Friday, July 15, 2016

Ndigbo: Why Joe Igbokwe’s Self-Enslavement Worries Me

By Jude Ndukwe
In his well published diatribe against the Igbo people of Nigeria, Joe Igbokwe, the Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos State chapter, who is also a son of Igbo, poured invectives on the Igbo nation while making spurious allegations against them. For those who know Igbokwe’s leanings and past stance on national issues, his latest scurrilous attack on the great people of the South Eastern part of Nigeria did not come as a surprise, the only surprising thing is that this latest attack seem to come somehow awkwardly late and too far apart given the man’s relentless and unrepentant penchant for always attempting to ridicule Nigeria’s most resilient and enterprising people in an essay full of contradictions, lame postulations and outright insults.
*Tinubu and Buhari 
His grouse is that, according to him, the Igbo have refused to move on since after former president Jonathan lost the last presidential election to the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari. In one fell swoop, he accused the Igbo of ethnic bigotry and still went ahead to wonder why it is that the people of the South South region have since moved on while their South Eastern brothers have refused to move on from that election. If the Igbo were ethnic bigots, how would they be so concerned about the loss of a Bayelsa man in an election to the extent that a certain Joe Igbokwe is riled by their stoic and unwavering support to such a man even more than a year after his loss?

Rather than paint the Igbo in such uncomplimentary, yet, false light, Joe should turn his focus on his principals and paymasters who are working tirelessly to continually divide Nigeria along ethnic and religious lines. When the president of a country has officially divided his nation into two political, ethnic and religious lines by the virtue of the “97% vs 5%” declaration of no person less than the president himself, the Igbo view him as one who does not mean well for the nation.

 In this light, the Igbo view Jonathan as a hero because, even though he is not Igbo, he would never have made such a divisive and unpresidential statement not to talk of acting it out. And as if to prove that declaration as an official policy of his, President Buhari’s appointments have not been federal either in character or in intent. To this extent, the Igbo view themselves as endangered species in a nation that easily preaches one Nigeria but state actors do the exact opposite. The president’s continued seclusion of certain parts of the country from State offices and projects, if there is anyone at all, is what is crippling Nigeria. The cry of the Igbo, which the likes of Igbokwe have misinterpreted to serve their own selfish purpose, is that Buhari should not crash the nation with his own hands.

 If anyone sees this as ethnic bigotry, the person has urgent need for an optician and a psychiatrist! With the level of poverty visited on us in Nigeria by the Buhari administration, it is enough to make people like Igbokwe spew nonsense in the name of criticism, and also makes it imperative for regular brain checks to be part of such people’s daily menu. When armless and harmless Igbo embark on peaceful rallies and the military shoot at them without provocation, killing many in the process, not once, not twice, and hurriedly bury them in mass shallow graves in military barracks and elsewhere in order to cover their evil, Joe Igbokwe expects Ndigbo to applaud rather than criticize state actors for their wickedness and insensitivity. Enough is enough! 

What is not good is not good no matter those involved even if they are Igbo. It is high time we started calling a spade by its name. When about a thousand defenceless and helpless core northerners including women and children were shot at and killed by the same military in Zaria sometime in December 2015, and their leader, El Zakzaky, wheeled in a barrow in a pool of his own blood, it is this same Igbo “ethnic bigots” who took up the fight and condemned that action of the military in its strongest terms.

The Igbo are not bigots, brother, they just believe that injustice and oppression of anyone anywhere is injustice to all. It is the Igbo that have condemned in the loudest voices the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu as much as they have done for Sambo Dasuki and Femi Fani-Kayode. That is not a trait of bigots! It is this same Igbo that elected a Fulani man, Alhaji Umaru Altine, from the old Sokoto Province of the then Northern Nigeria as its first Mayor when Enugu was the capital of the then Eastern Nigeria. The operative word here is “elected”. The man who was not only from Sokoto but also a scion of the Sokoto Caliphate, was elected by Igbo people to lead them not minding the fact that at that time, the Igbo were already established in academics, commerce, trade, politics etc and did not lack candidates to fill that position which Umaru Altine held from 1952 – 1958 without any rancour or disloyalty from his subjects. 

Weekly Trust captures it this way: Nigeria never fails to shock. This power to shock in a positive sense is embodied in the life and career of Umoru Altine, scion of the Sokoto Caliphate, who, on a record two occasions, became the Mayor of Enugu, which lies deep in Nigeria’s South East. He was the first ever Mayor of Enugu” (published on March 22, 2013). It is also very instructive to note that this same excellent Mayor was a cattle rearer. It was his cattle herding that took him to Enugu where he eventually settled and lived at then 39, Carter Street, Ogui, and later at 1&3, Hassan Lane, Uwani both in Enugu. (When Fulani herdsmen prove good neighbous, the Igbo do not mind elevating them to exalted positions even in their own land but when these same Fulani herdsmen turn killers of their hosts, the Igbo would not hesitate to put their foot down!) Altine contested one of his elections against a South South “brother”, D.T. Inyang, whom he defeated by 117 to 53 votes while he was returned unopposed at the next election. These facts are instructive as they prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Igbo are not parochial, hateful or bigot as some, even brothers want others to believe.

 If they voted for Altine and against Inyang then, and today, they vote for Jonathan against Buhari, it is not because of where they come from but because of records and perceived future performances of the two major contestants in the last election. To the Igbo, it does not matter where you come from, if you are good, you are good! I do not want to condescend to the arena of who wears what and eats what. But it is a well known fact that while the Igbo man/woman has no qualms at all wearing an agbada, babariga, aso oke etc, how many non-Igbo wear the Isi agu except for campaign purposes? 

According to Igbokwe, “If Mrs. Eunice Elisha had been an Igbo hell would have been let loose” (Mrs Eunice Olawale Elisha was the woman-evangelist recently killed in Kubwa area of Abuja by suspected religious extremists). Well, I do not know if Igbokwe is aware of what is happening in Dallas Texas, USA, over the alleged racist killing of black people by white police officers? I have not seen any Igbo carry arms in protest or anyone marching at all for Mrs Elisha. What I know is that, like many other reasonable Nigerians, the Igbo have joined in the condemnation of that dastardly act and will continue to do so even if it is Buhari, Tinubu or Joe Igbokwe’s immediate relation that is a victim.

The notion that “the Igbo would have let hell loose” is only the figment of Joe’s imagination. When the incident of Mrs Bridget Agbaheme, the 75 years old Igbo woman that was recently stoned to death in a most barbaric manner in a Kano market happened, what hell did the Igbo let loose? When Fulani herdsmen invaded Enugu recently and killed scores of people in a manner that elicited international outcry, what hell did the Igbo let loose? The Igbo shouted, cried and condemned that which was condemnable even if it was done in the strongest of terms. That was understandable given the prior unhindered rampage of the herdsmen in other parts of the country. This unwholesome exaggeration of Igbo’s resilience to oppression, subjugation and injustice can only be from people whose livelihood is based on sophistry.

No other ethnic group in Nigeria has suffered human, political and economic loss in Nigeria than the Igbo, yet, the only weapon the Igbo unleash on their oppressors is their ability to speak up and out. And in doing this, they are visited with tears, sorrows and blood by the authorities just for speaking and using their vote as they see fit. Contrary to Igbokwe’s assertion, we are all aware of how our Yoruba brothers held the nation hostage in the aftermath of the annulment of June 12 presidential election. We are aware of how the nation was brought to its knees using the media including Radio Kuburat (an equivalent of today’s Radio Biafra), industrial actions including crippling ones led by NUPENG and PENGASSAN as headed by Frank Kokori then, NADECO, demonstrations including pockets of violent ones, to the extent that non-indigenes became so afraid of an impending war that they had to leave the South West in what was known as oso Abiola!

Just like the Igbo, the Yoruba also hate injustice; they can fight against it with their lives only that this time, a majority of them have been trapped, quietly and subtly ruing their political miscalculation in the last general elections. Despite this fact, a good number of them are still fighting, fighting for justice, equity and the rule of law. Among them are Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, Femi Fani-Kayode (former Minister of Aviation), Yinka Odumakin (National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere) etc. The Igbo attitude to issues and politics has been aptly defined by Woodrow Wilson who said “I would rather fail in a cause that will ultimately triumph than triumph in a cause that will ultimately fail”. 

The choice is yours, the Igbo have made theirs. Finally, nobody is saying Joe “Omosonu” Igbokwe (Omosonu in Yoruba meaning a lost child) should not eat but while eating the crumbs that fall from his paymasters’ tables, let him not point to his roots with his left hand; an Igbo proverb says only a foolish child does so.
 *Jude Ndukwe, wrote from Abuja (Email: jrndukwe@yahoo.co.uk)

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