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Hate Speech, Igbokwe, Buhari and Ndigbo: The danger ahead

By Sunny Igboanugo on 13/07/2016

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In the run-up to the 2015 general election, the All Progressives Congress (APC), hired an American media and public relations group, the AKPD Message and Media. The Chicago-based group, known for assisting US President Barak Obama fashion out the appropriate messages to win the 1998 and 2012 presidential elections, which had also similarly succeeded in other African countries like Kenya and Tanzania, was hired to do what it knows how to do best in the business of influencing the minds of voters.

Some people believe that, that move was the masterstroke that led to the eventual election of the party’s candidate, hitherto unelectable ex-General, now, President Muhammadu Buhari, in that historic election, after 12 months of failing on his own strength.

Now, don’t ask me the contributions of the likes of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who had been holding the forth before then or the intellectual egg-heads like Kayode Fayemi, the irresistible former Governor of Ekiti State, or his counterpart in Lagos, Babatunde Raji Fashola. The question of what each brought to the table and how effectual their contribution(s) in changing the APC message, vis-à-vis the AKPG, might actually be one of the chicken and egg, which came first. But, even the ability to discover and head-hunt that genius who would bring back to life a dying company, in this case, the lacklustre image of Buhari, is in itself a very big achievement. After all, then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), appeared not to have been that lucky to go that route for whatever reason(s).

The result was the transformation of Buhari, from a hard-core military sadist, narcissist, ethnic and religious bigot and unschooled, unintelligent and static retard, as held in certain quarters and even promoted by the APC chieftains themselves, into a world class military strategist, unquestionable man of excellent character and integrity, foremost statesman and beyond everything else, the only saviour of Nigeria beside God Himself.     

However, one of the most forceful features and outcomes of that unique relationship between the APC and the PR firm, was the introduction of Hate Speech into the Nigerian lexicon. Not that before then many Nigerians were not familiar with the expression. But never at any time was it given such a central and effective meaning in our local parlance. It was merely an American or foreign phraseology, meant to curtail and tackle the highly-charged issue of discrimination in those lands of Europe and America, in their efforts to confront the phenomenon head-on.


There is therefore little doubt that its usage and the ability to manipulate it, to maximum benefit, was one of the highpoints of the unique features of the American firm.

Hence, the likes of Mohammed and the APC officials and supporters, would dish out the most acerbic and unprintable verbal attacks on the ruling PDP government and Buhari’s opponent, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and even his wife, Patience and it would be seen as activism and holding government accountable, but the slightest attacks on the person of Buhari and APC bigwigs, was seen as Hate Speech.

Whilst the APC coined the expression clueless for Jonathan and dubbed the wife as an uneducated, unedifying and pitiable jester, they took umbrage at the slightest question on Buhari’s own personal characteristics and dismissed anything that suggested something less ennobling about him most whimsically. That’s how the issue of his West African School Certificate (WASC), remains lingering till date.

Today, the reality of our scant understanding of the expression, its wrong usage and even mischievous application, appears to have remained, long after the 2015 election has been won and lost.

Now, in it is difficult to decipher the use to which Mr. Joe Igbokwe, wants to put this expression in his, Igbo Ethnic Bigotry And Hate Campaigns Worry Me, which has gone viral and attracted widespread reactions since it was published on Tuesday, July 12, just as it is doubtful whether he fully understands its meaning and proper usage. Might as well be since he is the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Lagos, he might have somehow developed some form of fancy for the expression and having seen its efficacy in achieving a lot for his party, he now wants to experiment with it. Or he was simply being downright mischievous, considering that as someone considered intelligent enough to have achieved a measurable space in public discourse, even if of negative or nuisance value, entrusted with the high office of speaking for a party like APC at whatever level, a graduate of one of the best universities in Nigerian, the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), at a time it still attracted students from all over the world, including Europe and America, he ought to be at grasp with words and their lexical usages. In fact, there are a thousand and one inferences and meanings to be drawn or given to Igbokwe’s treatise. But because all lizards lie prostrate, nobody could actually determine which has stomach ache, it might not be right to ascribe any personal motive to his appreciation of this jargon and his attachment thereof outside helping his people ndigbo get the best out of Nigeria.

However, the entire piece, counts for nothing if it is actually meant to capture the Igbo attitude to President Buhari as a person or President. Unfortunately, Igbokwe failed to provide a clue to what he meant by Igbo people inundating Buhari withHate Speech in the entire 1,248 piece. Nowhere did he offer a simple and verifiable example of what he meant.   

Now, let’s grope in the dark where Igbokwe’s seems to have led us to fathom something out, recalling that he is not the first President from the North to relate with Nigeria and ndigbo particularly. What are the invectives he claims ndigbo have poured on Buhari? In the beginning of the Buhari Presidency, he began to make appointments that appeared quite skewed. Of course, ndigbo, among some fair-minded Nigerians, including those believed to be beneficiaries, complained.

The explanation was that these were personal staff and he needed to appoint those who understood him and Buhari’s later adumbration of 97-5 per cent did not hold water. But he has since gone ahead to make other appointments and not only ndigbo but Nigerians are breaking their vocal cavity in condemnation. Buhari is not the first to win election in Nigeria. All the personal staff of each President in Nigeria, reflected somewhat balance of what has come to be known as the Federal Character. Regarding the block votes given or denied him, it was also not the first time. In his 12-year attempts, he had always clinched more than 80 per cent of the votes from the North. Yet, the region has never been punished as a result. The winning party had always found people from the region to appoint into offices. There are hundreds of supporters Buhari could similarly have brought to his government to maintain the regional equilibrium that had sustained the country. Is that the Hate Speech?

I guess by the South East not “moving on” Igbokwe alludes to the agitation for Biafra by some Igbo youths. Wrong again. Groups like Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) did not spring up under Buhari. The only difference is that the President has given them more energy to endure by his deliberate exclusion of ndigbo by his deafening silence to the unwarranted killings carried out on their members by security forces. Does the outcry amount to Hate Speech?

It is wrong for Igbokwe to insinuate that it is only ndigbo that travel outside their domain to eke out a living in Nigeria. Long before the recent orgy of killings that have characterised the presence of Fulani herdsmen, people of all ethnic groups, have also taken residence in Igbo land and have lived peacefully in their various communities. Yes, ndigbo may be more and be making more money and investments, but it has always been a symbiotic relationship. They buy land and build businesses. The people they invest in their towns and villages also benefit. So also are the cattle and goat markets and other businesses owned by the Hausa and Yoruba traders across Igbo land. The fish section is about the biggest in Onitsha market today where billions of naira exchange hands. I’m sure Joe Ikgbokwe is aware of the various Ama Hausa settlements in almost every town in Igboland and how much their thriving businesses generate. The day you chase the Fulani herdsmen out of Igbo land is the day the price of beef will soar to the mountains and the day you chase the Igbo trader out of Sabon Gari market in Kano is when you know how much it will cost you to buy roofing sheet elsewhere. Should the Igbo man swallow his spittle and die in silence for fear of being misunderstood?

Nothing could be more simpleminded than Igbokwe’s suggestion that ndigbo should join other Nigerians in building the country. It wouldn’t be such a big task for him to dig a little bit into history or refresh his mind about who built Nigeria and who is building it now. It won’t be difficult for him to find out who owns the house he lives in, in Lagos, the next and the next. Nobody would be that foolish to bury such investments in the ground if he doesn’t believe in the system. The advice should actually go to those Igbokwe is trying to idolise. For long before he said it, ndigbo have gone far in building the country. Not accepting to eat the human wastes Buhari appears intent on feeding them with cannot be part of refusal to build the country.

Igbokwe a veteran of the June 12 election crisis, like so many Igbo people, many who were in the field like him and thousands of others who supported it by other means, talks about the Yoruba attitude to that disaster. What would have been the fate of the Yoruba or by extension, Nigeria, if all had kept quiet and gone back to their homes silent after the annulment of that election, in the manner which he is prescribing for ndigbo at this moment? Certainly, General Ibrahim Babangida might still be the President today like his counterparts in Cameroun, Zimbabwe, Uganda or Burkina Faso, before the recent forced exit of Blaise Campore.

Is silence the best response for the killing of Mrs. Eunice Elisha? Certainly no. Igbokwe is neither doing the Yoruba people nor Nigerians any good by ululating the seeming silence that has greeted that heinous crime.

Agreed, beyond amala, ewedu soup, owambe dance and aso ebi, there are a lot for Nigerians to learn from each other. That is exactly the point. The current exclusion and poor management of Nigeria’s diversity cannot promote such learning and understanding. It will diminish it. That’s why Igbokwe, should reach out to the authorities of his party to reach the President and let him know that he is not only laying landmines along the route of the country’s cohesion and development, he is indeed the danger all of us must not only fear but detest.

“Ignorance should not be a virtue. Ignorance is a disease. Foolishness is a tragedy. This is ignorance stupid. This is mental darkness. A roaring lion kills no game. It is only a river that wants to get dried up that forgets its source. A Chinese proverb tells me that “He who blames others has a long way to go on his journey. He who blames himself is half way there. He who blames no one has arrived.” Is this apt for ndigbo? Certainly negative.

It would be wrong for Igbokwe to employ the knowledge he has acquired through from the proceeds of palm oil and yams grown in Igbo land to endanger his people through promoting Hate Speech. Think again, he must. 



Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on July, 13 2016

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