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A recent article entitled “A Service Chief for the Igbo” attributed to a certain Lasisi Olagunju should not have been written. There was no sensible reason for the misadventure. If anything, it was provoked by some kind of flagellation. The premise on which it was anchored was faulty, thus leading to a logical fallacy, which Francis Bacon translated as Idols of the Tribe. It was just off the mark.



Lasisi had, in his prejudicial narrative, embarked on an unsolicited intervention on behalf of whoever over the appointment of an Igbo, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, as the Chief of Naval Staff. I had thought, going by the title of his article, that he was reflecting on the eventual appointment of an Igbo into the club of Service Chiefs after their wilful exclusion by Muhammadu Buhari for eight years. But I was wrong. Lasisi did not stay on this course. Rather, he went on a hateful binge. He painted the Igbo and whatever they represent in lurid colours.


Why the deviation by Lasisi? The answer is simple enough. The man, it would appear, has been looking for an opportunity to lash out at and harangue the Igbo. He has been brow-beating the people for a long time. Now, he has got his flagellum. An opportunity has come for a release.


Obviously desperate to anchor his voyage of hate on something, Lasisi claimed that the Igbo are complaining about where Ogalla hails from. He also claimed that the Igbo are saying that Ogalla is not Igbo enough. These are strange claims coming from a stranger like Lasisi. I am not aware, for instance, that any segment of the Igbo nation has any grouse with Ogalla’s origin. Such an issue does not exist in Igbo circles. If it does, some of us will know. But even if there are murmurs in some remote quarters over Ogalla, how is that the business of a Yoruba man who is not, in any way, affected by issues bordering on where Ogalla comes from or does not come from? Why did this Yoruba folk choose to intrude into what should be an internal and brotherly affair among the Igbo? Lasisi, obviously, was hankering after a reason to vent his spleen on a people he has been resenting for so long.


Perhaps to demonstrate that the show of discontent he was embarking on was not exclusive to him, Lasisi gleefully and sardonically assaulted our memories with familiar tirades and negative characterizations heaped on the Igbo in the past by his Yoruba folk. Here, he held out Abiodun Aloba and Tai Solarin as dead examples.


According to Lasisi, Aloba had written in 1970 when the Biafran War ended that the Igbo are too ebullient in victory and too sullen in defeat. Aloba had also submitted then that had the Igbo won the war their foes and friends alike would have had a rough time. Lasisi followed up with Tai Solarin who he said visited East Central State at the end of the war in 1970 just in search of lizards, rats and snakes. Solarin, according to Lasisi, said he found no snakes, no rats and no lizards on Igbo soil. Solarin’s comment was a derisive reference to the hunger in Biafra, which drove people to eat what they ordinarily would not have eaten.


From Lasisi’s offering, both Aloba and Solarin set out to mock the Igbo. They were glad that the Igbo lost the war. That was why all that Solarin could do after the cessation of hostilities was to visit Igboland and return to Yorubaland to report that he did not see lizards, snakes and rats. The assumption here is that Solarin, if indeed he embarked on such a trip, combed through Igbo towns and villages in search of lizards, rats and all. What a voyage of mischief. What undisguised mockery.


So, why did Lasisi choose to rehash these negative tales about the Igbo some 53 years after they were written? Again, the answer is not hard to find. He wanted to use these putrid tales as the pedestal for his own vitriol. This makes Lasisi a modern-day replication of the Yoruba of old who took sadistic delight in denigrating the Igbo.


I still wonder why some Yoruba see Igbo-bashing as a pastime they need to engage in to feel fulfilled. This is even more intriguing considering the fact that the Igbo do not attack them in return. The Igboman, by nature, is too busy with his world to spend valuable time whining about people of other tribes. The Igbo may notice that you resent him, but he will hardly be bothered about it. He is more interested in higher pursuits than your perception of him, whatever it may be. Put differently, the Igboman will not spend valuable time attacking people of other tribes, as most Yoruba do to the Igbo because he does not believe that you are a problem to him. He believes that he can scale life’s hurdles in spite of you.


The Yoruba, I suspect, have a reverse view of others, especially the Igbo. There is always something that tells the misguided ones among them that the Igbo have to be shut down for the Yoruba to thrive. This is at the root of the malaise the Lasisis of the Yoruba world suffer. To confirm that most Yoruba elite suffer from Igbophobia, they easily stray into dirty details any time they pick on the Igbo. They give themselves away as a breed who are uncomfortable with the progress of the Igbo but are at peace when the Igbo are facing rough times. Lasisi is, therefore, on a voyage of the familiar. Before him, I have, at various times, encountered prominent Yoruba who complained openly as Lasisi has done that the Goodluck Jonathan presidency unduly favoured the Igbo. Then you ask: why did these Yoruba take special notice of what the Igbo may have benefited from the Jonathan administration? Why are they making a singsong of it while ignoring whatever the North or any other part of the South may have benefited from the same administration? It is all a matter of prejudice. A case of ingrained resentment for a people.


Like those of his Yoruba ilk who are always scavenging for reasons to pour venom on the Igbo, Lasisi was spurred into action by an uncontrollable burst of bile, making it difficult for him to hold back his distaste for the Igbo. His boring tirade gives him away as someone who has been squirming for breath over a choking phobia. Were it not so, he would not have relied on a non-issue to vent his spleen on the Igbo.


Lasisi simply misfired. That is why his vile effort can hardly be situated.


My advice to him is this: when next you want to write, be circumspect in your choice of subject. Do not throw in a headline that will stand poles apart from its content. Finally, avoid rushing into territories where even the wise and the brave will fear to tread.

Amawu Cletus Albert Amawu

I'm a Journalist, Host/Producer of The Verdict, your voice of conscience on FAD FM 93.1, Calabar, Public Affairs Commentator, Social Change Agent.

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