THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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I watched about four different video footages -each recorded from a different angle- capturing that infamous IPOB attack on Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu in far away Nurnberg, Germany. And I suddenly felt like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in the play ‘Hamlet’ -the Prince of Denmark. The play epitomizes the subject of ‘indecision’ summed up in the famous lines of the Prince himself in a soliloquy (monologue) that has come to be a metaphor for dilemma: “To be, or not to be: that is the question: whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them”. In truth after watching that Ekweremadu footage I did not know exactly what to do; and to cry or to laugh became, in my situation, the Hamletian question: whether it was nobler in the mind to wail over a despicable deed that had already been done or to attend to the smudge and blotch of this Germanic ‘spilled milk’ with the laughter of a mischievous comic, and by so doing cover the stench of adversity with a risible coat of humor. Nuremberg was the historic venue of the World War II crimes trial. And now some rag-tag IPOB diasporans wanted to wake its rested spirit as a witness to the murder or the attempted murder of innocents.
Ekweremadu’s situation was at once tragic (in the sense that it was pathetic) and comic (in the sense that it was laughable). A Face-book friend of mine accused me of having a ball over IPOB’s misprimed sakabula –apologies to Soyinka. In truth it is IPOB members and their sympathizers who should be having a ball: first over the group’s official launch into violence (or should I say its public repudiation of the emblem of non-violence?); and then maybe they should also celebrate their first gunpowder shot at an already cowed Igbo leadership and especially now with Ekweremadu’s ignoble shroud of cowardice. Why should I have a ball over an IPOB outing? I am no IPOB member, and I am no IPOB sympathizer. I should be sad that an IPOB plot has successfully been executed -albeit against one of its eminent sympathizers. And therein lies the glitch: now that it is the IPOB-dog eating a fellow dog-sympathizer, those who should worry about the early symptoms of cannibalistic implosion, appear to worry more about whether we the passers-by go about laughing or crying about it. Isn’t that ridiculous? It is a case of the hunted rabbit’s misplaced anger, in the Hausa saying ‘zomo ba ya fushi da makashin sa, sai da wanda ya ratayo shi zuwa gari’: meaning that ‘the hunted rabbit is angrier at the hunter who hangs it into town than at the hunter who actually shot it at the hunt’.
By the way, if IPOB has a right to be IPOB, and even to impose its violent ideology on fellow Igbo rank-and-file and the high and mighties, and if the Ekweremadus and the mmammadus of Igbo politics are justified not only to be IPOB sympathizer but even to gloat publicly over their past contributions to its nihilistic, irredentist cause, why should other Nigerians who are lawfully opposed to the balkanization of their country be wrong merely because they have freely chosen either to laugh or cry over the IPOB in-fighting? If IPOB and its sympathizers have a right to freely make their choices, the one to balkanize Nigeria and the other to lend its moral and material support towards the balkanization of Nigeria, why should others not have the corresponding right to freely make their choices too, to either mourn whenever the IPOB virus anti-retrovirally turns against its own, or even to laugh when its most eminent political sympathizers inadvertently run into its ideological troubled waters? Nor are those to be minded with a moment’s attention, who foolishly say that what happened to Ekwe in Germany is a sign of ‘how the people feel about Nigerian leaders’. When has the opinion of IPOB and its rag-tag sympathizers become the index of ‘how the people feel’ about Nigerian leaders? I think what happened to Ekwe in Germany was a case of the chickens coming home to roost. IPOB is gradually proving itself to Igbo politicians who are apt always to capitulate before Kanu, a Frankenstein monster.
Ekweremadu’s experience presented to us those two poignant options, either to lament the tragedy of a former Deputy Senate President suddenly reduced to a common ‘criminal’ by a murderous kindred rabble, the like of Mussolini’s mob of Italy, or to laugh at the cowardly angst of a supposedly Israeli-blooded potentate who rather than be steadfast like Caesar in the face of danger, desperately scampered instead for dear life at a yam festival where, ironically, he should’ve been the living motif proverbially to bring ‘life’ to the occasion. It was such brutal irony of a spiritual kind that the one who was to dip the first ancestral yam into the salted red palm oil was now at Nuremberg the one whose red blood was sought after as the soluble solvent to go with alligator pepper for the yam festival. Nothing can be more tragic, and nothing more comically-relieving all at once than the Hausa adage ‘dan akuya ya je barbara, ya dawo da chiki’ –that is, that the randy he-goat that went on a wild orgy has returned home itself pregnant. Ekweremadu went for an invite to eat a tuber crop only to realize that his barbequed tubular body was the menu on the dining table. It is both tragic and comic. In literature a tragedy with a comic relief is called ‘tragicomedy’. In Ekwe’s case the mere irony of the situation was comic enough. His dramatic, undignified escape provided the ultimate relief.
Or are the auguries of our heroes’ past suddenly becoming this potent nowadays? Because Chinua Achebe in his in his novel ‘The Arrow of God’ has said that “He who travels to eat his ancestral yam in a foreign country should be ready for the wrath of dike the warrior of the seven seas and seven mountains”. By the way, as for me, I am still trapped in the Hamletian dilemma. I have still neither found my humor nor my grim. I still do not know whether to cry or to laugh –at what they did to our dear Ekwerem in Germany. I fact my situation evokes a chilling reminiscence of Adlai Stevenson’s presidential concession speech to General Eisenhower, 67 years ago. He said that just before he made it, someone asked him how he felt; and that he narrated what he said Abraham Lincoln once told him about “how he (Lincoln) felt once after an unsuccessful election”. That “…he felt like a little boy who had stubbed his toe in the dark. He said that he was too old to cry, but (that) it hurt too much to laugh”.
You can cry – seeing that we have at last exported our brand of bitter, hatemongering politics abroad; or you can laugh seeing that the early signs of a pleasant anticlimax have started manifesting that will sing the nunc dimittis of this terror-organization bent on pitching tribe and tongue, religion and geography against one another. But I was disgusted seeing Ekweremadu bumbling cowardly in the fashion of a Nollywood’s Ibu, when, as a proud Igbo leader, he should’ve pranced about like Achebe’s Amalinze the cat. And I wondered ‘when did we start having political leaders with their hearts so cheaply in the boot? If Ekweremadu was the Governor of Western Region hosting Aguyi Ironsi when the Northern T.Y.s came calling, you bet he might still be alive today. Ekwe had proved the lie in the saying that ‘despair will give a coward courage.’ If, as Julius Caesar said, ‘cowards die many times before their deaths’, Ekwe must’ve died a thousand times in that footage tossed between the complicit hands of his hosts and the murderous claws of his IPOB assailants. And to think that he was decked in a jumper bearing the nation’s coat of arms. It was like sovereignty itself fleeing from anarchists. Tragic! Yet comic!