By Reuben Abati
“O re, I looked for you yesterday? Where were you?”
“I dey for house now? Where I for dey?”
“I actually thought you had gone to a court somewhere to do amebo. You know you like to poke-nose into other people’s matters? And yesterday was a special, historic day, with four court cases that generations yet unborn will read about”
“You have started again. You are actually the real Mr. Amebo of Nigeria. Every little thing you are ever-ready like Ever Ready Battery to do chor chor chor. Don’t you ever get tired?”
“Ever Ready Battery. Ha. You don’t forget things. Do they still make such batteries? That was when Nigeria was Nigeria and the manufacturing sector produced so much locally, and people had jobs and the country was prosperous. My uncle used to go to London almost every weekend. Money was not a problem. Nigeria itself was ever ready. But now see see…the country is a shadow of its former self. That is why you have so many angry youths all over the place. They have no sense of values. They have no memory of Nigeria’s greatness. They have been brought up on a diet of Satanic negativity.”
“Ï know. I know. I still hear some people talk about Ever Ready though. But do you know when I tried to look for Ever Ready Batteries the other day, it turned out what they now call ever ready was some sort of aphrosidiac, some kind of herbal concoction that is supposed to increase your libido, result in instant enlargement and give you unimaginable joy of celestial proportions. It was actually a woman that recommended it to me.”
“Ha. A woman. Your battery failed, and they recommended Ever Ready. I know. I know. Nigeria has become a house of sin. You are talking about a multi-billion-dollar business, by the way. From Suruka to Surutu, Kolagbo, Osomo, Koboko, Techno, Monkey Tail. Pasa-Bitters, Erujeje,..”
“Wafekulaleyi, Ali Baba, Wasalaye, Baby Oku, Kick and Start, Oga Nla, Jeko mo, Agbara, Dorobucchi, Opa Eyin, Dadubule, Pakurumo, Bajinotu, 301, Stone, Jabra, Japata, Jakomu….”
“Can you stop? I don’t want to talk about aphrodisiacs and the obsession of Nigerians with sin.”
“That is your problem. It is not every thing that is about big grammar. I am giving you an idea of how Nigeria has failed. How a country that used to produce scientists and intellectuals is now producing a generation of celebrities and heroes who are making billions from selling sex or beer and pleasure. We have become a nation of consumers of all sorts of depravity. We are no longer a nation of producers of ideas or executors of grand schemes. Old money in Nigeria was represented by the productive class. New money is dominated by a generation of consumers, exhibitionists and their mad, bad agents.”
“Look, this man, leave me alone. Whoever wants to drink whatever with their mouths should go ahead and do so. Our only point of agreement is that something terrible has happened to this country, and things could get worse, morally, politically and socially if we do not exercise caution and care. We need to remind ourselves of basic normative values and have a conversation around that. You see all this your beer parlour, street talk, won’t help.”
“Dey there. Dey there dey form. We are all human beings at the end of the day, I beg. You mean you don’t know that it is the entire world that has gone mad? Humanity has crossed the point of no return. That is why some wealthy men are already planning to relocate to outer space. Elon Musk. Jeff Bezos. When the human planet fails, they will enter their space jets and escape. Na you and me and people like us go remain for this Earth. Our only problem is that we will be stuck in this place called Nigeria, in the midst of rapists, kidnappers, bandits, terrorists, corporate thieves, drug barons, yahoo masters, and vote-riggers.”
“Not even Alvin Toffler was this pessimistic in The Future Wave.”
“Toffee what? Who is that?”
“Never mind. Never mind. You are not likely to know someone like that. You were talking about court cases before you digressed in your usual manner. You need to see a therapist. What about the courts?”
“I told you there were four major court cases yesterday that were of historic and significant interest, and I wanted to know whether you attended any one of them?”
“Why should I? I told you I was at home. Which cases are these?”
“You don’t mean it? Don’t go and say this in public please. People will think you have a problem.”
“I don’t get it”
“Okay let me help you out because you are too young to have dementia. Yesterday, in Abuja, Nnamdi Kanu’s case came up again at the court of Justice Binta Nyako. He was not produced in court. The security agents did not allow his supporters to even approach the court premises. At a point the Court was even closed. Lawyers were shut out of court. Imagine! His lawyers were not even notified according to due process. There were security men all over the place, harassing journalists and every one. People were arrested.”
“I thought you would have been there to observe and analyze the situation”
“To get involved in a matter before the court? How? That would be sub judice”
“That is not the issue here. This is a political trial. The issue is self-determination which is recognized under Article 1 of the UN Charter.”
“I am sorry, I can’t discuss this matter with you. Whatever I say will be misinterpreted by an illiterate, rampaging, insecure mob. We have lost the culture of reason and debate in this country. Every one is in their own ethnic capsule. A country that has destroyed its intellectual class is in real danger. This is what has happened to Nigeria. You were looking at Nigeria from the perspective of human libido, I am sorry, the bigger tragedy is the apparent death of ideas and the failure of capacity to think even among the most educated.”
“Who needs education anymore in this country? Just make money. Take aphrodisiacs. Dominate women and men and recruit idiots with all sorts of fake certificates and titles to worship you. That is the new Nigeria. What do you think of self-determination?”
“Ï have nothing against self-determination. It is a universal right recognized under Article 1 of the 1949 UN Charter. Many countries have broken up: India in 1947, Pakistan broke up in 1971 to produce Bangladesh, in 1776, the United States emerged out of the UK, in 1965, Singapore rose out of Malaysia, in 1993, the old Czechoslovakia became two countries: Czech Republic and Slovakia. Sudan and South Sudan used to be one country.”
“So what are you saying?”
“Ï am not saying anything. Read my lips. It is in a neutral mode. The way this country is today, you won’t know what you’d say it will be misinterpreted. That is what I was telling you earlier: the bigger tragedy in Nigeria today is the triumph of intolerance and abnormality. There is a supremacy of the lunatic fringe at work, playing all kinds of games: ethnic, political, cultural and opportunistic. When you say something, they twist it. When you don’t say anything, they put words in your mouth and use that to blackmail you. They are so energetic, the only conclusion you can reach is that this is now a country in the grips of mass psychosis. We need help.”
“So, is that why you didn’t go to Abuja?”
“Ï cannot answer that question. Did you go there yourself? Too many of you want other people to act and speak on your behalf in the public space but you are all busy acting like cowards and paid hacks. Many don’t even have the courage to bear their own father’s names. I am all in support of justice, fairness and due process, but nothing beyond that.”
“But what of Cotonou? Did you follow the court trial of Chief Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho?”
“Yes, I did, as an observer”
“You mean you were there, physically?”
“Ï don’t have to be anywhere physically to know what is going on. Every revolution is on television.”
“But you know, I think it is a shame that Nigeria that used to be described as the giant of Africa is now having such domestic issues that every body is now talking about how Kenya got involved in Nigeria’s affairs, and how Republic of Benin, the same Benin that is generally regarded as the 37th State of Nigeria is now a major factor in Nigerian matters. How are the mighty fallen?”
“Kenya and Benin are sovereign states. They are independent jurisdictions. I know there are many rich Nigerians who go about boasting that the President of some African countries are their boys and Personal Assistants but it is important to know that at critical moments those same countries will assert themselves as sovereign states.”
“You mean the Republic of Benin next door will disobey the Nigerian government?”
”The last time I checked Kenya and Benin Republic are sovereign states. Nigeria is not in a position to dictate to them. Benin even has a different justice system. Its leaders would rather listen to France, their former colonial masters, certainly not Nigeria.”
“If they misbehave in Benin, common Benin, we can shut down our borders against them.”
“The last time you did, what happened? Did Benin disappear as a country?”
“You are supporting Benin Republic against Nigeria? You are one of the hidden secessionists?”
“I am not going nowhere. I am here. Na inside Nigeria I go live and die. You push me, I push am, na inside Nigeria I go live and die.”
“The more reason you should take a stand.”
“Äre you deaf? This country is becoming very tough. We all have to be very careful”
“The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.”
“You try. Too many Nigerians quoting statements they know nothing about.”
“You are professing cowardice. We must take our country back.”
“Why not? Go ahead. Just let me be.”
“With the way you are talking, I am sure you did not even bother to show interest in Baba Ijesha’s case on Monday? The rape case involving the Nollywood actor who was accused of raping an under-aged girl and who is now facing trial?”
“The case is now in court. It is before the judicial system. I don’t support rape or violence of any sort. But why should my going to court be an issue?”
“As a concerned citizen”
“No. Were you there yourself? Marketer of Surutu and Suruka? Is that not the same case where one Babalawo predicted the death of one actress and he, the Babalawo died before the trial began and the actress whose death he predicted was all over the court yesterday?”
“What has that got to do with you?”
“Everything. I am a Christian. I don’t walk near the valley of the shadow of Death. Those Nollywood people, their own matter na aye mo juba.”
“You are just a coward. But how about the fourth case? Yesterday Uduak Akpan, the killer of Iniobong Umoren was arraigned before a State High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. He pleaded guilty.”
“Am I a spirit? You want me to be in Abuja, Cotonou, Lagos, and Uyo in one day. Look at this way: Inside Buhari’s Nigeria, everything don spoil”
“I hear say him don travel sef. He don go London.”
“Can you see now that you are a bad person? With all the things you have been saying, the man that Nigerians elected as President decided to leave town the same day, and you are asking me to put my head.”
“He went to London for medical check-up and a virtual conference about how these matters can be addressed.”
“Wh-a-at nonsense is that? How can a President go to London for a virtual conference? Don’t we have internet in Nigeria?”
“He is not alone. The President of Malawi also travelled to London with a 10-person delegation for the same virtual conference because the internet in his country is bad…”
“You are not making sense. Okay, me I dey here for Nigeria.”
“Keeping safe. Chopping isi ewu. And watching the Olympics”
“Olympics? You think Nigeria can win anything?”
“The Olympics is not about winning. It is about participating and the spirit of being part of it. Team Nigeria does not need to win anything”
“Don’t write them off. It is too early to do so.”
“But the country is not in a winning mode. That is why the other thing I do these days is to watch Big Brother Nigeria Season 6.”
“I thought you used to criticize the programme.”
“Yes. But the kind of girls that are on that programme this time around, e be like say dem get special craze. I need some therapy. Watching them alone calms down my nerves.”
“You see you are also a sinner like the rest of us. You dey watch Abeg and Patricia.”
“I confess, bros. Go see those girls first. Something dey there, no be small.”
Obi Cubana’s Lavish Burial of His Mother
By Onyeka Onwenu
I told a friend just days before the most outrageous burial of Innyom Ezinne Uche Iyiegbu in Oba, Anambra State in July that I had given my family instructions as to how to bury me when my time comes. Do it quickly, quietly and privately. Celebrate me with prayers, lunch or dinner afterwards. Share some jokes about me and laugh. Mourn, yes but not excessively. Make merriment and then go about your business. If my friends want to celebrate me, they should do so while I am alive so that I can enjoy it with them, not when I am gone and have no idea. That is me Onyeka Onwenu.
My mother on the other hand wanted a different burial and I promised to give her want she wanted. On her hospital bed, just three days before she passed away, I reinforced that promise – it was important to her and she died knowing that I would keep my word. Hope Onwenu’s burial was nothing like what took place in Oba recently but it was elaborate and pretty expensive. Still I had the satisfaction that I kept my promise.
The point I make here is that there are different strokes for different folks, even within a family. I do not condemn anyone for how they mourn, with their own hard-earned money but I am very uncomfortable with the lavish display of wealth on any occasion, especially in a time of hardship and lack for most others. The burial of Obi Cubana’s mother was not only lavish, it was obscene and insensitive. It sent all the wrong signals at a time when Nigeria is wracked with widespread poverty and lack.
But so long as he and his supportive friends stole nobody’s money to do what they did my outrage has abated. I will not call for them to be hanged on the stake as some have done. These reactions have been extreme and just as mindless as the conspicuous display of wealth we witnessed at the burial ceremony. Obi Cubana and his friends did not invent the art of spraying, neither are they the first to show off stupendous wealth in a wild celebration of any kind. But in an age of invasive social media, our senses are instantly bombarded with images of sheer madness where caution is thrown to the wind and we are regaled with images of sheer debauchery. We ask: is this all necessary?
I condemn it all. It does not reflect the Igbo culture that I grew up in. Ndigbo would not condone the conspicuous display of wealth. If you were found doing that, your close and extended family, your community would send a delegation to you, to ask about your source of the wealth you are throwing about. You would be ostracized if you had no convincing evidence of legitimate work. All that changed at the end of the Nigeria/Biafra conflict. Ndigbo were deprived of their money, their oil wells and towns exercised from Imo and Abia State, their property termed abandoned and taken from them. They were forced to rebuild with no help and no compensation. It therefore became every person to themselves. Having money meant that you could get things done and like every other Nigeria society, our priorities were turned upside down. People no longer asked how and where you got your money. The point was that you had it. Our values may have been eroded but we have to fight back to regain them, to ensure our survival as the decent and hardworking people that we truly are.
However, what I find equally deplorable in this whole debate, is the strenuous effort to tag the people of the Southeast, Ndigbo, with all manner of negative attributes because Obi Cubana is Igbo. This is not surprising. It has always been the case. When there is unexplainable hatred, some people are bound to give a dog a bad name so that they can justify hanging it.
Take IPOB for another example. If you are Igbo you are automatically one of them. It is worse if you dare believe that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB have a right to ask for a referendum as given in the constitution, that they have a right to protest or complain about the violation of their rights as equal stakeholders in Nigeria.
We say in Igbo: a naghi e ti nwata ihe ma napu ya i bee akwa’. You do not beat a child and then prevent him from crying. It is inhuman, an extremely cruel and unusual punishment.
Ndigbo are therefore accused of not being good citizen of Nigeria, of seeking to dismember it. But others are allowed to openly advocate for bandits, killers, kidnappers, terrorists and rampaging herdsmen from neighbouring countries. We even pay them huge sums of our money to be a little nicer while destroying our country.
It may be a defensive reflex but some people see nothing wrong with the opulent burial in the Oba Kingdom of Anambra State, the famed land of Igbo Billionaires. In fact, Obinna Iyiegbu did them proud by showing what a young man from the ‘Dot’ nation could do, himself and his crop of young Igbo billionaires. Obi CUBANA is a testimony of what hard work and a charitable heart can do, they say. Recall that the President of Nigeria, the father of the nation, President Mohammadu Buhari had recently and derisively referred to the people of the Southeast as a dot in a circle, who have no means of escaping what was coming to them, being treated in the manner they are accustomed to.
The arguments of Obi Cubana’s supporters make sense on some level but I disagree on one major point. The incredibly lavish and outrageously expensive burial of the century sent all the wrong signals to the world, including the young people of Nigeria. For me, it did nothing in it’s garish display but besmirch the essence of a dignified burial for a woman well deserving of it.
Throwing bundles of freshly minted money at people on the streets, and inside the Church is not my idea of showing respect for the dead. Neither is the report that young ladies from schools far and near left their academic pursuits to present themselves to the rich friends of Obi Cubana and their entourage a palatable one to hear.
As a performing artiste, I am familiar with ‘Spraying’, the practice of pasting money on or around a singer, to show appreciation for their performance. I also know that when singing in church we ask anyone who is moved by the performance to give money to the Lord for ministry. When things are done in moderation they are more acceptable and their meaning understood. The reverse is true when excessive displays are made and a good gesture is obscured by garishness and thoughtless exhibitionism.
There are however, a few takeaways from this obscene exercise that played itself out in Oba. Let us give some credit to Obinna Iyiegbu for some of the positive things about his success story that have now come to light. We hardly knew him before his mother’s burial. It turns out that he has raised and continued to raise up so many others, even as he himself made it up the rungs of success. Such reckless generosity is rare but I can draw comparisons with people like MKO Abiola of blessed memory. We need more philanthropy in every part of Nigeria. Let those who can afford it, go round and lift others up from poverty and lack. Nigeria is blessed, her people have no business with hunger and depravity.
To Nigerians for whom Igbo hating has become a sport, I say this. Stop wasting your time tagging and castigating Ndigbo for whatever reasons. The dislike and hatred of Ndigbo seems to be a uniting factor for the rest of the country, we know. But let us be fair to one another. As we see the bad, let us also see the good. They both reside side by side in any group of people in Nigeria.
Recently, Harvard University and others around the world have begun the study and teaching of the Apprenticeship programme of Ndigbo, describing it as the largest business incubation program in the world. A successful trader, dealer, importer, distributor or manufacturer takes on young people who serve, work for them, learning the trade as they go along. At the end of their training, the ‘master’ settles the ex-trainee by helping to finance their new business venture. This way they guided to independence and hopefully prosperity. Did Nigeria take note of this recognition? Mba nu! It took the outside world to spot and highlight this very positive quality in the Igbo culture which has benefitted the economy of Nigeria to no end.
Ndigbo are found mainly in the Southeast of Nigeria, comprising Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia State. Also in the South South, and Middlebelt – in Kogi, Benue, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Delta State. They are also found in counties such as Haiti, Zambia and Equitorial Guinea. They are known for their industry and resilience, demonstrated by their ability to recover and thrive in the midst of evident marginalization and discrimination. Igbos survived a brutal genocidal war in 1967 which lasted for three bloody years. They withstood the onslaught with the recognition of a handful of other developing countries, against a combination of superpowers like the UK, US, Soviet Union and China on the other hand. Over three million people were piped out in the process. The Nigerian civil war or Biafran war as some choose to call it has been described as the worse since the Jewish Holocaust. Ndigbo remind me of the beetle which cannot be destroyed.
Onyeka Onwenu is a Singer/Songwriter, Actor, Politician and Public Administrator. She is a Social Critic and the Author of the highly acclaimed Memoir, My Father’s Daughter. Her Book can be found in major Bookstores and on Amazon.