The June 15, 2010 edition of NEXT reported that a coalition of groups in Abia State had asked Governor Theodore Orji to resign on account of the level of insecurity in the state. It was not the usual partisan fare, with a number of opposition parties banding together to hound a state governor. Instead, the call for Orji's resignation came from seven human rights and pro-democracy organizations.
There was no doubt that the groups – the Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation (HRJPF), Abia Peoples Forum (APF), Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy (CRPA), Popular Participation Front (PPF), Campaign for Democracy (CD), Centre for the Advancement of Children's and Women's Right (CACWR) and Centre for Human Empowerment, Advancement and Development (CHEAD) – were in deadly earnest. They set a deadline of June 30 for Mr. Orji's resignation. And they promised to commence non-violent civil disobedience should he ignore their call.
My bet is that Governor Orji would not hearken to the ultimatum to resign. Nigerian politicians are not in the habit of giving up power, even when they have no idea how to deploy the resources of their office to solve problems.
The first duty of any government is to guarantee the security of the lives and property of its people. By this measure, Governor Orji has failed the people of Abia.
The groups demanding his resignation took care to offer a convincing narrative of Abia as "a failed state." The dossier included a "spate of armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, ritual killings and rape in Abia State, particularly Aba." The groups decried "the spiraling wave of insecurity in the state." They instantiated with gory, shocking details: "Between 14 May and 8 June, several banks have been robbed, security personnel brutally killed, trouser-wearing ladies raped, and innocent persons kidnapped for rituals and/or ransom under the nose of heavily armed security men, including the blood-thirsty Abia State Vigilante Services (Bakassi boys)."
Then there was this unanswerable indictment: "Armed robbers and kidnappers now give notice before they strike, as vividly shown by the invasion of First Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc, both in Port Harcourt Road, Aba on Wednesday, 2 June. Recall that they had written to inform [the banks] of their intention to rob them and eventually did, to [the] chagrin of all."
It's a sweeping, bleak panorama of the state of insecurity in Abia. But the stigma of failure is not Theodore Orji's alone. It is a humiliating admission to make, but sadly true: a cadre of greedy, visionless leaders has for too held sway in the Igbo-speaking southeastern states. Other past and current governors of these states have – by their corruption, lack of vision and absence of strategic intelligence – condemned Igboland to economic doldrums and moral degradation.
On June 5, I was in Toronto to give the keynote address at the annual Biafran War Memorial celebration. My talk harped on the current war in Igboland, a war characterized, above all, by a crisis of values. I tried to persuade my audience that, in sheer enormity and direness, the ongoing war dwarfs the effects of the Biafran war that claimed more than a million lives.
Let's be clear: the triumph and veneration of morally virulent values is not an exclusively Igbo malaise. Nigeria as a whole has long been in the grips of a deformed ethos, the reign of a disorder in which absurdity is held to be sensible, impunity is exalted, and honor is mocked.
In my view, however, the Igbo have paid the steepest price for permitting these misshapen values to gain traction – and then to be embedded as the norm. The moral cancer metastasizing through Igboland is best detected in the music as well as social language.
For years, the fiercely republican Igbo carelessly allowed themselves to dance to lyrics that proclaimed "ana enwe obodo enwe" – roughly translated as "a community is owned." At first glance, that lyrical claim would appear innocuous, even persuasive. Another lyric set out to name the Igbo's "nnukwu mmanwu" – big masquerades. Any discerning person would be shocked by the questionable pedigree of some of the men advertised either as the "owners" of their community or big masquerades.
Wealth, whatever the mode and means of its accumulation, was the unmistakable criterion for "owning" one's community or receiving recognition as a big masquerade. Bowing to wealth, some Igbo musicians shamelessly trumpeted scallywags, scoundrels, and charlatans. It seemed anathema to credit anybody for the quality of his or her public service, for exemplary moral conduct, or for proven distinction of mind. I have never heard any musician invite Chinua Achebe, the most globally well-known and revered Igbo man – a man of stellar intellectual achievement and stupendous ethical funds – to take a seat among the masquerades. Nor have I heard any musician suggest, in a lyric, that the outstanding novelist has a say in the ownership of his community. No pride of place was reserved for women and men whose stock came in the form of dedication to service, whether in the private or public sector, or self-sacrifice in the cause of advancing the common good.
It was inevitable that the habit of worshiping material possession would bring Nigeria to its present troubling pass. In Igboland, the consequence has been nothing short of tragic. One of the popular phrases in Igbo public speech is, "onye bu igu ka ewu n'eso" – or, the goat follows the man with the palm fronds. It is a disturbing statement in every particular. It reduces humans to the level and ethic of a goat. It dictates that every goat/human must follow the man with food, even where the food is stolen.
Such scant regard for sound moral values has had devastating effect. It has fed an anything-goes culture. It has enabled shady characters to sink roots in Igboland and criminals to make a cottage industry out of kidnapping their fellows. There are whispers that some traditional rulers, unscrupulous police officers, shady businessmen as well as "prominent" politicians – the kind often dubbed big masquerades – now organize, sponsor or run their own kidnapping cells.
The Igbo have never faced a more serious challenge than the current blight of kidnappers. We can no longer afford to dress up the ugly truth in fine garbs: the Igbo people are engulfed in a war for survival akin to Biafra, but more desperate, if you ask me. The only difference is that, in this case, the enemy is within.
The casualty is extremely high. Fewer and fewer Igbos resident in such places as Abuja, Lagos or Port Harcourt look forward to traveling to their home states. And when they go, they must arrange to hire several police officers to guard them. The prospects are even grimmer for Igbos who live abroad. For fear of kidnappers, many – perhaps most – traditional marriage ceremonies are now held in Nigerian cities far from Igboland. Imagine the economic and social costs of the flight of such ceremonies. How about investment in new businesses? They have virtually dried up.
Igboland is beleaguered, dangerously close to becoming a no-go area. Yet, the Igbo governors have disconcertingly shown little inclination to weigh any serious measures to remediate the situation. Is it that they fail to recognize the scale of the threat, that they are bereft of ideas for tackling the monster, or – as many people speculate – that some of them are profiteers from the crisis?
Equally indicted are those men and women who run around Abuja and Lagos, styling themselves Igbo leaders. Their pretension to the role of leaders is rebuked by the fact that they have not seen fit to confer and focus on strategies for winning the deadliest, costliest war facing their people. The Igbo's cultural and moral crisis is exacerbated by a crisis of leadership.
There's no doubt in my mind that the specter of kidnapping was germinated and fertilized by a permissive culture that, over many years, sought to blur the line between "alu" (sacrilege or profanation) and "ife zili ezi" (good conduct). Consequently, if we are to win the war we're in, we need not just a diligent, sanitized, well equipped and highly trained police (a far cry from the corruption-ridden apparatus that has usurped the name of law enforcement in Nigeria), an attuned political leadership, and a judiciary that is awake to its sacred mandate. Above all, we need a fundamental re-orientation of values. We must reclaim that moral clarity that once enabled the Igbo people to be appalled at execrable conduct and to look at ill-gotten wealth and say, in fierce repudiation, "Tufia!" or "Alu!"
We must seek this moral rebirth, or we're doomed.
Re: The war in Igboland
Tomr posted on 06-21-2010, 18:49:13 PM
But we ARE doomed! We passed the cut-off point a long while back. We are simply going thrugh the throes of dying, little by little. No offence meant.
Re: The war in Igboland
People posted on 06-21-2010, 19:50:40 PM
What is happening in Igboland, the land of my birth and the place I cherish so much is really pathetic. The violence is simply barbaric. However let me point out that Ndigbo have always had capitalist mentality and I am not ashamed of that. The function of the state (country or state) is to show leadership, lay down the rules, introduce legislation without killing people's liberty, engage its citizens in intelligent debate and social engineering.
In every society with an outlook of capitalism the state needs to step up and show leadership but unfortunately that is not the case in Nigeria and Igboland in particular. Our country and Igboland is facing the biggest problem right now and that is the problem of leadership. I still believe we (the good citizens of our country) can rescue the situation. The process has started believe it or not, it is going to be non violent and the good people with a superior argument will surely carry the day.
Re: The war in Igboland
Igwe posted on 06-21-2010, 19:51:14 PM
There's no way that this organized crime of kidnapping can be going on for so long without the law enforcement agencies and many of the so called politicians being aware of it. They're the ones organizing it.
Until some of those so called big masquerades start being put where they truly belong, that is behind bars, this will continue.
The President talks about sending the military to tackle the problem. But the military will mostly rape and maim innocent people while the perpetrators will walk away to come back later. We need a more sustainable way of dealing with these miscreants.
We need to start retraining the police force so that the officers, like those who protected Ibori and wangled him out of the country while the 'police' was looking for him, can no longer call the shots.
The police know who the criminals are. But instead of going after them, they choose to continually harrass innocent citizens who are going about their legitimate businesses. Many have even been killed because they refused to part with 20 naira.
May be we should start reforming the police before any other reform.
Re: The war in Igboland
Byndaletto posted on 06-21-2010, 21:10:57 PM
but its beginning to worry me how okey ndibe managed to skip from theodore orji to southeastern leadership failure without briding it with orji uzo kalu!
i don't know what to think, and this is beginning to give weight to such charges as i have encountered about okey and the orji kalu guy. Tufia! Alu!!
Re: The war in Igboland
Slay posted on 06-22-2010, 00:16:57 AM
well said. while your write up covers the igbo situation solely, similar observations (albeit, with different twists) can be made of the three major tribes in nigeria.
i respect individuals that have the knack and moral fortitude to self examination with utmost clarity and honesty. the problem with our beloved country is not the "hausa man", the "yoruba man" or the "igbo man"....the problem with nigeria is us...you and i !
we cannot sit around and let the civil groups go at it alone, we need to give them physical, moral and financial support.
Re: The war in Igboland
Ochi Dabari posted on 06-22-2010, 01:06:05 AM
ON et al:
You have all proffered solutions to the problem of insecurity in Igboland but I think you are starting from the top. I think real leadership comes from the family. In my humble opinion, Igbo families are putting a lot of strain on their children to "make it" in life. It is so bad that the end justifies the means.
I must have told this story a few times already. In 1998 when I returned to Nigeria, I met an Igbo pastor in my brother's house; his pastor, in charge of the local Assemblies of God Church (AGC). The AGC, for those who don't know, is not one of the newbreed commercial churches. It has been there since the 50s and is believed to be more strongly religious (perhaps not righteous) than the other older protestant churches like the Anglican and Methodist. So, I was shocked by what their pastor could say on the issue of success in Igboland. According to him, he pitied Igede youth who go overseas and then return home poor. Not being one to let such challenges go fallow, I pointed to him that most of his Igbo youth that return home very rich after 2-3 years overseas were usually into some kind of fraud - from 419, to credit card, to hiring and shipping of rent cars, to drug peddling, etc. I also reminded him that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of Igbo youth in jail around the world, and that to the best of my knowledge, no Igede youth was in the same confinement. You wouldn't even find many Igede in jail in Nigeria. I thought that my brother would support me in these things but no, he was well schooled in his pastor's thoughts. He told his pastor that he supported the doctrine of Igbo youth who believed in "all die na die". I pointed out to my brother that one did not need to go overseas before living by that doctrine. He could just take a gun and attack the Union Bank branch near his home; if he survived it, he would "make it". Today, I am not surprised that my brother is deeply into PDP politics of sharing resources, while still being a staunch member of his AGC. Many of their members are like that; Obasanjo is like that, and the church is an integral part of Igboland. Not so righteousness.
Families need to indoctrinate their children more about being morally astute. It is not right to make it in ANY kind of way, and not everyone will be rich on this earth. One can be happy by so many things, not just by lots of money only. One of these is the freedom and peace to hold your wedding in your father's house, safely, without protection from hundreds of trigger-happy policemen and soldiers. Just today, a friend from one of the middlebelt states, sent me an email. He has left his overseas abode and gone to Nigeria to "watch" the world cup there. His email paints a picture of satisfaction, and of joy, in being able to sit in his own house there in the village, eating roast maize and sending emails to friends overseas. This is what happiness is about. I wonder how many Igbo youth can do that now, unless they are able to rent the Army battalion. For so long, Igbo youth have been misled by their families and communities. If you take a man like Orji Kalu, this was a guy that was rusticated from UniMaid for embezzling the funds of the Imo State Students Union. He went underground and when next he surfaced, he was stupendously rich, boasting of at least an airline. According to him, he "made it" by trading in palm oil and kernels. Expensive oil and kernels, indeed! He then bought a State (community owner) and bought his degrees from a university that he set up. If you told me tomorrow that Kalu's children are thieves, I would not be surprised. The children watch the parents as they grow, and if the doctrine happens to be that you should make it regardless of the means, that's exactly what you would do. We cannot eat our cake and have it back. Kidnapping is just one of the new lucrative businesses in town, another addition to all the crime in which many Igbo youth get involved in, to make it.
If I should point out another factor, which ON touched on - bring back some of the culture. Western religion is good but most Nigerians see God as slow to act or even failure to act. In the East, the church is everywhere but its impact is not there. Not so just across the river; when the Bini monarch arranged to curse the evil doers, we heard about a lot of jitters from the Bini evil doers. The Bini still have a culture that they respect. I am not even sure the Igbo have any respect for their traditions or traditional rulers, as many of them are simply economic contraptions to earn a salary. Like everything, the highest bidder buys the thrones, and becomes a community "leader". How would such people lead the community, except by the only doctrine they understand - money? Sad, for such a group of hardworking people.
Re: The war in Igboland
Meinnaija posted on 06-22-2010, 05:29:27 AM
the troubles in aba are many-fold. the first and most significant was the rulership of OUK (orji uzo kalu), a devlish criminal and his mother, who had no plans for anyone in the state but themselves.
they started by disenfranchizing the ppl of the state, who had relied heavily on trading and commerce.... a number of their goods were held up at the high sea with his connivance.
then the markets were put under siege by his mother and her cohorts. they claimed they were rebuilding the market, and drove out the poor traders, who., having no other livelihood, in the 9-18months it took mother-non-excellency to arrange the re-building of the shops, had to live off their capital.... so what happens??? when the shops become available at 6 times the former price, who can afford to do any viable business in them???
and then the shoes and bag-makers.... one of the GREAT and formerly thriving industries?????..... they suffered a similar fate as the traders, and even those who operated from home..... the roads that OUK supposedly built were non existent....ariaria market became inaccessible, so the shoe-and-bag-makers lost all their clients!!!!!
ofcourse PZ industries, Nigerian Breweries, Abatextile miles were all driven out of town by OBJ factor.... NO light...they all moved to ghana or cotonou and that put the rest of the youths out of job.
to make matters worse, OUK appointed known and practising thieves, perverts, 419'ers and touts as chiefs and ezes to lord it over the masses.. these ppl just go about taxing the poor and victimizing/killing/driving any honest and well-meaning voice out of the society. they formed gangs who recruited the leaderless into criminalities.
He then topped it off by parcelling theodore orji from his prison cell into the government house, with the full intention of continuing to milk the state with his mother. Is it a secret that workers are not being paid? Sometimes they are owed up to 6 months salaries b4 they get anything. Is it a secret that most of the allocations to the local government councils are shared to accommodate the mother-non-excellency? Is it a secret that OUK nominates nearly all elected and appointed thieves into office? And gets a stipend from each, who has to practice all kinds of oppressions and criminality on the citizens to ensure that the ogas money is complete? Have we not all heard about the employment or is it recruitment rings that are sp
sooooooooooooo!!! what would u expect all these jobless, leaderless people to do?? how to they make a living? how do they send their kids to school? how do they feed their kids? and they see what is happening all over the country, where politicians are just feeding fat from the helpless?
its really no excuse, but let me ask and lets answer frankly ....WHAT WERE THEIR CHOICES?????
Re: The war in Igboland
Ako fidelis posted on 06-22-2010, 05:32:00 AM
The war in Igboland can never be stifle... this is as a result of the love a typical Igbo-man has for material acquisition. Stories now abound on how future Igbo leaders (youth) now jettison school and litter the streets of major cities, endangering their lives running after fast moving vehicles to sell their wares. The easily ran out of business since in most cases the combine wares of fifty hawkers is not equivalent to the amount of money an average Igbo politician will spend on his girlfriend. The evil of all this, is that when they are out of business the next line of action is crime because there is nothing to fall back on. For years to come, Igboland will continue to witness a short fall on the number of people coming home for festivities until we began to love ourselves.
Selfishness is at its peak in this tribe.
Re: The war in Igboland
Marika posted on 06-22-2010, 05:50:09 AM
I guess I agree with the blogger Ochi Dabari, up there. The values of the Igbo people is dysfunctional. The blind and obsessive worship of money, why amilies are setting up their children in later life for "success" at all cost. Even it means criminality, it doesn't matter, as long as they have acheived success - stealing rental cars in Europe and North America, drug dealing, human trafficking and prostitution, robbery, fraud and 419 and then now kidnapping and hostage taking.
One thing for sure is that family members and community leaders are strongly implicated in this Abia state kidnapping menace.
How can someone be easily identified as a viable target, without some form of inside job or betrayals and saboutage by "friends" or family???
Any victim must have had a credible evaluation done on them before such crime, in order to be deemed as ransome payment worthy.
Yes it is also true now that a generational damage has been done to the Igbo landscape, and not just only in Abia state alone. It is a manifestation of curses among those who thrive on criminality and those sorts of aquired "success"
I wonder what the kids who are born and bred into such environments, family histories and backgrounds have to offer society in the future, may be something different from their parents, I wonder ???
Re: The war in Igboland
Hamattan posted on 06-22-2010, 06:16:58 AM
I love my village very much. I am glad that I can go home whenever I want and I can walk freely like I have always done. There are other Igbo villages like mine where there is still sanity, but for how long? I will be damned if it comes to a situation that I cannot feel at home at home. I really pity those who need to employ the services of security personels to go home. I was shocked when a friend from Edo state told me they had to hire mobile policemen throughout their stay during their mother's burial. What a shame, what a country. Nigeria....