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At the risk of being tagged once again as anti-Igbo by rabid, commissioned slave traders who see Ndigbo as easy wares to be marketed to their political masters, I write this open letter to my people.
At the huge risk of being called names by my brothers and sisters, I boldly write this piece to my people. I have been called names in the past for speaking out and I may be wrong but please forgive me. I write because I know that a story that must be told never forgives silence. I write despite all odds because I know that when a writer is silent he or she is lying. I write because I want things to be done differently, because I know that the greatest part of hell will be reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of great moral crisis. I write knowing fully well that I am not the best God ever created and therefore mine cannot be the last word. Two incidents involving Mrs. Stella Oduah, who was removed as a Minister for corruption, and General Ihejirika, who just retired from the Nigerian Army necessitated this open letter.
Mrs. Stella Oduah was removed as a Minister of Aviation for issues bordering on corruption. She was accused of financial recklessness.
When the lid was blown open, our people went to town to defend Mrs Stella Oduah. All Igbo organizations went to town with the chorus “LEAVE STELLA ODUAH ALONE”. The shouts came from our people all over the world and it was loud enough and at best, deafening. When Mrs. Stella Oduah was eventually eased out by the presidency, one thought our people will learn the lesson but not Igbo. Our leaders went to town with a project to honour Mrs. Stella Oduah and others with awards in Lagos. In preparation for the ceremony one of the leaders spoke to the press. Hear him “we are honouring our own Mrs. Stella Oduah to show the world that even when Nigeria mocks our brightest and best for doing a good job at the Aviation Industry, we must tell the world that we love and celebrate our own.” She was given an instant title of Ada Igbo. As I write this, billboards are at strategic locations in Igboland, celebrating her as ADA IGBO.
Now enter General Ihejirika, the former Chief of Army Staff.
General Ihejirika just retired from the Army after serving for more than three decades. General Ihejirika is now eyeing the governorship seat in Abia State on the platform of PDP just few months after pulling out of the Nigerian Army.
But just recently an Australian peace negotiator, Stephen Davis, who was allegedly contracted by the federal government and who spent four months in Nigeria negotiating with Boko Haram to get the kidnapped Chibok girls out, told the world that the former Governor of Borno State Ali Modu Sheriff and Ihejirika have hands in sponsoring Boko Haram. The moment Stephen Davis’ statement hit the Nigerian public space, hell was let loose once again. Our people went to town with the usual mantra: “LEAVE IHEJIRIKA ALONE”. Almost all the Igbo organizations have issued press statements suggesting that General Ihejirika is now being persecuted for staking his life to fight Boko Haram for Nigeria. Again the noise was so loud and deafening.
According to our people Ihejirika is being persecuted because he is Igbo. Even Igbo World Assembly (IWA) in far away United States was not left out in the drama. In the social media it is Igbo and other Nigerians.
Now the questions are: do we need to defend Mrs. Stella Oduah and General Ihejirika? Are they not old enough or competent enough to defend themselves? Were our people with them when they were serving? Can we swear we know them very well to continue this noise? Do we really know the character of these persons? Why this prebendal politics? If we continue to defend our tribes only, who will then defend Nigeria? Who is working for Nigeria if I may ask? Is it not bad behaviour for Igbo to continue to defend what they know nothing about? Are we not making ourselves objects of ridicule in the eyes of other Nigerians? When we pour invectives on other Nigerians or people who are different from us are we not endangering the lives and businesses of Ndigbo scattered all over Nigerians?
Have we forgotten that our people are the most mobile in Nigeria? Do we know how other Nigerians rate us in this predictable primitive defense? Do we consider the feelings of other Nigerians? What signals are we sending out with this improper behaviour? Don’t we have men and women who will say enough is enough in this madness of defending the indefensible?
We know Igbo history, philosophy and sociology, when did it tolerate blind and unquestionable defence of someone who might have compromised his or herself while in office? When has Igbo become so ethically compromised that they do must defend even thieves from Igboland? Are these Igbo not aware that such fight, like in the case of Stella Oduah not only ridicules the Igbo but belittles them before others? What happens to the sanctimonious resolve of our fore fathers never to get involved in war of blame?
When Professor Grace Grange, IG Tafa Balogun, and Speaker Patricia Etteh, were removed for corruption, did the Yoruba resort to this kind of blackmail? What is the North saying about Ali Modu Sherrif, the former Governor of Borno State implicated in Boko Haram insurgency with Ihejirika? These are just few cases I wanted to mention for emphasis.
To the best of my knowledge I do not think our people are playing better politics in Nigeria now. I do not think the way we are going now will help us politically. I do not think other Nigerians will trust us if we continue this way. I have slim hope that other Nigerians will take serious in matters of Nigerian politics. I am not led to believe that we are getting it right, rather I think we are going the wrong way.
For emphasis, Ihejirika may be guilty or not but it is his to prove. I am not saying he is guilty for I do not know the details. He doesn’t need all the cahoots of persuaders now striving to show their support for him to do so. In every sane society, security is a complicated issue and every person within that society, even the president, is a suspect until proven otherwise. The best for Ihejirika is to step out and put a solid defence and shame his accusers. If he believes he will get the mob to extricate him, he is making a mistake and getting himself indicted by history and that is far more dangerous for him.
I suggest that Igbo should stop creating enemies for itself in Nigeria. I suggest that Igbo should rise above ethnic preoccupation to help move Nigeria forward. If we are still one Nigeria, Igbo should consider the feelings of other Nigerians. This defeatism attitude must give way to politics of ideas. This persecution complex must stop. This leadership complex must seize to exist.
Joe Igbokwe is the Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos State.
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