Sabella Abidde, Igbo Tribal Siren and Public Domain

In “Igbo: A People In Search Of A Leader: Further Commentary”, NVS Friday, 16 May 2008, Sabella Ogbobode Abidde really ruffled my tribal feathers. And before the ember of his engulfing fire is extinguished from the public consciousness, an appropriate rebuttal of his misconception is now valid.

In as much as we should encourage unity and solidarity among the growing, not to say rebellious corps of Diaspora based internet warriors, that word again, we also have a sacred duty to censor some of our loose canons when there is obvious slippage from their journalistic grace.

Undoubtedly, when the siren of tribal jingoism whizzes across the public domain, there is a danger that such tribalist writer may morph into a villainous figure through unconscious desire to carry the torch for his clan. Perhaps, Abidde may have fallen into that trap. In the polity that we all fondly referred to as Nigeria, no tribe or ethnicity has a monopoly of knowledge. We are all inputting, weaving and contributing, no matter how little, to the new Nigerian genre of change, progress, democratic renewal, unity and peaceful co-existence. The Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa are all genuine stakeholders in the new vision, or shall I say, ongoing narrative of shared values, aspirations and a common heritage. Regardless of our tribal affiliations we are all in a historic mission to construct a virile and indivisible nation, at peace with itself, aware of its past failings and confident of the future.

I have to state the obvious that public commentators who are issue-driven have far more chances to receive public respect, adulation and honour than writers who carry the burdensome cross of tribal jingoism. The easiest way we could all demean, no, desecrate the challenging province of public discourse is when we all fall into primitive hallucination and recklessly make social, political, economic and intellectual comparison that are baseless but could only inflame and wound.

When we resort to tribal sentiment, we demean our education, we deploy venom-laden exchanges, we resurrect the ugly memory of our civil war and worse, we dishonour the gains and sacrifice of our pilgrim fathers like Awolowo, Azikiwe and Balewa. When we rush through that electrical, intellectual impulse to impugn, smear, denigrate and cast horrid aspersions on the Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani people, the odious outcome could be unending distrust and vile hate that could lead to further polarisation.

Now let us sound out Abidde in his own inimitable words. “The Igbo nation had attributes most other Nigerian nationalities can only dream of; and are what most other nations were not. The Igbo made Nigerian better. Any wonder then that the Igbo can do without Nigeria; but Nigeria and her myriad nationalities cannot do without the Igbo? Take the Igbo out of the Nigerian equation, and Nigeria will be gasping for air.” Really? One cannot pretend not to feel particularly alarmed and outraged by his wholly ludicrous views of Igbo tribal superiority. There is a sign of unhealthy disdain for other people who constitute Nigeria by this rabid and arrogant statement.  I am sure mature and sensible ‘Odenigbos’ like Okey Ndibe, Peter Claver Oparah, Levi Obijiofor, Moses Ebe Ochonu, Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo and Ozodi Thomas Osuji, all brilliant minds would have pinched themselves to watch Abidde fall so shamelessly into such provocative innuendoes, vitriolic outburst and unedifying clannish suggestibility.

Further on he fulminates, “How did a people this intelligent, this savvy, and this contributive got shut out of the corridor of federal power and continually being deprived the chance to attain the highest seat in Nigeria’s political power?” To give Abidde a simple answer, it is all in our attitude. Would you vote for people who erroneously arrogate to themselves the highest IQ in Nigeria? Would you vote for a tribe, who, according to Abidde are omnipotent, omniscient and self-sufficient?  Would you vote for a tribe who have build an enduring myth around their valour, thus referring to Yoruba people as being cowards? Abidde’s comment here is self-defeating, retrogressive and a widener of the already festering wound of tribalism we all struggle to heal from our body politics.

Hear another brainwave: …..”mistrust of the Igbo by other ethnic groups, and the unspoken determination of the Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani to deprive the Igbo of their rightful place in Nigeria polity.” That is a lovingly brilliant punch line! MISTRUST OF THE IGBO (caps mine) by other ethnic groups is a self-fulfilling prophecy when you consider Abidde’s colourful canvass of the Ndigbo as perfect, over intelligent, monolithic in temperament and savvy in business. Who will trust such collection of righteous, haughty and demi-gods across the Niger?

Abidde comes charging once more and bang, “Essentially, the North and the West have not rid themselves of their prejudices and hatred of the Igbo. They have been using jaundiced perception and misreading of history to thwart the Igbo presidential aspiration”. Answer to this Igbo political quandary will begin to emerge when the Igbo bury this sickening victimhood, which had been the agent of their stagnation and ruin since the end of the civil war. Politics is a gladiatorial combat but when you begin to marinate defeat, and in the Ndigbo case, denial of the centre, with cheap tribal sentiment and imagined hatred by other contestants, then there should be a new Ndigbo conversation and realignment of accommodating vision shorn of tribal animus.

There is another statement, but its import is not lost on me. “And Nigeria became what it was because of the Igbo. The Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba have been at the helm of Nigeria’s national affairs and the result has been dismal. It is time the Igbo take control and command of Aso Rock” Certainly, deadpan self-justification like this will induce the bitterness of every Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani. I can go on, but let me say that there is a constant danger when Abidde and his tribesmen remain shamelessly protective and lofty about their tribal achievements, even though he did not supply verifiable argument to justify his sentiment. If I may ask, in what area of human endeavour has the Igbo excel but the Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani are found wanting?  Yoruba, if Abide may know, have deadly abhorrence for anybody who is too full of himself. Yoruba loathe anybody who is too full of vain gloriousness as the statement above suggests. What right has Abidde to use Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani as practice target for his denigrating and haughty vitriol?

This logic and Abidde’s intellectual inability to see beyond the dark prism of tribal jealousies have destroyed friends, communities and nations. Across Nigeria, we could still excavate the remains of charred bodies along the Ife-Modakeke tribal borderline. Then across the continent, the same orgy of tribal politics once destroyed otherwise peaceful nations such as Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somali, Sudan and presently Zimbabwe. Tribalism, no matter how fetchingly disguised, is emotive, corrosive and highly inflammable.

Having said all this, there is undeniably much that are admirable about the Igbo. They are clever, focus, fair, personable, longsuffering, patience, brave, shrewd, trustworthy, loyal and positively proud of their heritage. Would Abidde be kind enough to be so charitable with his praise of other tribes? However, it is a lie of the Igbo politician to point to Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani as the axis of evil denying the Igbo the overdue lordship of Aso Rock.  The reason why Aso Rock breakthrough is not forthcoming is located in this Abidde’e prophetic line…..’the infighting and unnecessary wrangling between Igbo power centers that adequately accounts for why the Igbo have been denied the presidency”.  So why would he provoke this tribal outrage when in his own words, and to put it neatly in Yoruba language, ‘kokoro to njefo inu efo lowa.’ The moth devastating the vegetable lives right inside the vegetable!!  Chineke……..Mba nu!