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The Seventies: Part Six

The Seventies: Part Six.

While others blazed trails of their own abroad and in other parts of the country, reconstructing the Igbo homeland and making amends to the colossal loss of human life and property wrought by the war proved to be a challenge of Herculean proportions for the men and women of Igboland throughout the 70s. Against the backdrop of incredible spontaneity in the latter years, as individuals amassed wealth and fell into poverty almost overnight, this era, dubbed by the Federal Government as an era of “Reconstruction and Rehabilitation”, was anything but.

In Igboland, the conflict had destroyed hospitals, factories, and schools, and had cratered the region’s already-fragile road network and rendered local rails and highways useless. Although the Federal Government promised the implementation of funds, programs, and schemes that would be designed to alleviate poverty and see to the rapid resurgence of every-day life in the Igbo homeland, none of these measures were ever realized.

Interestingly, as records and data on infrastructural development in southeastern Nigeria collected during that time suggest, “the overall pre-war level of economic activity in most sectors was reached again within three or four years after the end of the war; the same is true for infrastructural facilities like education or health services” (“The Politics of Memory: Truth, Healing and Social Justice”). Such a feat is owed neither to the generosity of the Federal Government nor to the availability of funds meant for “reconstruction”, but to the deep, culturally-ingrained familiarity of the Igbo with the concepts of self-assistance, hard work, and solidarity. Returning to their ancestral lands to once-again assume their traditional roles as farmers, the pillar occupation of human civilization, the Igbo, with the implementation of modern seeds and farming techniques, soon revived agricultural production within their region, which in-turn catalyzed the growth of other trades and occupations. Guilds and trade unions sprang up like wildfire, as skilled individuals began dispersing throughout the region, and under the premise of cultural institutions such as ‘utu’ (community wide levies that were traditionally collected by community leaders for the funding of public projects), individual communities ingeniously accrued funds to finance the construction of their own roads, bridges, hospitals, and other public utilities.


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