Obinna O. ObinnaSunday, February 22, 2009
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eneral Rotimi's insubordination and contemptuous denigration of his superior public officer has been widely reported by almost all major Nigerian news media and extensively covered and discussed by concerned Nigerians Online, and on the pages of various internet websites. There are some troubling issues raised by retired Brigadier Olowole Rotimi in his intemperate outburst, mindset and pugnacious behavior.


The pitiful history of Nigeria and the connotations of tribe, ethnicity, state of origin, religion, and affiliations will perennially and continuously hinder progressive endeavors and would more frequently than necessary resurrect events that most of us would rather want buried in the sands of history. The retired brigadier has been quoted to have written a memo to his superior officer, Nigeria's Foreign Minister, Ojo Maduekwe, that: "I have dealt with people like you in the past. I was the Quarter Master General of the Nigerian army that thoroughly defeated your ragtag Biafran army."

When Nigerian gained her independence from Britain in 1960, the enlightened world had hoped that with Nigeria's land mass, population, rich endowment with human talents, natural resources and all the elements of egalitarian progressivism - having been victims of oppression and subjugation, Nigeria would become the epitome of Black renaissance characterized by the resurgence of Africa's misappropriated civilization, lost glory, restoration of lost and stolen arts, empowerment of the black race and emancipation of the physically and mentally subjugated colored peoples of the world. Little did they know that a problem deeper than skin pigmentation, ethnicity, would retrogress and functionally reduce their dreams, hopes and aspirations to mere wishes and illusions.

Nigeria's problems are self inflicted. No Nigerian planned, designed nor campaigned for his/her place of birth. Similarly, no Nigerian requested to be born in the geographical region she/he was born in. A Yoruba man on the streets on Lagos craves and desires the same things as his fellow Igboman on the streets of Owerri. Same goes to a Fulaniman, Kanuri, Ibibio, Kanuri, Ijebuman, etc. But our ethnicity has come to define who we are, how we think, what we wear, what political offices we occupy, how we relate with and to each other and how we respect/disrespect our superior/inferior officers. Even those born in states/ethnic groups to parents not considered bona fide citizens of those states/ethnic groups are excluded and not considered part and parcel of that region/ethnic group. What a shame!

Retired Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi's fighting words are very unfortunate, incorrectly stated and grossly misleading. When two professional World Wrestling Federation wrestlers are in the ring slugging it out, and two heavier, stronger and much more powerful wrestling champions jump into the ring, slam one of the wrestlers on the canvass with a heavy metal, knock him unconscious and the other wrestler jumps on top of him, while on top of him, the referee counts the unconscious wrestler out. The wrestler on top is declared the winner. Would he, the declared winner, in good conscience, morally and ethically claim the championship belt? Well, the combined economic and military might of two world super powers, from 1966 to 1970, jointly defeated Biafra. Our Northern and Western brothers are taking credit for the defeat of Biafra by Britain and the former Soviet Union.

It took over three years for the combined British and former Soviet Union's economic and military might to defeat a "ragtag" Biafran army. It took 100 hours for the United States to defeat Saddam's army in Kuwait on March 3, 1991, during Operation Desert Storm. Operation Iraqi Freedom started on March 19, 2003, but by March 19, 2003, Bagdad had fallen. Saddam Hussein was captured on December 13, 2004. The Falklands war that technically started on 19 March, 1982 ended on 14 June, 1982, with the surrender of Argentina. It took Israel just six days (June 5-10, 1967) to militarily subdue the armies of Jordan, Egypt and Syria in the Six-Days War. To embark on a humiliation exercise of an Igbo person because it took three plus years for Britain and the former Soviet Union to defeat Biafra is a senseless and misdirected gloating in futility.

The Nigerian civil war was, and continues to be a tragedy to Nigeria, Africa and the entire world. Nigeria lost enormously. Not only in terms of millions of lives lost, the war interrupted, misdirected and fractured isogenesis development, retrogressed facilities management and capital equipment needed for a well structured and skillfully planned infrastructural network. Good planning of power grid, extensive, diligent and accessible road and rail network, coordinated drinking water supply, solid educational system, adequate national telecommunications network, resource-based industrialization, technological advancement based on local needs, and cohesive integration of the various ethnic groups have all suffered. Corruption has prospered while mismanagement and treasury looting have been elevated to a skillful art. Fear of ethnic uprisings has prevented fearless and dynamic prosecution of economic and other criminal transgressions. Non-ethnic conducts are viewed through ethnic prisms. Appointments are made based on ethnicity and religion. Even clueless presidents are (s)elected based on ethnic origin. Consequently, mediocrity and visionlessness have been rewarded beyond reasonable imagination. The civil war, undoubtedly and unreasonably, became a rallying cry for ethnocentrism and a justification for the exclusion of excellence and first-rateness. It became a justification for brutality and humiliation. The Nigerian civil war corrupted our mentality. It gave rise to a master-servant mentality. It is now a justification for insubordination, insolence and an often unexpressed but easily discernible classification of "real Nigerian" and "defeated secessionist."

Retired Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi's letter is a microcosm of how Ndigbo are being perceived by a larger segment of the country's other nationalities. Ndigbo are being perceived as those that are ungrateful for the Nigerian air they breathe. Ndigbo must prostrate to others for the "winners" magnanimity in sparing their lives in 1970. Ndigbo must not aspire to higher positions or reproach their errant junior officers because they "lost" the civil war. Even Nigerians born to Igbo parents from 1971 till date must know their place in Nigeria. Their parents, some of whom were not even born before the advent of the war, never sanctioned the war, never knew what the war was all about, never took part in the war, were not even in Nigeria in the sixties must know their place in Nigeria; their ethnic group "lost" the civil war, as such, they must not raise their voices too loud in the presence of the "victorious" retired Brig. Oluwole Rotimi and the legion that thinks like him.

A diplomat, I erroneously thought is a person endowed with an enviable cognitive ability and intellectual competence to rationally and effectively influence his audience through skillful intelligence and eloquence. I also thought that a representative of a diverse country like Nigeria must display public actions and motives that would be guided by honesty, sincerity and a sense of communal duty. But incidentally, from Plato's perspective, the human mind is comprised of the reasoning, the desiring, and the emotive parts. We are not immune to emotive vituperations. Such emotive outbursts surely decrease our mental capacity. Failure to display the right emotions in the right circumstances brings out the worst more so than our best attributes.

When the invisible web that masks our true feelings and beliefs are untangled, our foolery becomes subject to public debates, ridicule and undesirable scorn. Hateful self stimulation predicated on a shameful history is neither informative, persuasive nor a positive demonstration of diplomatic sagacity. Ranks and previous positions held notwithstanding, failure to demonstrate and showcase elemental emotional stability and social intelligence and inability to jettison decayed ideas and stereotypes in the discharge of official duties disqualifies those unable to adjust; contrived games, and calculated gimmicks disguised as apologies notwithstanding. Inability to cast overboard historical distastes and dislikes of certain characters based on ethnicity invariably forces an otherwise good person to be deficient in kindness, hope, hospitality, good vision and courageous national cohesion and integration, thereby forcing people (who once viewed us as heroes) to perceive us as folks devoid of empathic and nationalistic introspection.

Whatever redemption path retired Brig. Rotimi chooses is his prerogative. Hopefully, lessons have been learned from his behavior. It is a time tested fact that pertaining to public, even personal behavior, there are consequences that could either be detrimental or rewarding benefits from our individual choices. Those in glass houses need not be reminded that throwing stones has consequences. To whoever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked (Luke Chapter 12 verse 48). Retired Brig. Rotimi's recall is justified. His temperament is questionable and his sincerity to "One Nigeria" is untenable.

It is also a good time to really start asking ourselves, as Nigerians, some tough questions. Are Ndigbo considered part and parcel of Nigeria by other Nigerian ethnic groups? The American civil (1861-1865) was fought and won over a hundred years ago. The so called defeated side has produced more American presidents than the victorious side. Ndigbo can be found in all nooks and crannies in every part of Nigeria, helping to advance their residential communities with their skills and resources. Yet, at every turn, they are always reminded that they are "secessionists" in their adopted communities in particular and in their country in general. It is time to let Ndigbo know when their partial assimilation will become a total and irrevocable assimilation.

Nigeria is always looking to the past for political and economic salvation. Why can't Nigeria, as a nation, look forward? America, Canada, Britain and Japan are all progressively entrusting their leadership roles to a new generation of leaders, while Nigeria is looking for leadership from the dust heap of decayed and outdated ideas. Consulting these past leaders for advice is what Nigeria needs, not relying on them for leadership. That is the bane of some of our problems.