By: Gideon I. Onyedi.
If I, in the manner of a conscienceless hireling and a politically partisan bigoted fellow, wrote about Nigeria as a wonderful nation with a most patriotic leadership, a great and fulfilled citizenship, and a most certain enviable bright future, many in the leadership would applaud it. But that write-up would be a lie.
If I, in the culture of a directionless opportunistic adventurer and spineless African political orthodoxy, wrote that the citizenry should support and worship the leadership, no matter how and what they do, agree with and applaud every policy, deprecate opposition, and not criticize the leadership, constructively or otherwise, even the citizenry would know and see the writer as sycophantic and deliberately making the establishment happy and comfortable.
And, if I, in the despicable manner of a deflated and delusional beggarly self-seeking panegyric trumpeter, wrote that Nigeria has the leadership and the establishment that promote global citizenship ideals and genuine democratic norms, both the same leadership and the citizenry would know that I would just be dressing the entire leadership in borrowed robes. That would also be a lie.
For about six decades, post-colonial Nigeria has ‘survived’ on a faulty foundation, a preponderance of falsehood and distorted perception and description of national reality and identity. Both the leadership and the led have always related with each other on the platforms of deceit, falsehood and grand betrayals.
But, a time comes in the history and life of a nation when the people decide to tell themselves the truth. The bitter but therapeutic truth. Let us tell ourselves the truth. Truth builds a nation. Falsehood destroys a people. Truth illuminates, enlightens and liberates. Falsehood and deceit darken the heart, corrupt the mind and enslave and damn the soul. Truth is the bedrock of healthy relationship. Truth is the ‘golden riverbed’ on which lasting peace flows ceaselessly. Truth, responsible truth, is the pivot on which the wheels of transformative leadership and substantial justice rotate.
In every nation of the world, two things stand out in the foundation, the building, and sustenance of peace, growth and development of the nation.
The first is patriotic inspirational leadership that promotes transformational and global citizenship ideals which ensure equity, inclusiveness and democratic human capital theory and practice. This is where everybody is given a sense of belonging and equal opportunity to contribute, participate, excel and survive. This is the leadership that gives hope and strength to the youth and entire citizenry. The leadership that inspires, engages, motivates, and creates the needed utilitarian change with a staying power. The leadership that demonstrably believes in the nation, not in ethnic supremacy.
The second is the followership. A followership grounded in patriotism and willingness to sacrifice for the preservation and posterity of our common heritage and (con)federacy. A followership rooted in strong belief and confidence in our nationhood. A followership rested on the integrity and selfless patriotism of the leadership. A followership not based on leadership or government coercion, intimidation or blackmail. A followership not based on the bandwagon effect. A followership of ideology. A followership that rests assured, and free from hunger, harm and terror. A followership that has a future.
This type of followership is correspondingly lacking because there seems to be no exemplarily and ‘commandingly’ inspirational leadership as stated above. It’s like the country has lost its soul, if it ever had any.
When the leadership, over the years, has always alienated the followership, or deals with it in a non-pretentiously dishonest and non-inclusive manner, the disconnect will be a most unfortunate one that produces shameful and betraying consequences.
Let no one live under any illusion. Sustained image-laundering notwithstanding. Sustained irrigation of our arid diplomatic fields notwithstanding. Nigeria is a country that is seen by both her citizens and the outside world as totally lacking in patriotic, inspirational leadership. A country known to be lacking in genuine democratic and transformational leadership, and committed and disciplined followership, with demonstrable indices that prove that her youths and citizens do not believe in her as a nation. Nigeria is a country where ethnic nationalities are held more sacrosanct and dear than she is held.
It has survived bad leadership for many decades. But this survival is the one that has completely ended up in producing a hybrid of a nation. A nation where situations help to produce citizens that are neither proud of Nigeria as their country, nor is Nigeria proud of them as her citizens. We live in a geographical contraption where both the political state called Nigeria, on the one hand, and the citizenry on the other, do not agree and seem to remain fundamentally and mutually disagreeable, eternally. Each keeps on betraying and disappointing the other. Each keeps on punishing the other in anyway it can. Each keeps on rejecting the other. This is largely the problem of leadership.
Recently, on Thursday, August 22, 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States released a list of about 80 individuals accused of fraud and money laundering. Of the 77 Nigerians on that list, about 74 are said to be Igbo.
Without mincing words, that list is a most unfortunate one. It shouldn’t be talked about with pride. This is where and when dignified silence is said to be golden. It should be mourned. If the people on that list are eventually found guilty by the law, they carry a generational burden of betrayal. It is more than anyone can think of.
However, as a Christian believer, I do know and believe it when the Bible speaks of offences, but also places the greater burden on the individual (or institution) by whom these offences come. That is, the person or institution by whose action or inaction people are made or constrained to commit evil/sin.
A time came in the days of the Kings of Israel. Famine was so much because of misrule and sin. And God hates, condemns and punishes sin, no matter the justification, or rationalization.
In order to survive the famine in the land, women were killing and boiling their own little children (babies) to eat. Can you imagine this extreme situation? Mothers, killing and boiling their own children for food.
When the King knew about it, he was grieved beyond description and vowed to summarily deal with Prophet Elisha, wrongly judging him to be the cause. (2 Kings 6:25-31).
The point is, as a result of hardship, impoverishment and economic extremities consequent upon leadership inadequacies or misrule, a lot of people are pushed into unimaginable things just for survival. The Igbo are the number one nation in this country that live by: ‘IF WE DON’T DO IT FOR OURSELVES NO ONE WILL DO IT FOR US; NO ONE WILL HELP US”
The aftermath of the brutal civil war where the Igbo were killed, and dispossessed of their possessions and properties, and made to forfeit their savings and investment in the banks, seriously made them become impoverished and left to survive by themselves. Wars and oppression have direct and indirect short and long term negative, destructive and devastating effects on people’s psychology, economy, infrastructure, social order and their future. Wars and extended misrule reconfigure and recondition a people’s attitude and psychology to existence, relationships and socio-economic survival. Everything the average Igbo man or woman who has become aware of their identity and history does within and outside Nigeria has direct and indirect link or connection to a post-war ‘trauma’, disequilibration and recurring marginalisation.
A considerable number of Igbo youths today are individuals who lost parents, benefactors and family fortunes that could have made life a lot easier for them today, on account of the war. War is extreme violence. Violence begets violence. Wars beget crimes of various degrees. Misrule, alienation and marginalisation, on the other hand, beget survivalistic tendencies and demonstrations of instinctive withdrawal and agitations, self-preservation, and creativity. Even unto the tenth generation. It is a history that neither should be created nor experimented upon.
This has made the Igbo both strong and daringly adventurous and creative. Sometimes, in the negative, for a few of them. It is a struggle for survival. Even the present situation of things and policies in the nation do not help the Igbo. They do not appear to have a sense of belonging. To deny this truth is to deny the existence of the sun in the sky in broad day light. To pretend about it is to perpetuate the deceitful and betraying platform on which the basis of our relational existence is circumscribed.
The Igbo nation, arguably the second largest indisputable wholesomely homogenous ethnic nationality in present-day Nigeria, is today going through what this writer describes as a ‘psychological state of existential persecution meta-awareness’. This is not unfounded. It is buried and ‘fossilized’ in their sub-consciousness. It does not even end at the level of psychology. It is their real experience. Their existence. Their life. It dictates and configures their focal consciousness. They feel insecure.
If perceived unfavourable economic policies cripple their businesses, if the rampaging murderous herdsmen and their cows destroy their farmlands and crops, if their scarce or even non-available land space is threatened and taken, and if they are short-changed and marginalised in the establishment, politics and civil service, the question is: ‘What becomes of the Igbo nation, their future and survival?
The Igbo nation, so far helplessly conditioned, within the Nigerian political state, has developed a fossilized ‘daunting’ organismic-rated response to a plethora of threatening stimuli of sustained experiences of threat, hate, fear, killing, suspicion, and seemingly conspiratorial marginalization. The Igbo nation instinctively reacts and responds to issues of her survival. This unpredictable but formidable characteristic survivalistic tendency is predicated on the mortal need to surmount a founded and grounded tormenting persecution awareness and fear, not persecution complex.
Some of our citizens, determined not to be exterminated or reduced to lower animal status, have vowed to do whatever it takes to survive in the midst of extreme and subtle but evident hostility. Economically they feel and fare threatened. Politically they feel and fare summarily marginalized. And, on security, they feel and fare evidently hopelessly pushed to the brick. But, characteristic of them, in their unique world of realistic context-driven dialectical materialism, they have vowed in the middle of the deep blue sea, shaking hands with the red devils, to swim against the unprecedented tempestuous tide, to reach the shores of the Promised Land of socio-economic and political survival, safe, sound and secure.
Regrettably though, this age-long hostility from the perceived antagonistic establishment and ‘wanting’ leadership, on the one hand, and the ‘reciprocal’ avowal unto at-all-cost success and survival by a number of affected youth of Igbo and other ethnic extractions, on the other hand, have inescapably pushed a number of them to ‘socio-economic’ activities that both the perpetrators and their kinsmen are not proud of. Ventures and adventures that are inexcusable in the eyes of ‘blind’ but impartial laws of the nations.
This ‘situationally’ deviant few number notwithstanding, more than 90% of the over 40 million Igbo population are productively engaged in nation-building activities and legitimate businesses as they work their fingers to the bone and walk their toes to the rocks and thorns, in the midst of excruciating trials and unfavourable socio-political and economic climates, to eke out a living.
It does seem as if this piece is a dedication largely to the Igbo. Certain conditions here, except the civil war experience and sustained political marginalisation are also the experiences of some other ethnic extractions. But given the unedifying reactions whether silent or spoken by a number of individuals against the Igbo, it becomes necessary to set some records straight and place them in perspective.
Those who are always quick to condemn the generality of the Igbo or express ‘hatred’ towards them do not put themselves in the position of the Igbo. If you were Igbo and did go through all the Igbo have gone through in history, how would you behave? Does the reader ever stop to do some historical, psychological and existential analyses of the Igbo?
Does the reader ever pause to ponder how and why, for about 50 years since the war ended, such a formidable economically utilitarian, socio-political, ethno-religious nation has been conspiratorially denied the leadership of this nation? How and why they are always made the sacrificial lamb and scapegoat whenever a national crisis erupts? How and why they are still being treated like captives and conquered people? And, why they are being systematically alienated. And, does anyone ever ponder what could be the cumulative effect of these treatments on the Igbo? And how they could react or behave in return?
This is where genuine transformational leadership that promotes global citizenship ideals should come in and fill the gap. Embrace the perceived estranged. Leadership of integration and re-integration. Heal the wounds, and rebuild trust and relationship. Leadership in this case should not drive further away a wounded people that have become predisposed to persecution meta-awareness and trauma, and situationally induced and enhanced survivalistic tendencies and escapades, as a consequence.
This factor has pushed, not only the 74 and any other Igbo, but others (remember the more than 23 all non-Igbo awaiting execution in Saudi Arabia on account of drug trafficking), to get into highly unconscionable and despicable acts and practice to survive. Like the amorous dialectics between the God-forsaken beauty of contentious Cleopatra and the hell-bound burning passion of Ceaser and Anthonio, destructively demonic allurements hold irresistible attractions for them within and yonder because there is no ‘better’ alternative for them. Because our leaders are also guilty of corruption and the same laundering and embezzlement. Or so it seems. Or so it is.
The concern should be how Nigerian leadership could embrace both the Igbo and other highly marginalised and distraught groups in this country. This is necessary for true reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation (and total reintegration) as theoretically proposed after the civil war, upon the psychologically assuaging corresponding declaration of ‘no victor no vanquished.’ At least, at the realm of intentions. Veiled or honest.
The type of transformational leadership in civilized climes such as the United States and Great Britain, where the Jews are embraced and given equal honour and opportunities to contribute to human development and excellence should be appreciated and applied in the Nigerian situation to enable the country evolve into a true nation, and make her citizens to be proud of her. If there is still any future and continuity of togetherness for her.
Without commitment on the part of the leadership to embrace all and create equal opportunity and enabling environment, those who feel marginalised and threatened against survival will always look out for ways of survival and success, some of which might be injurious to all and sundry.
This should start with the leadership purging itself of the politics of deceit and corruption. The leadership that directly or indirectly promotes corruption, ethnicism, and nepotism will only be exhibiting the height of hypocrisy by condemning and prosecuting helpless and defenceless victims and culprits of one offence and crime or the other.
Let us wake up to reality and collectively work hard, and earnestly pray that God will give us men and women committed to patriotic and transformative leadership with the wisdom and courage to assess critically and properly the root cause and level of disorientation and lack of patriotism in the leadership and followership of Nigeria, and be able to determine and implement the solution by creating the enabling environment for people to overcome temptations and pressure to extreme practices for survival.
Except we are heading towards an irreversible or inescapable precipice, and the historical ‘epilogue’ of this satirical and comical movie and drama of the existence of Nigeria………
This is the truth. The untold truth.
Gideon I. Onyedi,
Diamond-Crest for Youth Education Foundation,