By Obi Nwakanma
Femi Adesina, the President’s Chichidodo – you all remember the bird in Ayi Kwei Armah’s grim novel, The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born? – well, he came again last week with a whopper: a big fat shit; an essay he titled, ‘Buhari and the South-East: Arthur Eze nails it.’ I really expect nothing less from Adesina.
After all, he works for Buhari. And the Igbo have a saying, it takes a lizard to fall from the heights, look around and whether or not anybody is impressed, nod its head in self-praise. But Adesina went a little further, into Igbo land, to recruit acolytes; those who would nod their head when he says, “Buhari done try na!”
He talks of Arthur Eze. And I was genuinely curious. Arthur who? I knew Arthur Nwankwo. Polemicist of the Igbo and Nigerian causes. Writer, intellectual, publisher of the Fourth Dimension Press, and Chancellor of the Eastern Mandate Union. A man of consequence.
God rest his great Igbo spirit. I mean to write a proper memorial to that memorable Aro-Igbo son when I free myself of the cloying cobwebs of the mind. But another Arthur? Well, I dunno, but there has been told the story of an Arthur of Dunukofia, who is said to have so much money he sleeps atop of it.
But folks bear in mind, that money is good, it just does not buy sleep. A man who has money and wants to sleep must constantly appease the gods of money.
If Arthur Eze indeed said, as reported by Femi Adesina, that “Buhari has demonstrated uncommon goodwill towards the people of the South-East,” and I really doubt that Onye Igbo (not the “Khaki Igbo”) would say this; but if indeed Mr Arthur Eze said such a thing, it is either he did not fully suckle the breasts of an Igbo woman, or he is compelled to appease the gods of sleep which all men of mindless wealth must.
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In a Nigeria, with a prebendal culture, where Arthur Eze is said to get his wealth from that tireless orifice of the iron pipe that vomits oil, and Buhari is minister of oil, and with his famous antipathy to the Igbo, what does anybody expect Arthur Eze to say? That Buhari has demonstrated the most vicious hatred of the Igbo of any known President in Nigeria?
A man who makes Obasanjo look so good, many even have bouts of nostalgia for his time, has no lower mark to reach. But Arthur Eze, the wealthy “oil man of Dunukofia”, will not say that.
He will lose his oil license and his wares, straight away, if he dares. He is playing the game of survival. He is what the American Henry Louis Gates Jr. will call a “Signifying Monkey” who is using the trick of Logos. In the language of doublespeak, what you think you hear is not what you have really heard.
I dare say, Mr Arthur Eze, knowing his precarious situation as a contemporary Igbo is “signifying.” He is, after all, a man of stupendous wealth. And he has many gods to propitiate. If Buhari told him now to jump from the Ukpor heights, he would jump.
No one ever admits publicly that their mother’s cooking does not come up to scratch. But right now, if this President says to Mr Eze to face the East and declare that his mother could not cook worth a damn, you can bet that our man Arthur might be compelled to say so, and his tongue might be in his cheek.
He is basically under the blackmail of an oil license, and a President who will without compunction, sooner ruin him, just because he is Igbo. The evidence is before us. Femi Adesina should wait, one year after Buhari leaves office, as he will, thank God, someday soon, and ask Arthur Eze to repeat himself.
If it is the Dunukofia Eze, he is known to be amoral, when it comes to power. He is a man of wealth, and as I have said, the only god he appeases or propitiates is the god of wealth. And the Igbo also have a saying, “Onwere ego abughi ogaranya.” A man may have all the wealth in this world but might still not belong to that great conclave of the aristocracy of the land.
It is the aristocracy of service and forbearance. The Nze is Ogaranya. He is often the man who has roamed the world, sought wealth, made visible wealth, then gives up on the pursuit of wealth, and seeks his place among the great titled of the land.
He swears the oath of truth, of forbearance, of purity, and of justice; and to defend the weakest of the land – orphans and widows – and to keep the sanctity of the earth. He is no longer startled or seduced by wealth or desire. The real Igbo title of the Nze or the Ozo is “taken,” it is never “conferred,” because it comes with serious individual responsibilities and duties.
No true titled Igbo stands for another man or bends to be conferred with a title. The process begins when a man first takes a bull to his kinsmen to announce his preparedness to enter that conclave of Ndi Nzere – the sacred ones. Then he follows up with a visit on an appointed day to that conclave itself called, “Otu Ndi Nze na Ozo.” On the anointed day, he sits on a very low stool when the oldest of the Nze, (Onye Isi Nze) leads the invocations, and then the feather of the Eagle is placed on his cap, and the Akara – the sacred bracelet is placed on the heels signifying servitude to the goddess of the land.
Then he enters into a period of isolation and emerges thereafter with authority. Such a man speaks for the land. A Man like Nnia Nwodo is Ogaranya, because he has taken the title. He is retired and no longer seeks wealth; he has given up on the pursuit of personal glory and has sworn the oath to defend Ala-Igbo.
If such a man were to say what Arthur Eze is reported to have said, the earth itself on which he stands will split into two. But he would not dare, because the oath he has sworn forbids him from speaking in double tongues on matters concerning the Igbo. A violation of such an oath carries consequences long after him; down to those who survive him.
Those are the people Femi Adesina should ask. And there are many such men among the Igbo, seen and unseen. That invisible conclave of the ancient Igbo aristocracy sworn to its earth is the very secret strength of the Igbo. And so, a man like Arthur Eze “nwere ego, ma oburo ogranya.”
That is, Arthur Eze has stupendous wealth, but he is not Ogaranya. He has not eaten the true leaven of truth. The Igbo do not close their shops because Arthur Eze has said it. And what again did Femi Adesina say he ”nailed”? That Buhari is the best thing to happen to the Igbo since the discovery of “Mai-Mai Oka”? And how is that? Well, for one,
Buhari, he said, built a police office in Dunukofia, Arthur Eze’s town. For a moment, I thought this was a joke! When did building a police HQ mean development; an institution meant to garrison the people of Dunukofia? Not a library; not the headquarters of the National Space Research Agency; not the National Defence Production Plant; not a Tools and Fabrication Plant; not the National Livestock Research and Production Centre, but the police headquarters!
A garrison for an already over-garrisoned part of the country. This is sick! The Dunukofia people themselves will beg for that police office to be removed.
Now, Femi Adesina adds among the other things Buhari has done for the East, for which he is a great friend of the South-East: first, the Second Niger Bridge. For the records, Buhari did not begin nor has he completed this bridge. President Goodluck Jonathan commenced work on this bridge, and it was already budgeted for before Buhari assumed office.
But, again, if a perennially uncompleted bridge is the major federal infrastructural project in the South-East since 1999, then the Federal Republic of Nigeria is sick beyond measure. A bridge! And what else? The Owerri interchange that comes with the bridge; the upgrade of the Akanu International Airport in Enugu, some nameless roads and bridges, and then, wait for it, the Zik Mausoleum!
By God, a mausoleum! One of the great Buhari projects in the East is a painted sepulchre! But where is the Onitsha River Port project? Where are the rail projects? Where is the Oguta Deep Lake Port project? Where is the Aba Inland Port project? What about all the broken, unbuilt federal roads that connect the East with her South-South neighbours?
The Owerri-Umuahia-Ikot Ekpene road; the Owerri Aba road; the Owerri-Onitsha-Lokoja-Abuja highway; the Abakiliki to Gboko-to Jos-to Abuja, etc? Where are the productive industries that should absorb highly skilled but wasting Igbo labour? The South-East suffers the highest level of unemployment in Nigeria.
Every year, South-East produces the highest number of university graduates in the country. How many of these young, talented Igbo of the South-East has the Buhari administration offered employment since 2015? In a place where trained nuclear scientists, Lab technologists, Chemists, Physicists, Biologists, etc have become petty traders, or are riding Okada, or just suppurating in restless unemployment?
How many young Igbo businesses did this administration support with credits and loans and contracts? How many Igbo does Buhari have in his presidential administration? How many young Igbo did this administration kill with its “Operation Python Dance”? Femi Adesina should stop insulting the Igbo.
Here is the bottom line: the years of the Buhari presidency are wasted years for the Igbo. But change will come, whether the likes of Femi Adesina want it or not. Adesina has apparently enjoyed throwing the Igbo under the bus. Good for him! But Buhari is no friend of the Igbo. Will never be. And the thing is, the Igbo are past caring. They look to the future.