Sofly, Sofly, My Igbo Brethren By Tunde Fagbenle
An article by Mr. Joe Igbokwe, the publicity secretary of the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress published some days ago was a pleasure to read; and not perverse pleasure if I may say, but one of kindred spirit – the pleasure of knowing that someone else shared the same concern.
Titled, “Open Letter To The Igbos”, Joe, himself an Igbo (though his detractors may label him a “Lagosian-Igbo”) wrote to chastise his fellow Igbo on an ugly trend he perceives of them that is taking the turn of habit. Call it the ethnic-chauvinism bogey, it is the blind, hasty, and needless defence of any Igbo accused of any misdeed, especially of the criminal kind; once such a person is Igbo or of Igbo extraction the trend is for these Igbo-zealots to jump at his/her defence and cry havoc — the accused is being persecuted for being Igbo!
The two immediate instances Joe Igbokwe cited are that of former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, sacked for allegations of impropriety, and the more recent one of Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, former Chief of Army Staff who shockingly was fingered by the Australian Boko Haram negotiator, Stephen Davis, as a “sponsor” of Boko Haram.
In the case of the former, the bogey took bizarre and ridiculous turn with several Igbo unions, elders and obas (yes, the “new Igbo” has jettisoned the old “republican” tag for the fancy obaship,jo) undertaking protest marches in Abuja and Igboland with placards insisting that their “daughter” was being accused of mismanagement of funds because she was Igbo and she should be left alone!
And now with Ihejirika, they are back at it again, proclaiming he has been mentioned (by Davis — an oyinbo!) as a Boko Haram “sponsor” because the retired general is Igbo, and to get at President Goodluck Jonathan.
Igbokwe went ahead to ask his fellow Igbo: “Do we know how other Nigerians rate us in this predictable primitive defence? Do we consider the feelings of other Nigerians? Don’t we have men and women who will say enough is enough in this madness of defending the indefensible?” He then went ahead to list cases involving office holders of other ethnic stock (Prof. Nike Grange, Tafa Balogun, Patricia Etteh, Ali Modu Sheriff – and, if I may add, Chief Bode George, and pension scam’s Abdulrasheed Maina) who had been implicated or accused of wrongful acts without their ethnic folks rising to put an ethnic label to the accusations.
To be sure, virtually every section and ethnic group in this country is quick to deploy the “ethnic card” for its selfish interests. But rising up each time to deploy it to protect one’s kind facing criminal charges is getting peculiar of certain sections.
Had that piece by Joe Igbokwe been written by anyone other than an Igbo, the common charge of Igbo-hater would by now have rent the air. Indeed, even for Igbokwe he realised he risked “being called names,” and what he called a familiar accusation of being “anti-Igbo.”
The “ethnic card” appeal is a common tool oft deployed for political and fraudulent advantages in this warped country of ours. Checkmating the syndrome calls for what my brother, Okey Ndibe, whose lone Igbo voice roared against the trend in Oduah’s case, demands: the urgent need “for the emergence of a cross-ethnic coalition of enlightened citizens…courageous enough to reject the invocation of ethnicity in defence of nonsense.”
And that’s saying it the way it is!
Gen. Benjamin Adekunle, adieu
And so the Black Scorpion is gone; gone to where elders, inevitably, go. He died on September 14, and so much has already been said in his honour and memory.
He was a “War Hero” on Nigeria’s side against her secessionist Eastern Region rechristened Biafra. It is rarely given for any wartime soldier to be hero to both sides of a conflict. One side’s hero is usually the other’s villain! So be it with Adekunle.
During the Biafra War, or Nigeria’s Civil War as called, my sympathy lay with Biafra, and I almost lost my life being mistaken in the North(during the pogrom that preceded the war) for one. But Colonel Benjamin Adekunle was a ‘folk hero’ for many a young man of the time. I was out of secondary school before the war started and men with heroic deeds appealed to my adolescent mind. Kaduna Nzeogwu, Emeka Ojukwu, Victor Banjo, Wole Soyinka and Benjamin Adekunle were the ones for me. Myth and reality surrounded them, one indistinguishable from the other. And for Adekunle, war generals don’t come any smarter: slim and petit, yet rugged and fearsome. His signature peak cap and razor blade-ironed, rolled-up short-sleeves army shirt were enchanting.
My time to meet Adekunle in person came much later — 10 years after the war — in 1980. I was in England with my then English wife. An egbon of mine who was Adekunle’s close buddy invited my wife and I to a small party in honour of the Black Scorpion who was visiting England. It was not an invitation to miss so we went.
A while into the party, well past midnight, I sensed that folks were out of one thing or another. In particular I had noticed that Adekunle had run out of cigarette. Those were smoking days for most and though I was a pipe-smoker I wanted to help get cigarette for its smokers. I went round taking orders. I asked for no money as I was prepared for that contribution.
I took Adekunle’s order with that elation of the opportunity to serve one’s hero, then as I turned to leave he hollered: “Hey, here’s money for it,” adding,”before stories go round in Nigeria that Adekunle couldn’t afford his own cigarette!” I was shocked and disappointed, for I didn’t belong to such class. My wife was with me, my “uncle”, his friend, had introduced us to him much earlier with fraternal warmth, the gathering was of few people and all heard him with shared shock.
Though I took his money to avoid further embarrassment, I think I returned without his own order and threw his money at him with the excuse that I couldn’t find his request. My “uncle” later let me know a bit of Adekunle’s meteoric nature, and relapsing moodiness since after the war and the manner of his retirement from the army. I forgave him and he was not on account of that episode diminished in my esteem of him as a hero.
Eccentric or not, Nigeria owes him a debt of gratitude. Indeed, of apology, as whatever ailed him was, in all probability, a consequence of his disappointment with Nigeria.
Goodnight the Black Scorpion!
It wasn’t the usual-to-be-blamed “printer’s devil” for two inexcusable messes in last week’s column titled: “The Mess Jonathan Doesn’t Need.”
One mess was mixing up Sheriffs. Senator Ali Modu Sheriff is the Sheriff fingered as a “sponsor” of Boko Haram in the “disclosure” by the Australian Stephen Davis, and not Bunu Sheriff as erroneously stated.
Two, and equally damning, Chad was where President Jonathan went to meet with his Chadian counterpart to discuss Boko Haram, and not Cameroon, which is where our soldiers reportedly fled to when faced by the superior firepower of Boko Haram terrorists.
Those errors were mine and mine alone in rushing off the keyboard without giving myself the time to go over and crosscheck names and facts adequately. Not a few readers were quick to point them out to me. I apologise.
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to email@example.com