By Dr Ugo Egbujo.
A child who leaves skelewu to dance surugede must be reminded; surugede is a dance of the spirits. Those whom the gods want to kill they first make mad.
Osinbajo fears civil war. War is hell, but we could be in for worse. The rampant slaughter of police and military personnel on the streets is the devil at full throttle. Our governments have only a little time to spare us a slow descent into Armageddon. No one will enjoy a Sergeant before the cascade into a Liberia.
Igbo elders and elites are silent. They lost their voice against evil when it was in its infancy. That’s what political opportunism does. Everything is seen through the prism of petty smash and grab politics. Now the monster is prancing around with fangs and claws; it could be prudence to remain mute. After all, if armed robbers, you can call them whatever you wish, can visit a governor at his country home at 9 am on a Saturday morning day, then what can a timid self-centred politician do?
Professor Osinabajo told a poignant story a few days ago. His friend was a supreme court judge in Somalia. Then the trouble started. The elite kept quiet. The trouble festered into a war. The country fell apart. The courts closed, and judges fled to become commoners. Later, on a UN mission, Professor Osinbajo met his friend, bowl in hand, waiting for a food ration on a long queue. Someone called it a nice piece of fear-mongering. That bold fellow lives in London.
I have checked the Twitter handles of many vocal Igbo politicians. In the last month, they never mentioned “unknown gunmen.” They have largely avoided the monster. Soludo was attacked; they said nothing. The Owerri prison was broken, and murderers freed; they looked away. Then a governor’s house was attacked, his guards killed, his house set ablaze; yet no word from the champions of Igbo politics and none from the bishops. Igbos used to be bold.
A village priest in a church in Imo raised the issue of the unknown gunmen in his sermon recently. Murmurs of approval from a section of the congregation greeted the brutal actions of the gangsters. Then the priest explained to his excited congregation that those who can burn a governor’s house could set ablaze all the cathedrals in the state. The congregation quietened. All it would take might be a devilish epiphany. The leader of the gang could say that in the republic that is to come, the ways of white colonialism must be forsaken and African spirituality reinstated. That would be all. He might even put the seal of God beside the pronouncement.
When commercial kidnapping started in Nigeria, it started with the abductions of foreigners in the Niger Delta. The locals looked away. It wasn’t their problem. Many foreigners flew away; the others learnt to fly without perching. A few years later, the criminals’ appetite became omnivorous, and the shadow of death loomed over the entirety of Port Harcourt. Soon everybody in Port Harcourt knew somebody who had been kidnapped and ransomed or killed. Aba would later convulse, fold and flee. The entire town. Arson has started in Igbo land with police stations. Commissioned arson is antithetical to the capitalist nature of the Igbo nation. If it becomes rife, markets, warehouses, and homes would all be in peril.
The Anambra governorship elections are months away. A group has sworn to maim and kill those who would take part in campaigns and the election. The government has said nothing. The traditional institutions have said nothing. Igbo professional groups have said nothing. They might need to borrow balls. In the last four weeks, many security agents have been murdered on the streets in Anambra. Anambra 2021 is in jeopardy and the state that produced Azikiwe and Ojukwu has been intimidated into silence.
I used to wonder how North Korea came into the worship of one man. But after reading about how Kim Jung Un, and his father before him, distributed death whimsically to persons and families, it became apparent. The elites in North Korea now laugh aggressively and uniformly at every joke cracked by their president. A careful campaign to obliterate dissent has begun in Igboland. Soon silence could be a mortal sin, and we could be tumbling over ourselves to sing eulogies to a supreme leader.
By the time the cheerleaders of violence realized they had castrated themselves in Somalia, it was too late. Their country had become a gangland. The rule is simple. When chaos sets in, the man with the gun and capacity to do evil becomes king. Somalia has been partitioned by violence. The falcons you see today may not hear the falconers tomorrow. We are all in it, the initiators inclusive. Once the goons learn that the native oaths they took were mere rituals, they would resign their membership of the monkey company working for a gluttonous baboon in London or Ethiopia.
Before silence becomes dissent, a capital sin, let’s look at its current shades. Today’s silence in Igbo land is of many types. There is cowardly silence. The bishops and traditional rulers could be in this group. They are not that naive. They can foretell the consequences of the drama unfolding. These elders would have spoken out now, but they have seen the police fall, and they do not want to die yet. They have squirrelled into holes and occasionally appear to attend Ebubeagu meetings behind closed doors.
There is silence as payment for protection— silence in lieu of protection money. When gangs rule, people pay for protection. When a vocal politician keeps mute in the face of egregious evil, he could curry the favour of the mob. Many great social crusaders, who have lost their voices and can’t discuss the barbarism of the ‘Unknown Gunmen’ boldly and truthfully, fall into this otherwise noble group. You might call them chameleons. But some of them are actually mice. They used to brag about their ability to speak truth to power. They have now seen not a pet cat that laps milk but a feral cat. And they have tucked in their tails. Then there those who have chosen silence to egg the monster on, to instigate an apocalypse from which they might gain a political advantage. They are the hyenas. They desperately want a change in the existing power equation and wouldn’t mind getting into the mix through the backdoor or rat hole.
Some see the birth pangs of a new republic. For others, it’s spice, entertainment. Some say that going for broke is the best way to strike the best bargains when dealing with the hard-hearted. Something is certain; vultures are circling. Adults are home, and our goat is going into labour tethered. Have the gods made us mad, madly silent?
•Dr. Ugoji Egbujo is based in Port Harcourt and can be reached thru: 08033026005