Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Last week Thursday President Muhammadu Buhari visited Owerri, one of the most troubled cities in Southeastern Nigeria, to commission projects which the incumbent government had embarked upon and ostensibly completed. His host, the Supreme-Court-appointed Chief Executive, Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma was on hand along with other prominent leaders of the region to receive him. My Abuja-worshipping and favoured namesake the governor had thumped his chest for having the clout to summon a presidential visit to Imo State. I read a report where immediate past governor Senator Rochas Okorocha countered that in his days in office, the president visited the state three times! As an aside, I don’t remember whether those visits were to commission the statues of past heroes of Nigeria and Africa about which Okorocha was much obsessed for some strange reason! And did he build his own effigy as well? I need to find out what has become of those objects of infinite ridicule and absurdity.
As far as presidential visits go, the president made a big statement aside from the conciliatory tone of his main speech. He can visit any part of the country that he decides to once the security officials assure him that he can be covered, protected from malevolent foes and rampaging scoundrels. IPOB’s declaration that the president was not welcome in Imo State was a joke taken too far. Did they have anyway of enforcing the ‘unwelcome? Judging by the turnout of high calibre officials at the Town Hall, the visit was a success, though we cannot say so for the hoi polloi whom politicians usually want to see suffering in the blight of the harsh weather waiting to catch a glimpse of them. Reports show that the streets of Owerri were deserted in obedience to IPOB stay-at-home order. Besides, Uzodinma’s projects were no projects indeed. Was that what prompted the president to say to the governor that ‘I cannot thank you enough but I will be careful with your invitations in the future? That was a technical slap on the Abuja-made Governor Hope Uzodinma. The president and the cabal in Abuja created Hope Uzodinma and they should ‘take am as dem see am.’
The audience included traditional rulers, (did I sight the respected Obi of Onitsha on stage?) the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Professor George Obiozor and ‘over 200 Igbo leaders drawn from the Southeast states. At the meeting the president paid tribute to the resourcefulness of the Igbo and declared that ‘the fundamental thing about the Igbo people is that there is no town you will visit in Nigeria without seeing the Igbo being in charge of either infrastructure or pharmaceutical industry’, adding that ‘it is unthinkable for me that any Igbo man would consider himself not to be a part of Nigeria’. The real question is: if Igbo are so well entrenched in the country business-wise, why is there groundswell of agitation for secession? Has there been a vigorous interrogation of the contradiction? If I may add, there is hardly any country in the world that Igbo traders and compatriots cannot be found in, from Russia to South Africa to Australia or Mongolia!
Presidential visits all over the world are often beneficial to the economy of the host community through multiplier effects. It is also a hazard for the host government. When a president visits, different activities take place both on the part of the government and private citizens. A presidential visit could result in improved facilities before and during the visit. In some cases, the benefits outlive the visit. Some state governments get into a frenzy fixing roads and building infrastructure so that there would be projects to commission. As a result, the quality of the work could be shoddy, and God save the host if it rains suddenly to expose the derriere of the chicken. Of course, security men swarm the state, staying in hotels and spending money on different items and persons. Of course, there are often newspaper and radio adverts welcoming the august visitor.
The groups which are hired to dance in the sun also smile to the bank with some naira in their pockets. Psychologically too, the state benefits or ought to benefit from such a visit. A presidential visit is like a nod of approval from the Number One man. As a result, investments, presidential approvals and other things which could translate into billions of naira and good will ought to follow. For example, during such a visit, there could be a presidential directive that the Second Niger Bridge must be completed before 2023 or that Nnamdi Kanu the arch defender of the Biafran cause should be released before Christmas!
In normal circumstances, petty traders would have a field day around the venue of the reception. But we are not in normal times. The security situation in Imo State is scary, especially in Owerri. The sheer number of security vehicles which accompanied the president and the helicopter flying overhead showed how seriously the security agencies took the implied threat of the outlawed IPOB. To be sure, there must be no mistakes during such a visit. The State of Texas got into the wrong side of history when a popular president JFK was gunned down during a visit. Ibadan still holds unpleasant memories of the tragedy that followed Major General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi’s visit to that peaceful city in July 1967. So, every Chief Security Officer of a state, working with the federal authorities, ensures that nothing funny happens during a presidential visit.
Professor Obiozor did not mince words when he said in his welcome speech that ‘the security of Ndigbo in Nigeria and beyond has become a compelling primary responsibility of serious concern for Ndigbo. Regrettably, our Southeast zone has recently become a theatre of conflict, negating the peace-loving nature of our people’. He went on to stress a sore point in federal government-Ndigbo relations when he called for the ‘release of Igbo youths detained by various security agencies across the country’. How and why did Mr. President skip a public pronouncement on this vexatious matter?
For me, this was the great miss of the visit- the failure to, with a stroke of the pen, end the agitation in the Southeast. In a democracy a president does not concentrate on the power of the military or security agencies only. Statesmanship involves negotiations and concessions. The perception that the Buhari administration has not been fair on the Igbo was not obliterated. Or should I believe that behind closed doors, negotiations about IPOB and Nnamdi Kanu took place? Nnamdi Kanu might be an irritant. But he has become like a bee that is perched on the proverbial scrotum that must be shooed off with care and diplomacy. The current state of things in the country requires fine diplomacy, conversations, and concessions. It is only when dealing with outright criminality as perpetrated by bandits and terrorists that kid gloves should not be used.
As an aside, it was so ridiculous that the size and style of the pants of Mr. President which he wore to show cultural affinity with Imo State became the focus of social media ridicule. Whatever it was the First Citizen must turn out well at all times. The wardrobe did not do a good job even with the selection of the shoes. Was the regalia hurriedly made for the occasion?
Finally, it was a good thing that policy makers and cultural icons of Igbo extraction turned out to welcome the Number One Citizen to Owerri last Thursday. The effect of the visit must translate into gains visible so as to bring peace to the beleaguered state and region. Whether this is a possibility can only be seen in the months ahead. Tokenism is not a solution to the severity of the security crisis which we face in Nigeria today. And because the buck stops at the desk of the Commander-in-Chief, President Buhari must rise to the occasion and hand over a stable polity to his successor in 2023 after a free and fair election.
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Why I Love Kids
Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
I love kids. I love childhood. I love children. I refer to real kids, the unsoiled ones. The ones who see this world as a world of no impossibilities. Daddy is a hero, a magician. With daddy around they can get all they need, all they want. The ones who say ‘I will tell daddy for you’. If they tell daddy for you, daddy will deal with you. Or the ones who say ‘Mommy said I should tell you that she is not in the house! And unwittingly cause a war between two families!
I love their unspoilt nature, their innocence, their simplicity, and their lack of pretence. With them you know where you stand. They will not scheme against you nor hatch an evil plot to destroy you or derail your career. They will not envy your successful life. They do not pad things. They may make things up for their world to flow. But they do not mean to destroy your world. Their world is governed by truth, truth as they see it. They may be, they are often naïve but they are genuine. They may not act right. But they keep no malice. They trust adults. They believe adults. They want to be like adults in some respects. Yet in their world, the mindset of the adult is dangerous!
When daddy has no car, it is because daddy does not need a car. Not because he cannot afford one. When daddy says ‘there’s no money’, they say to ‘daddy go to the bank and take money’. and to dad’s ‘There’s no fuel in the car! they say ‘Let us go to the fuel station to take fuel! They do not have fake identities. They are who they are. They are, they could be fun to be with, especially if you are a grandfather, not obliged to pay their fees or be with them twenty-four hours. They make you forget the uglies of the world. You stay with the beautiful, the good, the kind, and the testimony of sainthood. In the world of kids, there is no malice. In malice, be like children. In understanding be like men. So, the Apostle Paul says. The assumption is that all men have understanding. We know however that sometimes, the naivety of a child is more powerful than the wicked understanding of an adult. It is our peril. It is our doom. Adults rule the world. Not children. Wish they could rule the world!
Some powerful men, like most rich men, treat women like kids. Their kids. Their play thing. Their toy. The gambit is money. Influence. Access. The women look at them in awe. Treat them with awe. They exhibit the innocence and charm of the kid. They throw up the charm of a kid. The men fall for it. They lap it up. They fall for it. And the relationship becomes sweet, remains sweet. Until when the innocence disappears, that is, when the woman discovers the web of deceit, lies, and cunning. Innocence or the appearance of innocence in a woman portrays the image of the child, the vulnerable. It makes men want to protect them.
Childhood is innocence. It ought to be innocence, that is, a child ought to be innocent. Childhood is synonymous with innocence. At some point innocence disappears. They grow out of it, into the adult world. Like the children in William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies in which Ralph ‘wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of a man’s heart’ as the beast in children rises to the surface and dominates the landscape, their lives, their stay in the wild. Maturity comes. Maturity? Perhaps, not maturity. Savagery. Exposure to the greed in the world. The hate. The jealousy. The spite. The bile, hidden one. You could be an adult without being mature. But you cannot be a child without innocence. Once innocence is lost, the sanctity of the contract between childhood and innocence evaporates. Golding also writes about ‘the world, that understandable and lawful world’, which ’was slipping away!
The child is the man. The child is the father of the man. This is belief in the future. It is hope. It is faith. It is a seed that is planted to be nurtured when, if all circumstances are equal. It is no apotheosis of any kind, no epiphany; nothing near it. It is no divine revelation, no. It is the reality that we contend with daily. That hope is humanity. That hope is the future of humanity, the earth, the cosmos. So, when we destroy the kid, we destroy the future. Not in the physical sense may be. But in essence. To be sure there are consequences.
The kid dies in the child that is exposed to or plunged into the ugly dangers and filth of the adult world before the age of innocence naturally ends. And that is the plight of our world. Our fall. Our doom. Our death. Too many things kill innocence. Sheer brigandage rules the airwaves through the power of technology. Social media. Blogs. Porn sites. Wars and rumours of wars. The smartphone. The Internet. Brigands in power. Disappearance of sacred values or nonrecognition of sacred values. Muscles of the adult world squeeze life out of the chest of values, of decent codes, of mentorship.
There is a sense in which an adult loses innocence after trauma. This is another form of innocence. Experience, sometimes traumatic, opens the eyes to the realities of existence. Or when a sibling or a close friend or blood relation betrays you. Or when the husband is discovered for who he really is. Something gives, something dies, something flies away. Never to return. It is a story of no return often, even when there is forgiveness. Their spirit cannot rise to that level.
READ ALSO: The President Visits Owerri
So, I love children. I love the kids. And I want them to enjoy the beauty of innocence as long as they are Naturally entitled to it. We should guarantee childhood. But we are destroying the world of kids. The kid in Nigeria. In northeast Nigeria. The kid growing up in the wild killings in Owerri. The killing fields of Kaduna. In Jos. And the ones abducted from school. Innocence is destroyed, not lost. And they will never be balanced adults because there was no fitting transition. There was no transition. There was a staccato of shots. Suddenly that blind belief in the world of no impossibilities vanished in a puff. It is not a story to be told, neither now nor in the future!
There are tears for destroyed or murdered childhood. Tears for a compromised and destroyed adulthood. So, when a young adult breaks down or cannot face the world or cannot handle a family or cannot handle his kids or remains tied to the apron strings of their parents, where rests the blame? Has blaming exculpated the guilty or the vanquished? The answer is not blowing in the wind!
Loss of innocence is inevitable as the child grows into adulthood. But a destroyed innocence is a scar that not even time can heal. ‘The death of innocence causes an imbalance’, writes Bowers, ‘and initiates an internal war that manifests differently in each individual, but almost always includes anger, withdrawal and severe depression’. What have we done to innocence in the land?
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The Audacity Of False Prophets
Dear Omoh Giwa,
Would you think it satirical to ask how you are faring (considering the state of affairs in Nigeria)? I bring you warm tidings from Osalobuwa (though He dissociates himself from the filth and treachery of a particular individual that claims to be led by the spirit of God).
I do not envisage a response from the Lioness of Lisabi or the great Awo (like the gods of ancient Greece, there are weightier issues than those iterated in your previous missives like our bets on the VAT brouhaha).
I am contacting from Nirvana as I could not but notice in your tirades, a disconcerting notion. (Digressively, are you really surprised that over fifteen million Nigerians voted not once but twice the nepotistic general or is this your weak attempt at humour?)
I have been called ‘Father of Pentecostalism in Nigeria’ several times and it is on this authority I want to discuss the subject of Christianity in Nigeria. How can you honestly expect a response from He who is addressed as the Holy One of Israel while wallowing in your filth like swine (blocked drainages or heaps of refuse on major roads?
You are an unclean lot spiritually and physically) However, this is insignificant compared to my reason for writing. I am bothered about the increase in false prophets and the gullibility of the sheep.
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When our messiah charged Peter with the care of the flock, it was under the impression that as a religious leader, he would lead and act in the footsteps of the Nazarene but consider the perversion today. I understand the epistle of Paul to Timothy prophesizes that men would be lovers of themselves and practice heresy and idolatry but should this be associated with men of the cloth? The role of the priest is to act as ambassador between the sheep and the master of the flock but these wolves are more interested in exploiting and extorting the flock than caring for them.
Remember how politicians hoarded palliatives during the lockdown from the pandemic (do not get me started on the importance of cleanliness and abstinence which you are now being compelled to obey but at what cost?), well how did your general overseers care for you (you weren’t expecting anything or the miracle of the five loaves and two fish doesn’t apply to you?)
Instead they capitalised on avenues to ensure the steady inflow of wealth through tithes and offerings. You don’t believe me? Did one of them not recently boast that he acquired not one but two private jets during the pandemic as though that is a reflection of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
A nation enormously blessed with vast reserves of mineral resources yet is the poverty capital of the world coincidentally boasts of elegantly constructed cathedrals but has less than a tenth of the total number of churches in factories that could improve the economy and standard of living.
Is this not the same church leader smeared in a sex scandal of funding the rich and extravagant life of a certain actress? We particularly like the social media captions of “small girl big God” when they speak of their blessings and source of their lifestyles.
Ironically, the blessings are from the pulpit (a gathering of the widow’s mite. Jokes! Jokes! Relax, humouris not reserved for the living).
What about the one that was exposed as a sexual predator, preying on young girls (you’d probably remember him as the ‘Krest’ Pastor?) and intimidating them when they go public?
The feigned public outrage and anger lasted mere weeks and the nation carried on, business as usual and service continued as usual. Is he not back on the pulpit and his cathedral bursting at the seams? What about priests that not only engage in fornicating with women but have added young impressionable boys to their list of victims?
I especially like the one that calls himself “liquid metal” and has turned his church services into a carousal. One time he claimed to be casting demons out of a member and kept kicking and throwing the victim on chairs as though the erring demon is physical and could feel the torture. Do you remember a certain pastor that asked her congregation to tap into her special anointing of rearing virgins (I’m as confused as you are) for a paltry sum of one thousand dollars as though God’s blessings could be repackaged for sale like exotic wine?
How can you be comfortable with the denigration of Christianity? Was the blood of Jesus shed for this? This reminds me of Simon the Sorcerer who attempted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit but was rebuked by Peter but look at stomach-infrastructure deacons.
My lengthy harangue seems to have gone off-track because I wanted to address the role of religious leaders in the political affairs of a nation. A certain influential religious leader has been tagged ‘Kingmaker’ because a sitting president and British prime minister knelt before him for re-election success (coincidentally didn’t go as planned).
I wish to remind you of the biblical story of Elijah and Ahab where the prophet faced the dictator without fear even though he knew the implications of such actions. You do remember that Elijah went into hiding for fear of his life and pleaded with God to take his life? What do these clerics do with their influence? Amass more wealth, influence and build bigger cathedrals during economic hardship and political unrest/instability when they have been charged with speaking truth to the powers that be. Do they even consider creating avenues for
economic growth for their members? I guess they have no intention of inheriting the kingdom
of God (the Beatitudes).
My daughter, men of the cassock have become influencers for politicians and have no regard for God whom they profess to call. Have they forgotten the prophecy that God’s judgment will start from the church? When did the pulpit become a poverty alleviation scheme?
How did the church get to this point where one cannot differentiate the heathens from the righteous? When did we lose focus and sight of the goal?
I think it is time to get off your knees in reverence to your religious leaders (I like how you are quick to quote ‘touch not my anointed…’ does having a pulpit make one God’s anointed?) and take the bull by the horns. Our Father considers the prayer of the unrighteous an abomination.
Yours in His Vineyard, Benson Idahosa.
Giwa is of the Department of English, University of Lagos.
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Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest
THE TOYIN FALOLA INTERVIEWS
A CONVERSATION WITH MOLEFI ASANTE, PART 1
Africans have a famous saying that “until the lion talks, every story will glorify the hunter.” This is a multifaceted maxim that more than sums up the nuances of this world. It defines how stories are told, and histories are recorded. Guided by this maxim, a careful analysis of seemingly historical facts will reveal that the so-called facts might have underlying truths in them; however, they are not the facts. Sadly, Africans, who are the proponents of the opening maxim, have been in the position of the marginalized lion for a long time. In what follows, I present how Asante has constructed the pyramid of his intellectual contributions. I could not have been able to compose this piece unless I fully understood his way of thinking.
To Molefi Asante, history has it that Africa is one of the earliest sources of civilization. From the Mesopotamians to the Egyptians, civilization was well-founded on the African continent, millennia before the Industrial Revolution of Europe. When the world was still young, and humans were hardly any other thing aside from hunters and gatherers, Africans, especially Egyptians, had advanced civilization. They had their system of writing in hieroglyphics. Some engineers and mathematicians made the construction of pyramids a scientific possibility, not to forget the medical professionals. Egypt had its system of government, one of the fundamental qualities of a civilized society. To Asante, this is where we must begin not just the history of Africa but of the world itself.
Histories are eroded, and people are forgotten, and so it was for the early African civilization. By the natural law of evolution and perhaps the mal-decisions of some of the empire’s leaders and decision-makers, the empire fell into oblivion. Power shifted hands, and Europe became the center of world civilization. If the story of the European civilization had ended there, perhaps Asante would not have emerged as a proponent of the “Out of Africa” thesis. However, the Europeans, in the natural order of things and as humans, became insatiable. After exploring and conquering their territory, they stretched their tentacles to other territories and exploited them. First, because to humans, superiority is defined by how many humans or human territories they have subdued. Second, because growth means the expansion and the attendant inability of available resources to meet the territory’s needs. So it was that the Europeans arrived in Africa, initially as curious explorers who wanted to get familiar with new territories and trade goods. The initially clear conception of meeting new people and exploring new worlds translated into a burning need to ravage, exploit, dominate, capture, and grow exponentially at the expense of others. There were the long and arduous years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and how they brought humans’ brute nature and inhumanity to the fore.
As if the dehumanization of the trans-Atlantic slave trade era was not enough, there came the infamous Berlin conference of 1884 to 1885 and the unscrupulous sharing of the African continent among European countries. The centuries of colonization in Africa severely impacted Africans’ sense of identity, consciousness, being, culture, traditions, and continued development. Beyond this, an almost unforgivable impact of colonization on Africa was the deliberate misrepresentation and presentation of Africa to the world. Early European observers in Africa presented the continent as a barbaric one. Essays upon essays were written to portray Africans as needy and hopeless, and people who would have gone into extinction but for the supposed intervention of the Europeans. Indeed, the West brought us the modern form of education. However, Africa would not have declined, so argued many Afrocentric scholars, if the Westerners had not come to the continent. Some argue that Africa would have been better off and way more developed than it currently is if the Europeans had not colonized the continent.
In yet another argument by another set of scholars, the westernized education of Africans is perhaps the only good thing that colonialism brought to Africa. Of course, this same westernized education has severely impacted African thought patterns, beliefs, and ways of life. The Europeans handpicked Africans whom they believed were outliers and gave them European scholarships. After being schooled in the West, these Africans returned home, and with their return came an awakening and an intellectual revolution. The education of these select Africans brought about a much-needed reawakening. African scholars received a jolt in their subconscious; they were awakened to the realities that faced the African continent and the African people, how the Europeans had exploited, marginalized, and misrepresented Africa. Questions started sprouting from all angles. Curious Africans started gaining access to those malicious and mal-informant books of purported history, and so began a counter intellectual attack. The likes of Aime Cesaire, Leopold Sedar Senghor, David Diop, Kenneth Dike, Herbert Macaulay, J. F. Ade-Ajayi, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, and Nnamdi Azikiwe took to arms. They deployed knowledge and the education they got–the same tool used to train them–to re-write African history and counter the malicious records made about Africa.
Africa gained independence between the mid and late 20th century. However, the fact remains that Africa is yet to be free from some problems plaguing it. Post-independence has seen the rise of historians and African scholars, people who have taken up battle with the ruining political ideology of Africa and the corrupt and destructive governance militating against the growth of the continent. The attention has shifted from debunking racist and condescending fausse history of Africa to battling destructive African leaders, unscrupulous policies, and a host of other problems facing the continent.
In the face of all these, the lions have not forgotten that the hunter is lurking and has not ceased to tell the story in a way that glorifies the hunter and maligns the lion. This move of the hunter is visible to us; it is all over the media. The malnourished children; war; seizure of power; hunger; crises; and how the media projects them. However, lions still look the hunter in the face and choose to tell their story and that of their species. Lions who have defied all odds to glorify what needs to be glorified about their history and current story. Of these lions, Molefi Asante stands tall.
Molefi Asante–the father of Afrocentrism. If Afrocentrism gained flesh, received the breath of life, and became human, then it would be to the credit of Molefi Asante. I doubt if I have ever met, discussed with, or studied a man who is as passionate and proud of Africa as Molefi Asante. Is it his dedication? Asante has dedicated his life, intellectual prowess, time, and resources to the study of Africa and Afrocentrism. He is living proof of the amazingness of Africa. We often hear and read people’s thoughts on Africa, of how beautiful and rich the continent is in culture and human resources. If this were true of Africa, then Africans should be proud of their continent, and their actions, discourses, exploits, and manner of engagement should reflect this pride.
There is a lamentable eroding in the cultures, beliefs, and values that were once dear to Africans and guided our inter-relationships. To what are we losing our core values as Africans? People who have lost their values would soon lose their identity, and then the abyss of oblivion will not be so far away. In an age where we are fast losing the values that bind us and guide us, there are lions like Molefi Asante, roaring and reminiscing, reminding us of our history, who we are, and whom our forefathers used to be. Of communalism, the Ubuntu spirit, of how only the unity of fingers guarantees one of a resounding fist thump on one’s chest. Molefi is an African vanguard. Molefi Asante is like the baobab, with long-stretching roots that reach Sudan in the North-East, Nigeria in the West, and Costa Rica through the blissfulness of marriage. Asante’s contributions to Africa through scholarly works can never be forgotten. He is a proud and respected son of the soil and one of the most respected prides of African lions.
This Sunday, September 19, 2021, we will be hosting Molefi Asante on another edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews. And this is something I rarely say–I am personally looking forward to this interview to see the eloquent Asante prove his Africanness once more. Please do join us too for a conversation with this eminent philosopher.
Sunday, September 19, 2021
5:00 PM Nigeria
4:00 PM GMT
11:00 AM Austin CST
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Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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