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Published On: Thu, May 15th, 2014

Chibok abductions: Lesson for Igbo leadership

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By Osittsa Ebiem

The mass kidnapping of about 279 young high school girls from Chibok in Northeast of Nigeria by Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group is currently making headlines around the world. There is a public outcry and righteous indignation against this dastard crime. This sort of heinous crime against children and the innocent is completely unacceptable anywhere in the world today. By every standard it is a crime against all decent human beings everywhere. We all condemn it.

All well-meaning leaders everywhere have come out to condemn this evil in strongest terms. These leaders include the group known as Southeastern or Igbo states’ governors. Igbo governors are supposed to be the political opinion leaders of Igbo people. For this reason they are expected at all times to play politics in consonance with the general vibe of the people they lead. This means they must know how to express to the rest people in the Nigerian union what the Igbo really think in every given situation. When they are in doubt it is expected of them to consult widely before coming up with a consensus positional statement that will sit well with the majority of the people they are leading. In the group’s recent positional statement on the Chibok abduction which was made without making any connections of the travails of the girls from Chibok with the Igbo’s past collective Biafran genocidal experience is just as condemnable and disgusting as the Chibok abduction they came out to condemn.

In Chibok as well as in many similar incidents in the past the Igbo governors got it all wrong and committed an unpardonable blunder. As the representatives of Igbo people, duty demands from the governors at all times to state boldly the actual feelings of the Igbo in every Nigerian discourse. Leaders are those who take the people they lead to a future that is predetermined and largely influenced by the current generation, to reflect the people’s collective aspirations. Such a future is only possible when the people and their leaders are not afraid or ashamed to make copious references to their past.

Chibok presented the governors an opportunity that a more sensitive and politically savvy leadership would have used to remind Nigeria and the rest of the world about the gravity of the same atrocity that the perpetrators of the Chibok gruesome act – the Islamic terrorists committed against Nigerians. There is nothing wrong with sympathizing with a grieving neighbour while making references to one’s own similar horrible experience. This does not only help the grieving neighbour to heal better by knowing that their present situation resonates with the experience that their sympathetic neighbour went through in the past; it equally helps the sympathizing neighbour to heal too by knowing that he is not alone in his pain. Chibok should have afforded the Southeastern governors the opportunity to remind Nigeria, the British and the rest of the world that Chibok is possible today fifty years after Biafra because the ghost of the Biafran genocide has not been exorcised.

Perhaps the most noticeable embarrassing twist in the Chibok incident is the fact that the victims of the ongoing crime include also the original perpetrators of the former crime on the sympathizing neighbor.

As we conclude this piece, it becomes harder to silence this nagging and uncomfortable question: Why are Igbo governors afraid or ashamed to confront Nigeria and Nigerians with the injustices of the Biafran genocide whenever they are given the opportunity as in the ongoing Chibok opportunity? What is wrong with Igbo governors, anyway? If they are not well prepared for the position they are holding – leading Igbo people, why can’t they learn a lesson from their brother and a true leader – the Governor of AkwaIbom State, GodswillAkpabio.

Over the years, Akpabio has not only proved himself as real leader at every given opportunity by always doing and saying the right thing, he has shown real leadership when he conducted in the first week in April 2014 a memorial service for the proper and honorable repose of the heroes from his state who died in the civil war.

OsitaEbiem is on Twitter:@ositaebiem

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