THE CRUX…NOT FANI-KAYODE, NOT KALU, NEITHER YORUBAS NOR IGBOS.
Stories remain one of the best and most pedagogical brands of all-time. And I remember, albeit hazily, one of such which I heard as a child at the feet of my mother, aunt or grandmother. My memory fails me on the exact identity of the storyteller but this story’s lesson stuck fast and that is what I wish to share.
Obi was sent by his parents to go fetch firewood for the evening meal from the forest of Okofia. The forest was located at the boundary between the town in which Obi lived and the land of the spirits. Partly due to its location but also because it was so luxuriously verdant, the forest housed all manner of creatures, most notorious of whom were the spirits who possessed the ability to take other forms. Everybody in the town knew this; children were warned repeatedly as they grew up: “whenever you go into Okofia, keep your eyes straight ahead, gather your firewood and leave. Never look sideways or backwards” Once in a while, a hardheaded child went on an errand to Okofia and never returned; and the stories would evolve to include the errant one viz – remember how Ikem (or whatever the unfortunate child’s name had been) got swallowed by the spirits of Okofia…and on and on.
So on this day, Obi set out for Okofia fully aware of the dangers and what was expected of him. He gathered his pieces of firewood, tightly bound them with a strip of raffia and went about gathering some more raffia which he would need to roll into a pad to cushion the weight of the bundle of wood on his head. This done, Obi returned to where he had set the bundle of wood and alas, there was a bird perched on his firewood. It was a pretty bird, with golden feathers, round yellow-rimmed eyes and a small beak that looked like it was made of ivory.
Obi stood for a while, transfixed by the beauty of this creature. He was however, still very conscious of his surroundings enough to caution himself. And that would have been his saving grace had the bird not started to sing. Obi knew that the spirits often crossed the border into Okofia disguised as animals but the stories he had heard spoke of spirits in forms of roaring lions, snarling jackals and preying black-eyed hawks; none had ever been told of a small, golden bird with a seraphic voice and sad beautiful eyes. Enraptured, he took a step towards the bird, hands outstretched to pick it up. But the little bird flapped its golden winds, flew a very short distance away to a low branch and perched. It kept singing even more melodious tunes. Totally lost, Obi crept forward again, hands outstretched, cooing to the little bird of his unadulterated intentions. Each time he got close, the bird flapped off and away to another branch close enough for Obi to still see it and hear its sad seraphic dirges but far enough that he had to creep even closer to get to it. Little by little in this manner, Obi unwittingly followed this singing bird into the depths of Okofia. At some point, the bird flapped off and flew away without perching leaving Obi to stand and watch with disappointed eyes, as its golden wraith faded into the distance. It took a while but Obi soon realized he was lost, very very lost in the land of the spirits.
Depending on who was telling, the story from this point would either end in tragedy for poor Obi or a miraculous appearance of a saving grace. It is irrelevant here as the lesson is already clear. This story came to mind while I observed the ongoing brouhaha initiated by the Lagos government’s ‘deportation’ of Igbo destitutes to Anambra state. Barely had this been done that ex-governor of Abia state, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu released a statement condemning the action as unconstitutional in all its extent and tribalistic in all its intent. It remains unknown to us where from Dr. Kalu obtained his information, but he, ‘champion’ of the Igbo race that he is, proceeded to issue a 7-day ultimatum to Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos state at the expiration of which, if an apology was not forthcoming from the latter, he would sue.
Then came self-acclaimed Achilles of Yoruba land, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode with the inevitable rebuttal. Fani-Kayode took the entire world on a tour of the history of Nigeria through which he established that the Yorubas remain the richest tribe in the country historically and otherwise while the Igbos still struggle to catch up. He proceeded to recount the generosity of the Yorubas, more than any other tribes, towards the Igbos drawing his premises from history, politics and war. And how their betrayal by turning around to dagger Yorubas in the back with their “we must control all”, “we must own all” and “we must have all” attitude was most insulting and undeserving of the tolerant westerners. Two-time honorable minister of the Federation, Femi Fani-Kayode went ahead to lay the blame for the Igbo-targeted pogroms of 1966, the cruelties and casualties of the civil war on both sides and a host of other barrage of problems at the feet of the Igbo race. “We are not the problem, they are”, he asserted.
When reactions to his vituperative sedition surfaced, Chief Fani-Kayode went ‘on air’ again, this time proving with his signature barrage of ‘facts’ that he was neither a tribalist nor an Igbo-hater. The spine of his argument seemed to stem from his conquest of three Igbo women one of whom is at present, the widow of ex-Biafran warlord and Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
My analogy goes thus. Obi represents the Nigerian populace, men and women who have been placed in the folds of Nigerian citizenry by perhaps fate, destiny, God or a combination of the three (depending on your beliefs). The firewood they have been sent to fetch is peace, stability, a future that is devoid of black-outs, explosions and gnashing teeth. But alas the little bird continues to distract them, leading them farther away from the still-unmade dinner at home and deep into the recesses of yo-yo land.
The higi haga and crinkum crankum (respect to Hon. Obahiagbon) generated by the ‘melodious’ songs of little birds like Chiefs Orji Uzor Kalu and Femi Fani-Kayode have commendably succeeded in shrouding over the crux of the matter; that crux being the true definitions of indigeneity and citizenship in the Nigerian context. In my humble opinion, the little birds have achieved their aim of cheap publicity – personally, I dug up and read as much of other similarly-delusional pieces written in the recent past by Fani-Kayode. To them, I say bravo, superbly done! But to the Nigerian men and women who have let themselves be degenerated by this little bird into vile, vulgar and tribalistic rantings across social media and the likes, I say ‘FOCUS!’
Right now, we should be asking: what does the constitution say about indigeneity and citizenship? Was Governor Fashola indeed within his constitutional rights to extradite, relocate or deport full-fledged Nigerian citizens based on their non-indigeneity of Lagos state? Was his colleague, Governor T.A. Orji of Abia state also within his rights to sack – regardless of years of experience or level and without any compensation – all civil service workers who were non-indigenes of Abia state a little over a year ago? Ought the word ‘indigenous’ even spring up in inter-state matters of a sovereign nation such as ours? If yes, then what would be the requirements to attain indigeneity of a state – stipulated years of residency, ownership of property, payment of tax or perhaps acquisition of the host state’s visa?
Rather than bother about the veracity of Chief Fani-Kayode’s touted ‘long and intimate relationships’ with Igbo women or whether Chief Orji Kalu’s Lagos property was indeed cordoned off in retaliation for his threats, these are the matters we should be concerned with. Minus these men, I fail to see how the matter of this deportation based on non-indigeneity is a tribal matter, especially if there is truth in the reports that the Lagos state government equally deported destitutes to Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Kano states. A tendency to easily lose focus of priority when issues become muddled up like they are now will not help us attain freedom from self-serving leaders.
Obi must let the little bird sing and hop all it wants. He must pack up that stack of firewood and go on home because otherwise the evening meal will forever remain unmade.
BY: Chisom Ojukwu