Martin Luther King once said and I quote, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”. To which I may add the silence
of our elders, elites and those we look up to speak for us. Not long ago I wrote and published an article titled, ‘The Lack of Igbo Leadership”. In that article I bemoaned the lack of credible, articulate, honest and selfless Igbo leaders with national status.
[Image: Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu]
I made a comparison between those who presently parade themselves as Igbo leaders with their erstwhile and now deceased predecessors like, Emeka Ojukwu, M.I Okpara, K.O Mbadiwe, Mbonu Ojike, Alvan Ikoku, S. G Ikoku. Chike Obi and the venerable Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and I concluded that they do not come close to the aforementioned personalities in any way or form.
In my honest opinion, the so called Igbo leaders we have today, if I may call them leaders instead of pretenders are a bunch of political prostitutes, selfish, mediocre cocktail sipping cowards who are incapable of speaking up on any national or local issue of concern to the Igbo nation for fear of offending their political masters or scared of losing any political patronage that may come their way.
They have basically surrendered their voices to the ‘Ohaneze Ndigbo”, a loose group of political lilliputians who never seem to be able to get their act together but always fighting amongst themselves for leadership positions.
Which brings me to the issue of Abia state and the silence of its elites all through the last 16 years of rape and plunder by its Governor’s, more especially in the last 8 years and 100 days of T.A Orji and Ikpeazu whose administration is an extension of that of ‘Ochendo’ in terms of its personnel, style of governance, pattern of stealing and emasculation of the state media which they have conveniently turned into a propaganda outlet.
Recently at a social gathering here in New York City, a friend of mine walked up to me and asked me if rtd Gen Ike Nwachukwu and Ndubuisi Kanu were still living? To which I my add Emeka Omeruah before he passed away, Ebitu Ukiwe and recently retired Gen Ihejirika. My answer was that, to the best of my knowledge they are still alive and well.
His next question was one I had posed in one of my previous write ups and one which I believe thousands of Abia citizens have wondered about, which is, how come these aforementioned Abia military elites have been silent all through the past 16 years, refusing to voice their opinions about happenings in the state?
As much as I would not want to venture an answer, I would say they have been silenced into political oblivion by the various Abia administrations either by threats or patronage. I may be wrong in my assumptions but how else can one explain their oath of silence?
Meanwhile as they luxuriate in the comfort of their accumulated wealth, the patronage of their peers, friends and military associates and the financial sustenance of the Federal Government through payment of their pensions and other forms of entitlements they can care less about the sufferings and lamentations of their fellow Abians. ‘Silence ‘, they say is golden.
As much as I would agree with that preposition, to the extent of the prevailing circumstance, this is one instance in which of these elite members of our society is not only a crime but an absolute abdication of their collective obligation and responsibilities as respected elders of the state, in the sense that ‘to whom much is given, much more is expected’. Aristotle once wrote that “there is a difference between a good man and a good citizen’.
These men are good men but in my opinion they are not being good Abia citizens with their silence and continued reluctance to call past administrations to order or voice a public rebuke of their pattern of governance. With their silence what they have done is to live for themselves which is to live selfishly rather than speaking up on others behalf, which is to live eternally.
Franz fanon was the one who said, “every onlooker is either a traitor or a coward’. I don’t know if I would describe them as cowards, definitely not traitors, it’s just that their silence over the years is not only inexplicable but difficult to comprehend.
During the 2015 Governorship elections, one retired colonel, by name Akobundu was busy traversing the length and breadth of the state with his military aides, courtesy of his short-lived appointment as a junior defense minister, terrorizing and intimidating voters and poll workers alike and no one called him to order , not even our retired military elites.
Apart from these retired military elites there is also the silence of their civilian counterparts, people like Kalu Idika Kalu, a one -time Finance minister and a host of others who occupied top government positions during the various military and civilian administrations and whose names do not readily come to mind.
Not to mention recent politicians like Ojo Maduekwe, a former Foreign Affairs minister who cannot count with his fingers how many Igbo’s he was able to get into the diplomatic service, let alone criticize his fellow PDP clown in the Umuahia government house in the person of T. A. Orji. Others like Senator Abaribe and Nwoga were and still are a disgraceful lot, not fit to be called senators
There are those who may say my criticisms of these Abia elites are unjust and misplaced .They claim they may have intervened privately. To which my answer is what use was their private intervention, if it did not bring about any change of attitude? During the elections when T. A. Orji, Ikpeazu and their army of thugs employed all manner of tactics to rig the election and to deny Dr Alex Otti of his mandate and legitimate victory, these elites kept quiet, said nothing and cared less about the outcome.
If T. A. Orji had some kind of hold on them through political patronage or threat to their lives which I doubt, why their silence all through this political upheaval in the state including the on-going tribunal hearings? Are they so old and senile, that they have lost their ability to speak or are they haunted by their own poor performances in office and their perceived inability to bring about any appreciable change in the lives of the Igbo people during their reign?
It is still not too late for them to rise up from their self -imposed oath of silence and make their voices heard or posterity will not judge them kindly.
Nnanna Ijomah BSc, MA (International Relations) a former Special Assistant to Emeka Ojukwu is resident in New York City