By Pini Jason
SOMEHOW death brings out the hidden side of the Nigerian. I mean, really, that death, especially that which offers photo opportunity, exposes the hypocritical side of the Nigerian.
And so, I have enjoyed watching Nigerians putting their vulgar hypocrisy on display since the death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, Dikedioranma of Igboland and Eze Igbo Gburu-gburu.
The death of Ojukwu has produced several Ojukwu experts. There is a national commotion by people rushing and pushing to delight us with their exclusive Ojukwu insight. One of the most hilarious is the fellow who rushed out an insider’s account of Ojukwu simply on account of working in Ojukwu’s failed media effort for a year!
People who yesterday would not want to be identified with the world’s most famous “rebel” are now straining to find their own Ojukwu angle. It is all so good. That is what it means to be a celebrity! Everybody wants to keep your discarded saviette as a momento! But at a time like this I wish that Chris Okolie were alive! He was the young man who braved the odds to go to Cote D’Ivoire to interview Ojukwu and got his Newbreed magazine banned by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo!
I have had good cognac in Ojukwu’s house in Enugu, but am not an Ojukwu expert. I have had a very revealing discussion with him and Governor Peter Obi about the origin of the crisis of APGA, but am not an Ojukwu expert. I have had a prolonged argument with him over his role on return from exile, yet that cannot make me an Ojukwu expert.
One day in his Vilaska Lodge, Ikoyi Lagos residence, he espoused for me his own view of Igbo leadership hierarchy (Owelle Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Nwafor Orizu, then Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu), but I cannot claim to be an Ojukwu expert. But one thing I am, even though we argue, is a great admirer of the Nigerian prophet and the iconic African historian called Emeka Ojukwu. There is more to that son of Africa than Nigeria permitted itself to appreciate while he was alive.
Understandably, a man like Ojukwu evokes mixed emotions. You cannot be neutral about him. But in death Nigeria is now confessing that Ojukwu was not just a rebel. He was not an ambitious Igbo out to carve an empire for himself. Before the world decided to wake up from its slumber, there was the Biafran genocide.
Before Rwanda, Biafra was! Before Bosnia and Kosovo, Biafra was. Ojukwu was a courageous man who sacrificed everything, and I mean everything, to defend a people faced with the cruelest genocidal extermination that would today make the authors stand trial at the International Criminal Court for crime against humanity. Any less patriotic man would have compromised in order to protect his inheritance and life of privilege. But he didn’t. He stood for justice at the expense of his personal material comfort. How many leaders today make any personal sacrifice on behalf of the people?
Nigerian military’s indiscipline
Today, everyone who hitherto demonised Ojukwu has confessed that, faced with the same challenges, he would act the same way Ojukwu did. Ojukwu tried to save the Nigerian military from a scourge of indiscipline that plagued and ravaged it for decades by insisting on the hierarchy of succession. Ojukwu tried to save Nigeria from many of the very same diseases that renders it prostate today, but Nigeria decided to self destruct! Any one desirous of understanding Nigeria and the deeper source of its troubles should humble himself and read the Ahiara Declaration.
Ojukwu talked about the struggle of the Negro African and white imperialism and that immediately connects with the Haiti revolution for which Haiti still suffers today in the hands of the white world. Haiti was the first country to recognise Biafra and people asked why? In his spectacular address to the World Igbo Congress in Michigan in September 2007, tilted Ima Onwe-The Way to the Future, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim eloquently established the connection. He told his audience: “Dr. Duvalier, who later became President of Haiti, and popularly known as Papa Doc, told Ikejiani that the Haitians were of Igbo origin. These Igbo slaves in the then Island of San Domingo, as Haiti was then known, led the first successful revolution of black slaves that defeated the British Forces and established the first black independent Republic of Haiti. But, that history is obliterated by British historians till this day.” This seems to explain, not only why Haiti recognised Biafra but also the curious alliance of British, Russian, Egyptian and the Muslim Arab world to stop Biafra. They did not want another Igbo revolution like Haiti’s, particularly in Africa where Arab-Muslim expansionists had trained their eyes for a “free” continent that could become a home for the Arab-Muslims.
The Arab-Muslim expansionism which Ojukwu spoke about is still playing out in Sudan and in Nigeria today. The Darfur genocide has its origin in that expansionism. The Arab-Muslim onslaught against Christianity is no longer hidden. People fear that the Third World War will be Arab-Muslim against the Christian world. That may explain Iran’s obsession with the Muslim Bomb! So to think that the fury of massacre by Boko Haram terrorists, who have links to Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda and whose members are said to have come from Ghaddafi infested Chad and Niger, is just for not wanting Western education is to be blind!
The audacious fury of the murderous Boko Haram and its support base in Nigeria and abroad, 43 years after Ojukwu warned about them, should worry any patriotic Nigerian. It is no longer hidden that Boko Haramites owe stronger allegiance to the Arab-Muslim world than to the Nigeria state and think nothing of trashing Nigeria. If we do nothing now to save Nigeria as Ojukwu tried to save it in Aburi, another confrontation is imminent and the outcome will be unspeakable. Playing the ostrich will get Nigeria no where.
Nigeria since Ahiara Declaration
The Nigerian condition has not changed since Ojukwu’s Ahiara Declaration. If anything, it has worsened. Hear Ojukwu:
“Bribery, corruption and nepotism were so widespread that people began to wonder openly whether any country in the world could compare with Nigeria in corruption and abuse of power. All the modern institutions – the Legislature, the Civil Service, the Army, the Police, the Judiciary, the Universities, the Trade Unions and the organs of mass information – were devalued and made the tools of corrupt political power. There was complete neglect and impoverishment of the people. Whatever prosperity there was, was deceptive.
“Unemployment was growing. Thousands of young school-leavers were drifting away from the villages which had nothing to offer them into towns with no employment openings. There was despair in many hearts and the number of suicides was growing every day. The farmers were very hard-hit, their standard of living had fallen steeply. The soils were perishing from over-farming and lack of scientific husbandry. The towns like the soils were wastelands into which people put in too much exertion for too little reward. There were crime waves and people lived in fear of their lives.
“Business speculation, rack-renting, worship of money and sharp practices left a few extremely rich at the expense of the many, and these few flaunted their wealth before the many and talked about sharing the national cake. Foreign interests did roaring business spreading consumer goods and wares among a people who had not developed a habit of thrift and who fell prey to lying advertisements.
“Inequality of the sexes was actively promoted in Nigeria. Rather than aspire to equality with men, women were encouraged to accept the status of inferiority and to become the mistresses of successful politicians and business executives, or they were married off at the age of fourteen as the fifteenth wives of the new rich. That was the glorious Nigeria, the mythical Nigeria, celebrated in the European press.
“Then worst of all came; the genocide in which over 50,000 of our kith and kin were slaughtered in cold blood all over Nigeria, and nobody asked questions, nobody showed regret, nobody showed remorse. Thus, Nigeria had become a jungle with no safety, no justice and no hope for our people. We decided then to found a new place, a human habitation away from the Nigerian jungle. That was the origin of our Revolution”.
The above ills still haunt Nigeria today. Who would then say that Biafra was simply a matter of Ojukwu’s ambition for a personal empire? These very self evident truths have made many of Ojukwu’s critics to rediscover their own truths about the man. That is why the honest ones among them have realised that Ojukwu was a patriot, a hero who kept his promise to his people; to defend them.
Can Nigeria help itself out of this quagmire? It can. But we cannot continue to behave as if merely ignoring the problem will solve it. This problem is not something we would wake up one day to find that it has varnished! We have to work at it. Every organisation from time to time does a SWOT analysis and repositions itself accordingly. A clever organisation has to induce its own built-in obsolescence or it dies. Every marriage requires constant adjustment on both parties for it to last. What breaks a marriage is not that it is forced or arranged marriage; it is lack of adjustment. It is when we fail to adjust accordingly that the marriage crashes, often irretrievably!
Now that we have among us people who want to be governed under Shariah and are killing to press their demand, I think Nigerians must give them a hearing. It is their right as Muslims to live under Shariah or not to go to school, just as those of us Christians are entitled to live in peace as Christians. We must not be naïve to think that the discovery of oil in Chad and Niger has not altered the dynamics of our existence. But such a demand is not a matter between them and President Jonathan. It is a matter between them and the rest of us because, in the words of Ojukwu, we are all involved! The fear for an all inclusive national dialogue derives from Aburi where Nigeria thought that Ojukwu outsmarted it. The issues today are very clear to all that no one needs entertain fear of being outwitted.
Oiling our shackles
Ojukwu pointed the way to necessary adjustment in the Nigerian marriage. It was ignored and we fought a brutal civil war. The present gory demand in the North is alerting Nigeria to an urgent need for re-jigging and revamping this creaky marriage but unfortunately, turf defenders are playing the ostrich. The consequence will be as inevitably dire as it was foretold. Therefore, Nigeria has to honestly commit itself to nation building. What are holding us back are fear, suspicion, greed and hatred. We must find the courage to shake off this debilitating smugness and remove the shackles instead of oiling them daily. Oiling our shackles may make them a little more comfortable. But it will never make us free!