Igbo people represent eighteen percent of the population of Nigeria, making them a sizable minority that is going to have more influence than most people as a result of sheer numbers. There are thirty-two million Igbo people in Nigeria alone, and this is still not taking into account the number of Igbos who have relocated all around the world in pursuit of a different life or more economic opportunities.
The Igbo people have primarily worked as farmers even in the days before the disruptions of British colonialism and all of the cultural changes that occurred throughout the twentieth century. Farming is partly a matter of tradition for the Igbo people, along with their crafts, their Christian-influenced religious beliefs, and other important facets of their culture. However, for many Igbo people, farming is just a matter of necessity and economics. Competitions over vanishing farmland have been common in Nigerian politics, and the politics of Africa in general throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century for reasons that are environmental as well as political.
There is a great deal of conflict in Nigeria at present over the loss of farmland and conflicts between other groups in Nigeria and the Fulani herdsmen. Many Igbo villagers are outraged that the president of Nigeria is not intervening on their behalf, since many of them are farmers whose very lives depend upon their agricultural output. There is now a scandal over the fact that many of the Nigerian Igbo people who have fought back over the loss of their farmland are now being detained themselves.
This is clearly not going to be any kind of long-term solution to the problem. There are now calls for the seventy-six farmers to be released, as well as calls for a more long-term political solution to the problem. Some Nigerian people are not interested in a long-term solution, which is one of the reasons why so many Igbo people are fleeing the nation for the West. It is possible that this situation might give Nigerian political officials more of an impetus to act, given what this is going to mean for the productive workforce. However, the situation involving the Igbo people and vanishing farmland is by no means an isolated incident or a problem that is going to easily resolve itself.
Azees Ishola is a freelance writer, a blogger and I work with igbolive.com. Igbolive objective is reporting of Igbo news in its truthful and unbiased form to diasporean-igbos, Nigerians, Africa and around the world.