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Vox populi, and the auguries of 2018

By Obi Nwakanma

Vox Populi, Vox Dei” – this Latin, for the English statement, “the voice of the people is the voice of God,” has become so true, that it is now almost a cliché. The imperative of it is the signal spirit of the democratic idea, and the whole revolutionary notion that upended Feudalism and the Monarchy, and their primitive sense or idea of a “ruling class.”

Nigerian youths

The simple idea that the divine rights of the ruler was bogus, and is inferior to the divine rights of people as equally created, equally endowed by their creator to the bounties of the earth, equally capable of choice, particularly in the choice of how to be governed by those whom they choose to represent them, as well as the choice of when to rise to remove all tyrannies, because once gathered, the people embody the divine, and God speaks through them, has been the leaven of all revolutions.

The modern nation of Nigeria emerged from a complex and hybrid history, and was made up of societies with different notions of governance.

At the period of the encounter with modernity, many of these societies were still at the primitive stages of monarchism and feudalism; only the Igbo had a fairly advanced sense of democracy, and had evolved a confederation of small, union governments or republics; none so large or powerful as to conquer the other or establish a dominance, or a central authority over the other.

It had a lot to do with the idea that “Ala” – the earth/land is not commodity and cannot be conquered or transferred to a permanent holding of a presumed conqueror. Wars were not fought on land, but at crossroads, in other not to defile the holiest of things – Ala – that nurtures all.

The ruler of the Igbo was therefore not human, but the spirit force called, “Ala,” upon whose divine laws all was regulated. That is why the Igbo say, “Igbo Enwegh Eze” – the Igbo have no king. If you push them a little, they may say, “Chukwu wu Eze Ndi Igbo” – Only God is the king of the Igbo.

If you push them a little more, they might say, “Oha Wu Eze” – basically, “gathering of the people is supreme,” or “the gathering of the collective is the sovereign force of the land.” Basically: “Vox Populi, Vox Dei.” The self as “individual” (“onwe m”) – basically meaning, to be “self- constituted” and “self-governing,” or what we now should call the “sovereign self,” and the idea of the collective self or consciousness, (“Onwe anyi”) underscores this conceptual relationship between the individual and their society.

Each condition of that being was at once separate and at once complementary:  for although the individual is sovereign, they are part of an equally sovereign whole made up of other individuals, which constitutes the highest social order. There is evidence of a complete philosophical awareness of the theories of “the self” – the individual and the collective self and consciousness – in the Igbo epistemic systems.

The problems of autography has made it difficult to have a complete picture of what the Igbo sages thought of this in a very systematic way, but it is quite clear that they thought it through in ways far more complex, and far earlier than the European enlightenment philosophers.

The idea of the Supreme divinity in Theogony, is a duality, not the trinity of the Christians. As a matter of fact, in the Igbo system of ideas, or its numerology, the number three represents imperfection, indeterminacy, or instability – chaos or “nsu” – which is the meaning of evil in Igbo mystical consciousness.

“Ekwe-Nsu” actually means “the force that summons chaos” in direct translation. Chaos or disorder is the highest reflection of evil or the devil in Igbo consciousness. It is also sometimes described as “Ogba Aghara” – that element that stirs the world into the unstable.” Its symbol is the “trinity,” or the third number, and which is why in Afa, it says, “Ihe mee ato, ya ato” – the third force is a trap. But the sign of the double force – is the force of harmony and equality. The sign of the Supreme God: CHI na EKE, representing the unity of the male (CHI) and the female (EKE) that constitutes God. “Chi” is the inner guide, “Eke” is the outer reflection of the gifts of the divine embodied.

Eke is the female archetype, and like the earth goddess (“Ala”) is the force of the woman. It has always been the duty of the woman, according to the Igbo spiritual system (“Odinala/Odinani-Igbo”), until it was destroyed by Christianity, and finally by the impact of the civil war, to protect “Ala” – the world we all inhabit.

That is how come Igbo women, organized through their cross-border networks in 1929, to fight the imposition of kings by imperial will on the Igbo. They went about sacking the warrant chiefs and the colonial courts, by acts of forceful defiance. The Igbo woman, keeper of the lore of the land often says, “onye si aya wu eze, osi nkem wuru ohu?” – basically, “he who wants to be king of all, does he mean for my own son to be his underling?” This question is at the core of the Igbo revolutionary impetus, that often, at the fullness of cycles, challenges tyrants and those who enact disorder. What is the point of all these?

It is very simple: it is just about time that the contemporary Igbo women organized, like their grandmothers before them in 1929, and rise and defy the contemporary regime of evil and disorder in the land.

“Chaos” is “Ekwensu,” and the likes of Anayo Okorocha have enacted disorder in places like Imo state. As governor, Okorocha has defied every rule of common sense.

It is of course the fault of the Imo electorate that they were caught in the seeming con of the man from Ogboko, whose only qualification was that he was a “philanthropist.” Imo people did not ask the proper questions: why do we need charity, when we can have equality, for there will be no need for charity, or philanthropy, where we have equality. That was first mistake.

The second mistake was that they did not do enough background check on Okorocha. What was the depth or quality of his mind? What was his real background? A man who as governor uprooted a Library – one of the oldest public libraries built in Nigeria by the Eastern regional government – the Owerri City Library at the junction between the city center and the Government House – and replaced it with a shrine to an unknown god, also known as an “Ecumenical center,” belongs not in public office.

A government that refuses to pay her public servants, and forces pensioners on pain of forfeiture to sign-away 50% of their pension; and who destroys the livelihood of small businesses in the city of Owerri in the guise of road expansion without providing an alternative, is guilty of inhumanity. Okorocha’s sanguine impulsion to destroy everything he found in Imo state, in order to be politically suitable for those he hopes will back him for national office is sanguine, but it is also the fault of the citizens in Imo state, who have sat in awe and in silence as they go through this shocking and monstrous rapine that is the Okorocha administration; a regime marked by so much incompetence and primitive acquisition, and by a lack of accountability, and the kind of bogus vision which makes it clear how dangerous it is to put “ozo” feathers on madness.

The talk used to be “nothing works in Imo state.” It has now since become, “nothing is alive in Imo state.” A lawless administration, backed by a spineless legislature, and a comatose judiciary is the most dangerous threat to democracy, and to the life, prosperity, and well-being of people.

But true democracy, which the Igbo have long practiced, and which was not taught them by the whiteman also provides that key – the choice we must make as a people within the construct of “onwe anyi” – our sovereign collective selves – to change the circumstance or conditions created by the Okorocha administration.

So, it is urgent that Imo women begin to create a network of political action, and compel the men, who have become worsted by another man, to act on behalf, and for the sake of the future of their children.

They must like the Igbo women of 1929, defy Okorocha’s guns and thugs; they must sit on their representatives in the House of Assembly until they impeach Okorocha for defying the constitution, the laws of Imo state, and the oaths of his office.

They must compel the Assembly to finally present a bill making it imperative to conduct the local government elections in Imo State, and compel the governor to account and return all the monies of the local governments illegally appropriated from the government purse.

They must also immediately begin an investigation into the finances of the Eastern Palm University in Ogboko, built on Imo state money, and turn the university into the campus of the Imo State University of Orlu.

And if these elected legislators fail, the people are obligated to run them out of the state, and constitute a peoples’ Assembly, and take charge of their own government by defiance, and by refusing to obey any direction by the authorities in Owerri until change happens. That is democracy – Vox Populi.


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