By Sufuyan Ojeifo
I call it the Nuremberg madness. I solemnly consider it as grotesquely outlandish. It defies all manner ofratiocination and rationalizations. I had read a number of opinions that tended to either draw some bizarre corollary upon which a general warning was issued to other Ibo leaders and leaders of other ethnic nationalities to beware or that tended to justify the wanton assault in the context of the festering socio-political and economic ferment in Nigeria.
It is a no-brainer to surmise that the act of folly that was garbed as ethnic revulsion or contempt for perceived immersion in government or laissez faire attitude on the part of Ekweremadu to issues that allegedly affect Ndigbo within the Nigerian nation-state was egregiously misplaced. Some had suggested that the attire that Ekweremadu wore that bore the nation’s imprimatur, to wit: the Coat of Arms, and which suggested patriotic support, was the casus belli of the attack.
Regardless, whatever precipitated the harsh reaction by those irate folks in Nuremberg, that thing led to the unconscionable violation of the civility in the atmosphere of Germany that provides a catholic liberty, which John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) in his work: “On Liberty”, recognized as both the freedom to act and the absence of coercion. Whereas those Ibo men had the liberty to act in expression of their displeasure, they did not have liberty to coerce or assault Ekweremadu in the fashion they did.
In fact, in the realm of domestic approbation and appreciation of social-political values, the physical assault of Ekweremadu offended the republican spirit of the Ibo people. In spite of their utmost frustrations, those folks were they resident in Nigeria, and knowing full well that they have the power to vote out leaders in elective offices who fail to provide them with the kind of leadership they desire, should have waited for another general election to vote out leaders who have failed to perform or align with their aspirations.
Instead of the global opprobrium that they had attracted to Ndigbo by their act of idiotic indiscretion, they should have embraced a mature way of passing across their displeasure.
For instance, they could have embarked on a systematic campaign of naming and shaming Ibo leaders who have betrayed their people on the altar of filthy lucre; or who have compromised the ideas of Ndigbo for personalaggrandizement with a view to denying them the people’s votes whenever they seek re-validation of their mandates.
That would have been much better than the great disservice to their individualities and, generically, to the pristine tradition of Ndigbo as a politically sophisticated and self-respecting people. Those who attacked Ekweremadu have lost the moral high ground. They have become vermin of a brutish culture that tended to misrepresent the Ibo people as bellicose and sanguinary.
Indeed, it is this kind of combative attitude of both leadership and followership alike, a throwback to the failed attempt to Biafranise Nigeria that has contoured public perceptions of the Ibo persona and mentality within the framework of the Nigerian nation-state as aggressive and aggravating. Having used force and war to no avail to claim their rightful position in the political configuration of the country, a counter strategy of stooping to conquer could have been salutary this time round rather than the continued resort to ballyhoo.
Even if the strategy must be to deploy force in correcting the structural imbalance in the Nigerian federation or addressing the existential problems facing the ethnic nationality, the Ibo would be committing a greater mistake, given their numbers, to push the frontiers of “freedom” as a fractious and separated ethnic nationality of disparate drum majors. That was the point that the Ibo self-acclaimed salvation group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB), missed by its alleged directive to its members to humiliate Ekweremadu.
The group’s action was pathetically counter-productive. It gratuitously assaulted one of the leading lights of Ndigbo and by, so doing, suffered a self-inflicted ignominy.
Ekweremadu had, without a doubt, been a victim of physical assault by his kinsmen who should have protected him from harm’s way in Nuremberg. But they decided to drag him in the mud to satisfy a fit of anger. But were they given a trophy for so doing? No! Did they receive any well-meaning or well-intentioned accolades? I doubt.
The accolades that appeared to support the Nuremberg madness were wrapped in chicanery by conspiracy theorists merely to promote or champion the advocacy for a civil disorder rather than constitutional means that will upend the nation’s civil authority that is perceived to have failed to address a number of issues to the utilitarian benefit of the Nigerian people.
But, to be sure, that act of folly in Nuremberg parodies our reality as a people. It is a travesty of our collective obscurantist predilection to raise all manner of issues that support our biased positions and suppress those that negate the same. Interestingly, the question now, and this clearly speaks to the perceived irritability of Ndigbo, is why was it that those Ibo folks chose the platform of unity, which the annual Yam festival typified for the ethnic nationality, to brutalise a rallying and uniting personality, thus damaging the fulcrum of unity?
Ekweremadu may not have been the best or perfect paradigm of leadership that has been in a position to be able to minister to or address critical existential issues of the Ibo; there is also no justifiable basis to dismiss him as a selfish leader who, outright, did not promote the interest of Ndigbo. If he had been an all-round failure in the praxis of pragmatic leadership, let Ndigbo speak out.
Even where and when such allegation of failure cannot be rebutted, nobody, not even the IPoB or any other Ibo group for that matter, has the right to abridge Ekweremadu’s rights of movement, association (in this case, he was invited to attend the event) and expression, let alone the rights to assault him in the sordid way and manner those Ibo folks dealt with him in Nuremberg. I dare say that it was the collective shame of Ndigbo.
In rounding off, I share the position of Nigerians who have condemned, in the strongest terms, the unconscionable assault. I particularly concur with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the Nigerian Ambassador in Germany should work in concert with the German Government to take “appropriate decisive action on the matter”. Those Ibo folks must be dealt with in line with the laws of Germany.
I also agree with the opposition party that the federal government should “take urgent comprehensive steps to address issues leading to acts of resentment and agitations by Nigerians within and outside the country” on the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Nuremberg saga may just be a wake-up call to advert the attention of the federal government to do the needful to douse the rising tension in the country that is triggering harsh reactions from and by “Diasporic Nigerians”.
- Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via[email protected]