Nigeria is best thing that has happened to the Igbo - a reply to Donu Kogbara/

Donu Kogbara was once described by one of her media colleagues as a story teller “with Goebbelian adroitness”.  Many people would probably dismiss her simply as someone with the pen equivalent of a big mouth.  She once described Nobel Laureate Professor Wọle Ṣoyinka as no more than a Yoruba tribal leader.  That was during the days that Ogoni tribal battles were being fought on British television and on the pages of London newspapers, notably the UK Guardian and The Independent, and specifically between the Kogbara clan and the Saro-Wiwa clan. 

Wọle Ṣoyinka had enlisted and joined other eminent world literary figures to plead the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa when the renowned Ogoni writer was about to be killed by brutal General Sani Abacha and, after Abacha had killed Saro-Wiwa, to campaign for world-wide sanctions against Nigeria’s military dictatorship. 

Donu’s shabby characterisation of Wọle Ṣoyinka was her attempt to disparage the humanitarian efforts of a global giant and quintessential social crusader.  It is one of the subtle hints of Donu Kogbara’s anti-Yoruba sentiments.  With her reputation as a veteran, the real trouble with Nigerian media must be journalists and writers like Ms Kogbara.

To be fair, Donu could be entitled to a personal grudge against Ken Saro-Wiwa.  At least one of the four Ogoni elders murdered, according to the criminal charges at the behest of Saro-Wiwa and by the eight other Ogoni activists condemned with him, was Donu’s blood relation reportedly.  However, much as one sympathises with personal grief at her loss, it is sad that Donu refuses to acknowledge evidence that absolves Saro-Wiwa.  She instead writes articles, coupled with appearances on Nigeria and British television, to demonise Saro-Wiwa and to sully the memory of that illustrious Ogoni son.  Meanwhile, she refuses to answer questions of her own allegedly paid efforts to help government and some oil companies to deny their reported involvement and incitement in that infamous fratricide. 

Last week, Ms Kogbara attempted what I consider to be her most Goebbelian effort to date.  With clichés and stereotype falsehood, she accuses the rest of Nigeria of hatred of the Igbo, in an article titled Rampant Igbophobia.  This is on account of the obviously provoked but ill-motivated quit notice issued to the Igbo by some misguided Fulani elements.

In the same chest-beating mode of similarly deluded Southeast jingoists, Donu writes that the reason for that hatred is because the Igbo are so economically savvy and materially successful, and that the Southeast is so far ahead of the rest of Nigeria in development, that it evokes envy.  Hardly, since Adolf Hitler’s Aryan rubbish, has there been more pedestrian propaganda. 

I initially refrained from replying directly to Donu Kogbara’s seemingly attempt to cry more than the bereaved, but seeing the general silence about what is a deeply offensive accusation from a reputedly world journalist like Donu Kogbara, there is no denying that a lot of false and divisive propaganda in the Nigeria public space take hold, only because nobody takes people like Ms Kogbara to task when they broadcast false information and key-in wrong inferences.

The disingenuous aspect of the campaign of people like Donu is that they keep churning out the same lies over and over again but, now, perhaps in the knowledge that superior facts have superseded their falsehood, attribute the misinformation to faceless sources.  In Donu’s case, they are unnamed friends and “someone called Ugo”.

To be clear, Donu is Ogoni, not Igbo, but her father, by Donu’s own admission, was a confidant of rebel leader Emeka Ojukwu in the sabre rattling days preceding the war, and he was Ojukwu’s trusted Ambassador in Europe during the war.  In other words, he was part of a clique of comfortable and high living Eastern Region leaders who pushed Ojukwu to war, against saner advice of the likes of humanitarian supporters like Professor Wọle Ṣoyinka.  In doing so, these Eastern Region landlords were confident that the dire consequences of failure, or for that matter success, were unlikely to touch them, unlikely to touch their wives and unlikely to touch their children. 

It is the most shameful thing that none of these Eastern Region decision makers, dead or living, has thought it fit to admit their culpability and apologise to Igbo people and apologise to the rest of Nigeria for their bad leadership.  Taking advantage of the post-war no-victor-no-vanquished FG policy, they instead look for scapegoats, with the Southwest as their main hunting ground.  But it is obvious that they detest the Yoruba for no reason more than that the Southwest was on the winning side of the civil war. 

To keep up the tempo of this antagonism against the Yoruba, late Chinua Achebe and others invented all manners of falsehood and conjecture, sadly which their younger Igbo audience, starved of the truth but equally looking for someone to blame,  lap up with glee.  

The simple formation of a coalition government in Ibadan, as practised in a parliamentary democracy when there is no clear majority after an election, became ‘carpet-crossing’ according Chinua Achebe. 

For a fact, the Igbo hardly banked except with the African Continental Bank which was nicknamed ‘banki Ibo’ in the North.  Those of us who lived in Lagos, as young as we were, know that Igbo returnees removed even linoleum carpets from their rented accommodation, as they loaded East-bound lorries.  Those that owned properties came back to claim them, in most cases including accumulated rent.  You would need to go back to the biblical King David and Saul’s descendants for such magnanimity.

On tribalism, the practice of which the rest of Nigeria normally consider that the Igbo hold copyright, Donu accuses other Nigerians of seeing the case of arrested billionaire kidnapper, Chukwudubem Onwuamadike, aka Evans, only in the light that he is Igbo.  It makes you wonder if Ms Kogbara has been using a selective pair of glasses to read.  This is because anyone who has spared the time to read general public contribution to social media could easily see how the whole of Igbo vocabulary seems to have shrunk into four words—Igbo good, non-Igbo bad.  Five if you add the word marginalisation.  Perhaps Ms Kogbara’s new word, Igbophobia, would take it to six.

Did Ms Kogbara notice that each time a politician of Igbo origin was accused of public misdemeanour, practically the whole of Igbo universe quickly jumped to their defence, accusing the rest of Nigeria of marginalisation?  Did she notice that each time that Lagos State All Progressives Congress’ Publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe, an Igbo himself, tries to call his kinsmen to reason and to refrain from their herd mentality, he is labelled a traitor and is called all sorts of unprintable names?

The truth is that what Ms Kogbara calls hatred of the Igbo is actually contempt.  The Igbo know this but they just do not care.  It is a bluff but which leads to childish demands like the imposition of an Igbo President in disregard of democracy and ability.  Unfortunately, it is a bluff that has also led to a situation where a petty fantasist and hate monger like Nnamdi Kanu is being hailed as prophet and messiah in Igbo land.  

What the Igbo need now are friends who will tell them truths based on fact.  What they do not need are dubious sympathisers like Donu Kogbara.

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