị eze dị eze n’aka” whenever a man presents kola to a visitor in his house. Ana Igbo is therefore ultra-democratic and governed by the Heads of families (Ndị isi Umunna), Elders (Ndi okenye), Judges (Ndị Nze na Ọzọ) and the Chief Priest (Ezeana), other strong institutions like Daughters of the families (Ụmụ Ada), Wives of the families (Ndị Inyom), Youths (Otu Ọgbọ), Secrete service (Otu Mmanwu) etc also exists to checkmate excess and ensure justice, equity and fairness in the society. Igbo enwerọ Eze Ofu Ana

“Bụ” means “is”. We won’t go further on this as it is simple, straight forward and self-explanatory.

“Azụ” means “Back”, but in the context of “Azụbụeze” it means “Ọkụtazụbụeze”. The word “Ọkụtazụ” means Children/ Posterity, therefore “Azụbụeze” has same meaning with “Nwabụeze”. That’s why you see names like “Azụka”, “Azụbụike” and the word “Azụ” in these names refers to “Ọkụtazụ”. Hence you can as well look at it this way; Ọkụtazụka maka na Nkiruka. Why do the Igbo use “Ọkụtazụ”, a word that is linked to “Back” to refer to posterity? Because the Igbo man sees the Future simply as the Past rejuvenated at Present.

Therefore, “Azụbụeze” means “Posterity/future strongly linked/merged with the past legacies is a helper”. Looking at life from the prism of “Azụbụeze” enables one to have a more stable, solid and prosperous future.

Nwanne, Chijioke Ngobili, in one of his last year tweet wrote, “Mmụtanazodụ Ifeukwudinazụ (a name I reserve for a future offspring). If we are deep, we’d always realize that the greatness we seek for the future is somewhere in the past, hidden in the sands and dusts of our old memories, histories and genes. Greatness is above newness or oldness for it is timeless, and can fit to any time and any generation that approaches it in good spirit and truth.”

In the Igbo Entrepreneurial Philosophy, “Azụbụeze” can be used to represent “Backward integration”. The word “Backward” is used, yet, the concept always refers to a Growth Strategy which is a “future thing” why? Backward integration is a form of vertical integration in which a company expands its role to fulfill tasks formerly completed by businesses up the supply chain (Investopedia.com). This means that by moving backward to take ownership of their supply chain, they gain more control that will enable them maximize profit, expand and grow in the future.

In 1962, Micheal Ọkpala worried that Nigeria imported yards of textiles valued at £19 million. This year (2019), the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said “Nigeria currently spent above $4bn annually on imported textiles and ready-made clothing.” Ego one na-aba n’ akpa anyi?

In my discussion with Rev. Fr Raymond Arazu, he lamented that in his young days, palm wine tapping is a very lucrative business but today it is no more. Why? Because the foreign multinational beer companies took over. Man from the days of yore have always longed to entertain himself with wine, therefore wine making from the days of yore have always been a very lucrative enterprise and a source of huge wealth for every nation who develop their wine/beer making industry. Ana Igbo abandoned their own wine/beer industry and left it to gradually die off in stagnation, even Ndị Ụmụnna in various Igbo clans now in their “bride list” place more emphasis on Beers and Stouts brewed by foreign multinational Breweries more than Palm wine. Consequently, Nigeria’s beer market is estimated to be worth about N837 billion or USD2.7 billion, according to Euromonitor Research, (An international marketing research group). In the quest for this huge money, leading companies in the beer market, notably, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Guinness Nigeria Plc and SABMiller (now AbInbev International Breweries, AIB) drove marketing campaign with about N4.6 billion in 2015, a figure the industry executives believe has gone down between 2016 and 2017. The beer manufacturers in Nigeria spent N1billion on TV ad, N0.6billion on radio and N3.0 billion on out-of-home to outsmart each other according to Mediafacts, Nigeria’s advertising and marketing research book. (Reported by Princewill Ekwujuru in Vanguard Newspaper). The consumption of Alcohol in South East Nigeria alone according to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) is worth N44 billion. Ego one na-aba n’ akpa anyi?

At this point, looking critically and deeply into the Igbo concepts of “Azụbụeze”, “Azụka”, “Azụbuike” the Igbo man should ask self, “How much of our consumption comes back to us or revolves around us?”, “When we spend money, how do it circulate?”, “What actually happened to our ubi owu (cotton farms)?” “What actually happened to our Akwa Mmiri (Igbo textile)?” “What actually happened to our Nkwụ enu (Palm wine)?” “How do we once again take ownership of our consumption supply chains?”etc.

80% of the $4bn spent annually on textile, $2.7bn spent on Alcohol and so many other Billions of money spent on consumables all over Nigeria and beyond should be in Ana Igbo revolving and creating massive wealth if we have consciously digested the concept of “Azụbụeze” and invested “Backwards” through Nka Dibia.

Investing more of our money in Nka Dibia (Research and Development) than we spend in building Hotels, Petrol filling stations, Plazas, Churches, etc will help us stand tall alongside with other serious nations of the world. This paradigm shift can be achieved with or without “The government”. All we need is to wake up and consciously revive the legacies of our fathers buried in Ọmenaana to build a solid Nation and drive a prosperous future for ourselves and our “Ọkụtazụ”.

According to Frantz Fanon “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”

Finally, we will round up with the answer Michael Ọkpala gave to his critical question; “The only adequate answer to the European Common Market with the obnoxious tariff walls is our manufacturing most of what we import from them. With the best will in the world, this will take time. But a start must be made now by deliberately concentrating on those goods which can be easily manufactured here thereby saving foreign exchange. I have already mentioned two, but I believe that it is possible to concentrate during this period of the plan on three specific fields covering food, clothing, and shelter.” (Premier Michael Ọkpara (1962 )’Progress Without Tears’). Today as I join my humble voice with Michael Ọkpala in channeling the eyes of Ana Igbo to “Azụbụeze”, I will replace “European” with “Asia/China”.

Daalụ Nnukwu Nwanne, Emmanuel Chiadi (Nwakibie) for your thoughts in Ntọana Ikeụba group discussion, that’s the major inspiration for this write up and as you will normally say, “The platform Ntọana Ikeụba is very strategic hence it must at least be an inspiration tangentially to awaken our spirit towards Economic DETERMINISM as emerging IGBO Entrepreneurs or Leaders.”

Please visit our Facebook page Ntoana Íkèuba, or join us in our whatsapp discussion (inbox us if interested)

Daalụ nụ

©️ Chukwuemeka Obinwugo August 11, 2019

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