Shall we call them "our leaders"?

By John Okiyi Kalu on

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Shall we call them "our leaders"?

As a young man I knew that Zik, Okpara, Ojukwu, Mbakwe, Nwobodo, Onoh, Ibiam and few others were Igbo leaders. Even though nobody called them Igbo leaders in our social studies class or civic education, I knew without doubt, just like my classmates and friends knew too. If they speak, we listen, if they move we follow and if they even cough we, as impressionable young people, copy that style of coughing. Even today, we all aspire to be called Zikists, Okpara's apostles or Ikemba boys. That's a solid testimony to the larger than life achievements of those men and their enormous contribution to the growth and progress of Ndigbo and Nigeria.

In those days, if we wanted to see the Great Zik we go to Onuiyi haven at Nsukka and almost always he is there. If it is MI Okpara you want, travel the short distance to Enugu (and later Nkwoegwu in Umuahia) and you will be face to face with the legend. Those who want to meet Ikemba Nnewi just pass through the almost always open gates of Cassablanca lodge in Enugu. If the brave man does not appear at his sitting room in 15 minutes, start your car and make the short ride to Nnewi.

I remember when my secondary school was planning a visit to Sir Akanu Ibiam to enable aspiring leaders meet and learn from the legend. There were no GSM phones then and my school had no Nitel landline to fix an appointment with his "aides". Our class teacher simply told our school bus driver to head to Afikpo from Aba and when we got to Afikpo he asked questions and we were led to the humble home of Akanu Ibian at Uwana Afikpo. The man of character who spat his knighthood back to the queen of England during the Biafra war, was at home and happy to meet super excited small boys in our light blue shorts and white shirts. The feeling for me was indescribable and marched how I felt when I first saw Zik and later Ikemba at Abiriba in the early 80s. Anyam huru history.

Just in case you imagine that it was peculiar to Ndigbo, permit me to inform you that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was almost always available at Ikenne in the 80s. If you miss him, please check Ibadan. Not Lagos or Abuja. Same with Aminu Kano, Shehu Shagari and others. All lived at home and operated from there. If you want them, you go to their villages. Who are you to "summon" them to Abuja or Lagos? I na apu ara ka ina ami ara?

Is there any of us that does not know that those men were our leaders?

Move over to 2014 and you will weep for Ndigbo, in particular. I went through a mental list of those we now call "Igbo leaders" and discovered that we can only see 95% of them at Abuja or Lagos. They are visitors to Igbo land and even need directions to key Igbo towns. Talk about "mercenary Igbo leaders". Please don't ask me to name them but you and I know them. You are free to name your "Igbo leaders" while I in turn try to supply you the address of where they will be on tuesday morning or monday night. They have choice properties at Abuja or Lagos and are still hustling for more. If you visit their villages you will see a decaying structure probably built by their father or grandfather as their "homes". Some of them that managed to build houses in the villages have allowed it to suffer disrepair because of lack of occupation and maintenance. Since they refused to give the houses out for others to live, lizards and rats are the chief tenants of these so called leaders. May be we should rename  them "Igbo rats and lizards leaders".

When compelled to attend an event in the south east, our so called leaders arrive Igbo land and check into hotels at Enugu, Owerri, Aba, Onitsha and Afikpo. Chai, onye mere anyi ihe a? Igbo leader in a hotel at Enugu whereas he owns a mansion at Asokoro and Victoria Island? Chineke napu ekwensu ike!!!

The great men of yore will own a house in their village and then Enugu because that is the capital of Igbo land. From those two launch pads they can attend any event in Igbo land and return to base (Village or Enugu). Just imagine the 'aruness' of one so called Igbo leader who died in a hotel at Enugu purportedly on top of nwanyi ukwu Asaba.
Ishi odi ya nma?

How can you hold strategic meetings concerning Ndigbo in a hotel at Abuja or Lagos with all the modern electronic surveillance gadgets? Why won't our rivals blackmail you with pictures of you naked in bed with a small girl when you chose to lead Ndigbo from Abuja and Lagos hotels? Ihere megbukwa ekwensu!

If you call yourself "Igbo leader" and have not retired to your village at age 60+ you are a joker and enemy of Ndigbo. As far as I am concerned you are a hustler at 60+. Any day small boys knock you down or out at Abuja/Lagos we will not mourn you. Abuja and Lagos are for young upstarts to hustle for survival and you have no reason being there. Go back to the village or Igbo land where all the respects due to you are available. We respect old age and gray hairs in all Igbo communities. Your walking stick does not mean anything to Abuja/Lagos boys and they will soon use it and knock you down in public. Ebe ichoghi ikwanyere onwe gi ugwu.

If you as a leader remain with your people at home you will feel the pain they feel. You will use your wealth of experience to help them find solutions to their everyday challenges. You will attract government attention to their infrastructure needs. More importantly, you will support our rural economy. When your friends from other ethnic groups or in government come to look for you they will buy corn and coconut from the woman selling them next to your house. If they won't buy, their drivers and security men will buy. Rural economy will be expanded. You will be protected by your people and also have negotiation advantage on issues important to your people. Someone who traveled far into the village to meet with you cannot out negotiate you because whatever brought him there must be very important to him.

Do you know that Zik, Ojukwu, Okpara etc never deployed uniformed security men at their gates while at home? The people and their conscience protected them. When you lead your people well and with good conscience they collectively become your guards and watchmen. You don't need siren and mopol. Only those who deeply wounded or exploited their people ride into their villages with siren blazing and "agile Mopol". Owu ala nna gi chuga gi oso, mana imaghi.

If you truly consider yourself a leader of Ndigbo and you are up to 60 years, please go back to your village and lead Ndigbo from there. If you are not up to 60 ensure that at least twice a month you show up in your village and spend time with your people. You have no right to lead our people from newspaper reports and social media commentaries you picked up along broad street in Lagos and Blackberry. Yeye dey worry you?

Nobody said you must be an Igbo leader "by fire by force". Feel free to work and hustle hard wherever you choose but don't purport to be leading us when you have no real idea about what we want at any particular time. In Igbo land, we also respect successful hustlers and will give you your due respect. But leave leadership for those who know how to lead and from the front row of the real battle field.

To be continued...

In part 2 of this note, I will look at emergency politicians in Igbo land. Once elections approach one "ome nma" emerges to share goodies to our people and promise heaven and hell in one breath. Once they fail to win the election they "return to base" and abandon our people to survive alone and heal the wounds inflicted by emergency politicians whose stock in trade is politics of polarization . They have come again in lieu of 2015 and in that note I will identify them in all Igbo states with their modus operandi.


All over the world, men who want to lead their people work delibrately and through the grass roots upwards. But in Igbo land anyone who succeeds in business or any profession assumes he has earned the right to rule others the way he is ruling money. You are a liar sir, fools make money too.

Concentrate on your area of expertise and make as much money as you can and deploy it to create wealth in Igbo land. Dr Mike Adenuga has enough money to win 10 governorship elections but he is simply not interested. He is creating wealth and developing the next generation of Nigerian entrepreneurs. He even commands more respect that the governors and many countries' presidents. Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu who was the richest African in his days never ventured into politics Yet his greatness is well known to generations of Ndigbo. Why do you want to waste the chicken change you made through "ways and means"? Anyway, I have told my friends to always milk such politicians whenever and wherever found and use their best effort to support natural leaders with interest of our people at heart. Wealth redistribution is allowed.

....Watch out for part 2.....

Congratulations to Ochiagha (RTD Commodore) Okoh Ebitu Ukiwe on the traditional award of "Ofo Ndi Igbo" to him by Eze Nri Kingdom of Igbo land.

We note with hope that only 3 other Igbo men received this award in history and they all gave their best to the cause of making Ala Igbo Greater. Nothing could be more intimidating than sharing an award with the Great Zik, Okpara and Ikemba Ojukwu. Yet we are reassured by the fact that you are not the type that is easily intimidated. 1986 is our guide and alibi.

With this full recognition by our ancestors and the spirits guarding Ndigbo, you are well equipped to step out and lead Ndigbo at this trying times. While you may not have come to terms with it, the fact is that by virtue of what happened yesterday you have the mandate to speak for and lead Ndigbo. Be firm, fair and sure footed as we are with you all the way.

But if you sell out, we buy out.“OFO+NDI+IGBO”+RECIPIENTS+LIST

Ya gaziere gi, Ochiagha Ochimba of the Ancient Kingdom of Abiriba.

JOK 20/7/14


Posted on July, 21 2014

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