Friday, 16 August 2013 20:49

Neither A Tribalist Nor A Hater

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Since I wrote a series of essays about the relocation of a handful of igbo destitutes to Anambra state by the Lagos State Government and the reaction of my friend and brother Chief Orji Kalu to that relocation there have been many reactions. Many have commended me and supported my position but some have not been so charitable. I have been called a ''tribalist'', a ''scallywag', a person that ''ought to be in jail or a mental institution'', a ''hater of the igbo'', ''an emerging Hitler'', an ''inciter of violence and hate'' who ought to be ''called in by the authorities'' and ''stopped from expressing his toxic and hateful submissions'' and so on and so forth. All this simply because I wrote a series of essays about the history of those that hate to hear the bitter truth about their past.

I have even been accused by one particularly exciteable and emotional commentator who really should know better of preparing the ground for the ''mass genocide of igbos'' in a similar fashion to ''what happened in the north in the early '60's'' and in a similar way ''to the events that led to the genocide that took place in Rwanda in the '90's''. Needless to say 99 per cent of these outrageous assertions have come from igbo writers and commentators who are clearly in denial about their own past and who have lost all sense of restraint, reason and objectivity. I wholeheartedly reject these very serious yet unsubstantiated allegations and baseless claims and I challenge my accusers to quote one line from any of my articles where I have advocated for the slaughter or mass murder of the igbo or anyone else. This is a clear case of trying to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it and I leave those that are indulging in this pernicious and deplorable exercise and attempt to smear my name to the Living God. Let Him judge between us.

What my detractors fail to appreciate is that we must know our history and learn to live with it. If we do so we can avoid making the same mistakes that we once made in the past but if we don't and we pretend that certain events never happened we run the terrible risk of history repeating itself. We fought a terrible civil war in this country for three years in which Nigerian killed Nigerian and we lost two million precious souls. This happened partly because some were of the view that it was not important to appreciate and understand our differences and to accept the reality of our past- that Nigeria is a country that is made up of numerous nationalities each with its own culture, history, faith, worldview and heritage and that we must manage those differences very carefully.

It is because some of us love Nigeria and want her to remain together that we keep emphasising this profound and incontrivertable truism. You cannot force people to remain together and compel them to shed their primary constituency on the alter of a fully integrated Nigeria. I am a yoruba man before being a Nigerian though both are important to me. Those that call me a tribalist are simply misguided. Perhaps they do not know the meaning of the word or its true import. Those that know me well can confirm the fact that I am not a tribalist, a racist or a bigot and that I consider such sentiments as being unworthy of a man of class, good breeding and culture. I abhor hate and violence and I would be the last to incite others to hate their fellow Nigerians. I am however a firm believer in the propagation of truth and I appreciate the value and importance of history. Sadly many of our igbo compatriots do not believe in that. For them history consists of only one thing- how other Nigerians have always marginalised them and treated them badly.

If only they knew their own history, where they are coming from, what they used to be, where they were 100 years ago and what their forefathers did to the rest of Nigeria over the last 80 years they would know why they have always had such a hard time in this country. Sadly because they dont know any of these things they cannot learn from them. And if they cannot learn from them they will continue to make the same mistakes. That is why they can come to another mans land and territory and call it their own and when we say ''no'' they tell us to shut up, call us tribalists and ask for our arrest.

I was not a tribalist when I wrote a tribute to Colonel Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu after he died or when I condemned the '60's pogroms that took place in the north in which their people were slaughtered. I was not a tribalist when I wrote against my good friend Senator Ahmed Sani Yarima and child marriage in the north. I was not a tribalist when I wrote essays defending the rights of the igbo and every other Nigerian nationality to exercise their right of self-determination and leave Nigeria if that is what they wanted to do. I was not a tribalist when I consistently wrote that Nigeria must have a Sovereign National Conference where the rights and obligations of all its various nationalities would be clearly defined and agreed upon. I was not a tribalist when I fought and spoke up for the establishment of true federalism in Nigeria. I was not a tribalist when I employed more igbo people as a Presidential spokesman and a Minister of the Federal Republic than even my own yoruba. I was not a tribalist when I wrote an essay extolling the virtues of igbo women and telling the world about their sudden and meteoric rise and how far they had gone in the power circles of this country in the last 10 years. I was not a tribalist when I condemned the bombing of predominantly igbo and catholic churches and the killing of the igbo and others by Boko Haram in the north over the last three years.

I was not a tribalist when I risked my life by consistently writing against Boko Haram and urging our President to do a better job at protecting the lives of all Nigerians even though I live in the north. I was not a tribalist when I wrote against political sharia in 2001 and I participated in protracted and sometimes acrimoniuos debates with islamic fundamentalists and islamists. I was not a tribalist when I was in NADECO and when we fought against military rule in Nigeria. I was not a tribalist when I fought for a President from the south-south or the south-east. I was not a tribalist when I wrote in defence of the igbo when it came to the abandoned property issue. I was not a tribalist when I wrote about the excesses of the Federal troops during the civil war. I was not a tribalist when I commended Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe and the virtues of the NCNC in Nigerian history. I was not a tribalist when I wrote that it was unfair and wrong for the Federal Government of Nigeria to leave the igbo with only 20 pounds each after the civil war. I was not a tribalist when many years ago I attended and gave my life to Christ in a church called TREM which was established by a great Nigerian of igbo extraction by the name of Bishop Mike Okonkwo. I could go on and on. Yet now I am a tribalist because I spoke the truth about our history and who the yoruba are.

These people have very short memories and anyone that does not agree with them all the time or that says one word against them at any point in time is labelled a tribalist for life. They called Chief Obafemi Awolowo a tribalist, an igbo-hater a genocidal maniac and a child-killer simply because the man refused to join sides with them in the civil war yet they forgot that on one of the occassions that Awolowo ran for the Presidency his running mate was from the east and not from the north. They called Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Chief S.L Akintola and Sir Ahmadu Bello igbo-haters and tribalists simply because they saw through the igbo agenda at a very early stage in our history and sadly they marked and killed them all for it. They called General Yakubu Gowon a genocidal maniac, a child-killer, an igbo-hater and a tribalist simply because he opposed Biafra, stood up to Ojukwu and insisted on keeping Nigeria together and even though he declared that there was ''no victor and no vanquished'' at the end of the war.

They accused President Olusegun Obasanjo of being a tribalist and an igbo-hater even though he appointed an igbo man as the first GOC in the Nigerian Army since 1966 and even though he appointed more igbos into key positions in his government than any other President before him. They accused President Shehu Shagari of being a tribalist and an igbo-hater even though he pardoned Ojukwu and allowed him to return back home after a long period in exile. They accused the Nigerian people of being tribalists and igbo-haters simply because we have not had an igbo President since 1966 forgetting that Nigeria was magnamonious in victory and that she not only gladly welcomed them back into the fold after the civil war but that she also gave them the Vice Presidency of the country only ten years later. They have labelled the northerners as tribalists and igbo-haters simply because the north has refused to tolerate their excesses and accept their complicated ways. They have labelled the Niger Deltans as tribalists and igbo-haters simply due to the ''abandoned property issue'' and because historically many of them have always resisted the idea of igbo domination.

They have labelled the yoruba as tribalists and igbo-haters simply because we have refused to accept their claims to our land and territory and even though we were more charitable, hospitable, accomodating and generous to them than any other nationality in Nigeria after the civil war. The yoruba particularly have been very kind and gentle with them. That is the problem. They see our liberal and accomodating nature as stupidity and weakness. That is why they always call the yoruba cowards forgetting that the history of the yoruba proves otherwise. It is now time to tell the truth. If speaking these bitter home truths and yearning and fighting for a better Nigeria where life would be better for all makes me a tribalist then it is a toga that I would be happy to wear. I will not sit by quietly and allow my people, the yoruba people of south western Nigeria, to be rubbished, insulted and cheated by anyone no matter how aggressive and given to extreemities that anyone may be. I make and offer no apology for any of my views. My numerous assertions stand and they will stand till the end of time.

Meanwhile I have read all sorts of strange submissions in various newspapers and blogs that have held themselves out as rejoinders to my two articles titled "Lagos, The Igbo and the Servants Of Truth" and "The Bitter Truth About The Igbo". Since this debate began two weeks ago my staff have read no less than eleven formal responses which have come in the form of essays. Sadly other than the usual abuse and unedifying clap-trap not one of them has been able to address ANY of the issues that I raised in either of the two articles, answer any of the questions that I posed in them or successfully challenge my presentation of historical facts. How I wish the masters like Gbolobo Ogunsanwo, Adebayo Williams, the late Megaforce, Chinweizu and Sad Sam could give them a few lessons in being refined and polite yet clinical and devastating in their approach. If they had one of those great writers in their corner I would have offered my surrender long ago. Yet sadly they don't.

The bellicose nature and sheer crassness of these so-called rejoinders goes to prove two things. Firstly that those that I have descibed as being collectively unrestrained and crude in all their ways really are all those things and a lot more and secondly that they cannot put up any reasonable or serious arguement to discredit or refute the message so instead they are attempting to destroy the messanger.

Unfortunately for them the message is clear and it is already out there. It cannot be called back in. The horse has bolted from the stable and the falcon has left the nest. No matter how hard those that are attempting to intimidate us into silence may try it will not work and we will not be cowed. The genie has already slipped out of the bottle. The child has already been born. Those that seek to continue to denigrate and belittle the yoruba and lay claim to what is rightfully theirs should desist from doing so. They should grant us our peace and give us our due respect and they will get the same in return. If they do not do so those things surely will elude them .

Meanwhile when anyone reads a rejoinder that addresses the issues that I raised in either of my two essays and that has some level of scholarship and intellectual content they should please let me know and I may well dignify it with a response. The shameless and emotional thrash and disjointed verbiage that have been published and described as rejoinders so far are just not up to scratch. They are bereft of any logic, reason or rhyme. They also invoke pity in me for the individuals that wrote them and those that they claim to be representing. When my adversaries find a real champion that can cross swords with me and give me a good run for my money either in a literary debate or a verbal one someone should please let me know. And I am not referring to any of those exciteable individuals whose emotions have beclouded their thinking and who have called me a ''scallywag'' and all manner of other interesting and unsavoury names and who have said that I ought to be in jail or in a drug rehabilitation centre. Please don't tell me that those are your champions. I am itching for a real debate with a worthy adversary on this issue.

Like the great Achilles I feel that I have no match. Are there no Hector's out there? Sadly it appears that my accusers and haters cannot find one. All they have is their hate, their ignorance, their insults and their inbred crudity and vulgarity.

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Femi Fani-Kayode

Femi Fani-Kayode was born in Lagos, Nigeria on 16th October 1960 to Chief Remilekun Adetokunbo Fani-Kayode and to Chief (Mrs) Adia Adunni Fani-Kayode. He was christened David Oluwafemi (meaning "the beloved of the Lord") Adewunmi Fani-Kayode. He is a lawyer, a Nigerian politician, an evangelical christian, an essayist, a poet and he was the Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2003 until June 2006. He was appointed the Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from June 22nd to Nov 7th 2006 and as the Minister of Aviation from Nov 7th 2006 to May 29th 2007.