By Bolanle Bolawole
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When I was growing up, there was this song that we used to sing to lampoon, mock or deride the big fool, the big-for-nothing, the brute, the uncouth, and the bully. It went thus: Gongoshu, Edidaare/Bi o se gun na l’o go to/Gongoshu, Edidaare. I don’t know the meaning of “Gongoshu” and “Edidaare” but they must be abusive words and or uncomplimentary terms. Translated, it means “As tall as you are, so also are you foolish or stupid. Or, your foolishness and or stupidity are as tall as your height. It must mean, then, that the subject being referred to must be a tall person (like the biblical Goliath of Gath) but, unfortunately, his imposing height or figure bore no relevance to his intellect or intelligence. Replace “height” with“massive frame” and you have something like: Gongoshu, Edidaare/ Bi o se tobi na l’o go to/Gongoshu, Edidaare. Translated, this means: As massive/big/fat as you are, so also is your stupidity and or foolishness. In other words, your massive frame does not ooze out intelligence but is bereft of it; a big-for-nothing fool!
Ordinarily, there is no way Chief (Dr.) Engr. Emmanuel Chukwuemeka Iwuanyanwu should fit into the description or category above; unfortunately, a moment of temporary insanity when he was caught pants down – and on tape – as he made his “political rascals” statement at Gov. Chukwuma Soludo’s one-year-in-office event at Awka, Anambra State on Saturday, 25th March, 2023, has made him the butt of cruel jokes. Since he spoke concerning the General elections and events in Lagos state in particular and other parts of Yoruba land in general, with respect to the spat between the Igbo and Yoruba, who were the “political rascals” that Iwuanyanwu referred to: All Yoruba or those Yoruba who rose up as one man to denounce and vigorously protest the Igbo description of Lagos as “no man’s land”? Or prominent Yoruba political leaders who considered it their bounden and sacred duty to rise up to the Igbo in-your-face challenge – just as Iwuanyanwu, a prominent Igbo leader, considered it his duty to defend Igbo interests, if need be, with the last drop of his blood? Is he, therefore, an Igbo political rascal, seeing that he is (was?) a frontline politician who had once contested to be president of this country?
Whichever way or direction that unfortunate statement is later rationalised, it denigrates the Yoruba and should never have been made –least of all by a personality of Iwuanyanwu’s status and calibre – a holder of three National honours of MFR, OFR and CFR and an octogenarian to boot! He has recanted and we take note. Our elders, I mean Yoruba elders, say someone who abused you behind your back but denies saying so before you is not worthy of your attention. But rather than deny and defend the indefensible, clutching onto straws and grasping the wind, Iwuanyanwu should have plucked up the courage, done the honourable thing and apologized. But we must admit that not everyone has what it takes to do that.
Iwuanyanwu’s insults to the Yoruba apart, what do we make of his threats that they, the Igbo, have contributed so much to Nigeria and are not going anywhere? Nobody will drive them out of Nigeria, they keep saying! But who is driving them, if I may ask? Are they not the ones driving themselves? They are the ones fighting bloody and dirty to have their own Republic of Biafra, with their Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, Nnamdi Kanu, on trial for treason. On the question of “One Nigeria”, the Igbo speak from both sides of the mouth. They want Biafra; yet, they also want to remain in Nigeria and be its president! They will have their cake and eat it! Truth be told, it seemeth to me that what they want is to dominate. They expose their hand every now and then, the recent one being during the just-concluded elections when they celebrated too early in Lagos and their victory turned pyrrhic. Since then, they have had to contend with ashes in the mouth. The Igbo should make up their mind what they want: Nigeria or Biafra. Until they do, Nigeria’s presidency, over which they are crying themselves sore and trying desperately to bring the roof down over everyone’s head, will continue to elude them. You cannot run with the hare and also hunt with the hound and expect to be taken seriously by reasonable men and women. Who will entrust a project as important as Nigeria into the unstable hands and unsettled hearts of rabble rousers?
I always wonder whether some people understand what they say when they boast that they are the ones that developed Port-Harcourt; they are the ones that developed Abuja; they are the ones that developed Lagos; they are the ones that developed everywhere except their own place of origin! This is a fallacy! If you came to Lagos or any other place for that matter with only bathroom slippers, the shirt on your back and a polythene bag and years after you are now a millionaire, it is not you that have developed the place but it is the place that has developed you. Leveraging on the human, material and capital resources available in the place, it is the place that has raised you from grass to grace and not the other way round. When they say “but we pay tax; it is our tax bla-bla-bla”, I wonder if they do not have the simple understanding that tax is just a fraction of what they make in or from the place – and, that is, if they pay tax at all! It is not their tax that is developing the place; rather, it is the abundance of human, capital and material resources in the place that is developing and making them prosper.
If they doubt this, let them relocate to their own place of origin! If it is their business acumen, their industry, bountiful energy and what-have-you that is doing the trick, let them go and exercise all of those in their own place of origin! Why travel over land, waters and seas in search of what you have in your own backyard? When you “japa” from Igbo land to Yoruba land, like out youths ”japa” from Nigeria to foreign countries, it is in search of greener pastures. If the pastures are not greener here, they will not come. In other words, if the pastures are greener in your place, you will stay there.
For some reasons, I will limit my comments on Chief Iwuanyanwu. First, he is one of us, being the Founder, Executive Chairman and Publisher of Champion newspapers. “Dogs don’t eat dogs” is one of our maxims in the media. We must commend him for his foresight and sacrifice in starting the Champion newspapers. One of the doyens of the Nigerian media, Prince Henry Olukayode Odukomaiya, a Yoruba man, helped Iwuanyanwu to start and nurture Champion newspapers to maturity. Many of my colleagues worked and earned a living there. I still remember Feyi Smith, Bisi Olaoye, Bisiriyu Olaoye, and Simon Iro Ibe. Simon and I were classmates at Ife (1982 set); when I became editor of PUNCH newspapers in 1992, I facilitated his employment with The PUNCH as a Correspondent and he worked without airs and without any feeling of inferiority complex. When, in 1994, he had crossed over to the Champion newspapers and was the chairman of its Editorial Board and I, a self-employed person, he requested that I help them source for a worthy candidate as their “Man of the Year”. I got a governor of one of the south-Western states to pick up interest and everyone was happy about the success of the event. The money they made from advertisements and endorsements helped them to tidy up one thing or the other. The Managing Director, a daughter of Chief Iwuanyanwu, had a very pleasant personality. So, I would like to let my subject off the hook lightly today! Dear Sir, go, and sin no more!
Pa Adebanjo: Following tales by the Obidients
If you know why Pa Ayo Adebanjo’s faction of Afenifere is behaving like the recalcitrant fleas that must follow the corpse to the grave, kindly tell me! Why are they crying more than the bereaved, pretending to be more Catholic than the Pope and supplying those desperate to raze down their homestead with the much-needed ammunition? Just to get even with one man? After seeing the gulf between the outrageous figures churned out for Peter Obi in the East during the presidential election and the more believable figures in the governorship election that followed three weeks after, only the jaundiced and those with an evil mission will continue to say that Peter Obi won the presidential election. He wasn’t close at all, even with the outlandish figures awarded him in his home base. And despite all the protest votes against APC and Tinubu; Obi was still nowhere close to the mark. Why a faction of Afenifere, a once-upon-a-time respected and venerated Yoruba socio-cultural and political organization, continues to insist that Obi won the vote beggars belief.
Is it not said that the hunter’s dog destined to get lost in the forest will take no heed of the hunter’s whistle? During the Second Republic when Bola Ige was governor of old Oyo state and Sunday Afolabi was his deputy, disagreement arose between both men and a one-time military head of state reportedly mediated between both men. When Chief Obafemi Awolowo, leader of their party, UPN, heard what happened, he was gutted. He told the two: How can a man who hates your (political) father love you his (political) son? He warned the two to steer clear of the “peace-maker” or they would both come to grief. Both men failed to heed the advice and went to serve in the government of the man in question during the ongoing Fourth Republic and both of them perished there.
From generation to generation, the Igbo have never aligned with the Yoruba politically. Zik did not align with Awo, even when Awo offered to play second fiddle to him. Ojukwu spurned Awo’s advice not to start a civil war when the Yoruba were not equipped and ready for such. He started the war all the same and headed to capture Lagos and the south-West, not the North! He was stopped and routed by the heroic Yoruba soldiers at Ore. O le ku, ija Ore! Continue to call the Yoruba cowards; it shall be to your chagrin when the chips are down! Till today, the Igbo continue to blame the Yoruba for their civil war misfortunes. Yet, it was only in the south-West that their properties were returned to them after the civil war; and not even in neighbouring Port-Harcourt did they receive such benevolence.
The Igbo did not vote Awo. They did not vote for MKO Abiola. They did not vote for Olu Falae. And they did not vote for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I am sure you know that the Yoruba ancestry of the other man they voted for is in serious contention! A people whose fathers never loved our fathers, can they ever love us? Which history, then, are Pa Adebanjo and his faction of Afenifere reading and what legacies are they leaving for future generations of Yoruba and posterity? When, ultimately, they meet Awo, how will they look him straight in the eyes now that they are consumed, as William Shakespeare’s Macbeth has said, by “…A tale told by Obi-Idiots/Full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing”?
- Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television