There is the truism that “the greatest obstacle to setting a slave free is the slave himself.” This is perfectly captured in the folklore of American slavery, the distinction demonstrated therein between the house slaves and the field slaves. As the story goes; the house slave felt so much comfort living in the slave master’s quarters from where he could pick crumbs from the master’s table and enjoy benefits not available to field slaves who braved the elements and toiled under terrible circumstances that the house slave emerged the biggest defender and enabler of slavery. Thus when the slave master brutalised slaves for eating fruits in the plantation out of hunger, the house slave defended him. When the slave master hanged slaves for being sick and consequently too tired to work, the house slave defended him.
When the slave master flogged slaves to death merely for complaining of the cold or the rain in which they are forced to work, the house slave defended him. When the slave master rapes his female slaves at will, the house slave defended him. When the slave master sells the children of his slaves like livestock, the house slave defended him. Indeed, when the field slave approach the house slave with a plan to escape from the cruel slave master, the house slave would turn saboteur and lead the brutal charge to crush the revolting slaves. As far as the house slave was concerned the slave master does no evil. For seeking freedom and rising against injustice, the blame, vilification, demonization and opprobrium was always reserved for the slaves/victims while the cruel slave master was blameless.
Not surprisingly; the house slave and other such slaves ended up being the greatest facilitators of slavery, but therein lies the tragedy. The house slave was content to live with slavery and even to defend it just because of few benefits and privileges that living in the master’s quarters afforded him. He then went on to become so inured to the savagery, brutality, injustice and abhorrence of slavery that for the house slave alone, slavery would never have ended. The slave was therefore the greatest obstacle to his own freedom. Unfortunately, the metaphor of the house slave did not end with American slavery; it remains with us even today in many facets. Last week as I read Joe Igbokwe’s “Igbo ethnic bigotry and hate campaigns worry me” I could draw a perfect correlation between Igbokwe’s blame the victim irrationality and the typical house slave of American folklore.
Igbokwe is from the East, but having found good company with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Jagaban/godfather who made him spokesperson of the APC in Lagos, before subsequently moving him post 2015 elections to the Wharf where he corners his share of the loot from the master’s table, it’s no surprise that he pushes articles that are full of the usual blame the victim propaganda while finding no blame with the oppressor and unjust system that birthed the victims in the first place. In his recent diatribe, Igbokwe claims the Igbo have refused to move on since Jonathan lost elections and as a consequence have become ethnic bigots who propagate hate online. He pretends to be worried for the Igbo who according to him are settled in different parts of the country and could easily be victims of violence as a result of hate campaigns disgorged online.
For Niger Delta activists who have taken to militancy, he brusquely calls them criminals without any thought of the underlying factors that pushed them to militancy. Yet, as much as Igbokwe works hard to earn his master’s money by indulging in self hate and the propagation of falsehood against his own people, the hollowness and deceit of his article is self evident. Firstly; how can he accuse the Igbo of ethnic bigotry and in the same breadth accuse them of refusing to drop their staunch support for former president Goodluck Jonathan who is not Igbo? Does it make sense that ethnic bigots will have so much cultic support for someone who is not from their ethnic group? Has it not occurred to the Igbokwe’s of this world that the reason the Igbo supported and still support Jonathan is because the Igbo seek justice/equality and Jonathan was the only one who in recent times gave them a sense of belonging in that regards?
Does this not translate to the fact that the Igbo can support anyone who advances the cause of justice and equality no matter where he or she comes from? How then do a people with such disposition translate to bigots in Igbokwe’s dictionary? Besides, does Igbokwe understand what democracy really means? If APC zombies are still supporting Buhari in spite of his Olympian failings why does he expect any less from PDP supporters? Or is Igbokwe indirectly revealing his preference for a one party state? Secondly; when Igbokwe claims to be worried for Igbos; how true is that when he never uttered a word when Igbos were massacred in cold blood by Fulani herdsmen in Nimbo Enugu state and other parts of Igboland while Buhari did nothing because they are his kinsmen? Why was Igbokwe silent when 74 year old Bridget Agbahime was murdered by ethno-religious fanatics in Kano? Why has Igbokwe been silent over the decade’s long murder of Igbos and Christians in the North by ethno-religious fanatics?
Why was Igbokwe silent when hundreds of unarmed IPOB members exercising their fundamental rights to peaceful protests were murdered in cold blood by the Nigerian army? Why has Igbokwe been silent over the unprecedented “Apartheid” policies of exclusion and marginalization being pursued by Buhari in a nation already grappling with ethnic divisions? How can a man who claims to be worried over mere hate speech online be silent when real hate crimes resulting in thousands of dead and maimed citizens are committed by Fulani herdsmen across the country? If Igbokwe can take offense against online bigotry by those who are unhappy with the state of the nation why is he accommodating of hate induced mass murders by Fulani herdsmen and ethno-religious fanatics in the north? Hate speech online and hate crimes on the ground which one is worse? Why is he accommodating of a hateful president who is running an Apartheid government of exclusion?
If Igbokwe worries that hate speech online exposes sections of the country to violence, why does he not worry even more that Fulani herdsmen committing hate crimes against others in their own land also exposes them to violence? How come Igbokwe was more concerned with the idea that all hell would have been let loose had Eunice Olawale the murdered preacher been Igbo than the fact of her atrocious murder by ethno-religious fanatics which he never condemned? Pray how did Igbokwe determine the ethnicities of people commenting online? Where was Igbokwe when the APC and their foot soldiers turned Jonathan into the most abused president in Nigeria’s history? If he was silent then why is he complaining now? The more Igbokwe’s article is dissected the more the inherent hollowness and deceit is made obvious. Igbokwe was obviously writing for the pleasure of his paymasters. Like all such characters, Igbokwe is not interested in the real and evident issues of injustice in Nigeria. He is only interested in maintaining the status quo and the little crumbs it affords him to pick from the masters table.
That is why he blames the victim and not the oppressor. While pretending that so called online bigotry worries him, his real intent is to silence all dissenting voices and maintain the status quo with all the inherent ills. Igbokwe is not worried that Buhari is a personification of the hate and bigotry he rails about. Igbokwe is not worried that Buhari is an outlaw who serially violates the constitution and disregards court orders. Igbokwe is not worried that herdsmen slaughter people across Nigeria while the bigoted president does nothing, but he wants to silence all voices so the evils can continue unchallenged. To do so he has to incite and or threaten people with violence. He is of course happy to promote a barbaric system and society where everyone has to live in fear of being attacked and killed for something done by someone else, including mere expression of free speech.
Muslims live in Europe, far away from their native lands, yet inspite of radicalization and terrorist attacks by fellow Muslims, I am yet to hear anyone suggest they should watch their backs because some Muslims commit terrorist hate crimes. I am also yet to hear anyone ask Black Americans to stop expressing their anger or to stop the “Black lives matter” movement because some Blacks live in Mississippi or because Blacks live across America. It’s only in Nigeria that such crude analogies are advanced in a bid to stifle free speech and dissent. What the Igbokwe’s of this world have failed to realise is that this is the 21st century. Not only will the jungle system they promote consume them someday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is moving ever closer to the doors of those who think they can violate other people’s rights and go free. At a time the world is increasingly defined by democratic freedoms that include the right to self determination, free speech and peaceful dissent, it’s regrettable that we still have medieval barbarians like Igbokwe, Buhari and co, travellers working very hard to keep us in the cesspit of humanity.
Before our eyes we witnessed the Scottish referendum and the Brexit referendum as the ultimate expressions of the right to self determination democratically expressed. We witnessed the smooth transfer of power in the United Kingdom and how Theresa May, the new prime minister appointed most of her ministers within a few hours of taking power—making sure to accommodate all those who opposed her including the lady who mocked her for not having children. It proves that democracy allows for bitter democratic contests but once the elections are over the leader moves to unite the nation and work with everyone including erstwhile bitter adversaries. Had Buhari learnt this simple democratic lesson; Nigeria would not be experiencing the unprecedented ethnic divisions, militancy and separatist agitations that now rock the nation. That Nigeria is today a nation on the verge of virtual disintegration is thanks to an antagonistic, rabidly sectional and undemocratic president who has turned a free democratic contest into a war of attrition where sections of the country who didn’t vote for him must be punished in violation of the express dictates of the constitution as predicated in the oath of office. Instead of growing and consolidating our democracy Buhari has put our democracy on reverse gear while the Igbokwe’s of this world stay silent preferring instead to blame the victims for voicing their dissent
Ultimately, the Igbokwe’s of Nigeria are part of the problem and not the solution. Were Igbokwe to be truly interested in Nigeria’s progress, he would respect the democratic rights of everyone to free speech and dissenting opinion no matter how unpalatable. He would examine the underlying causes of disaffection in the land and proffer solutions to address it. He would take great offence and condemn the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen and ethno-religious fanatics in the north. He would advice the president to be a democrat, a statesman and a nation builder. But alas that is not the case because Igbokwe is a self hating fraud; the archetypical “Judas Iscariot” only interested in lining his pockets at the expense of his own people.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu