June 19, 2024

Who are the bigots? By Rotimi Fasan

Rotimi Fasan

A NEW word has apparently entered Nigeria’s political dictionary in the last one year. The word in question – bigot and its nominal variant bigotry- is, in fact, anything but new, yet it has taken on a new valence and semantic twist in the charged atmosphere of Nigeria’s identity crisis and politicking in the advent of the Bola Tinubu presidency. It emerged in its renewed form in the wake of the national elections of 2023, that is the governorship and presidential elections that brought the All Progressives Congress, APC, into office. 

Suffice to say here that, when used in its appropriate context, bigot references a person who holds on dogmatically to a belief and is prejudiced to others on account of who or what they are. Bigotry is the conduct of a bigot. But for followers of the Labour Party, LP, particularly that segment of the party membership that self-identifies as Obidients, a bigot is a non-Igbo, essentially a Yoruba person who dares to support Bola Tinubu or take a position they perceive as contrary to the position of their political idol and presidential candidate of the LP in the 2023 presidential election, Peter Obi. 

The matter is that stark. Which is to say that stripped bare of its semantic veneer, a bigot for followers of Peter Obi is no more than a Yoruba supporter of President Bola Tinubu. That’s the one word- bigot- by which they seek to tar and silence any Yoruba man or woman who expresses any form of support for President Tinubu or a policy of his government. It doesn’t have to be true or anything more than a mere perception before that word is hurled at such unfortunate victim of ethnic baiting. It goes without saying that a Yoruba man or woman that is perceived as opposed to Tinubu is automatically lionised and celebrated as “detribalised”. 

Here belongs those Yoruba supporters of Peter Obi- until they make the mistake of stepping out of line, saying or doing something that cannot be remotely seen as heaping truckloads of praises on Peter Obi their self-made god. Then would the insults begin, then would they remember it’s in the DNA of the Yoruba to betray others, more so where the Igbo is concerned. 

The LP stalwart, Dele Farotimi, currently leads the pack of detribalised Yoruba in the estimation of our Igbo compatriots that are sworn enemies, filled with both disguised and undisguised hatred, of anything Bola Tinubu or Yoruba. 

The other Yoruba LP icons -Doyin Okupe, Bode George and President Olusegun Obasanjo, even if the last two are not members of the LP- are fast becoming fallen angels tainted by the prenatal Yoruba disease of disloyalty going by their recent actions and utterances. 

For appearing to tone down their adversarial rhetoric against Tinubu, cutting him a slack and, in the case of Obasanjo, donning a replica of Tinubu’s emblematic cap and paying his wife, Remi Tinubu, a Sallah homage, they have become objects of ridicule. 

How many enemies must the Obidients make before they realise that politics does not start and end with Peter Obi or the Igbo? 

We need not mention the case of Wole Soyinka whose name is now a shibboleth for Igbophobia among Peter Obi’s supporters. To imagine that of any Nigerian alive some Igbo could view Wole Soyinka in the manner they pass on to their children all because he would not buy Obi’s kind of politics is beyond words. 

All kinds of scurrilous claims and attributions have been made in his name on fake websites. Infantile comparisons are drawn between him and other Igbo writers and you hear and read supposedly literate individuals parcel out blatant lies like freshly-fried akara to their gullible readers/listeners about how Soyinka won the Nobel Prize. Haba! 

The foolish irony of Peter Obi’s Igbo supporters passing value judgement on and constructing ethnic stereotypes of the Yoruba character is lost on them. These champions of a so-called movement that is in fact a headless lynch mob of fascists, a bigot necessarily has to be a non-Igbo, preferably a Yoruba with a price tag in a putative usurper-,bribery-prone government that is mindlessly seeking the validation of any two-penny politician or public figure. 

Like members of all mainstream political parties, Peter Obi’s Obidients cut across diverse ethnic and demographic segments but they are overwhelmingly of South-Eastern, specifically, Igbo origin. That’s neither a plus nor a minus necessarily but let’s not quibble, get precious or politically correct about that. It is just what it is.  They operate mostly online and their digital footprints are unmistakably Igbo, traceable to the South-East 99.9% of the times they announce their presence. The fact that they operate mostly as online irritants also points to their location and positioning as members of the Igbo Euro-American diaspora. 

As I have said here before, the core Igbo members of the Obedient group are probably not only supporters but also financiers of Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, isolationist philosophy and they must take full responsibility for the strategic and tactical error of judgement and mayhem that group has brought upon the politics of the Igbo nation in the last one decade or thereabout. 

I make this observation without prejudice to the right of IPOB to its pursuit of self-determination for the Igbo but more in recognition of the right of the Igbo as equal stakeholders in the Nigerian project (at least until such time as IPOB wins the buy-in of the Igbo or other Nigerians and succeeds in its secessionist moves), no more no less than any other ethnic nation but one whose capitulation to the lineal thinking imposed by the alignment of IPOB and the Obidients will not make for that handshake across the Niger that can bring about the mutual respect that will lay a new political foundation for the integration of the Igbo in the overall interest of Nigeria. 

Neither the name-calling, finger-pointing nor muscular politics will do. Right now, it’s a war of attrition, nobody is winning but the South-East is bleeding in more ways than one. 

It is in this context its voluble segment must situate its definition of bigotry, a bigot and the intolerance the bigot embodies against the backdrop of the 2023 elections. The facts are that of the three major contenders in that election, Peter Obi’s votes are the least diverse with him clearing 87.78% of the South-Eastern votes where Atiku and Tinubu respectively made 50.58% and 53.59% of the votes in their North-East and South-West base. In Osun Tinubu scored 46.91% to Obi’s 95.24% in Anambra while in Lagos Tinubu scored 45.65% to Obi’s 45.81%. 

Tinubu lost Osun to Atiku and Lagos to Obi. These are his bases supposedly. I ask again, who is the bigot, where is bigotry evident?