DEAR MIKEL OBI: Are you now playing for Kogi United?
DEAR MIKEL OBI: Are you now playing for Kogi United?
“I am a Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came.”
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Dear Brother Mikel, I wish to kick start this fraternal discussion with you on the premise of the above quote from one of our cerebral sisters and renown author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
This piece was prompted by your improbable visit to Lokoja on Sunday, 13th June 2021, to meet with, and endorse Gov. Yahaya Bello for any office he would want to contest, which should of course, include, the office of the President he is canvassing for. It came as a surprise to many, especially people of the South east, not because you don’t have the fundamental rights to freedom of movement, association and independent volition. But because of the timing and nature of your visit. Beyond the idealistic theories of law and the razmatazz of politics, we see and feel the reality of our country in the present time.
Even from across the other divide, the comical Senator Shehu Sani freezed and asked in his social media handle: “Is Mikel Obi now playing for Kogi United?”
First, you made the visit 96 hours after President Buhari had contemptuously described your tribe as a ‘dot’ in a circle! While your kinsmen were busy refuting such derogatory compliment, you junketted to the Lugard house in Lokoja to rub shoulder with Gov. Bello and urge him on in his next political ambition. It felt like you are insensitive to the plight of your people. It also feel like you are part of those who hit up the polity needlessly. Yahaya Bello has two years remaining in his mandate to deliver on campaign promises to his people. And he is being distracted with his claims that “people like you are urging him to run for president come 2023.” Your visit tends to validate this unfounded claim.
Further more, there has never been in our history the sort of volatile national uncertainty as we have today as a country. Insecurity doesn’t know boarders any longer. Political instability is on the high side. Igbo representation in government is confined to only those positions that constitution permits them. They were summarily dismissed as “5%” in the current regime’s political equation formulae; and are being called many unprinted vitriolic misnomers aimed at keeping them off the corridor, in APC/Buhari-led government.
While all these things were realities audible and visible to all, you believed that the best body language you can exhibit as an Igbo man with international star power is to exude a pheromone of indifference? You felt it is okay to keep mum on affairs of the southeast but expedient to identify with Kogi in the north central? You would go further to visit Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau state afterwords, with a promise to establish a football academy there, But it is understandable, for that was your birthplace. However, dont forget the Igbo adage: “ana esi n’ ulo ama mma apu n’ ezi” (charity begins at home).
Igbo land has produced uncountable distinguished celebrities, technocrats and super stars. And none of them showed “I don care” attitude to the Igbo cause. Even if they could not vocally identify with our situation in moments like this, they will choose the honour of maintaining a golden silence.
You may have forgotten, but I will remind you that in 2004, while Anambra your home state was thrown into political anarchy by a click of renege political godfathers, Prof. Chinua Achebe was invited by Obasanjo-led government for a national honours award of Member of the Federal Republic (MFR). He turned it down as a protest to force government to correct the instability bedeviling the state and the country at large.
At the time, Prof. Achebe said his decision was intended to serve as a “wake-up” call and he hoped that “change” would be achieved through protests.
However, in 2011, President Jonathan handed him similar invitation, this time for the second highest national honours award in the land — Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). Again, Achebe rejected it in vehement protest, saying that he was turning down the award because “the reasons for rejecting the offer when it was first made have not been addressed let alone solved. It is inappropriate to offer it again to me.”
You see, this is called patriotism and solidarity for fatherland. We expected that you would use your influence to advocate for a better leadership in Nigeria and not keep a blind eye to the unworkable situation of the country by affirming the status quo.
More so, there was issue I had with the content of the speech with which you endorsed Gov. Bello as your Model in Nigeria’s political leadership. You advocated for youths like Gov. Bello to take leadership mantle for a better Nigeria. That sounds good. But it also shows that you have actually not been in tune with Nigeria nay African political ambience. Let me inform you that good leadership has little or nothing to do with age, but has everything to do with the heart and determination to be patriotic, selfless and humane. The errors, missteps and unguarded behaviours from many young political officials in the past five years easily confirms this.
On May 11, 2019, Nigeria’s youngest senator, exhibiting youthful exuberance was caught in public, beating a sales girl in Abuja. During the #EndSARS protest, no one saw or heard from you. But now you are here to throw your ‘weight’ behind Bello. Your fellow compatriot and professional baller, Jude Ighalo showed solidarity with the victims and alerted international community with a live video and multiple tweets on the horrowful night of Lekki toll gate massacre. It seems the rots we face in this country don’t bother you. It was during the protest that another young politician who is a member of Lagos State house of assembly irritantly called his fellow youths advocating for good governance and an end to police brutality “kids.”
You can google-search the youngest Nigerian governor with highest unpaid workers’ salary and pension arrears and you will be shocked. So age doesn’t matter, disposition does.
The third and final point of this discourse is to know why you had selective choice of state or governor to visit for such endorsement. This is an era of evidence-based political patronage. It is curios that you choose not to see the great achievement of excellently performing governors in the south like Govs. Dave Umahi and Seyi Makinde but you were eager to see the ‘great’ achievement of Yahaya Bello. Even in the said north, the accomplishments of Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno beckons attention readily than anyone else. And to think you never cared about all these but made it to Kogi begs the question: what exactly informed the choice of your expedition?
Last week, I exhumed the great patriotic intervention you made in Sao Paulo in Brazil during the Rio De Janeiro Olympic games in 2016 when you shelled out up to $4000 to offset unpaid hotel bills of the contingents, when this self-same government failed in that respect. This was to help correct certain impression on our president who sees all Igbos as enemy of the state because of Nnamdi Kanu. But with your current disposition, it seems we are not on the same page.
I trust you will assimilate the message of this memo with open mind and make amend where necessary, knowing that a lot of Igbo Youths and Nigerians at large, look up to you as a pillar of truth and advocate of justice. Your expedition in Kogi may be what made Kelechi Iheanacho toe the same line and dine with Bello on Thursday 17th June. Let me repeat it again: you are a model to many, so watch your steps.
Izu ka mma n’ nneji.
Thanks and remain blessed!
✍Eze Jude O.
From the encircled ‘dot’ of Obollo in Nsukka land.