GUEST Column By DR. BISI OLAWUNMI
The outlawed Igbo secessionist group’s recent humiliation of Senator Ike Ekweremadu at the Igbo New Yam Festival and Annual Convention in Nuremberg, Germany is a new dimension to public agitation that may be a turning point in public accountability expected of public office holders in Nigeria. While the harbinger, the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), may be a disagreeable group and the strategy controversial, the mission of embarrassing and shaming Nigeria’s lordly, unaccountable public office holders is laudable and should be embraced by ALL Nigerian Diaspora organizations worldwide, perhaps in a more ‘refined’ form, as their contribution to restoring sanity in public governance at home . Sending huge remittances home to assist family members may not be enough, anymore, they need to become activists for accountable government. After all, weren’t many of them forced to relocate abroad as a result of bad governance at home ? Why should Diaspora Nigerians continue to honour and roll out the red carpet for such visiting officials, particularly those who could be identified as dishonourable in the performance of their duties to the nation and looters of public treasury ? Such officials need to be declared pariahs. Of course, the group that instigated this hounding of Ekweremadu in Germany has two dimensional public perceptions. Many see it as a deviant, if not outright, renegade assemblage engaged in dangerous rabble-rousing of the Igbo for ‘Biafra’ renaissance, while some others, especially irredentists in the Igbo heartland, see the group as liberation agitators. The secessionist group’s leader , Nnamdi Kanu , who has manufactured for himself a ‘SUPREMO’ persona that has attracted a god-like reverence by his indoctrinated disciples, looms large over the Southeast to the chagrin of many Igbo political office holders, including governors of southeast states. In the beginning, the Igbo political leaders seem rather confused about how to relate with the man from the Diaspora who literally stole their authority with direct, emotion-laced appeal to the Igbo masses who still nurse the romanticized fantasy of ‘Biafra – Land of the Rising Sun’ – that ‘Biafra’ will rise, again. So, the Igbo leaders were ambivalent in their relationship with Nigeria and with their secessionist sons – one leg in Nigeria where they enjoy largess of public office and one leg in ‘Biafra’ mainly for fear of being alienated from the masses of their people who have become doped with the opium of an Eldorado in a renascent ‘Biafra’. Ekweremadu was even party to arrangement of bail sureties for Kanu’s release from detention as part of this duplicitous strategy. It took the quit notice to their Igbo kindred in the northern states by a coalition of Northern youths to rouse the Igbo political leadership to a rude awakening of the looming disaster they face by pandering to secessionist agitation. They were forced to denounce the secessionists, publicly, literally kissing dust, as it were. This gave the federal authorities the audacity to launch the military’s Operation Python Dance against the secessionists. And the ‘SUPREMO’ chickened out. Smart guy, though. After all, he who fights and runs, live to fight another day. That is a strategy Chief M.K.O. Abiola, winner of the annulled 1993 presidential election, should have adopted. Well, that is now a regrettable history.
Back to the Ekweremadu treatment by his fellow Igbo kindred, mostly young adults, going by the video clips of the incident. Principally, the grouse of those who harassed him could be summed up as his alleged poor representation of his senatorial district at the National Assembly, not making a strong case against suspected Fulani herdsmen’s pillage of his senatorial district and being complicit in the bad governance of Nigeria having held the exalted position of Deputy Senate President, even if by subterfuge. What happened in Nuremberg, Germany, is basically, the eruption of pent up anger and frustration at the parlous state of the Nigerian nation by those Igbos in Germany, a frustration shared by virtually all Diaspora Nigerians, the near universal condemnation of the action by Nigeria’s establishment elite, notwithstanding. The secessionist group, correctly reading the animus of Igbo immigrants in Germany, tactically provided the needed platform to advertise its relevance and signal that the theatre of action is shifting abroad. It is a spectacle to see a harried, scare-scow looking Senator Ike Ekweremadu as he was pushed, jostled and abused by his incensed fellow Igbos. If Nigerians have become docile at home, due largely to the fear of security agencies in what many perceive as our militarized democracy, such docility cannot be mandated for Nigerians abroad, especially those who live in Western, liberal democratic nations where civil agitation is allowed. In those nations, some protesters even pelt their leaders with raw eggs !! In this regard, the reported vigorous push by the Nigerian ambassador to Germany, Yusuf Tugga, to get the protesters prosecuted, even when the German state police was reluctant to do so, is misplaced enthusiasm. The embassy should, rather, be more vigorous in discharging its consular responsibilities to Nigerians in Germany. The incident can even be regarded as a failure of the embassy not to have gauged the level of angst by the Diaspora Nigerians and so advise Ekweremadu. Anyway, will Senator Ekweremadu be willing to return to Germany to testify against his kinsmen and get them sentenced to jail ?
Nigerians in the Diaspora, worldwide, should take a cue from the Ekweremadu treatment and confront, within legal limits of pickets and protests, corrupt public office holders-present and past- identified to have contributed to the nation’s economic ruin. Many Nigerians abroad live very stressful lives – they work two, three jobs to sustain themselves and send money home. I know, because I once lived in the U.S. as a foreign correspondent and witnessed their frustrations about being literally stranded abroad because of the worsening situation at home. But rather than hand-wringing lamentations, Diaspora Nigerians can even do more – they can monitor and publicise the lavish, opulent lifestyle of children of Nigerian public office holders among them in the Diaspora as indicative of the looting of public treasury at home by their thieving parents. The Nigeria rescue mission is a collective responsibility of Nigerians, home and abroad. Ekweremadu’s personal humiliation in Germany may turn out a national blessing, the first tentative steps on the road to Nigeria’s redemption.
Dr. Bisi OLAWUNMI, (PhD) a Public Affairs Analyst and former Washington Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria, is a Fellow, Nigeria Guild of Editors. Email: email@example.com Phone : 0803 364 7571 ( SMS ONLY)