By Dele Sobowale
“If you love and care for me, tell me while I am alive. Don’t send me flowers and write a poem when I am dead” – Allen Lazar quoted by Ali M Ali (VANGUARD, Tuesday, AUGUST 25, 2020, p 24).
My colleague and a great journalist reminded us of the words of Lazar as he was doing exactly the opposite. He published on that day a tribute to our common colleague – Wada Maida. It was titled, ‘Wada MAIDA: Sunset at Dusk.’ It was a great prose – the best of Ali M Ali. But, it was no better than sending flowers or writing a poem which Wada would never read. I only hope Ali had told Wada how he felt about him while still alive.
I made the same mistake in February when Malam Ismaila Isa Funtua and I met at Uncle Sam’s house. It was our third meeting. I had heard a lot of great things about Funtua – as well as some not so good gossips. On balance, he came across as a good fellow. He never gave me a kobo. Those he helped were very specific about his charity; while his adversaries were generally vague. That is why their accusations were labeled ‘gossips’. I remain open minded. I wanted to tell Funtua how impressive his acts of generosity had impacted positively some people known to me. I didn’t because we started talking about writing his biography. He invited me to Abuja the next day. I declined for some personal reasons. We agreed instead to meet after his return from the Holy Pilgrimage.
Three totally divine and unforeseen events occurred in rapid succession making it impossible for us to ever meet again. First, I was knocked down by prostrate cancer and hospitalized for three months. Second, COVID-19 locked down everybody. Third, Ismaila, died. Now, I can never tell him all the nice things. The best I can now do is to write a book for the living to read.
Before Ismaila’s death, I was called one day by our class President – Igbobi College 58-62 Set – Sir Segun George, a Saul turned to Paul by the Lord. He wanted donations for one of our members. When told about the medical bills which I am still trying to pay, Segun apologised for turning to me. But, that was not before telling me what our classmate was going through. Secretly, I promised to share any monetary gift with classmate as soon as it is received. Uncle Appolo sent an undisclosed amount from Sapele – for which I remain eternally grateful. The entire amount would not clear my own bills, but my classmate’s situation was even worse. So, I divided the amount 50-50. I would go the next day to visit him. COVID-19 be damned. Next day, I woke up with terrible pains. So, the visit was postponed till the next day. The man died that evening. He would never know how much I cared. Now, I kick myself for not defying the pains to go on the day the money was received. I felt as if something had been taken from the departed which would have provided parting comfort.
So, my mind is now made up. I will henceforth, from time to time, write tributes to the living – people who can read them while alive. That way, I will owe no debts of tributes to write after they die – if they go before me. I am already on my way out – doing over-time tending to injury time. I hope to discharge many self-imposed debts before the final whistle blows. Already, I have dealt with Babangida, Uncle Sam, Obong Victor Attah, and Madam Ngozi Nkiruka Chukwuka. Now, I will follow with more people from all walks of Nigerian life, all zones and the two genders. I am already compiling a list. I have never met most of them. Finally, at least for now, this is not and should not be a solo effort. If you know of anyone worthy of being celebrated while alive, please get in touch. The more of them the merrier!
IGBO PRESIDENCY IS AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic, nor popular; but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right” – Martin Luther King Jr, 1929-1968.
By a strange coincidence, this statement by the late African-American civil rights leader was my choice as lead off for this article today. And, there it was on the Thinker’s Corner of the DAILY INDEPENDENT of Monday, August 24, 2020. As a companion idea to the first one, I had also distilled from Reverend King’s ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’ one reason the rest of Nigeria must allow the Igbo to produce the President in 2003. “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.” That was in that letter to the American white political power structure sent out to the media on January 16, 1963.
In Nigeria today, a member of IPOB or MASSOB sitting in a police cell could issue the same statement and he will be absolutely correct. In every election, since the pre-independence general elections of 1959, sixty years ago, which brought Alhaji Tafawa Balewa in as Prime Minister, till the last one in 2019, which enthroned Buhari as President, Igbo have been part of every elected Federal Government. In fact they have partnered more with the North in forming the government at the centre until now. Not once had they been given a chance to reach the top position. A concrete political ceiling appears to have been installed by the rest of us – which is even worse than what black Americans suffer in the US. To be quite candid, the rest of us have lost our conscience when it comes to Igbo presidency. I want to openly dissociate myself from the collective injustice against Igbo people and to offer my services to those embarking on making that dream a reality. Permit me therefore to answer some of those who directly or indirectly are attempting to confuse issues by their utterances.
One of the people I have known for the longest time, 75 years, in my life – Chief Bode George – recently announced that restructuring is more important than zoning. I strongly disagree. Bode, who is rumoured to be nursing presidential ambition, can never be an objective commentator – because the idea is not in his interest. I am being polite to my lifelong friend in that statement. More to the point, Igbo presidency in 2023 and restructuring are not mutually exclusive. Whether or not we alter the present ruinous political system, which Bode’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, nurtured, an election must take place. There is absolutely no reason the major parties cannot agree to field Igbo candidates as they nominated Yoruba candidates in 1999. Human beings, still very much alive, decided that Obasanjo and Falae should contest in 1999. Another set of human beings can repeat the same thing in 2023 about Igbo presidency. I don’t care if 30 political parties field Igbo candidates. Each of us will go out and work for our candidate and may the majority carry that glorious day – when it happens. We don’t need God to come down and do for us what we can do ourselves – if we have sufficient goodwill.
At this junction, permit me to make three pertinent observations. First, I have been asked repeatedly why a Yoruba man from Lagos State is championing the cause of Igbo more than some of their own people. Second, some others have pointed out to me the division in Ndigbo regarding whether it is worthwhile to pursue the idea at all; or just follow dissidents down the road. Third, the question has been raised about whether the North will support the idea; and without which it is dead on arrival. Let me answer each briefly for now.
One, we will be electing a Nigerian President who happens to be an Igbo in 2023. Even Lagos Area Boys have a stake in our future leader.
He/she needs lots of votes from Lagos and somebody has to go and gather them for him or her. I am one of the hewers of wood and drawers of water for this project. I need nobody to ‘bankroll’ my intervention and I have no political ambition. I seek no appointment after the election. I just want my country to do the right thing.
Two, the slave trade did not end because all the victims (meaning our fore-fathers) agreed to put a stop to it. The beginning of the end came when some white people – members of the ‘Master race’ developed the conscience to say “Stop”. They still had to do battle with white and African slave traders before it came to a halt.
Unanimity is never required when an enterprise calls for courage, vision and commitment. In fact, some of the intended beneficiaries sometimes are hostile to the idea. My experience in the US civil rights was an example.
Three, the monolithic North, which acted in unison for 60 years, has crumbled. In fact, the hitherto unobservable fact gained momentum in the last five years. And, if asked to point to the most important factor in creating a new North, I will not hesitate to mention HERDSMEN and the way their crimes against fellow northerners have been handled by the Federal Government. While every farmer in Nigeria, whose farm had been destroyed, family members killed, raped or kidnapped, has a right to complain, northern farmers have been the major victims. Herdsmen have dismembered the North and provided the opportunity for Igbo presidency.
Those are summaries of longer essays which will appear in the future. But readers can chew on those in the meantime. Just before we go, I want to quickly touch on one trending matter – just, touch, please.
ECONOMIC APOCALYPSE IS HERE. IT WAS CALLED CHANGE IN 2015.
‘Economy sinks to 3-decade record low. As real non-oil GDP records first fall in 3 years’ – VANGUARD, Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
‘6.1% shrinking of economy: FG won’t be able to service rising debts, fund budget – MAN, others’ – PUNCH, Tuesday, August 25, 2020.
‘Economy: Industry leaders warn of gloom ahead’ – VANGUARD, August 26
‘Shrinking of Economy: Experts warn of mass poverty, predict recession in Q3’ – PUNCH, August 26, 2020.
The Federal Government’s reaction to all these was “don’t worry.” One of their errand boys called my economics “expired Area Boys stuff”. I agree totally. On March 10, 2020, four days after I was totally paralysed by prostrate cancer, I produced this prediction from the ‘Expired Area Boys Book of Economics’.
COVID-19 HAS CLOBBERED BUDGET 2020 INTO COMA
‘Coronavirus: FG Considers Reviewing 2020 Budget’ – DAILY INDEPENDENT, March 5, 2020, p 1.
‘55 Nigerian oil cargo unsold as demand tumbles’ – PUNCH, March 6, 2020, p 23.
BUHARI APPOINTS BUDGET REVIEW ADVISERS
For once President Buhari did not waste time in approving a budget review committee of advisers. That is a step in the right direction. Other steps must necessarily follow – But permit me to be the bearer of bad news. ANOTHER RECESSION IS LOOMING ON THE NIGERIAN ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT.
That was five full months before the recession became official. Don’t you wish the Vice President employs more “Expired Area Boys Economists” instead of the morons running the show?
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