Is there a cure for Ndigbophobia? Help!
By Taju Tijani
Mr. Sam Omatseye, Chairman, Editorial Board of The Nation newspaper, has been causing a stir in the enlightened circles of perceptive readers. Last week, he hitched the wagon of infamy all to himself through combustible and syrupy excreta morbidly titled “Obituary”. Predictably, sad Sam launched an amphibious, air and land attacks on Ndigbo, Peter Obi, Obi-dients, and anybody who claims South East as his or her geo-political haven. He calibrated bile, hate, bigotry, and disdain to the people of Igbo extraction until he blew all his writerly gaskets. The skirmishes, inuendoes and outright myths he espoused in that piece diminished his totemic figure into a diminutive street fighter who does not know the limit of free expression.
In answer to his journalism of barbaric hatred and over judgemental apologetics, Ndigbo commentators, gladiators and combatants have been responding in kind to Omatseye’s tribal tantrums. Uzor Maxim Uzoatu came out of his intellectual hibernation to detonate a clanger titled, “Sam Omatseye as a Kept Man”, followed by redoubtable Chuks Iluegbunam’s “Everyone’s Obituary Is Inevitable”. Ikechukwu Amaechi, my editor, has lent his angry cadence with his inimitable take-no-prisoner piece titled, “Still on Sam Omatseye’s Obituary” to form a formidable trio of Igbo counter attackers against Omatseye who wanted to rewrite the glory of Ndigbo in today’s Nigeria. These are voices of Ndigbo redemption from shame and insult.
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What is unfolding in our tribally fuelled political firmament is not peculiar only to Sam Omatseye but to all persons who harbour a disease akin to Ndigbophobia. Muda Pirilorongoji was a classmate. He once lived and taught in the East but returned to his Yoruba homeland deeply traumatised by his experience from ‘Ibo’ people. Murphy Omo Eko lived all his life in Lagos but has been living in the cocoon of Ndigbophobia without a cure. Each of them is feeling assured of his opinion of who the Ibo really are. Their charge sheet against Ndigbo goes like this: “They are against Igbo overbearing attitude towards the Yoruba. They are not happy with Igbo assertion that Lagos is a no man’s land. They regard Igbo claim that they are 45% of the population of Lagos as parochial generalisations. They believe that Igbo only take from the Yoruba but will not give to Yoruba. They are angered that Yoruba hospitality toward Ndigbo is not appreciated or returned in gratitude and respect.“
Between Yoruba and Ndigbo there is this huge, yawning chasm, not thin fissures that can easily be papered over with mere titillating discussions. It is sad that we have allowed ourselves to fracture along tribally defined lines despite our shared commonalities. Peter Obi’s presidential ambition has opened a once concealed vitriolic tribal inflexibility between Ndigbo and Yoruba. I have had shouting matches with Obiphobic-Ndigbophobic souls on a chattering platform of over educated people. Their subjective passion is this: “Omo Eni O Sedi Bebere Kawa Fi Ileke Si Tomo Elomiran”. This means that, “you cannot have a baby with an endowed bum and decide to put beads on another baby’s bum.” The tribally blinkered followers of Bola Ahmed Tinubu are colouring the political contest in ugly canvas of “Omo Wani” – He is our son! This sentiment is chilling in the face of the urgency of retuning and retooling Nigeria – a country pulverised and damaged by people of Tinubu’s political tribe!
To my Yoruba people who are reinforcing a new tribal demarcation in the mould of Ndigbophobia, please go and seek a cure. There is a curative medicine for Ndigbonitis if you would be predatory. Any Yoruba whose vision is limited to the Yoruba heritage of Tinubu as the only credential to vote for him has not pondered the catastrophic consequences of this short-term vision. What is becoming acceptable is our unguardedness in the way we just pilloried Ndigbo as abrasive, arrogant, cocky, domineering, clannish, aggressive, greedy, and not trustworthy to lead. Really! We need to deflate some collective tribal ego!! Biko!
Another incubus the Yoruba placed on Ndigbo neck was the off guarded comment of Orji Kalu that Lagos is a No Man’s Land. The ancient argument of who owns Lagos should not cause the death of reasoned and nuanced conversation. Of a truth, if we must go by fact and cold reality, is Lagos today clothed in the finery of Yoruba identity? Capital no! Is Lagos not a colliding rainbow colour of multi-ethnic identities? The full lunacy of Ndigbophobia diminishes Yoruba who are known for fairness, hospitality, and equity. The only one realm we are all afraid of judging correctly is the developmental contributions of Ndigbo across the South West. Ibadan my hometown has given up its cultural resistance to embrace the Ndigbo entrepreneurial modernity – from the long stretches of Iwo Road to the sleepy Igbo Elerin. Igbonomics is visible to all.
Yoruba must come out of their tribal cages and break loose from the banalisation of the political and social space with sentimental rants like ‘Omo Eni O Sedi Bebere Kawa Fi Ileke Si Tomo Elomiran’, ‘Omo Wa Ni’, ‘Emi Lokan’ and fight for the enthronement of good governance, progressive ideals, and safe nation in the hand of Peter Obi, a man adjudged to possess Calvinistic good nature to turn Nigeria around – Ndigbo or not. Distortionists and tribal triumphalists have been engaging in dirty narratives, strenuously striving to smear the Obe-dients as rabble rousers, keyboard warriors, and jobless IPOBians in their courageous, defiant, and mass mobilising digital activism across all social media platforms. Igbo kwenu!
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It is high time Yoruba reclaimed common sense, strategic thinking and deep reflection on the choices facing them. Tinubu and Obi as presidential candidates have exposed the roof of our hypocrisy of our love for one another to reveal its truest face: chimera! The Labour Party, as the much awaited third force, is not Igbo political party but a party that has created a nascent movement for a newer Nigeria away from the old political bloodlines of APC and PDP. What will now concretise the positive affirmation of our cultural and social affinity with Ndigbo is to form solidarity and cooperation with people who have comingled with us for generations.
Yes, we had our turbulent events during the Civil War. The undying ember of the war is rekindled each time Obafemi Awolowo’s name is remembered. And for not going into alliance with Ndigbo during the war, the Yoruba people are forever perceived as Judas, cowards, and betrayers. However, the spontaneity of the present time and its urgency demands that Yoruba must bury aching old pain of unflattering characterisation.
Today, all Nigerians are agonising over how to exorcise our failure as a promising nation. We are prostrate, impoverished and divided along tribal lines. Our political elites have created a temple of corruption, the privatisation of justice, primordial impunity, and the sharing of wealth among themselves. The symptoms of decline are everywhere – death, decay, nepotism, insecurity, widespread cultism, joblessness, lack of infrastructure, Police corruption and hooliganism, military demotivation to die for Nigeria and leadership void.
For me I want Peter Obi in Aso Rock. I have had bosomy relationship with Ndigbo all my life. Childhood, juvenile passage, and adult life. Ndigbo have always encircled me like poison Ivy – at birth, work, play and party. Friends like Felix “Nnewi” Mbonu, Albert Eze, Collins “champagne” Ezenwa, Chidi “software” Mgbedike, Ken “maritime” Imachukwu, the Ifeagwus – Chris, Emeka and Edna, Friday Aboaja, Sunday Okpalla, Ndubuisi Okafor, Tony Ogbue, Vivian Onukwuli, Mabel Usiade, Onyinsi, Udee and many more.
I am excited seeing a fair mixture of detribalised proletarian and intellectual intervention in the race to salvage the tattered ruins of Nigeria. This is the catalysing agent that will accelerate a new order. In any titanic struggle, there is a defining moment. In any push for radical change, something epiphanic must arouse the followership brigade as we have seen in Obe-dients across the globe.
I want to see, smell, and feel Ndigbo in power. The only way we can test the clannish hypothesis and other Yoruba tribalized charge sheet against them is to see Obi in power and watch whether he will swing his presidential pendulum to the East or arbitrate as a fair, equitable and just leader.
All tribes have their own tribal baggage. We are all closet tribalists – as repulsive as it may sound. Ibadan may not like Ijebu. Itsekiri may not like Urhobo. Igala may not want Tiv near him. Awka man may be wary of Mbaise man. Bini may have reservation toward Afemai. Ndigbo may not claim self-absolution from the Yoruba yapping inuendoes, but this is a healing moment of existential necessity that must collapse Ndigbophobia as we sail close to swapping stories of tolerance, resilience, support, and solidarity for the promise of a better Nigeria wrestle from the monster of APC/PDP evil alliance that had ruined Nigeria beyond redemption. Again, is there a cure for Ndigbophobia? Help!
Psychiatric Case of the Week: General Buhari’s admission that he bought N1.15 billion prestigious vehicles for Niger Republic. According to news report, the donation was to enhance the capacity of Niger Republic to maintain security. Madness!