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Pat Utomi and Igbo Nationalism

By Remi Oyeyemi
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“Extremism in the defence of your heritage is no vice. And moderation in the defence of your civilization is no virtue.” - - An adaptation of Barry Goldwater’s quote by the author.

I had just finished reading Professor Pat Utomi’s lamentations in his piece “Unreason in a Season of Emotion.” (http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=116258). Through the piece, one could feel the pains and agonies of a nationalist of Igbo Nation. Professor Utomi, a nationalist who has done his utmost in building up his people, supporting them and paving ways for them is in shock. He obviously, has over the years played, and is still playing the role of pathfinder for his Igbo people in Yoruba land of Lagos, where he has himself blossomed and prospered. I can’t claim to know him but I have followed him for several years. I know that as an Igbo Nationalist, he believes in Nigeria and in good neighbourliness. This has been the way and manner he has lived and taught his people to live.

But unfortunately, when a teacher teaches a class of about thirty students for example, some would comprehend very well, some would be of average and others would have no clue at all as to what the teacher is teaching. As a pathfinder and an Igbo nationalist, Professor Utomi has just found out that not all his students have an understanding of what he is trying to put across. And the danger in his own case is that he is marked by some of these students for vilification and malice. A development that is flabbergasting to Professor Utomi.

Professor Utomi was obviously perplexed that his own people whom he is trying to protect in his Tweet that raised the hell, would accuse him of having taken a bribe from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to make light of the comments of the Oba of Lagos, His Royal Highness Oba Rilwan Akiolu on Igbo people who were threatening to vote against Akin Ambode, the APC candidate. Professor Utomi could not fathom the low to which some would go to make such allegations after contributing so much to the progress of Igbo in Lagos state and proved his mettle as an Igbo nationalist over several years.

Though, it was obvious that he did not appreciate the comments of Oba Akiolu on the Igbo that they should be consumed by the ocean, he admitted that he had a better understanding of the Oba’s position after having conversation with an Asaba Chief, Chuma Okolo, who pointed out the “hypocritical quarrel” with Oba’ Akiolu’s remarks. Chief Okolo had posited that Asagba of Asaba could have said the same thing to champion his own cause and that any traditional ruler from the East who fails to do same would be “unnatural.” Still Professor Utomi could not understand the unreasonableness of his Igbo brethren about his comments on the issue at hand and the venom being poured on him for trying to protect them.

A friend who is very upset about the Igbo’s attack on Oba Akiolu had sent me a message around the time I was concluding my reading of Professor Utomi’s article. He felt that most of the things President Jonathan did or allowed to happen during his tenure were very irresponsible and destructive to the survival of a united Nigeria. He acknowledged that he was aware that I did not believe in the country called Nigeria, but at the same time it would be wrong not to pay attention to events that could cause xenophobic crisis across country. I sought to know the basis of this anger and concern. He then sent me the Roll Call of Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) Chief Executive Officers since 1993. Below is the message verbatim edited for spelling:

ROLL- CALL OF Nigeria Communications Commission's (NCC) Executive Vice Chairman/CEOs:

1. Engr. C. IROMANTU(1993 to 1999)-6 yrs from S/EAST..he employed 168 new staffers..149 from S/EAST

2. Engr Emmanuel NNMA(1999 to 2000) 6months; from S/EAST..he employed 79...66 from S/EAST.

3. Engr Earnest NDIKWE(2000 to 2010)10 yrs; from S/EAST..he employed 310 ...288 from S/EAST

4. Dr. Eugene JUWA (2010 to date)5 yrs; from S/SOUTH..he employed 188ppl..110 from S/SOUTH, 60 frm S/EAST!

5. From 1993 to date ALL major Contractors, Consultants, Contracts & Interventional Capital Projects are 90% tilted in favor of S/EAST & S/SOUTH

6. This is a case of NO justice, neither fairness nor equity & lacking in good conscience.

Reading through the above, I believe this is not fair to the rest of constituent units in Nigeria. I decided to forward the message to all friends of different nationalities on my list. I did not discriminate on the basis of ethnic nationality or religion. I just sent it out. The reason for not discriminating was that I believe that human beings are innately fair despite their often manifested inhumanity to others. I was banking on the sense of fairness of everyone who would receive this message and be able to condemn it and express hope for a fair treatment of all. Then, one of my Igbo friends identified as UC responded. Below is the conversation we had

[9:03AM, 25/04/2015]
Uc: Remi I hope your not one of them. Shocking roll off my feet. You yorubas better back off from Igbos. The hatred is too much. You can never break us. We are blessed in everything we touch.

[9:04AM, 25/04/2015]
Remi Oyeyemi: So, you think it is fair to take everything to the exclusion of others?

[9:06AM, 25/04/2015]
Remi Oyeyemi: I sent the information to you hoping that you're a fairminded person who believes in the accommodation of others.

[9:06AM, 25/04/2015]
Uc: You cannot compare it
[9:07AM, 25/04/2015]
Remi Oyeyemi: Don't tell me you're one of those who think Lagos is no man's land?

[9:07AM, 25/04/2015]
Remi Oyeyemi: Compare what?
[9:07AM, 25/04/2015]
Remi Oyeyemi: Wow!!!!! You're making me to begin to see things differently.

[9:08AM, 25/04/2015]
Uc: ………..My sister is married to half yoruba.

[9:08AM, 25/04/2015]
Uc: I believe in true love but the hate is becoming glamorous by the day.

[9:10AM, 25/04/2015]
Remi Oyeyemi: That is not an excuse to claim everything to the exclusion of others and claim another maň's land as yours then begin to insult them, humiliate them, threaten them and harass them in their land. Wow!!!!

After reading Professor Utomi’s lamentation and having the above conversation with my Igbo friend, I felt that I have been proved right that the Yoruba are on the path to becoming slaves in their own land through their own making. The fact that the Yoruba have an accommodating culture and give foreigners unrestricted access to the flowing honey in their land does not mean they should go to sleep and allow their land to be contaminated with foreign values that are antithetical to the progress of their land the advance of their over 1,200 years of civilization.

The vilification of Professor Utomi on social media is an attestation to the fact that a section of Ndigbo has constituted itself into “the enemy within” for the Igbo Nation. This section is giving the good ones among Ndigbo bad names and negative reputation. Imagine if Professor Utomi had the kind of understanding he later had after speaking with the Asaba chief and Tweeted something differently than what he earlier tweeted, only heavens know what could have happened to him. Even, then he was shocked beyond belief at the vitriol and venoms that came his way from a people he is defending. The constant attack of the Yoruba people in Nigeria by this section of Ndigbo has no moderation that the likes of Professor Utomi are championing. It is a kind of blind hatred for the Yoruba people and as a result devoid of reason, understanding and fairness.

Unknown to this section of Ndigbo, they are sensitizing not just the Yoruba of Lagos and Nigeria, they are also waking up other nationalities as to Ndigbo’s idiosyncrasies of denigrating and disrespecting their hosts across the country. They are constantly stirring up hatred towards the Igbo generally. They are fueling xenophobic feelings against themselves and their people living in other lands. They are abrasive, insensitive, loud, inconsiderate, selfish and ungrateful.

For someone like me, it is very difficult for me to hate the Igbo. This is because my only younger brother is married to one. My favourite brother-in-law is married to one. My guardian in my High School days is from Owerri and he was my father’s Caretaker for about 25 years. His children, Charlie, Rose and Stella are my brother and sisters. I almost married an Igbo myself from Item in Abia State before the dowry did its damage. This is apart from several friends of Igbo extraction across all settings in my life.

But it is unacceptable for this section of Ndigbo to continue to assault and insult the sensitivities of my Yoruba people because we are accommodating, tolerating and considerate. This section of Ndigbo started their current round of insult to the Yoruba by claiming that Lagos is “no man’s land.” They come up with a lot of ridiculous explanations that are not worth repeating here. They are so loud and abrasive that one wonders if this set of Ndigbo have elders in their families who can reason with them and caution them. The Secretary to the Federal Government under President Jonathan, an Igboman, Pius Anyim Pius was reported to have engineered this ridiculous controversy to give his Igbo people the courage to take over Lagos and dominate it.

Other nationalities have been able to accommodate and treat Ndigbo with respect. But there is a group of Igbo that is always abusing their hosts and insulting them. They have no idea of what gratitude means. As a result they are always fanning the embers of division as well as denigration and domination of others. The constant braggadocio of this group of Igbo that they own most of Lagos and Abuja should be instructive for and to the rest of Nigerian nationalities. I don’t know if this is true in Abuja, but I have evidences that this is far from being true in Lagos.

But this section of Ndigbo believes in Chinua Achebe’s genre of lie peddling from the school of Joseph Goebbels – repeat a lie so many times and it would become a truth! But one lie that could be repeated as many times as its purveyors might want but would never become true is that “Lagos is no man’s land.” Lagos has an ownership. And the owners are the Yoruba people. At a point, the Yoruba would resist this continuous insult and put a stop to being taken for granted. This section of Ndigbo should learn from the reasonable ones like Professor Utomi and exercise caution, restraint and consideration. And by the way, what happened in the NCC as shown above also happened under Chinua Achebe when he was appointed the Managing Director of Radio Nigeria in 1966 shortly before the Civil War. In his six- month tenure, the Igbo’s percentage as staff went from 24% to over 80%!

Accommodating others is not and should not be a crime. It is a mark of civilization. But any civilization that is not able to guard its history and gains would become history itself. This is the challenge for and to the Yoruba Nation. The need to sustain the Yoruba civilization in lieu of the deliberate assault on their heritage by this section of Ndigbo in Lagos and across Yoruba land could never have become more imperative. It is time for the Yoruba leaders to wake up and protect what is bequeathed to them. The Yoruba has a principled way of life and our leaders cannot and should not allow our culture of moderation and accommodation becomes our Achilles heel. This is because as Thomas Paine pointed out, “Moderation in temper is a virtue, but moderation in principle is always a vice.”

The fact that my Igbo friend could not see the unfairness in the above roll call of the NCC shows the unreasonableness that the majority of the Igbo have been unceasingly manifesting on constant basis. This is why it is easier for the likes of Professor Utomi who are among the reasonable few to be maligned and be intimidated. This section of Ndigbo, as pointed out by Professor Utomi, often would invade the social media and spread hatred not just against the Yoruba in whose land they are prospering, but against the few reasonable ones among them who understands what it means to be sensitive and considerate in another man’s yard.

This section of Ndigbo, on constant basis, has been insulting the Yoruba, relentlessly abusing our leaders, disrespecting our heroes, denigrating our institutions, disregarding our culture, laying claim to our land and threatening our civilization and our safety. They are odiously loud and obnoxious in their attitude. Their “in your face” braggadocio is nauseating. They have no sense of moderation or fairness. They are conspicuously apolitical, economically egregious and socially contaminating. They call us cowards because of our culture of caution, consideration and accommodation. They are constantly provoking. This section of Ndigbo should be reminded by their more reasonable brethren the words of the great American, Alexander Hamilton (1757 -1804), that “When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation.”

The calamity of the last six years as represented by the Jonathan administration is of tragic proportions for the Yoruba Nation in particular and Nigeria in general. It is hoped that as my friend from Nigeria observed, the in-coming administration would take quick actions to prevent xenophobic crisis across the country because of the unguarded greed and disrespect of others, especially in their own land being exuded and engineered by this group of Igbo people across Nigeria. This is of paramount importance because when the crisis breaks out both the innocent and the guilty Igbo would become victims. This should not be allowed to happen. A stitch in time, so they say, can save several others.

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”

John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961

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