Augustine C. OhanweMonday, January 8, 2007
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ne of the downsides of democracy is that it does not forbid one from talking balderdash. In a democratic dispensation people can just get up and say anything in the name of freedom of expression. Fortunately however, the law is always at the corner and stands at alert to tame any form of democratic excesses, hence we have accounts of court cases bordering on slanderous or defamatory remarks. The fact that some expressions are actionable has puts a wedge and set a limit to the power of freedom of expression. Furthermore, where certain expressions do not attract legal action it could provoke hostile reactions or rebuttals in order to demolish some misgivings or inaccuracies contained in a publication.

In his articles, "The Problem with Igbos" (parts 1 and 2), Mr Sunny Chris Okenwa spewed anti-Ibo vitriol. His statements has a touch of paranoid fantasy that tends to lay a groundwork for discord. His article was inspired by one of the those lower human emotions we call prejudice if not hate. His both articles contained abundant doses of gall and no honey.

Each of the ethnic part of Nigeria has, in one way or the other, contributed enormously to what makes Nigeria tick. The Ibos are no exception. Ibos have invested a lot outside their on ethnic state than any other group that forms part of Nigeria.

They have petty factories and hotels scattered in every other states creating employment opportunities for the indigenous people of their host states. They have erected residential houses in many other states in Nigeria thereby helping to ease accommodation problems for civil servants and business persons resident in those areas. Do I have to mention the inter-state luxury bus transport systems that have facilitated mobility and commerce? Okenwa's apparent lack of appreciation of the contributions Ibos have made is not helpful and bodes poorly for the nation. The aim of business is satisfy peoples' needs and to make profit. A business person then maximizes his or her profit to expand. What is wrong in that? Okenwa calls it the love for money.

Okenwa is comforted and feels elated by the fact that he received many emails lauding his articles and showering him with kudos. He should be reminded that if Judas Iscariot resurfaces on earth, inaugurates a political party and pours shrill criticism on his former master, promises his audience that if voted into power he would construct the public road with gold and make their taps ooze with beer many Christians will vote for him. The gullible are always moved by ornamented speeches that lack substance.

Okenwa's article falls under the category of hate sermon. It reminds me of a Roman politician called Marcus Porclus Cato, popularly known as Cato the elder. He was a conservative Roman statesman. He loved Roman ideals to the extreme and would have loved to export it anywhere he could. He participated in the Second Punic War and served Rome in many other capacities.

He was sent on official assignment to Carthage. While in Carthage he observed that the economy of that nation was booming. He also noticed the luxurious and flamboyant life-style of the Carthaginian merchants. On his return to Rome he expressed his abhorrence to the Carthaginian ways and tabled before the Roman Senate that Carthage must be destroyed. Whenever he sneezed he would say "Carthage must be destroyed." In social gatherings that had no political underpinnings he would remind the people around that "Carthage must be destroyed." In fact he was said to have developed a habit of ending all his speeches in the Roman Senate with the expression "Carthage must be destroyed."

In order to realize his dream, he plotted and convinced the Roman Senate to approve the Third Punic War in which Carthage was eventually destroyed. The geographical position of Carthage at that time was the exact location of Tunisia in North Africa.

Ants were fortunate to have prevailed over their predicament. They worked hard, expanding their anthills and storing food for the rainy days. The grasshopper on the other hand was engaged with epicurean life-style of social jamboree. When unfavourable weather condition set in the ants shut their doors and start to enjoy the fruit of their labour. The grasshopper visited the anthill with a begging bowl. The ants refused and reminded him that he could not have it both ways. He left miserably. On his way he met a hungry snake who wanted to gobble him up. He pleaded that his life be spared and directed the snake to the anthill."The ants" he said, "have a big barn where they stored large amount of stolen food. They stole more than they can consume" the grasshopper said to snake. The snake foolishly went into the anthill through the back hole but did not come out. The soldier ants bit him to death and had extra food to eat. An interesting lesson in this story is how the food the ants had laboured hard to accunulate had been branded "stolen food" by the grasshopper.

It must be acknowledged that only a mad person has no enemy. The reason is because in his sorry state of mind he has been edged out of competitive arena. His or her unkempt appearance, his mental and financial bankruptcy pose no threat to anyone. On the other hand, anyone who is capable of making one penny daily must expect the envy of those who can not make it. Such envy is not limited to the field of commerce alone, it could be observed in all fields of human endevour.

When Albert Einstein was 26 his teacher observed that his brain contained a seed that could make him a mighty oak. His erudite mind dwarfed that of his teacher. Envy set in and his teacher became Cato the elder and felt that Einstein must be destroyed, not through the barrel of the gun like Carthage. But by the way of subtle psychological suggestions. He adviced Einstein to withdraw from school because he was a disaster at mathematics. Einstein knew that he was inspired by envy and ignored him. In the later part of his life when he worked assiduously to produce his Theory of Relativity they ridiculed his Theory. His arch enemy stated publicly that "Einstein's Theory of Relativity has set physics and astronomy back 1000 years." The worm eats the core, and yet the seed flourished.

It is hoped that Okenwa would not toe the path of Cato the elder with regard to his perception of the Ibos. I do not wish to reproduce some of his shrill diatribe here. Such sour expressions had already appeared in the rebuttals of my predecessors. In his rejoinder to Okenwa's articles, Emmanuel Onuoha used subtle nuances to produce a cohesive and unchallengeable synthesis that squeezed Okenwa to the corner.

Dr Rex Ekwueme's rejoinder was a hard-hitting piece that pierced through the persona with intent to unmask the author.

Chukwudi Nwokoye's rebuttal reminded Okenwa that he who pays pilgrimage to the palace of the anus must partake in the banquet of faeces and wished the author bon appetite.

A good social critic must possess among other things what I would like to call mental hygiene. The parliament of his or her mind should have no seat for ethnic prejudice or hatred. It is only when the mind is purged out of these negative emotions that it could produce a balanced and constructive criticism which will be beneficial to the policy makers and observers. Hate and reason can not dwell side by side which is why Okenwa, in his articles, committed abortion of thought. Hate did not allow reason to screen his thought before being delivered for public consumption.

The fragrance of constructive criticisms of a good social critic will surely waft through the corridor of time for generations to come. Those criticisms ornamented with malice aforethought produce discord, division and stagnation.