On the Death of Elrufai’s Son and Bigotry By Abubakar Evuti
A distinguished Nigeria political scientist from a ‘minority’ area of the South pronounced some years ago that ‘Nigeria has an Igbo problem’. Every ethnic group is of course something of a problem for Nigeria’s easy achievement of cohesive nationhood. But the learned professor no doubt saw the Igbo as a particular irritant, a special thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian body-politic. – Chinua Achebe (1983)
On the morning of July 29, 2014 former Minister of FCT, Mallam Nasir El-rufai, posted a message on Facebook announcing the death of his son, Hamza El-rufai (may Allah have mercy on him), and requesting prayers from the public for the deceased. I will be lying if I claim I did not foresee the comments that followed. I did and would have been most surprised if they did not come. They came, those comments, and, although I anticipated them, they stung me to anger. Some of the comments are too disgusting to share but here are a few:
Chaiii… Na only you waka come eh Rufai… Chai! May his soul rest with the Lord… But you have to repent cause the sin of the father is visited on his offspring! ~ Ekeledo Paul
The evil of the midget must not go unpunished. You will reap all the evil you sowed, alive! ~ Ambrose Nwaogwugwu
God punish you and your family forever. You and your entire family will continue to die one by one until the last day. Big idiot. ~ Prince Emeka Nwogor
There were so many comments like that, some too disturbing disrespecting the dead by suggesting that the deceased had with him a bomb that detonated untimely.
Anybody who observes keenly will see that these disturbing commentators are from the Igbo-dominated South Eastern part of Nigeria and the observer may go away with the impression that Igbos are like that: bigoted, disrespectful, inhuman and insensitive to those not from among them.
Enraged by those comments I almost went away with that impression. In fact that was the first reason I decided to write this article. I read again a chapter from Achebe’s The Trouble With Nigeria titled, ‘The Igbo Problem’ and was beginning to agree with that professor that Nigeria indeed has an Igbo problem. I went back to El-rufai’s post to gather and examine the bigoted comments. That was when I realized something I and every Nigerian has always known: the Igbos are only humans and like any group of people, they have their bad and their good, their reasonable and unreasonable, their wicked and their kind. Why, these are not aliens. These are people we have lived with all our lives.
As my vexation ebbed away, I saw that Igbos are not the problem —or at least not the only problem with Nigeria. It is as the great Achebe assessed; Every ethnic group is something of a problem in Nigeria. What brought me to this realization is some comments by some other Igbos:
For those posting trash, let’s remember it is a grieving father’s post (we) are commenting on not a political post. ~ Nwankwere Ikenna
Anyone that thinks it is right to rejoice over a sudden death of a young man is not just foolish but inhuman. No matter what I think of El-rufai, this is a family tragedy. ~Chris Nwabueze Ndu
Let me say this again: Nigeria, as it stands today, is one giant embarrassment to the entire continent of Africa, the entire black race and to itself. The comments on El-rufai’s wall are one of the reasons for this tragedy. Africa needs Nigeria and it is true that young Nigerians today have more power than those before them. The potency of the power in the hands of young Nigerians today can not be overemphasized. The internet provides us with the power to foster unity, to strengthen peace, to build this nation or to set it afire and destroy it. We can choose any but whatever we choose to do today with this power, the effect will be total; either total destruction or total construction. So we must restrain ourselves and not allow emotions and mistrust reduce us to less than animals.
Perhaps it is true that we are all naturally prone to bigotry. If so, we must try to suppress and control it and be reasonable human beings for the consequences for refusing to control the bigotry in our hearts are grave. To show this I leave you with Ola Rotimi’s reason for writing his famous play, The Gods Are Not To Blame:
Foremost, I should say, was the prevailing situation in Nigeria at the time —namely, the civil war. The title has more to it than meets the eye. “The Gods Are Not To Blame” does not refer to the mythological gods or mystic deities of the African pantheon. Rather it alludes to national, political powers such as America, Russia, France, England etc. Countries that dictate the pace of world politics. The title implies that these political “gods” shouldn’t be blamed or held responsible for our own national failings. It could be recalled that during the Nigerian civil war, the Biafrans blamed Russia and Britain for aiding Nigerian Federalists in the attack against them. The Federalists, on the other hand, blamed France, and to some extent, America through its charity organizations, for abetting the Biafrans’ cause of secession. But the root cause of that strife, of the bloodshed, the lavish loss of life and property, was our own lingering, mutual ethnic distrust which culminated in open hostility. The frightening ogre of tribalism stirs in almost every form of our national life. Politicians capitalize on this for partisan ends; labour is infested with it; even human relations are sometimes tinted by tribal bigotry. So long as this monster is allowed to wax and incite disharmony among us, we must not blame external political powers for their initiative in seizing upon such disunity for the fulfillment of their own exploitative interests. That’s the message the play attempts to impart.
(Please Plant A Tree Today)
The writer is on Twitter @ngugievuti
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