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[The Concourse] Reno Omokri vs Ike Abonyi: Can I be the referee?

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There is a street phrase in Nigeria’s social media milieu that “having one child makes you a parent, but having two makes you a referee.”

I have a mentor, friend and brother in Ike Abonyi, one of the foremost political journalists, a consummate news editor, a veteran columnist and two-time press secretary to PDP national Chairmen, then Dr. Okwy Nwodo and now, Prince Uche Secundus respectively.

That made me his acquaintance. I am also an ardent follower of Reno Omokri, a media adviser to former President Jonathan and self-styled “Buhari’s Tormentor.” So I am his fan.

The author, Jude Eze
The author, Jude Eze

But today, having seen Reno pick on Ike the way he did last week, I pleaded to be a referee, holding out Olive branch in place of whistle.

Though, Ike have not replied or wrote anything against the persona of Reno, (and it is unlikely he will do that) Omokri always gets agitated each time his principal is criticized or perceived to be attacked.

It happened that on his regular Thursday back page column on The New Telegraph five days ago, Ike in a piece tilted “Jonathan’s 2023 selfish gamble” took a subtle swipe at the wringing signs that former President Jonathan is oiling his campaign train being fueled by some power centres, who were his foes in 2015, from North, when only Igbos adopted him.

Those power brokers in core North are giving him the nod to run for 2023 elections. And Jonathan is apparently yielding. This irked Ike in the publication.

Reno penned a consequent reply titled “Nobody should be afraid of Jonathan” in which he countered Ike’s position and went further to diminish his integrity claiming he was representing the views of underhand interests that run contrary to Jonathan’s.

In the heat of this flame, two sets of audience are served. On one hand are independent readers who have no familial or friendship ties with any of them. They read to nourish their cerebral cortex, and are unaffected by the jibe being thrown. This set of their audience were happy seeing the revelations that the eponyms threw up.

If I have the privilege of mediating, I would tell Reno that his assault was unjustified. Ike attacked the objective principle of politics and not the subjective persona of President Jonathan.

And so Reno’s rejoinder was uncalled for. I would give him yellow card, warning him not to be always volatile and inflammable to all opinions expressed by people (especially from lovers and watchdogs of democracy like Ike) which were unpalatable to his taste buds.

But that will be after I might have extoled him for his steadfastness in advocating for Miss Leah Sharibu’s release from Boko Haram captivity through his #freeleahsharibu campaign over the years and his #RenosNuggets by which he has influenced the lives of thousands of ordinary Nigerians who follow him on social media.

I will also commend him for pointing out the veiled truth that Dr. Jonathan did not lose 2015 election because of poor performance in office, but due to stereotyped conspiracy and top-notch political gaslighting that sowed the seed of hatred against the son of a fisherman from the suburb of Otu oke who rose by providence to occupy the highest political office in the land.

To Ike, I would only say that he was truly harsh on Dr. Jonathan when he posited in his writeup that it was his cluelessness that landed us with Buhari’s horrendous regime. Sen. Dino Melaye and many other Nigerians think otherwise, when he apologized to Jonathan (even if tongue-in-cheek) during a book launch in his name in Abuja recently.

But Reno should know and respect the fact that Ike has grown above the level of petty writers, brown-envelope jobbers and itinerant journalists, who sycophantly praise or defame to earn a living. “Ike Abonyi adighizi agba egwu ka O gbata ego” (Ike is a reputable masquerade who dance for the dignity of the art and not for pecuniary interests).

He is one of the few Vanguards of the Igbo Project, with unbiased affinity for Truth. He represents Igbo pulse.

And so, he was justly troubled that after Igbos adopted Jonathan as their son, incurring deep-seated feud from Buhari, who labeled us 5% as a result, Jonathan could not be selfless enough in support of equity to advocate for Igbo presidency and the need for a restructured Nigeria; rather, he is ‘sitting on the fence’ and being economical with the obvious truth.

Meanwhile, be that as it may, I would remind two of them that “na obu ofu Alhaji ka ha na-achiri efi” (they are both servants of the same party). Such rancorous bickering among PDP opinion moulders and image-makers like them will only play well into the lepros hands of APC.

As a referee, I would conclude that none of them committed red card offence by their expression of intellectual prowess and patriotic commitments in defence of principles and/or principals respectively.

However, the last time I responded to Reno’s writeup was in 2019 when he made erroneous submissions and misleading attack on the Catholic church. I published a rejoinder to correct some of the impressions he made, and he blocked me off his Facebook page.

He unknowingly dignified me with such action, as a low profile fellow like me went to town with raised shoulders that a “Former presidential aid had issues with me and he blocked me.”

I hope I have not committed ‘excommunicable’ offence by this current intervention.

Similarly, the last time Ike’s article and personality was attacked was in 2018 in the build up to the 2019 general elections, when he rightly predicted that the then national Chairman of APC, “Comrade Adams Oshiomole was APC undertaker.”

Oshiomole’s press secretary — Simon Ebegbulem, rushed to his pen store to do a devastating attack, not on the subject of discourse but on Ike’s personage

In his gentlemanly approach to issues, Ike did not join issues with him. Rather, he sat back and watched his prophecy come to fruition as time and events vindicated him two years after. I have a hunch that he might still keep his cool in this particular case, and allow the coming days prove him right or wrong.

May daylight spare us!

✍Eze Jude O.

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