Senior citizen Joe Igbokwe is a Lagos-based All Progressives Congress (APC) Chieftain. He is the Publicity Secretary of the Lagos State chapter of the ruling APC party. Before his present position he had been the General Manager of LASIMRA. And before then he was the Chairman of the Wharf Landing Fee Collecting Authority -- all in Lagos.

He is an established author whose book the "Heroes of Democracy" in reminiscent of the controversial June 12, 1993 annulled presidential election had sold widely. In his fifties or thereabout he could be described as a staunch Buharist and Tinubuist (or Asiwajuist) combined. A strong believer in and defender of both Buharism and Tinubuism Igbokwe's loyalty to the establishment in Lagos and Abuja is beyond question or doubt.

Though an Igboman from Nnewi in Anambra state (the late Ikemba Ojukwu's homestead) he is more at home in Lagos than anywhere else in the south-east region. Intellectually sound having graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN) Igbokwe knows how to ignite a controversy and how to battle critics of his masters in Bourdillon and Aso Villa. Here, however, he is better described as an accidental politician (nay, public servant) because he has never contested nor won any election (local, state or national) anywhere before. So when professional politicians are congregated he ought to take a back seat!

Some critics had described Igbokwe as a northern apologist or better still, as an "efulefu" -- an Igbo language word meaning a "saboteur". And some uncharitable ones among his many detractors had 'indicted' him online for his rabid 'hatred' of his tribe. But we see him differently! We believe Joe Igbokwe knows consciously what he is doing to be able to continue earning his emoluments. The big Joe has never manifested any predilection towards the opposition -- in the recent past or presently. If the opportunity presents itself he would be happy being a glorified apostle of 'AGIP' --All Government In Power. His duty as the Lagos state APC Publicity Secretary, a propaganda top job featuring praise-singing and boot-licking, places him perfectly in good position of influence.

Sometime ago Igbokwe had explained publicfly online (through an article) how he made it to the top; how Lagos made him or how he made Lagos his first home. He passionately narrated how he worked hard to get himself educated at the UNN; how he came to Lagos and started a modest business of selling auto spare parts. He concluded that he made it despite the odds by dint of hardwork and sheer determination. Many social media addicts were not impressed by Joe's narrative full of emotions!

President Muhammadu Buhari had recently attended the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in London, United Kingdom. And speaking at the Commonwealth Business Forum over therre in the British capital city he had said that a lot of Nigerian youths refused to go to school or work and yet want everything free! Really? So, in a nutshell, our President called us "lazy" and "uneducated" in a foreign country! Buhari is not known for great speeches given his modest education and background as a retired military General so we could understand his grammatical limits.

But rising blindly in his defense Joe Igbokwe took to denigrating the young Igbos to justify the President's much-criticized position. In a Facebook post titled, “10 REASONS WHY I INSIST SOME NIGERIAN YOUTHS ARE LAZY”, he cited some Igbos involved in hard drug trafficking in South Africa, Malaysia and Thailand saying that many had been killed in the process. He allegted that some others sold their kidneys for money and other vices associated with the get-rich-quick syndrome afflicting our generation! He reasoned that today's youths no longer took education seriously but concentrated more efforts navigating the Internet or playing games online.

Joe Igbokwe's surname rings a significant bell in the ears of any true Igbo son or daughter. 'Igbokwe' in Biafran language, loosely translated, could mean "If Igbos agree". Since we have failed to agree among ourselves on how best to conquer national leadership do we then crucify ourselves by calling our great people names and painting them black in a nation where other major ethnic groups have their 'pots' and 'kettles' (corrupt criminal elements) among their members? This attitude must be reprimanded publicly! And that is what we seek to do here. Charity must begin at home as a matter of pride and priority. Igbokwe must, therefore, stop forthwith his Igbo bashing for it benefits more our 'enemies'.

While Igbokwe made a valid point by indicating that the internet and the social media has conspired to erode the quality education we were used to thus compromising the academic future of a good number of youths everywhere it is disingenuous of him to generalise on other issues. If Igbokwe's Nnewi brothers are involved in selling their kidneys, drug peddling or whatever vice then he should not blame everyone or associate others to such negative societal trends. Many Biafran youths, to the best of our knowledge, are doing legitimate businesses, earning decent livelihood. And others are engaged at home and abroad working hard lawfully and professionally to make their lives better.

If anything it is Buhari's gerontocratic generation (the Obasanjos, the Babangidas, the Danjumas, the Abachas etc) that was lazy and anti-education having been corrupted by the petro-dollars! They had the golden opportunity of making Nigeria a great country but they wasted the opportunity only for them to be laying the blame elsewhere except where the blame lies: their unsophisticated, selfish corrupt politics!

A democratically-elected President calling the Nigerian youths "lazy" and "uneducated", no matter the interpretation anyone could give it, etymologically speaking, is tantamount to a presidential gaffe worth apologising for. The youths in our country had borne the brunt of misgovernance for decades! But now they have resolved to take back power by taking their destinies in their own hands. No one, no matter how highly-placed in our abused society, should be allowed to insult them collectively, directly or indirectly.

The teeming youths need jobs; they crave for quality education; they want economic empowerment and hope for a better future. President Buhari has done little or nothing to empower the youths during his 3-year residency of Aso Rock, so he should, please, excuse us the distraction of buck-passing -- an apparent 'policy' of his embattled administration. If we agreed that the PDP misruled Nigeria for 16 dizzy years the APC came to power to clean the Augean stable. If the PDP looted the country dry has the looting abated or been nipped in the bud?

While we do not condone drug trafficking, 419 or kidney or kidnapping business we declare that these are lesser crimes compared to the Boko Haram terrorism, Fulani herdsmen banditry and the 'yan-daudu' (homosexual) phenomenon up north! And while we recognise that the Igbos generally are money conscious (the average Igboman can do anything to make money by hook or by crook) ambition to be rich is never a crime anywhere! The Igbos are lion-hearted and fearless in the daily battles against poverty.

During his recent trip to the south-east (precisely Owerri, Imo state) in continuation of his 2019 presidential campaign tour Omoyele Sowore had told a gathering of youths in a town hall meeting that the Igbos had suffered unimaginable injustice in the hands of the oppressive successive governments at the centre for many years. He declared that upon his ascension to the pinnacle of power next year his government would officially tender an unreserved apology to the Igbos for the systemic marginalisation and infrastructural neglect they have been subjected to over time.

We say 'No' to Joe Igbokwe's self-righteous anti-Igbo sermons. No to his constant exhibition of loathsomeness towards his ancestral origin! No to his puerile rationalisation of what the "failed" Daura-born strongman said in far-away England. No to Igbokwe's politics of self'entitlement as the defender of the indefensible. We refuse to be part of his Igbo-phobic sentiments!



SOC Okenwa

[email protected] SOC Okenwa

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