By Obi Nwakanma
Richard Condon’s novel, The Manchurian Candidate (1959), now a classic of the cold-war, is a political thriller about a young American soldier, from a very prominent political family, who is recruited, brainwashed, and unleashed unto the American political landscape by the Communists to effect subterranean changes that would have ground-shifting impact on American politics and society.
The basic unsubtle trigger of the story is that the main character, Raymond Shaw is programmed as a “sleeper agent” to undermine his own society. It is from this scenario, the characters – individuals primed, either by self-interest, greed, unhealed trauma, or even conditioned psychosis that produces among other things, self-hatred, and instigated by external forces to undermine their own societies, communities, or even families by pretending to work within it, that I call the “Manchurian complex.”
That drive to step away from a common cloth, or thread, or interest; to presume to be so aware of history that you sometimes believe that you speak, or know better than your society. But as we have always known, even with the deepest capacity for introspection, no individual is worthier or better than his/her society. Change – the change that does common good comes to every society by consilience not by individuation.
But I was speaking of the “Manchurian complex.” It seems to me that, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, the Igbo-Lagosian, prominent these days for his harangues of the larger community of the Igbo with whom he now frequently disagrees, is clearly demonstrating the symptoms of the “Manchurian complex.”
There is evidence that his political affiliations has made him the ultimate “Manchurian candidate” – as a “sleeper agent” among the Igbo, inserted by his political masters to undermine and tear down every contemporary Igbo position within the discourse of nation, and there is evidence that he is paid quite handsomely for it in Lagos.
Let me tell a little story of Joe Igbokwe, the Nnewi-born, University of Nigeria Nsukka-trained Engineer, who became a trader in Lagos in the late 1980s and 1990s. Good old Joe earned his laurels as part of the NADECO chattering-classes after June 12, and spoke out quite openly against that travesty of election cancellations.
He campaigned for the restructuring of the federation, for political justice, and for the restoration of Moshood Abiola’s mandate. It was all dandy then. He even wrote a book, The Igbo: 25 years after Biafra.
Frankly, it was of mediocre quality, and the analysis was a wash, but it did the job, and put across the issue he wanted to put across, and that is, that the Igbo remained marginalized in Nigeria’s political life. No sane person could disagree with Joe Igbokwe’s position then, and we in the Lagos press, gave him some free rein because his sentiments melded with the leading sentiment of the day. It all allied with what we called the “pro-democracy” movement which later turned out to be all fiction. He joined the defunct AD in Lagos, and soon joined the Bola Tinubu train, and Ogbeni Tinubu, the new Are Ona Kakanfo of South-West politics, has since become his god, and does no wrong.
Tinubu’s party, the APC, of which Joe Igbokwe is publicity Secretary for Lagos, is his newest obsession. Joe Igbokwe, most certainly because he has since discerned what side his own bread is buttered, has accorded Mr. Tinubu far more regard than he ever accorded the late Ikemba Odumegwu-Ojukwu, whom Mr. Igbokwe took to the dogs in 2001, after the so-called Igbo summit in Enugu.
Joe had sworn to undercut everything about Igbo agitation for justice, including the new Biafra movement, because it does not agree with his own political choices and personal interest as a paid servant of anti-Igbo campaigners. I should at this stage make this point clear: Joe Igbokwe has every right as a citizen of Nigeria to speak his mind, take any position, and be paid for it, or act pro-bono.
What he must not be allowed to do, or get away with is to resort to the calumniation of an entire Igbo people, to press home his own political frustrations. Joe is a Lagosian who cannot win an election in Nnewi, his former home in Igbo land. He must learn to be calm on Igbo questions beyond his pay grade. I say this in response to Joe Igbokwe’s most recent troll titled, “Efulefu Biafrans and their Ethnic Card show” circulating in many chat rooms.
In this profoundly asinine piece, Igbokwe again, with disregard to form, basically called the Igbo, their leaders, and those who support the Biafra agitation – a very large number of the Igbo, the “Efulefu.” But in truth, Joe Igbokwe and his circle of pied-pipers are the real “Akalogoli.” A man like Joe Igbokwe who writes that kind of hogwash, and who calls Ndi Igbo “Efulefu” because they are engaged in civil disobedience is not only ignorant of the true meaning of the kind of democracy that permits him his own voice, but of the very meaning of political conscience. Here is what Joe wrote for starters: “Twenty-one years ago, I wrote my first Book, Igbos: 25 YEARS AFTER BIAFRA.
In that book I wrote that it is true that Igbo have been marginalized in every sector in Nigeria be it at the Federal level, State, Local Government, Army, Navy, Airforce, Police, House of Reps, Senate, and even in Revenue allocations, Appointments, Infrastructure distribution, National institutions etc. I acknowledged the fact that even as painful as it is our people marginalize themselves even further without knowing it.
I had thought that 46years after the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War, Igbo would have been matured enough to throw persecution complex, leadership complex and defeatism attitude into the dustbin of history knowing fully well that the victors of that Civil War are really not better than Igbo today in Nigeria, everything considered.”
I quote this at length to ask the following questions: (a) have the conditions that the Igbo cried out against 25 years after the civil war improved? Are the Igbo still marginalized or not? (b) If the Igbo young men and women, many of them university-trained graduates, who are the real victims of this marginalization that Ojukwu described as “living in a glass ceiling” are on the streets protesting daily, fearlessly defying the death visited on them by soldiers and policemen ordered to shoot them to death, how does that amount to defeatism? I think “defeatism” is the self-indulgent prescription for “soft-power” recently advocated by my friend C.Don Adinuba.
The use of “soft power” is possible as strategy only if there is the counter-balancing presence of “hard power,” and the application of “soft power” as a diplomatic strategy exists as an option for those who already have the power in a condition of imbalance, not those who are seeking to create a balance of power from the position of vulnerability. C-Don should read Joseph Nye more closely. In the context in which he suggests it for the Igbo, it means, bend, take it from behind, and thank-your-rapist.
That is what Joe Igbokwe and his cohorts of the “Akaliogoli” are also advocating for the Igbo: to stay silent; to be part of some hush-hush- kumbaya- movement, so that people like Joe Igbokwe can sleep easily, and do their business of collecting minor rent on behalf of the Igbo in Lagos. It is foolish, blind, selfish elitism. Joe Igbokwe wants the “Igbo-Biafran” to keep their gobs taped because “the victors of that Civil War are really not better than Igbo today in Nigeria, everything considered.”
But that is hardly the question: the issue for these agitators is that the material condition in which they live is generally oppressive, and they insist on changing it. I for one do not think that secession is the solution, nor should it be the end-game. But it is a terrible kind of self-regard that may warrant Mr. Igbokwe to dismiss a popular movement because he picks the crumbs from under the table of its opposition, like some house nigger in the old story of black slavery in the Americas.
The truth is that the Biafrans are not the “Efulefu,” they are courageous agitators for justice. They are within their rights to use non-violent means to press home a choice which is the choice for which we all fought for democratic rights to be restored in 1999.
Igbokwe, now in the habit of cussing out Ndi Igbo who express different political opinion in the crudest of language, has never raised a voice to speak out against the massacres that happened in Ukpor and Asaba, and in other parts of the East, of young men and women expressing their constitutionally given rights to assemble, speak out, protest, and yes, if it comes to it, seek self-determination.
That is what it all boils down to: the right to self-determination to be mediated through a proper referendum. That is all these Biafrans ask! I feel very sorry for Joe Igbokwe, because he’d soon come to learn the meaning of loneliness when decent Igbo will rise, dust their feet and walk out of the room whenever Joe Igbokwe enters into a gathering of Ndi Igbo – because they see him as the ultimate “Manchurian candidate.”