‘Since the bird learnt to fly without perching, the hunter also learnt not to aim before shooting’, says a popular Igbo proverb. As young traders in our late teens and early twenties in Onitsha Main Market (Otu Nkwo) traversing the nooks and crannies of the world importing products to Nigeria, we encountered several challenges and sorted out those challenges as they came.
One of such challenges was evading the seizure of our imported goods in the Murtala Muhammed International Airport. To achieve this, we air-freighted the goods from Charles de Gualle airport, Paris to Felix Houphouet Boigny airport in Abidjan via Alitalia French airline on transit, and trans-loaded to Air Afrique, the airline of French speaking countries of West Africa which took our cargo to Lagos. Air Afrique usually touch down and arrived destination late afternoon when the airport has become free of the preying eyes of the men and women of the Nigerian Customs Service or at least the few officers left in the airport will not be keen at effecting seizures.
This ploy was to evade the sharp eyes of ‘Mama Calabar’ and her crew of the Nigerian Customs Service. ‘Mama Calabar’ was the chairperson of the Customs Taskforce and she was notorious (to us!) in seizures of goods. She was the nemesis of young Igbo business men and she neither spared contraband goods illegally ferried to Nigeria or those goods on import license list which she would seize and issue a TDN (Temporary Detention Note) pending the provision of a valid import license by the importer.
Most times, we will not be able to secure the release of our detained goods because the Alhajis at the Federal Secretariat, Ikoyi, who usually collect the licenses from their brothers in the Federal Ministry of Finance will not part with their licenses until you accepted a 50/50 condition, literally forcing you to share your business capital with them whose only source of livelihood (many of them were permanently lodged in Federal Palace and Eko hotels all year round) was to hang around the corridors of the Federal Ministry of Finance where their brothers occupying choice offices would share in their dubious earnings.
This safe pattern of routing our cargoes became our favourite from 1979 when the new MMIA was opened to air traffic, till ‘Mama Calabar’ busted us one and all. This safe pattern of routing our cargo also introduced me to Ivory Coast, a peaceful country then, where I would usually enjoy myself visiting tourist sites which included the Basilica at Yamoussoukro built by former President Felix Houphouet Boigny right there in his ancestral village. (Yamoussoukro, a cute modern city, is still the administrative capital of Ivory Coast). I also visited the Triechville Market where so many Igbos were already well established as the key business people in Abidjan.
Sequel to the granting of state pardon by the NPN President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari on 18th May, 1982, to Dim Ojukwu in that party’s attempt to weaken the stronghold of the South East by the NPP, there were subtle overtures by the NPN who sent emissaries to Ivory Coast to negotiate with Ojukwu on the terms and conditions for his enlistment to the ruling political party.
One of those emissaries was Chief B.C Nwosu, the Dikeanagbaraizu 1 of Nnewi. In one of my business trips to Ivory Coast in 1981, I bumped into Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in the company of Chief B.C. Nwosu, the Dikeanagbaraizu 1 of Nnewi at the Felix Houphouet-Boiny international airport in Abidjan. I met the Chief and Dim in the airport where three of us had stayed for more than an hour in the VIP lounge of the airport as a result of delayed Air Afrique flight from Abidjan to Lagos. Seeing the two men sitting together and recognizing one of them as the legendary Ojikwu, I went straight to Ojukwu and asked him, ‘Excuse me Sir’, are you Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu? Dim looked straight into my eyes and responded, ‘But that is why you have come to say hello’.
Not minding that all eyes were on me, (including some men I guess were security agents) hanging around there, I gently reached for his left hand, bent down, kissed the hand and said, ‘I love you Sir’ I sat down close to them, and listened as they talked in low voices. Dim said that he was used to such gestures by people who see him. Though young, I was bold to ask him several questions about himself and Ivory Coast to which he provided one-word answer to every question.
He had escorted Chief B.C Nwosu to the airport and the Chief was later to confide in me that Ojukwu will soon come back from exile to Nigeria.
I was lucky to sit near the Chief in the aircraft because we were not mandated to sit as per the seat numbers in our boarding passes. I got the Chief’s Business Card on arrival in Lagos, and with that followed up with his subsequent efforts to Dim’s return from exile.
Accordingly, the Chief invited me to the “Onye Ije Nno!” ceremony organized to welcome Dim to Nigeria by the Igbo ethnic nationality under the auspices of the Igbo party members of the NPN. I went to Nnewi for that ceremony accompanied by my fiancé, Miss Stella Nwachukwu from Otulu, Ahiara Ahiazu Mbaise (she later jilted me as the money stopped coming when ‘Mama Calabar’ had dealt a fatal blow on my business), Mr. Basil Ezeoguine (Koma), Mr. Clement Ezenwanne (Omeihieukwu), Bena (a neighbor in the same street in Fegge, Onitsha, and some other close friends. We went to Nnewi on two Peugeot Evolution Saloon Cars and were honored by the Chief after the ceremony with a choice wine – very costly now – as we got ready to depart.
Initially, I could not understand why Dim left the NPP and joined the NPN. But I was to find out the reason later. I found out that after introspection and sober reflection on the way forward for the Igbos, Dim joined the NPN because he may have discovered that there could be other ways to solve the problems which precipitated the Nigerian Civil war than through direct confrontation. With hindsight and age now, I understand better because Dim Ojukwu led Biafrans to a Civil War having not attained the wisdom that comes with age. Now to my chagrin and the chagrin of all sensible Igbo men who experienced the Civil War, the Igbos are being forcibly driven to the same mistake a second time by the younger generation.
One thing that has become very clear to me is that Dim Ojukwu, from the time he set his feet back in Nigeria, actually needed, in the spirit of ‘Anodu nti nso, Amaya Ura’. This pattern of thought was also echoed in his brief speech during that ‘Onye Ije Nno!’ ceremony in Nnewi. Igbos can actually dig out this brief speech and read it again. The subsequent actions of Dim Ojukwu as a politician in the NPN before the formation at APGA, also attested to that line of thought and pattern of action. As a matter of fact, the endorsement of APGA as a political party rooted with the Igbos is a symbolic completion of the statement which Dim Ojukwu began to make as he joined the ruling NPN. Understandably too, the symbol of the cock as emblazoned in the APGA party flag signifies ‘The dawn’ for the Igbos and this is still in line with The Rising Sun of the Biafras National Anthem, ‘Land of the Rising Sun….’
My opinion is that Ojukwu’s last wish for the Igbos is for the Igbos to re-integrate into Nigeria, use their superior knowledge and advantage to sort out their problems in Nigeria. This super knowledge includes foresight which made them see, fifty years before other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, the consequences of being in the contraption called Nigeria. One of the advantages is that of economic and commerce which ensures that corporate Nigeria cannot function properly without the tacit support of the Igbos.
In his book “The Jewish Phenomena: Seven keys to the Enduring Wealth of a People”, Steven Silbiger recorded that American Jews, an insignificant percentage of Americans, control much of American Banking and Finance Industry as well as produce more Multi Billionaires in corporate America than any other race. For this reason, Jews in America have become a strategic political force that anybody can ignore to his peril and for this same reason too, the Jewish community always constitute and essential support to the emergence of any American presidency. This is a semblance of the last wish of Dim Ojukwu for the Igbos in the conquest and control of Nigeria, and not through a violent separation as presently preached by some young Igbos who never saw the genocidal war of attrition levied against Biafra by Nigeria.
Also comforting in that book by Mr. Silbiger is the fact that Igbos were mentioned as one out of the three races on earth with the patience, resilience and capacity to turn things around when all hopes seem to have been lost – to enact a modern day magic in economic transformation and financial freedom.
Another book, “Breaking the Jewish Code” by Mr. Perry Stone also collaborated the same view expressed in the book “The Jewish Phenomenon” and these views happen to define the character of both the Jew and the Igbo man in favour of their outstanding successes even in the face of difficulties as a result of what Mr. Perry Stone identifies in his book as the “Jewish DNA of Success”. Very recently too, the prestigious Havard University in the United States of America approved of the apprenticeship scheme of the Igbos as the most viable means of eradicating poverty and distributing wealth across a wider spectra of the communities in the third world countries.
Umunnem, don’t all these things make us feel that we are special people descended from God? Why must we toe the line of destruction by confronting the beastly, charging bull called Nigeria, which is out to destroy the Igbos?
We must be wise, and not perish with people who do not even have the patriotism and the kind of stake in Nigeria that we have. Many of the choice investments and real estate developments across Nigeria are owned by the Igbos and this people have never hidden their distaste for this advantage as well as their plans to destroy Igbos investments.
It is public knowledge now that when he was invited for a ceremony in the Alaba International Market Lagos, Dim Ojukwu in his trademark cryptic style and characteristic satirical way of talking cleverly addressed his hosts to cultivate the spirit of ‘aku ruo ulo’. Happily, the Igbos are positively responding to that call to sanity by siting some of their business investments in the South East. It is my understanding that Igbo land will be one of the most beautiful and developed locations on earth if every Igbo man living anywhere in the world takes at least ten percent of his total business and real estate investments to Igbo land.
An Hausa proverb says “nasu nasu, kukuma, namu namu’ which if literally translated, means ‘our own is our own, but my own is my own. I am not campaigning for any political party because I belong to none, yet I must say that after showing Igbos the new way to go about Nigeria, Dim handed us a political party, teaching us the secret long understand by the Yorubas to move en masse as one political voice and interest to attain our common goals. For this reason, anybody taking such actions as may possibly lead to another war in Igbo land is an enemy to the Igbos. I concur with Chief Nnia Nwodo that no people survives two wars. It is either they perish or they suffer irreversible damages which eventually, overtime, ensure their extinction.
Though we are all agreed that the IPOB is an urgent child of necessity coming on the heels of the dearth of effective and uncompromised leadership by the present set of politicians in Igbo land, the IPOB must find a way to use the means of dialogue, tact and diplomacy while getting rid of, and isolating an obsolete dictatorial system of forced and blind obeisance and mob appeal reminiscent of popular movements that eventually metamorphose to fascism, barrage of insults, disrespect to elders and coercion, to quietly take over leadership from the politicians it condemns.
My understanding is that the present Igbo youth who form the vast majority of the IPOB is both luckier and hence more favoured by Providence than Dim Ojukwu as a young man when he sought and got the permission of the Igbo Council of Chiefs and consulted widely before declaring the Republic of Biafra, but surprisingly the youths of the IPOB are suspicious of everybody, not consulting anybody, in spite of the fact that they have definite advantages over Dim Ojukwu in their pursuits. One of the definite advantages is that while Ojukwu was a loner in his foresight when other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria were blind to the injustice in the country fifty years ago, the other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria now understand that Nigeria is actually a cage for anybody outside the privileged Fulani ethnic stock.
The IPOB must find ways to synergize efforts with these ethnic forces to achieve a descent restructure of Nigeria or if that fails, peaceful separation through well-coordinated and internationally supervised referenda to free the constituent parts of Nigeria and not marking out and isolating Igbo agitation through violent actions of unknown gun men, and most probably turning Igbo land into a theatre of the war that will violently balkanize Nigeria.
I wish our Muslim brothers and sisters a Happy Eid El Fitri celebrations during this first of its kind – an unusually long holiday!
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