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*Cynthia’s Burial Amidst Tears: The Burden of An Igbo Scholar!
(A Rejoinder On: “Cynthia Osokogu: The Girl Murdered By The Igbos? Who Is Qualified To Respond To This?”)
By Olugu Ukpai
I am aware that different reactions have trailed my pro- Igbo and anti-Igbo demonizing-derogatory article, titled “Cynthia Osokogu: The Girl Murdered By The Igbos? Who Is Qualified To Respond To This?” First, may I commend those who summoned the courage to speak their mind, as I had the opportunity to do so in the article. It is your guaranteed freedom of expression of thought and opinion. The Igbos says that “Uche bu akpa, onye obula nya nke ya”, which when transliterated into English read “Thought is like a goat skin, and everybody carries his own”. For the avoidance of doubt, let me make my position clear. I am a firm believer in challenging the status quo where this is warranted. Also, I love having faith in my own ideas even if everyone is getting on the band wagon, to borrow the phrase of Abraham Lincoln in his letter to his son’s teacher. To me, accepting something simply because it has always been that way is one of the greatest threats to progress. Although some would term my response below to the commentators as radical, my father once told me that, a man who does not have or is not known by any distinctive attribute-whether good or bad is a coward! I live that with history to judge. ( Continues below..... )
Photo Above: Late Cynthia Osokogu
May I crave your indulgence for the very last time to respond to the thought provoking commentaries that have trailed the article? You do not speak about the issues of the living as though they were dead, a la the Igbos! “Aniga ekwu okwu onye di du dika nke onye nwuru anwu”, says the Igbos.
First, many merely reduced the article to feminism, describing my position a feminist orientation “you simply wrote to cover up the girl” one of them said. They have attributed my speaking out against Cynthia’s gruesome death to be, because of my love for women. If the only one condition of being a man is to perpetuate violence against women, by killing innocent women, I would rather prefer to be called a woman. I would friendly remind them that to conform and to follow convention is only an act of cowardice, but unpatriotic which the concept of masculinity detests. Real men do not abuse, let alone killing defenseless women. Rather, they love women unconditionally and protect them. If that is what they mean by feminist orientation, then, call me a radical feminist. If we must develop as a nation, we must love women and give them equal protection.
Second, others have been lenient enough and said that I have been brainwashed. They said that Western education has changed my thinking. But even if taken as a given their assertion, may I gently remind them that change is one of the greatest attributes of life. It was Heraclitus of Ephesus who averred that “nothing is permanent in this world, nothing is constant or stable, and everything is always in the process of change.” His student, Zeno was even more radical who propounded that; no one can step twice into the same river, even in stagnant water. Without unnecessarily being philosophical in orientation, without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer. Nigerian nation has refused to change their unqualified hatred for the Igbos. Igbo people have been and are continued to be gruesomely murdered needlessly in the illusion called Nigeria. They have been literarily cut off from Nigeria. No wonder the nation is moving anti-clock wise. Therefore for me, to change is natural because I am part of nature. ( Continues below..... )
Third, some have contended that there existed violence in pre-colonization era and argued that “macabre modus operandi” (violence in pre-colonization societies) would be the most appropriate perspective to explore violence in Nigeria. While there were undeniably some elements of violence in pre-colonial societies, evidence abound that the colonial and post colonial period’s violence has increased tremendously following globalization and neo-colonization. These concepts have turned the world into a global village. For instance, Facebook through which Cynthia made contact with her alleged killers is a good example of one of the fall outs of colonialism, post-colonialism and neocolonialism which have helped to increase violence. Had it been that Facebook is never in existence, perhaps, Cynthia couldn’t have made contact with her killers and could have probably been alive today. Thus, colonialism and its somewhat attendant-corresponding fall outs are very central to the increased violence in Nigeria, Igbo land, and elsewhere, and not the Igbos.
Fourth, some have simply termed the article tribalized, adjudging my perspective as not the solution. Unfortunately, those were a lofty rhetoric and warrant no response, though. To warrant my comment, my critics have the burden to put up a substitute theoretical framework antecedent of violence in Nigeria in general and Igbo land in particular. Notwithstanding the arm chair critics, I have no regret of my position. It was Biko Steven who signifies that “You are either alive or proud of where you belong to or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t even care anyway”. I am privileged to be a son of the Igbo. I am proud of my race. I have a lot of pride and dignity as an Igbo. If the concept of re-incarnation exists, I will re-incarnate as an Igbo man. Did God made a mistake by creating me an Igbo?
THE BURDEN OF AN IGBO SCHOLAR!
“The Igbo have a culture; they have also a history – an unwritten history which it is the task of the culture historian to piece together.” ~~ Professor Victor Uchendu
I am still wondering what I would tell my unborn children when they grow up to ask me, “but Daddy, what did you say when the Igbos were being demonized? Did you make any effort to put history aright?” Imagine the disappointment that would be written on their faces if my response is “No, I did not because of what people would say”. We can't just groan and shrug and remark to our like-minded friends that this is ridiculous, because this is a significant moment in this campaign to stop demonizing the Igbos in all ramifications. It is the collective responsibilities of Igbo scholars to re-write history. The truth is like medicine. It is always bitter, with some adverse effects, but it cures the disease and heals the patient.
Our illusion called Nigeria is sick and therefore requires large doses of a very bitter medicine-truth. Okowa writes:
“The desire to tell the truth is one condition for being an intellectual. The other is courage, readiness to carry on rational inquiry to whatever it may lead, to undertake ruthless criticism of everything that exists; ruthless in the sense that the criticism will not shrink either from its own conclusions or from conflict with the powers that be.”
Likewise, I agree with Wanye Boot when he said that: “the scholar is the only person charged by the society to carry the burden of thought to its extremes, even when thoughts hits back”.
Correspondingly, I agree with Amu Djoleto when he wrote: “I don’t say what I’m expected to say. I’m no Christ and I do not wish to be. There are enough Jews; but do you think if Christ had said what he was expected to say the church would have been in existence?” Of course not. The Christian Church, a symbol of change came into being because, Christ bitterly condemned a decadent Jewish society, and so do I against the demonizers of the Igbos. I am no Christ, but I owe to humanity, especially, the Igbos, their women (but not excluding Nigeria on one condition: as long as the concept of egalitarianism is enthroned and made paramount) an obligation.
What then is that obligation? – French philosopher, Albert Camus has the answer when he says that “the scholar should always remember that the “highest devotion we can give is not to our country as it is but to a concept of what we would like it to be.” Thus, I write to condemn in the most stringent manner, any act of a dehumanizing of Igbo culture, act of violence and blackmail against Ndi Igbo, in the name of ethnocentrism that violates human’s rights and perpetuate inequality in the leadership of the country, in the hope that those who encourage and support them may be compelled to change for something good. That is the only time we can achieve progress.
Therefore, I will not only criticize and condemn the concept of violence as an attributes of the Igbo culture, but would suggest what I would want to happen to that demonizing concept to be: to melt and fizzle like a wax before the fire.
No nation can develop when one half of it is enslaved, marginalized, demonized and killed unnecessarily with impunity. Professor Christiana Murray, a leading human rights lawyer once said: “No nation can be free [or develop] when one half of it is enslaved.” Development in the extant entity called Nigeria will remain a fantasy as long as the Igbos are continued to be demonized, killed needlessly with impunity and marginalized. I can do no better than to finish with the 1997 judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal (Enugu Division) as delivered by Chief Justice Niki Tobi, in Mojekwu vs Mojekwu condemning discrimination (paraphrased):
“…In my humble view, it is the monopoly of GOD to determine the sex of a baby [and his/her tribe] and not the parents. Although the scientific world disagrees with this divine truth, I believe that GOD, the creator of human beings is also the final authority of who should be male or female [Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa etc]. Accordingly, to discriminate against a particular sex [or tribe] is to say the least an affront on the Almighty GOD himself... LET NOBODY [Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba etc] DO SUCH A THING.”
Olugu Ukpai is a Ph.D Law student at School of Law at the University Of Reading, U.K. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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