Razaque's Side

If the Ndigbo miss their step in this dance and present another lackey that will further ridicule their race in the equation, the shame will be collectively awarded, not just to the family of the bad chairman but the entire Igbo race.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo


ndulge me for a moment, in the hypothetical sense. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the delivery of governor Ohakim of Imo State at the World Ibo Congress in Detroit, Michigan a few weeks ago. I could not attend the occasion as I am non-Igbo, but I looked forward to the Ndigbo resolution, as any conscientious Nigerian would, with keen interest. This is because the Ndigbo are not only the most ubiquitous but, by far, among the most industrious race south of the Sahara. And they are my compatriots.

Unsubstantiated prejudices apart, Ndigbo are hardworking, shrewd and street-smart. In money-matters, Ndigbo are in a class of their own. In fact, some call them “the Jews of Africa.” There is even a crude autopsy reserved for the Igboman. People say when an Ibo slumps to the ground, a coin-drop will determine if he is dead or alive. If at the drop of that coin he neither winks nor blinks, consider his fall as the end of story.

These are people who, more than anyone else, know what makes the world go round. A couple of weeks ago, when they met in Detroit, Michigan, their guest speaker was the indefatigable Ikedi Ohakim, whose oratory is helping him be a cult-like icon. At first, he seemed unknown to most. To me, he was just one of the mendicant Igbo leaders that always spite their own to feather their nests. I imagined a wet-behind-the-ear politician attempting to galvanize a deeply skeptical audience.

While such meetings do not usually disparage their guests, I imagined that Ohakim would leave with a bloodied nose anyway. This conclusion is a product of my decade-long sojourn outside Nigeria during which I have interacted with all cadres of Ndigbo and come to the conclusion that their souls have taken leave of the soul of Nigeria. In my discussions with many of them, they have proved themselves most unreceptive to the current political rejuvenation that is taking place in Nigeria. They see everything Nigeria as ultimately counter-productive.

However, Ohakim’s address seeks to reverse all that. It is the ultimate wake-up-call. While the reporters at the occasion did not, in my opinion, justify their presence there, I had a mental picture, after perusing the speech, of a well-composed and articulate guest, cajoling an unwilling horse to gallop to the murky waters of Nigerian politics. With due respect to Ndigbo, the likes of Ohakim have risen from the ashes to hit the final nail on the coffin of their cash-and-carry crop of political leaders, like the Nwobodos, Nzeribes, Ubas, Ngiges, Nnamanis, Iwuanyanwus, Ume-Ezeokes, Anyims among many others.

It has been a while since a Nigerian politician, especially of Igbo stock has been so focused, or coherent, or logical, or factual, or articulate, or profound or even sincere. Ohakim did not only galvanize Ndigbo alone, he resurrected hope in the new Nigerian nation, the African-American folks and the world at large. He told Ndigbo that after over four decades, they cannot continue to wallow in the whirlpool of lamentation, arising from the results of the civil war. He told many truths. He spoke from his heart and his heart was large.

However one looks at his speech, it comes with a moral. As I write this piece, the Ndigbo are meeting again September 29th at various centers in the South-east, including Awka, Owerri, Abakaliki, Enugu and Umuahia among others, to mark the national Igbo day. It will be interesting to see how they harness the gains of their strength to surmount the challenges of a future, first for the Ndigbo, and ultimately the rest of the country.

To look beyond the fanfare and pageantry of this occasion, is to be wise, smart and visionary. If they deploy their strength wisely, Ndigbo could become the single most powerful political block in Nigeria. If they were to invest in their God-given dynamism, they could conquer the world for Nigeria. But the politics that they played from the time the second generation of Nigerian leaders bestrode the political firmament has shown that they have other ideas, that is at best self-serving, thus losing their teeth in chewing crumbs full of pebbles instead of a decent meal that would have been rightfully theirs.

Now is the time for them to rise again like the sphinx. As they meet, several Igbo natives are angling for the national chairmanship of the ruling party, the PDP. Similarly, as Ohakim mentioned in USA, the north has substituted its docile leadership with a progressive debutante who if left to flourish will keep the fires of our national enhancement glowing. But it takes two to tango.

The positive accident that Umar Musa Yaradua represents needs to be complimented by a decent choice by the Igbos. It is already established, as a pattern, that when a leader fails, the nation is quick to judge his entire community, even his entire region. Rightly or otherwise, it is for this reason that the stormy petrel of Ibadan politics declared the trials of Patricia Olubunmi Etteh as the trial of the Yoruba race. The Igbos must therefore seize this opportunity to put their right foot forward, or the sun will set on them.

The president is only as good as the party he comes from. If the Ndigbo miss their step in this dance and present another lackey that will further ridicule their race in the equation, the shame will be collectively awarded, not just to the family of the bad chairman but the entire Igbo race. They must do everything in their power to reposition themselves in the scheme of things. They must help this nation that has so abused them. Igbokwenu!! Ya!!