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Ethnic attack as Soyinka bashing

By Rotimi Fasan
A MAJOR fallout of the 2015 presidential election, specifically the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan by the incumbent president, Mohammadu Buhari, is the high level of bitterness it has engendered among a wide section of the Igbo people. I should say that the kind of commentaries through which this bitterness is expressed may not necessarily reflect the general position of the Igbo.

But in view of the pervasive effect of the media and the importance attached to the written word when encountered in such mediated environments, it is safe to assume that this kind of hate talk is far too ingrained and widespread as to be considered the rhetorical equivalent of a cancerous growth that should be lobotomised.  The bile that accompanies the hate talk is as toxic as toxic could be and appears to be choking even those who purvey it to unsuspecting members of the public. Since no systematic study has been conducted on this unfortunate development or statistical measurement available as to its spread, it’s effect on the different sections of the Igbo demographic is anybody’s guess.soyinka

Apparently worst affected by this is a vast section of the younger generation of the Igbo. Which is what makes it all the more problematic for future relations among the Igbo and other ethnic players in the Nigerian nation. Which thus leads me to the point that the bitterness is outer-directed at people, especially the Yoruba, that are perceived to have had a hand in the defeat of Jonathan. The Hausa and Fulani are also butts of attack by these mostly faceless cyber warriors, newspaper terrorists, blog thugs, stalkers and apparent layabouts, not forgetting the pseudo-intellectuals who do the same thing by indirection. The target of the attacks need not have directly influenced the outcome of the 2015 election. You only need to be identified or be identifiable as a member of the ethnic group upon which guilt for the defeat of Jonathan has been pronounced to be fair game.

Yes, there are many Yoruba who go on attack missions like what is being described here but these are often by way of responses to attacks by the Igbo warriors on the prowl. And it is not always easy to condemn such behaviour in others without appearing to share in it. Yet, to remain silent in the face of the blind and blinding ignorance that fuels this rush of ethnic attacks and their potential for social disharmony would amount to a copout.

The attacks have gone on for quite a while now, taking a dangerously virulent dimension that should no longer be ignored in the light of the unrelenting and usually unprovoked attacks on Wole Soyinka and other prominent Yoruba critical of the Igbo-dominated Jonathan government. Soyinka has been the target of attack clearly because of his tacit, even cautious, support of the All Progressives Congress and the Buhari administration. Soyinka’s credential as at once a Nigerian original, nationalist and world citizen speak for itself. It hardly needs the imprimatur of the Nigerian state to say nothing of the faceless goons who doggedly stalk his public pronouncements and activity with the intention to denigrate his person. This much is clear: he is more than able to defend himself (as his latest ‘response in kind’ on the US green card matter shows) in a manner beyond the comprehension of his traducers. My comment here then is to let his critics realise that not a few are aware of the motive for their attacks which has absolutely NOTHING to do with any personal failing on his part. The bilious attacks on Soyinka and the eagerness to misrepresent his comments are for reasons of his high moral and intellectual standing which he refused to lend the discredited Jonathan administration.

His critics have been trying both vainly and impotently to pull him down. The rub of it all for them is the fact of his ethnicity as a Yoruba, an ethnic group that many young Igbo have obviously been mis-educated to believe is responsible for whatever are the real or perceived woes of their people within the Nigerian nation. For his highly political critics, Wole Soyinka is a metonym for the Yoruba and an attack on him or any other Yoruba figure like Bola Tinubu (another favourite target) is considered an attack on the entire Yoruba people.  Conduct like this can only worsen rather than improve relations (not with Soyinka who couldn’t possibly care less what many of this people think of him) but the wider Yoruba people and others who would be encouraged to respond in kind, as they have indeed been doing, to the many unprovoked attacks of Igbo youth.

Very often comments such as the ones I make here are seen as a demonstration of ethnic partisanship or incitement, which is why many people tend to turn a blind eye to the activities that invite them. I have myself been reluctant to speak about this for many months now because of the possibility of misrepresentation, genuine or otherwise. Yet, it has become inevitable that one should at this point address the matter for reasons of the greater public good I hope could come out of it, and the need to tell those who have chosen this path of national misconduct to know that others are aware of their game and that such games are unlikely to win them friends.

It’s important also that the word should go out there that while Soyinka as an intellectual has chosen to respond in writing, attacks like the types that have been targeted at him are liable to invite less conciliatory responses from others with neither the desire for nor luxury of ‘big grammar’, as his  critics derisively but indeed in a shameless show of cognitive poverty label his comments. Made elsewhere among less ‘intellectual’ persons, such veiled ethnic-chauvinist outbursts could result in very dire consequences. A people should not act like they have the exclusive right to haul generalised or personal insults and abuses at others. This is despicable behaviour at the best of times but even more so when it appears unprovoked or when every opportunity is actively sought to launch such attacks. Yet this is what we’ve seen among many of our Igbo compatriots since Jonathan lost the 2015 election. They’ve cried and grieved more than the bereaved for the obvious fact that the Jonathan administration was an Igbo-led government of sorts.

Words either as jokes or, more so, abuses have serious consequences. While not justifying them, we’ve seen this proven in the bloody responses to words uttered as insults/abuses in the aftermath of the January 1966 coup and in several other instances in this country. This is what we must all try not to forget in our struggle towards national integration.


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