Open Letter To My Ngwa Brethren--Part 2
Not too long ago I received an e-mail from a young man of Ngwa descent, resident in the Ivory Coast who in his e-mail asked me one simple question which was ‘Why do you hate Ngwa people? To say I was shocked by the question is to put it mildly. I was honestly surprised that someone will consider my writings or comments about what I consider misplaced support for the out-goingAbia state Governor by a section of the Ngwa Community and expectedly so as hate speech.
My initial reaction was to reply him directly but since I have received similar comments on social media from some Ngwa folks , some of whom have called me names and rained abuses on me for criticizing their Governor , I have decided to issue a general response. One of such comments came in the form an e-mail from Prof Mgbeoji who from what I understand has been appointed Abia State education Commissioner.
It will be recalled that I once wrote a similar letter in the heat of the Governorship campaign. In that letter I basically bemoaned the calculated and orchestrated effort by some Ukwa-Ngwa politicians to deny Dr Alex Otti his Ngwa heritage just because his forebears emigrated to Ngwa land from Arochukwuand settled there long before DrOtti was born. In my opinion I thought it was an act of ethnic prejudice or ethnic cleansing to suddenly deny a man who not too long ago was publicly honored by a large section of the Ngwa community for his services to the Ngwa people and was even given the title UgwuNgwa.
I was even further horrified and disappointed when the Ngwa Association here in the United States who earlier in 2014 had invited DrOtti to their yearly convention and even accepted a donation from him also joined in the denial game all in the name of politics.Even then, I was very much aware of the fact that not the entire Ngwa population were denying Alex Otti his heritage but only those from the UkwaNgwa area.
Well for those who know me or have had any dealings with me will testify to the fact that the word hate does not exist in my dictionary. Personally the word hate is a very strong word and not something you use against anyone especially when that person have never uttered or written any hate speech against anyone. Everything I have ever written about DrIkpeazu or any mention I have made of the Ngwa people are out there in the public domain for anyone to read. I therefore challenge anyone who can show me any curse word, stereotypical description or condescending characterization of the Ngwa people ever made by me.
Yes I have criticized the performance of the Governor and rightfully so. I believe he is clueless and incompetent and I do not regret saying so, but I also believe that deep down, politics apart he may be a decent man who however is not equal to the job of being a governor, his PhD degree notwithstanding. For those who care to know, I grew up amongst a lot of Ngwa people.
During the Nigerian Civil war I lived in an Aro settlement in Ngwa land. I went to school at Wilcox Comprehensive High school in Aba where three quarter of the school population and half my classmates were Ngwa folks. Till this day I have lots of Ngwa friends even here in New York. Just recently the guy who drove with me back from church was an Ngwa friend.Just as I mentioned in my first open letter to the Ngwa folks not too long ago , my late fatherDr A K Ijomah was a highly respected and loved medical practitioner especially in OkpualaNgwa where he was the medical doctor in Charge of the OkpualaNgwa general hospital for a number of years .
No I do not hate the Ngwa people. On the contrary I have a lot of respect for them. As a matter of fact I consider them one of the most welcoming community to strangers if you consider the number of Arochukwu settlements all over IsialaNgwaSouth including the town of Aba.Its just that the support and loyalty for DrIkpeazuby a section of the Ngwa community even in the face of mounting evidence that he is incompetent is beyond comprehension. There is nothing wrong in ethnic pride or the support for one of your own but when that support continues despite mounting evidence of administrative incompetence and financial malfeasance one begins to wonder. But herein lies the problem with Nigerian politics. It is the same reason Nigeria is where it is today politically.
We as Nigerians have allowed our ethnic loyalties to cloud our reasoning and our ability to acknowledge the truth or accept facts even when those facts are starring us in the face. Every constructive criticism is regarded as hate speech and every point of correction becomes blasphemy. Today in Nigeria as it is in Abia state, identity politics is the norm. Instead of voting for candidates because they are competent and honest, or voting for those with congenial views, people often reflexively support the politician or political party that shares their religion, ethnicity, race, clan or geography. As a result it gives politicians no motive to be effective or upright because they know that these qualities do not matter to voters.
I confess that sometimes I made comments that gave the impression of making generalizations about the Ngwa people, which is wrong and I regret it. What I do not regret is my criticism of the out-going Governor. For the most part I credit myself with an easygoing disposition, tempered perhaps by an exaggerated desire to go after those who deny the truth. My biggest downside is my constitutional inability to tolerate fools and people with little minds, incapable of thinking for themselves.
In short I will say I am a purist when it comes to justice and I hate inconsistency and incompetence.For instance how can anyone including my UkwaNgwa brethren justify their continued support for Governor Ikpeazu, if the reports are true,that he purchased 21 Hyundai and 24 Prada jeeps to be distributed to his commissioners and House Assembly members at a time thousands of workers are still being owed salary arrears.
At 8 million Naira apiece those 45 cars will cost the state close to 400 million Naira. Is that not a waste of the state’s meagre financial resources? Here in New York City, supposedly the richest City in the world with a budget about 6 times that of the entire Federation of Nigeria, their City council members are not given official Government cars or chauffeurs. They drive their own private cars and live in their own personal houses.
Again, how can anyone honestly justify the plan to feed primary school children? When did feeding school children become a pressing need or high priority? Has anyone considered the cost of employing new school cooks or building school kitchens or the purchase of feeding utensils or is it going to be another dubious avenue for awarding contracts to food contractors or caterers?
I will be the first to support such a feeding program if the state can afford it, but the truth is that the state cannot afford such expenditure for now. For those who do not know, studies have shown that nations do not prosper economically by the benevolence of the state. Now if my Ukwa-Ngwa brethren want to consider such criticism hate speech against their brother the governor then I plead guilty as charged.
Just as i I mentioned in my last article regarding the Ukwa-Ngwa folks and their reverence for DrIkpeazu, they are in a state of denial. They know the truth but they refuse to accept it. They know Ikpeazu and the PDPrigged themselves into office yet they find it difficult to acknowledge. They know also that the guy has been a disaster so far as Governor but being in denial they refuse to accept the obvious truth. Like an addict who is addicted to all the propaganda dished out by the Governor’s praise singers and sycophants, denial has become their first defense.
Not too long ago they were heaping praises on Ochendo for sponsoring and supporting their son to be Governor. Today they are using him as a convenient excuse for the poor performance of the Governor by blaming him for not leaving his successor any money in the state treasury. The sudden about face about Ochendo notwithstanding their brother the now out-going Governor himself is still busy praising Ochendo for his so called ‘legacy Projects’ most of which are still on paper and others uncompleted. He still will not inform the Abiapeople how much money he found in the state coffers, because he actually found it empty hence the first thing he did on assuming office was to ask the state Assembly for permission to obtain a 10 billion Naira loan.
I am just being hopeful that as soon as DrIkpeazu is relieved of the Governorship by the Supreme court, the UkwaNgwa people will accept their faith peacefully just as the APGA people and the rest of the state have done and then embark on the arduous task of rebuilding their relationship with the rest of their Ngwa brethren in Isialangwa South and the rest of the state because right now that relationship is greatly damaged and trust destroyed.
They should also desist from literally insulting and cursing anyone who criticizes the Governor while at the same time applauding those who criticize and insinuate all kinds of things against DrOtti. If they are willing to dish out insults on DrOtti, they should also be willing to accept the same against DrIkpeazu in the form of constructive criticisms and not to start protesting on how they are hated.
Like the saying goes, ‘that which good for the goose is also good for the gander”. In most of my writings I‘ve tried not to use the same brush in painting all Ngwa people as head over heels in love with the governor and in so doing would like to like to point out that there are other Ngwa folks who are not so enamored and who actually love Dr Alex Otti and regard him as one of their own. I saw and experienced some of this support myself when I visited during the campaign. As a matter of fact some of the key officials of Otti’s campaign, including his campaign chief, AhamdiNweke are Ngwa folks
It has therefore been very gratifying to read that as at last Thursday, a cross section of who is who in the wider Ngwa community, from ex-ministers, ex-commissioners, prominent businessmen, traditional rulers and youth leaders gathered at MrOzurumba’s country home to honor and congratulate Alex Otti on his appeal court victory. It will be recalled that not too long ago the Ndingwa association in the United States and Canada also issued a press release congratulating Dr Alex Otti. A clear repudiation of the UkwaNgwa political mafia who have for years dominated every political appointment reserved for the Ngwa community, starting from the deputy governorship under the late Sam Mbakwe, MrUzoigwe to that of Orji UzorKalu in the person of Abaribe, now a three term senator to the present out- going Governor.
These people have always looked out for their own self -interest and never did anything to improve the lives of their Ngwa brethren. People like AdolphusWabara of the senate 50 million Naira saga who left the senate in disgrace have been around for too long and should be retired permanently from politics and let a new generation of UkwaNgwa youths take over the political mantle. There is no reason someone like Abaribe should be going to the senate for the third time when he has nothing to show for all his years in public office.
The Ngwa people are blessed with very educated, rational and well accomplished citizens and these people need a chance to show their mettle. Here in diaspora, there are many of such people. People like MrElelentaNwabuisiElele, a former president of an Ngwa association and a host of others like him such as AhamdiNweke and Mr M. B. O Alwell.A new and younger generation of Ngwa folks should be given the chance to lead.
They should no longer let politicians who introduce coffins into politics, hire thugs to tear down posters, harass and beat up opponents and even burn down an INEC office be the face of the Ngwa people. New voices must come to the fore and speak up for their people saying to the rest of the state,” this is not who we are, for we are better than this”. As Alexis de’ Tocquevile once wrote about the American people and it is relevant to the Ngwa people today.
In this new millennium, the Ngwa community should be a nation for young men and women. Where the only barriers to success should be discipline and the extent of one’s talents, where the twin impediments of privilege and the disqualifications of class would be abolished, where the idea of progress comes naturally into each man’s mind, the desire to rise swells in every heart and all young men want to quit their former social position and where ambition becomes a universal feelingand opportunities for advancement not determined by political affiliations , political patronage or godfatherism. If I may add, this is not unique to the Ngwa people alone but to all the youths in every community in Abia state
After Alex Otti’s swearing in, efforts should be made to bridge the gap of distrust, hatred and misunderstanding between the Ngwa community and the rest of the state. The silent majority of the Ngwa people who support Alex Otti should lead the crusade for a new image and a new direction. To the rest of the state, I say, do not listen to the loud mouths and miscreants on social media who post all kinds of stupid comments in the name of Ngwa people.
Be mindful that these people are nonentities who do not speak for the silent Ngwa majority most of whom are very decent people who have the welfare of Abia state at heart. They are part and parcel of the larger Abia community and as always their contribution and expertise will be highly needed in the new Abia.
I will conclude by saying, that I sincerely apologize to all my Ngwa brethren who have misconstrued my disagreements and comments about Ikpeazu as being critical of Ngwa people as a whole. Like every Igbo community you do have the wrong people parading themselves as your leaders and only you can retire them politically and bring about a change and when you do, people like me as always will be by your side for whatever it is worth. Alex Otti would not have succeeded without your huge support and continued support and I believe with you solidly behind him, he will make you and I proud.
NNANNA IJOMAH . A public policy analyst is a resident of New York City.