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The Arewa-IPOB clash: What it means for businesses in the North

June 14, 2017 · 3 min read
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The past couple of months have seen a wave of unrest stir up between the Arewa group in the North and the Indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB). Much of this dispute has been down to the ultimatum by some Arewa youth group asking the Igbos resident in the North to relocate to the East within the next three months.

The move has drawn considerable comments and reactions from supporters and neutrals alike, with leaders from both regions highly in support of the move.

If followed to the letter, Igbo residents across the 19 Northern states in Nigeria will have to move back to their homelands by 1st October 2017. While this is yet to play out, it looks like history repeating itself, bringing to foray some of the scenes that occurred during and after the civil war — that lasted three years. It will be recalled that mayhem struck during the war as many unsuspecting innocent citizens lost their lives. The few surviving ones had to seek refuge (or chased away as the case may have been) at their homelands for fear of being massacred.

However, shortly after the war, affected citizens went back into the ruins to revive what was left of their dilapidated territories. The good thing is that some settled quite quickly into a post-war life and others got help from unlikely sojourners who helped with the rebuilding process. The uncanny sense of oneness displayed among different tribes showed how quickly Nigerians were willing to move on from the past.

Handwritings on the wall to consider

Now that an impending uprising appears to be stirring, there’s every possibility that the North could be at the receiving end of loss when it comes to owning the business landscape. Technically, every side boasts of both human and natural resources to steer its own internal affairs — not as a sovereign state — but the necessity of one overlaps on the other, and that might just prove to be the difference.

For instance, the northerners are known for many things, notably their undeniable position as Nigeria’s largest food basket, but arguably not the astuteness that has seen the Igbos become the nerve of commercialization in any place they reside; even outside the country.

Their dedication to their craft is extraordinary, with an age-long reputation to toil from dusk till dawn, at times, pulling all-nighters and even staying for days at their places of work without going home just to beat production and sales deadlines.

As we would also have it in the modern world, the manufacturing sector is still regarded as a basis for determining a nation’s efficiency. Although the sector wasn’t the best initially, with the shift to petroleum since the discovery of crude oil, the manufacturing sector’s contribution to Nigeria’s GDP has risen steadily over the years. In 2016, Q4, the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the GDP was 8.34%, an improvement relative to the decline of 4.3% recorded in the Q3. Much of this growth can be attributed to the witty attitude of Igbo manufacturers who seem to have flooded the market with made in Nigeria products.

Asking that they leave now might precipitate a sudden rise in unemployment owing to the number of small businesses belonging to the Igbos that will be shut down. Not to even mention the mass migration of skills that would follow in the wake of such an action.

Even though it appears to be gathering clout at the moment, there are suggestions that the “Igbo evacuation campaign” dates as far back as 2009. If that is anything to go by, the Northerners (the Arewa group) might just be stalling on the move to force the Igbos out of their territory.

And in an era where technology sets to be dictating the pace of development across the globe, Nigeria is still trying to close in on the West. Our technology exploration last year to the Northern Nigeria revealed a bridge in the level of technological advancement between the North and the South. Despite the obvious pool of talent in the North, one thing that lacked is the real entrepreneurial spirit that can transform a great product to a profitable venture.

Perhaps, a strong marriage of talents from the North with the shrewdness typical of the easterners may just help to harness the full potential of technology in the Northern region of Nigeria. This could even possibly just put the entire animosity to bed once and for all.

Ifeanyi Ndiomewese

Ifeanyi Ndiomewese

Author

Ifeanyi is a desk reporter-turned administrator. Outside of work, I love to read and travel.

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