The first impression that Aroman projects in the midst of other folks is his intelligence and cultural consciousness. While the first easily attracts envy and enmity, the second compensates with respect and admiration. Perhaps, what many mbakamesi do not easily realize is that such intelligence and cultural consciousness when in display is not necessarily to throw it at their face, it is simply an expression of innermost imbued cultural values which unconsciously prop up. However, I will be the first to admit that sometimes it comes with huge costs. Such costs, notwithstanding its level, do not detract the expected role it can play in Arochukwu development. And I will explain in a moment.
Augusto Lopez – Claros- Director, Global Indicators at the World Bank in an Essay titled “ What Role does Culture Play in Development” argued that in the early 1960s Ghana and Korea were at par in terms of development( we often make the same comparism with Nigeria and Malaysia). The two countries were easily comparable in terms of income per capita, structure of production, and foreign aid. Thirty years later, the contrast was as clear as Sprite! (with its clear difference). Lopez was of the view that culture made the whole difference; while Koreans culture of thrift, investment, hard work, education and discipline were deployed to energize their development, Ghanaians had different values that were part imposed by colonialism and part inherited which did little to support their development efforts.( see Huntington,2000).
Back home, the more enduring traits of Aroman’s culture is not his strict attachment to colorful attires- for the Hood Does Not the Monk Make, but rather imbued character traits such as aversion to failure, rejection to play second fiddle; fertile competitive instincts that shape his risk appetite, hard work and strong moral values that stand him out of an mbakaemesi crowd. It is therefore not by happenstance that Diaspora Aros relied on these cultural traits to survive in sometimes very hostile economic and social environments in their various settlements across Nigeria and beyond. These traits were intelligently deployed to shape their successes and keep their cultural identity intact without violating their hosts’ cultural sensibilities. Today, in academia, industry, business, civil service, sports and politics, the imprints of these cultural values have been translated into successes that astound both our admirers and competitors, but yet to be fully deployed in our community development.
The message in this piece is not to underplay the significance of traditional attires in defining who we are, but to put it in its proper context and perspective. Cultural consciousness goes beyond colorful attires and encompasses something more enduring and valid in our identity. It is something that reflects the totality of our being and defines it dynamically. Therefore, Aros should realize that culture does not begin and end in attires, dances, food, drinks and masquerades. Though they are no less important as symbols, but our more enduring cultural traits should find expression not only in our cultural attires, but in our proclivity to hard work, industry, responsible politics, respect for our institutions and elders, forgiveness, governance, entrepreneurship and strong moral fiber to propel our individual and community development. It is proven, beyond reasonable doubts, like the thesis of Lopez, that countries and communities that have found the right chemistry between their more enduring cultural traits and development priorities excel than those that do not.
Notwithstanding, I am reluctant to understate the fact that we are not making progress in the area of integrating our cultural values into our community development priorities, even though we can do better. Few examples show that some of our cultural traits are already shaping our community development in ways not witnessed in the past. The regime of George Okoronkwo Ezuma is redefining community development to leverage on our cultural values and the results are amazing. In the areas of peace building, infrastructure development, responsible politicking, education, institutional harmony and investments in community infrastructure, the more enduring cultural traits of hard work, healthy peer competition and pursuit of excellence are everywhere noticeable. We only hope and pray that it will be upped and sustained in the spirit of the words of Chinua Achebe- The Eagle on Iroko, that it is “Yet Morning on a Creation Day”( Nke iru Ka ). Happy Ikeji Celebrations to you All!