BY DR. CHUKS OSUJI
It has been said over and over that when two great minds meet undoubtedly, they will be discussing ideas. There is always an existing saying that, “When writers, philosophers, and idealists meet, they will not talk of petty issues rather they will discuss things that have philosophical relevance.”
Thus on the 26th day of August, between the hours of 8:30-9:30 am to my greatest surprise, the most unexpected visitor was at my door. He did not come to discuss the mountain of refuse scattered all over Owerri Municipality; nor did he come to discuss minor issues such as regular traffic jam in Owerri but as a great writer and a global personality for more than the two hours he stayed in my office, we exchanged ideas on several issues which we approached from a different philosophical perspective. A great writer of our time whom I have respect for; whom I believe is a great writer helping to shape our society for better development. As we began to discuss, I continued to refer to him as a greater but he, too, continued to refer to me as a greater writer. I thought he was being modest. Of the truth was that he meant what he said: that I am a great writer, and I continued to say that he, too, is a great writer of our time.
In fact in the Nigerian society within the literary world particularly those who write for newspapers and tabloid, and one of those I particularly like to read what he writes is Ethelbert Okere. So when he announced to me that he was visiting, I was not only excited but I knew that that glorious day the 26th of August was a blessing to me. Why?
In my office-Opinion House from where I do public opinion consultancy which many people do not even know what it means, receive important visitors with their various requests, it has not been a rosy one since the outbreak of covid-19 because there has been various restrictions and self restrictions to avoid contracting covid-19. As for me, as I have to write articles for local and national newspapers, it was incumbent on me to come around to serve those papers I am a columnist. So after the initial tactical withdrawal from the office for a long while, I made a return back if only for public good. So I must admit that today in our country, commodities are not only what are scarce but visitors too are. Ever since I came back from tactical withdrawal since covid-19 lockdown, I have found it difficult to get the type of visitors I was once used to. Therefore when Ethelbert Okere bumped into my office, I was eternally grateful to God.
For the two and the half hours we stayed in my office talking about many local and national topics it was indeed of two great intellectuals.
Interestingly as the current Director General of Imo Orientation Agency, I considered it relevant to know how he is doing in his new assignment. Although he was very hedgy, he admitted encountering initial teething problems of accommodation and building confidence, and instilling hope in the staff. As he sat down and settled, the first issues I brought up for discussion was his articles in newspapers entitled, “Okorocha’s problem with Imolites is beyond Uzodimma.” I did not bring up that issue to join in his view in the article but I specifically raised a particular aspect of the article that attracted my attention. I told him that part of the article which engaged my interest was, “Imo and The Metaphor of A Roman Mob.” We did not bring up the holistic issue of Okorocha but that aspect of the article which says, “I lamented the tendency of our people to clap for anybody and how easy it has become for anybody to turn into a hero overnight no matter his or her antecedents.”
Honestly I told him that his thesis on Imo people’s penchant to clap for a villain even while escorting him to the grave has been our people’s culture. If in retrospect this behavior of clapping for a villain even while escorting him to the grave has suddenly become part of our political culture.
In the past, part of Igbo culture is to disown anybody in our community setting who has misbehaved- stolen a chicken or goat, broken into bans to steal yams or enters another person’s farm to do illegal harvesting or even to misbehave in minor issues such as fighting openly fighting in the market square or stream. Then and only then such a person will be disgraced sometimes naked and forced to go round the market with the stolen items on his or her neck whether chicken, goat, yam or anything. Today we dramatize dishonesty even when we are victims of such practices.
Is it in our churches where notable 419nans are given titles of Ezinwa with the contest of political functionalism? We have not stopped to ask why it is that many people in our society do anything to occupy political offices? The answer is simple and it because our society has degenerated to the glorification of wealth irrespective of how it came. In a very simple parlance we are ready to clap for anybody and anyone who has done something wrong in the society. For example, I was shocked to the marrows few days ago when I read in the national papers after honoring Orji Uzokalu called on to Nigerians especially the Igbo’s to support him for presidency in 2023. Similarly not quite long, another group was advocating that Rotimi Amaechi should be supported to become the candidate for the Ndi Igbo presidency in 2023. Haba! The race has begun. Ndi Igbo have begun to do one of those things which other tribes will look at us with disdain. Mark my word, soon, another group will begin to advocate for Rochas Okorocha. The most astonishing of it is asking the Igbo’s to support the presidency of Rotimi Amaechi. In the first instance, Rotimi is being forced to accept he is an Igbo man for mere political aspiration. But we look at it, is Rotimi Amaechi an Igbo? Here is a man who tore Jonathan apart because Jonathan’s aspirations were promoted by Hausa-Fulani elites. Who in this country that does not remember the insults, and the caricature and endless disdained comments poured on Jonathan by Rotimi Amaechi? If Amaechi’s tribe can be explained by his name, he should be known as Yoruba- Igbo. Do we have such classification in Nigeria except Hausa-Fulani? Yes the roll call has begun. Before long the misguided gladiators will add the name of Ike Nwachukwu who was confirmed to be among the architects of Asaba Massacre. Yes, this will happen because according to Okere,“I lamented the tendency of our people to clap for anybody and how easy it has become for anybody to turn into a hero overnight no matter his or her antecedents.” I must remember that throughout the two and half hours I spent with this marvelous writer, author and critic will never descend low to castigate any of our leaders or even Buhari despite his numerous failures. He didn’t do that coz according to Hillman Kul, “great citizens do not castigate their leaders even if they fail but encourage them see their mistakes and help them solve them because to criticize is to discourage and to commend is to encourage.” One may ask, why did Ethelbert Okere visit me? The answer is not farfetched. As a man of great ideas and the Director General of Imo Orientation Agency, he remembered that I was almost a superstar when I headed the federal government version of Mamser. Ethelbert recalled some of my successes as a state Mamser Director. He knew I was very successful and believes that by interacting with me he could acquire some knowledge on the success on the orientation of the citizenry. I was pleased to tell him what he could do to improve on the performance of Imo Orientation Agency because, indeed, our people are still very poor in political, social and economic orientation. To many, it means making noise on the roads and streets. No, certainly not. It is not by singing or playing Jingles on radio. It goes farther than that. It is indeed helping people to have new directive on attitudal change, acquiring new behavior in mindset in the areas of economic self reliance, social directives and acquisition of new culture, new behavior, new attitude and new appreciation of people’s social problems. To do this requires a man with great ideas who can inspire people to follow their leader and not one who can only be a great singer to clap hands for unsuccessful leaders. After all, a good leader is one who shows the way, follows the way and leads the way according to Alexander the great. In that respect, Ethelbert Okere’s appointment can never be questioned or faulted by anyone who has great ideas. Indeed, his visit was a noble one.