Monday, 12 August 2013
Fani-Kayode’s Intellectual fraud against Ndigbo by Chu Okoronkwo
In a season of anomaly where rogue intellectuals and emergency ethnic warriors in their conceited jingoism are celebrated in Nigeria, silence will be un-golden in the face of obvious falsehood and distortion of historical facts especially the type peddled by one Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister of aviation.
Femi Fani-Kayode who often styles himself as a historian and national leader, proves again that he cannot purge himself of his deep-seated tribalism, envy and bigotry. This he displayed in the debate over the recent ‘deportation’ of 72 Easterners at the Onitsha bridge by the Lagos State government.
For a man with self-confessed identity dysfunction who described himself as half-Lagosian, and had at another time also claimed half-Fulani and in his eulogy to late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Eze Igbo Gburugburu in March, 2012 openly admitted he wished he were Igbo who could pursue his dreams unfettered by historical or cultural ossifications, one would not have made this rejoinder but for the several unpardonable distortions and violations of the ethical rules of historiography.
In his ethnically slanted effusion: ‘The Bitter Truth about the Igbo in Nigeria’, he indulged in intellectual dishonesty- the sort that Chinua Achebe challenged Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ on Africa’s lack of civilisation in 1975. He claimed that Lagos belongs to the Yoruba adding, “We will not allow anyone, no matter how fond of them we may be to take it away from us or share it with us in the name of ‘being nice’, ‘one Nigeria’ or anything else”.
Perhaps he does not subscribe to the Nigerian constitution, but let him know that in section 25 and 41 it guarantees all Nigerians equal citizenship and freedom to reside in any part thereof. Besides there are thousands of Yoruba all over the old Eastern region including Igboland where they live peaceably and intermarry.
The history of Lagos is one of variegated settlements. From the Bini first founders to the Aworis; to the resettled West African slaves and the Yorubas who were pushed from the hinterlands due to the inter Yoruba wars and the Europeans and other Nigerians- including the Igbo, Lagos has been a playing host to many. But doubtless its vast infrastructure has been built using oil revenues from the old East.
On his claim that the Yoruba are accommodating and tolerant, one can agree that the Yoruba have not manifested the barbaric assaults on fellow citizens as the North, but the south west has been no less resentful of others including Ndigbo. Recall the 1953 booing of Northern delegates who opposed the motion for self government in Lagos. This episode could not be assuaged by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe’s delegation visit to Kano to woo the North from its eight point secession agenda as riots broke out leading to the death of scores.
That episode marked one of the beginnings in ethno-religious conflicts in Northern Nigeria. That apart, the blockade policy introduced by the scion of Yoruba race Chief Obafemi Awolowo during the civil war on behalf of his strange Northern allies killed more easterners- 2 million in all-than the 50,000 or 100,000 killed in the pogroms which Kayode gleefully celebrates. The evil genius followed up with the 20 pounds and the indegenisation policies of 1970 to 1973 immediately after the civil war- a war that brought out the Igbo creative genius.
Before the commencement of war hostilities Lagosians booed and attacked Igbo forcing most of them including the late Achebe to relocate to the East. This when added to the hundreds who perished fleeing from attacks by the Yoruba following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 freely given mandate of Chief M.K.O. Abiola and the constant harassment of fellow Nigerians by Alaye Boys of Lagos, the Yoruba hospitality is commendable indeed!
In his disjointed misinformation, Kayode claims the Igbo introduced tribalism in Nigerian politics with the comments made in 1945 and 1948 by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Dadi Onyeama at their respective Igbo State Union address to wit: ‘that the domination of Africa by the Igbo is a matter of time’. Pray what is the sin in being proud of one’s colour? Did the Egbe Omo Oduduwa formed in 1945 by the Yoruba not echo tribal sentiments such as ‘West is for the Yoruba, East is for the Igbo?’ And he failed to show how Azikiwe’s comment led to the defeat of the NCNC in the South West- despite the fact that the party routed Awolowo’s AG in the East and Mid-West and formed a formidable government at the centre.
His claim that the Yoruba are intellectually superior and have better civilization than the Igbo is the worst fallacy. He egregiously claimed that Alexander Sapara Williams and Nathaniel King graduated as Yoruba lawyer and medical doctor in 1879 and 1875 respectively ‘atleast three generations before they (Igbo) ever did’.
The truth is the first full-blooded Igbo and indeed the first African to read medicine remains Dr James Horton who graduated from the Kings College, London and later University of Edinburgh in 1859, over one decade before the other Sierra Leonean resettled slaves he claims as Yoruba! And if the parameters are re-assessed Williams, an ex-Sierra Leonian slave apprenticed to an English law firm, can never be Nigeria’s first lawyer. And it was to this same class that Horton and Herbert Macaulay, both cosmopolitan Africans, arrived Onitsha and Lagos respectively to champion the cause of education and nationalism in Nigeria.
What illusory educational and industrial/commercial advantage and could Kayode still be bandying except he lives in the past. For one decade, Imo and Anambra has posted higher JAMB applications and are still allotted highest cut-off scores for federal colleges- a testimony to their intellectual endowment. The Punch newspaper of editorial of August 5 bemoaned the fate of the Yoruba thus: “today the South West is a shadow of its old self. It has lost ground considerably, yielding its lead in education to the South East and increasingly relying on other zones and imports for food
“In a survey on Living Standards in Nigeria 2009/10 by the National Bureau of Statistics, under core welfare conditions, South-West states trailed other Southern zones in basic literacy among urban dwellers with only 64.9 per cent of the urban population of Ekiti able to read a letter in English; 61.4 per cent in Ogun; 67.3 per cent in Ondo; 59.1 per cent in Osun, and 57.9 per cent in Oyo. They came behind Rivers with 84 per cent; Imo 76.8 per cent; Anambra 80 per cent; Akwa Ibom 75.5 per cent; Abia 76.6 per cent, and Bayelsa 69.6 per cent. School enrolment rates are also falling in Oyo, Ogun and Ondo, while literacy rates among women aged between 15 and 24 years in the zone trail the South-East and South-South zones. And for a zone that during the golden age of regional governments in Nigeria, provided almost full employment through industrial parks, farm settlements, massive school enrolment and avenues for entrepreneurship, unemployment is rife, reaching over 50 per cent among the region’s youths”.
Today Igbo entrepreneurs, software developers, engineers, medical experts and artists and the like continue to excel around the world. Names like Philip Emeagwalis, Chinedu Echeruos and Chimamamda Adichies are well known. The diaspora strength of the Igbo and small and medium enterprise network is unmatched by any other African race!
Rather than crony capitalism, Igbo industrialists like Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Emeka Offor, Ifeanyi Ubah have taken the global economy by storm. The fact that they all share similar thread of having their war survivor fathers offered 20 pounds by by Awolowo, to be condemned to generational destitution, makes their stories a researchable legend.
On his claim of Yoruba civilization, he needs to know that though the Igbo and indeed the entire old Eastern region never formed empires where one kingdom subsumed and imposed its suzerainty on the other, the region is replete with independent and corporative city states and kingdoms such as the Nri and Aro kingdoms, kingdoms of Old Calabar, Bonny kingdoms, the Kalabari kingdoms among others.
There are inexhaustive historical and scientific evidence of ancient Igbo civilization, especially with the Igbo-Ukwu excavations of 9th century A.D. which prove that Igbo craftsmen worked and dealt in metals and other ornaments with well established trade routes to Egypt. It is noteworthy that this technology was entrenched well over six centuries before the Ife bronze of Yorubaland.
Before the Portuguese berthed on the Bight of Biafra in the 1470s, the eastern peoples of Ekoi, Efik-Ibibio, the Kalabari and the Igbo have evolved the Nsibidi system of communication and the Ekpe system of justice administration used for the commodities and slave trading of the era.
In any case the Yoruba culture that the likes of Kayode are so enamoured of is the most hideous and diabolical heathenism long abandoned by well Christianised and Islamised societies. Mr Adamu Adamu in his reposte to Prof Wole Soyinka in the Daily Trust February 2012 put it more succinctly that it is an “unfounded cultural superiority complex, a hubristic pagan worldview”.
Unfortunately, it is the same baseless cultural hubris which compelled this former aviation minister who superintended over the worst air carnage in the history of Nigeria and who is currently facing criminal trial in court on account of his perceived maladministration, to recommend then the use of African traditional spirituality to address the disaster.
Not given to cowardice, the Igbo from time immemorial are renown for adventure, courage, intelligence, perseverance and justice. The same attribute saw the stiff resistance against slave trade both on the coasts of the Niger Delta and in the New World. The anti slavery writings in the Barbados of Olaudo Equianoh, an Igbo and the authentic pioneer of African literature in 1789; and the liberation struggle for the first truly black state in the Caribbean, Haiti led in 1804 by Igbo ex-slave Toussaint L’Ouverture.
For the avoidance of doubt, every Igbo being is both a spiritual and physical being with two mantles of Ofo and Ogu. A responsible Igbo must of necessity and value have a sense of fair-play and justice (Egbe bere Ugo bere). It is this sense of justice that saw the Igbo refusal to acquiesce to colonial rule resulting in the British-Aro War in 1902, the Aba Women’s riot of 1929, and the Enugu coal miners revolt of 1949. It was what compelled the Igbo to vote overwhelmingly for a minority Eyo Ita as first Premier of Eastern Region -Kayode’s western region had no such position for the Bini, Ika Igbo, the Urhobo, Itshekiri, and Ilajes which cost the Awolowo’s ethnic closet, the Action Group dearly in various elections and led to the excision of the mid-western state.
Even when Odumegwu Ojukwu insisted that General Ogundipe, a Yoruba should assume the position of commander in chief of the armed forces after the brutal assassination of General Ironsi in a revenge coup by middle belt and northerner officers- the gentleman however grew tail between his legs-it was this disavowal for injustice that guided him. It was the rejection of injustice that compelled Ojukwu to release Pa Awolowo from the Calabar prison where he was consigned to rot away on a trumped up treasonable charges by the Northern political class –whether he returned this act of benevolence is left for posterity to judge. Again it was the refusal to be cowed by pettiness that made the Igbo to support General Philip Effiong, a minority Easterner to assume the mantle of Biafra after the exit of Odumegwu Ojukwu.
It was the abhorrence to injustice that compelled the Igbo to vote overwhelmingly for a minority Easterner Goodluck Jonathan to become President of Nigeria in 2011 even at a huge human cost in the North. And despite the risks, the Igbo are set to repeat same in 2015 against Kayode’s sinking APC.
It was this sense of justice that compelled the Oko Ebitu Ukiwes, Pat Utomis, Ndubuidi Kanus, Olisa Agbakobas and (late) Chima Ubanis to enter the trenches side by side the Yoruba in the struggle to reclaim Abiola's June 12 mandate in 1993.
Indeed, the Igbo have cooperated with the Yoruba over the years in various democracy struggles and constitutional processes. But in the light of all these, what sort of gratitude did the Yoruba give the Igbo?
In his futile attempt to label the January 1966 Coup staged by five young majors including Major Ademulegun, a Yoruba, an Igbo coup, he lumped several other Igbo officers including General Aguiyi Ironsi, who along with other Igbo officers gallantly stopped the mutiny, in his alleged conspiracy. One wonders how such a large array of forces could have failed if they had pursued an ethnic agenda as alleged by Kayode. Or how could Danjuma and Gowon's counter coup have succeeded if there was an Igbo military mobilisation or Ironsi had dropped his Northen ADC, or had not made Gowon, his Chief of Army Staff privy to all his discussions or had ordered road blocks on all major highways from were weapons were ferried into Kayode's Western region were he was eventually murdered?
Seeking further straw in his illogical vituperations, Kayode accused the Igbo of being ungrateful to the Yoruba for saving them when others "denied, deprived, shunned, attacked, killed, discriminated and humiliated them". What sort of gratitude has the Yoruba shown to the Igbo for arresting the Northern military occupation of the South Western region and the incarceration of its political leaders after the 1965 political impasse?
And in what form should the gratitude to Fani-Kayode's fantasy almighty Yoruba take? A prostration? He has missed the mark!
Not attuned to feudal hierachies, the peoples of the Eastern region particularly the Igbo will never be subservient to the Yoruba or any other tribe. Tufiakwa!
Celebrating the 1966 pogrom or the dead-of-the-night dumping of the poor under River Niger will not suffice for Kayode’s blood thirst and covetous proclivity for an 'abandoned property' re-enactment. But let him be courageous to declare his Oduduwa republic, send away 'non-indegenes', claim Ajah, Okota, Surulere, Alaba, Ladipo, Idumota and others for the Yorubas at the expence of the real developers. Why should a descendant of Oduduwa and Afonja be cowardly and wait for others (Arewa) to begin a fight for them!
Kayode’s hypocrisy of laying claim to “our oil wealth” while rejecting the notion of “our Lagos” will not avail him. No matter the tinted opinion of a narrow provincialist or the skewed contributions of intellectual frauds, yes, we must have all if we can because it is a capitalist economy; yes it is our country; yes it is a country of the Yoruba and Hausa and other nationalities; yes we must all explore it; and we must enjoy it so long as it remains one!