A short while ago, series of articles on “the Igbo race and their unrestrained quest for dominance” churned out from the pen of Femi Fani-Kayode.
The ripples of those articles have not abated as the altercation between Fani-Kayode and one of the ladies mentioned in one of the articles continues to show. With Kayode’s last article on this subject matter titled, “The Nationality Question”, one is left with the impression that those articles on Igbo race was, among other things, also Fani-Kayode’s own way of contributing to the nationality question.
As a priest living in the cosmopolitan city of Rome, I have a firsthand experience of the importance of discussion and dialogue for groups that are made up of different races. But the question one may pose is whether Fani-Kayode’s method and his present posture over fallouts from those articles can ever be a civilized way of addressing the issues despite his claim to civility.
An analysis of the four articles – “Lagos, The Igbo And The Servants of Truth”, “The Bitter Truth About The Igbo”, “A Word For Those Who Call Me A Tribalist” and “The Nationality Question” – reveals a woeful failure in this regard.
Before I analyse the articles, let me note something which I found interesting in one of the articles- “A Word For Those That Call Me A Tribalist” – where Fani-Kayode asked whether there is no Hector out there to challenge him the great Achilles. Unfortunately, those articles do not present Fani-Kayode as the Achilles but rather as Hector.
A look at the Homeric presentation of Achilles and Hector in his great poem-book Iliad will definitely vindicate this position. In the Homeric Iliad, Achilles despite his military prowess was able to recognise danger when he saw one. He censured Agamemnon for his arrogance and refusal to send back Chryseis to the priest of Apollo despite the danger that holding her entailed.
Hector the son of King Priam, on the other hand, despite the warning from Polydamas that he should retreat to the city wall of Troy refused to do so at the cost of his death by Achilles. The tone of Fani-Kayode’s articles both then and now does not show him as someone who is aware of the dynamite he is sowing, including the recent threat to reveal the lurid details of his past love-life.
The contents of his articles are simply a writ-large of Hector’s Arrogance. And with this, let us see to what extent Kayode’s method helped in building or destroying the nationality question.
His diatribe over the Igbo race all began with a statement attributed to Orji Uzor Kalu that “Lagos is no man’s land”. With this first salvo, the pen of Fani-Kayode ran free in one of the most unguarded views over any race I have ever seen in my entire life.
First, he began in what in his own estimation is the history of the Igbo hegemony over the rest of Nigerians since the last 100 years and then went ahead to deduct from his inductive examples what the Igbo people have always been and still are. For the sake of our paper, let’s assume that the historical data he gave about the civil war, the first coup, the role of Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, the NCNC’s Herbert Marcaulay, the statements of Zik, Mr. Charles Dadi Onyeama and other things he mentioned are all true, the question is, to what extent is he free to categorize a race as being uncouth and ignorant based on this scant historical data and from the said actions exonerate another race?
Of course, as a lawyer, I supposed he studied the elementary logic of inductive and deductive reasoning. And he knows that despite the fact that induction is the basis of scientific hypothesis, in logic, it only supplies a “probable” ground for the veracity of the conclusions that are drawn from it. How can he, as learned as he claimed to be, derive a universal proposition from a particular.
As a Cambridge alumnus, I thought he studied simple Aristotelian Syllogistic reasoning. With the above little historical evidence in the previous paragraph, he went ahead to profile a race, writing “the Igbos have not only taken us for granted but have also taken our liberty for license…. instead of being grateful the Igbo continuously run us down ….. unlike them we are not mere traders but we were (and still are) major industrialist and investors…. worst of all, generally speaking, they have no restraining factors because money and acquisition of wealth is their sole objective and purpose in life”.
Again from the one or two responses made by individuals about his article he went hay wire to write “that those that I have described as being COLLECTIVELY unlettered, uncouth, uncultured, unrestrained and crude in all their ways are all those things and a lot more… (and you proudly stated) I make or offer no apology for my numerous assertions on the Igbo stand”. Haba!
With this written conclusion about a race, he had also the effrontery to argue subsequently that he is not a tribalist. Of course, I will never call him one since it is not my mission in this write-up to pass a judgement on him. But whether Fani-kayode as a person is a tribalist or not is immaterial, what is important is what his articles say about him.
Of course, I suppose he knows that in the philosophy of language, words are only signs and symbols on paper when considered on their own. They only assume a meaning when considered from the intention of the writer. I suppose as an Alumnus of Cambridge, he studied Aristotle’s De interpretatione where he wrote: “Written words are the signs of words spoken (and) words spoken are symbols and signs of affections or impressions of the soul.”
And as a prolific reader which I believe he is, he must have read Jerry Foder in his language of thought where he argues that “spoken and written language derive their intentionality and meaning from an internal language encoded in the mind.” The statements of these learned men have always been expressed in the aphorism “ex abundantia cordis, os loquitur” (from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks).
In the light of the above, if his articles represent the condition of his mind, we need to go further to argue that those things in his mind cannot be incontrovertibly removed from him.
As Thomas Aquinas stated “nihil intellectu est, quod prius in sensu fuerit” which simply means that there is nothing in the mind that has not first been felt in the senses. In other words, what we put down in our writings are somehow what we believe. So the facts in his articles are speaking out for themselves.
Again as a Christian, I am a little bit worried about the arguments he has supplied to defuse the tension and unyoke the tribal toga that is being placed on him. Among them he wrote, “I was not a tribalist when many years ago I attended and gave my life to Christ in a Church called TREM which was established by a great Igbo man by the name of Bishop Mike Okonkwo”.
Did Femi really write this? Did he say that he gave his life to Christ or Bishop Okonkwo- Igbo man. As a learned man, did he not see the contradiction contained in his write-up. Has Christ been incarnated in bishop Okonkwo or has Christ been “Igbonized”.
If he gave his life to Christ how has that turned him a patronizer of the Igbo race. Please, when has religion become an avenue to patronize a race? When has being a Protestant turned one into a patronizer of England or being a Lutheran into a patronizer of Deutschland? Like Christ, I will ask him, who did you go to TREM to look for? Honestly, it is disturbing reading something like this from someone who went to Cambridge. I thought he would have known better?
Did he not think that his lecturers in Cambridge will be wondering what has gone wrong with their learned Alumnus. I thought he bagged a diploma at Christian Action Faith Bible Seminary in Accra, Ghana in 1985. Did they teach him that religion is no more about God but about individuals and patronization of a race? The reasoning that led to this conclusion is really disturbing.
As if the above intellectual tragedy is not enough, he went further to list the names of Igbo girls he has had intimate relationship as a way to show his detribalized nature and his openness to the Igbo race. Haba! He is really a genius to be attempting to turn his selfish youthful philandering into a favor for a race. I will suggest that his name be put in the Guinness Book of record as the only one whose selfishness in giving free reign to “the dark god in his blood” as C. S Lewis described instinct also performed an honorable act. As a Christian, I thought he would have known better.
How is it that he is not able to make a distinction between the animal instinct which from his write-up was playing out in those relationships from a moral-rational decision that one makes when he wants to live out the universal brotherhood of humanity.
Did he really write this himself? Where lies the Christian dignity which he attributed to himself in the last write-up? Has he never read the Heroides of Ovid where the story of Greek heroines was well presented. If frolicking with women is a mark of love for a race, Ovid’s heroines would not have been complaining of the wickedness of their lovers to their race. And Aeneas who produced a child with Dido the founder of Carthage should not have seared Rome a city that destroyed Carthage.
Since the article is based on the mantra of truth as he argued, whether the historical content which he presented in them are the “sacred truth” of the Nigerian history or not, it must be noted that truth is not an independent reality.
Correspondency theory argues that the truth expressed must tarry with the facts. But reading through his articles, one sees that the truth which is the mantra he is holding unto is deficient. It is so because the premise for his unjustified pronunciation of a race as uncouth and uneducated and money driven lot is not true and can never support his conclusion.
The untruthfulness of his article is based on the fact that his article by its own judgment cannot sustain its argument. It only provided examples with the actions of less than 100 concrete individuals out of more than 50, 000, 000 groups and from there, made a general judgment over the group. Again, he should remember that what one calls truth in history is only interest-oriented and not a dogma. Each historian presents a story from his own perspective as it appeals to him. A history provided by Professor Kenneth Dike cannot be exactly the same provided by a Yoruba historian.
A look at his articles can even authenticate this argument. In his write-up for example, he said in the first article, “I have nothing against my fellow Nigerians from other parts of country and I have proved over and over again that I love Nigeria and that I am a Nigerian before anything else.
Yet, he went further in the last article to write, “I am first and foremost a Yoruba and I will live and die for the Yoruba and indeed for my nation Nigeria if need be.” So based on the altar of truth which he has pontificated upon, it is very clear that the first statement and the second statement can never be true under the principle of contradiction unless both objects of love are loved under different circumstances which in this case is not so. It is clear that from his articles he is presenting these two objects of love in relation to the other.
This simply means that the truthfulness of any of the statements excludes the other. But of course, I know that each statement is driven by the group he was trying to address and the facts he was trying to contest.
The analysis above, therefore, is not meant to argue which one he really loved before the other but only to show him that truth, even in his own articles, are only presented as much as it soothes his own taste, driven by the audience he wants to address.
So please, would it not be better if he were more honest and humbler than taking the Socratic posture of truth-upholder when his articles do not substantiate that. Nigeria is in dire need of nationality discussion as a veritable tool for harmonious existence among different ethnic groups but Femi Fani Kayode’s method is a disaster in that regard. God bless you all.
Gerald Azike is a Catholic priest living in Rome