Letter to Zik: Messiah or Not?
By Omoh Giwa
Our people say one whose house is on fire does not hunt rats hence the exigency to document my thoughts will prohibit the usual pomp and pageantry accorded a man of your calibre. It will also prevent me from enquiring about your current residence and welfare. I would have addressed the elephant in the room: if you regret your unholy alliance with the North? How could you have banded with those turban-wearing feudalists against the jolly, nonchalant Yorubas? I understand that you might have felt slighted with your ousting in the Western elections in 1951 but that is no excuse for choosing the North over a southerner (the strategy you and Awo employed is still being used to tear this nation apart by the seams but I am not here for you) but I won’t.
One would think Nigerians would honour your legacy but what is honour amongst those who champion the cause of thieves, embezzlers, nepotistic selfish old men? I should be commending you for throwing support for Samuel Akinsanya against Ernest Ikoli, a fellow Easterner for a seat at the Legislative Council as representatives of the Nigerian Youth Movement in 1941 but he lost and I wonder if it was a ploy considering the role you played in discrediting the Eyo Ita led-administration. I would have called you a true nationalist but what do I know about the motives of politicians.
That is water under the bridge as I have not awoken you to antagonise you. Are you aware your kinsman, Okwute is in the running to become president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? This is the first time since the fourth republic began that an Igbo man has been this close to that seat. His intention, he claims, is to save Nigeria and her people from ruin wrought on by corruption, embezzlement, nepotism, dastardly economic policies.
You might find the aspersions cast on his person and record as two-time serving governor of your state (even the current governor who lost to Obi in 2009 disputes Okwute’s claims of frugality and economic growth as if we do not know that he is bitter about his loss many years ago) ridiculous but it is not surprising. The kind of campaigning and politics we practice is blackmailing, name-smearing and racketeering. I, however, am confused at the scrutiny he has had to bear because he dared to exercise his fundamental obligation of voting and being voted for as a citizen of his country. They combed through his business and personal dealings and that of his children (imagine if he was like the other contender who is infamous for his affair with that petite actress). Do you know one of the candidates was exposed as a Nigerian Pablo Escobar but apparently, we do not care about such trivialities despite the epidemic of drug abuse among Nigerian students and youth.
This has led me to ponder two things: did you go through such scrutiny before you emerged ceremonial president or did this suspicion of anything Igbo begin after your defeat in 1970? If you were still an occupant of this dimension, would you have endorsed him or would you take the approach you did during the civil war?
Even if he loses, Okwute’s involvement in presidential elections seem to have changed the tide (hopefully permanently). Gone are the days politicians ate corn by the roadside, helped hair stylists braid hair, pumped tyres at the closest junction and stole primary school students poorly-coloured rice. His influence though, was not strong enough to drag them by their babarigas to the debate podiums (I would refuse to contest wit and brain with an Harvard graduate too especially if there is contention over my degree)
Owelle, you would be proud of the eloquence and dexterity in which Okwute speaks, how he analyses the trouble with Nigeria and his plans on tackling said problems (unlike those who said there should be mass recruitment of 50 million unemployed youths into the army). Do not even bother about the aspirant that has been aspiring since ‘93 and keeps swinging from pillar to post like those distant relatives of our specie in search for bananas or the one that had to subtly threaten his godson (or is he godfather?) before party primaries. Sadly, the Nigerian electorate are not convinced by eloquence, decent behaviour or history (if they were how do you account for the error of 2015 and 2019) we are swayed by deep pockets and even wider benevolent palms that are stretched to us once every four years which your kinsman has promised not to engage in (i will not mention the supposed two billion to the Christian association).
The confidence with which he commands us to ‘go and verify’ when he speaks of his time as governor and the testimonies of past school prefects who speak of his attention to education is a plus for his campaign. His diligence in clearing the filth and curbing crime especially at the infamous Onitsha market is also worthy of praise.
However, two issues keep me up at night; divisive politics and messiah complex. I would have addressed my fear of divisive politics to the originator, your compatriot but he refused to acknowledge my previous missive to him and I have decided to ignore him too. Every election cycle, politicians use the same tactics in garnering votes (Us against them, Yoruba against Igbos, South VS North when in actuality the only difference is the powerful against the powerless. You should have witnessed the marriage of a rich entrepreneur’s daughter and these ethnic/religious/political loyalties meant nothing as they wined, dined and partied like it was the end of the world). Yet, mere foot soldiers send threats and promises to decimate each other as we have seen a traditional ruler promise to cast Igbos into the lagoon if his affiliated party lost. More recently a lower chief promised an exodus of foreigners and the loss of their lives or livelihood if his party loses the election. At what point do we take these threats serious?
Seun Kuti, a musician called your man an opportunist because he did not build his own structure and was supposedly resting on the laurels of the Labour party while Peter Okoye, another musician responded derogatorily. Others began to pick sides while playing the ethnic card as though ethnic difference was the bone of contention. Non-Igbo supporters often have to state their ethnicity in a bid to prove that his following was not determined by ethnicity but ideology. I do not see anyone questioning Atiku/Tinubu’s supporters yet many have insisted that only Igbos would support him.
Despite the beauty of your kinsman’s message of hope and better days, I am uncomfortable with the messiah status he has been attributed by his adherents. Nigerians seem to favour the messiah narrative (like they did with a certain military dictator whom they clothed in the stolen robes of an angelic saviour) as we have attributed to Obi. They touted our present error’s obstinate and insensitivity methods as the solution to our problems since independence. They said the Nation needed a firm hand as though we were delinquents in need of tough love. They sold the hardship of the 80s as our glory days that needed reawakening. Like goats, we have continued on that track again. As beautiful as Peter Obi’s curriculum vitae might seem, he is not a saviour. Only the people of Nigeria can save themselves from this quagmire. We need a leader (yes) but the people of Nigeria should be the change they desire. How can we ask one man to bear the burden of transformation when we make questionable choices (look at our reactions to economic issues and desire to exploit the other). Obi might be exceptional especially as he seems to be a cat with nine lives but he is a man and should not shoulder the sole responsibility of positive change.
I hope we get it right this time.
Giwa, who might be returning to the University of Lagos soon.
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