Churchill Okonkwo

 

Max Lucado’s book, You’ll Get Through This, digs deep into what it means to go through hard times and struggles and still come out triumphant. This book, centered on Joseph, from the Old Testament Bible, is meant for anyone or group that felt stuck or discouraged because of circumstance. There is no doubt that in Nigeria, most Igbos are discouraged and stuck, politically.

In the Bible, Joseph’s pit came in the form of a cistern. In Nigeria, the pit of Igbos came in the form of depression and paranoid after losing the 2015 and the 2019 Presidential elections. In the Bible, Joseph was thrown into a hole and despised. And we? Thrown into the political wilderness, confused and feeling cheated by the Nigerian political system.

In the pit, life is reduced to one quest: to get out and never get hurt again. Interestingly, this is not easily done. The first thing you will realize is that pits have no easy exit. But once in the pit, one thing you don’t want to do is keep digging, especially if you are serious about getting out.

Joseph’s story got worse before it got better. His abandonment led to enslavement, entrapment, and imprisonment. He was sucker-punched; sold out; mistreated. People made promises only to break them; offered gift only to take them. If hurt is a swampland and Joseph a Nigerian, then, he was sentenced to hard labor in the polluted creeks of Niger Delta.

Yet, Joseph never gave up. He never allowed bitterness to poison his thoughts. His anger never metastasized into hatred. His heart never hardened; resolve never vanished. He not only survived; he thrived. By the end of his life, Joseph was the second most powerful man in his generation

Joseph would be the first to tell you that life in the pit stinks. Yet, for all its rottenness, doesn’t the pit do this much? It forces you to build bridges and look upwards. Someone from up there must come down here and give you a hand. God did for Joseph.

Before Igbos can figure out who will do it for us or how we can do it for ourselves, we need to, first, like Joseph, build bridges. Imagine if Joseph had barricaded himself while in prison. Imagine if he had insulated everyone around him and rejoice in their predicament. Imagine if he had accepted his predicament and buried his head in the ground. Pause at this point and reflect.

While it is true that you should fear no fall when you are down, the critical point is; what should you do when your intention is to get up? Ultimately, we are Igbos and as such, we don’t belong to the ground. We should not be proud of being on the ground or in a political pit. That is why we should reject the narrative, the parable, that he who is on the ground fears no fall.

Life turns every person upside down. No one escapes unscathed.  The question is how can we emerge triumphant from hard times and struggles? The answer is simple, by building bridges and not barricades.

Poking the eyes of Ijaws or Igbo minorities in the Niger Delta for refusing to join the struggle for Biafran independence is barricading ourselves. Tong-lashing Danjuma and Gowon and the rest of the tribes in the Middle Belt for their role in the Nigerian Civil War is barricading ourselves. Rejoicing over the increasing spate of banditry in the northwest is barricading ourselves.

Picking fights with the Yorubas or calling them names is barricading ourselves. Abusing the Yoruba pastors is barricading ourselves. Concocting lies against Obasanjo for refusing to embrace the lie on Jubril is barricading ourselves. If anything, we should build long and strong bridges to the heart of the Yoruba land who despite also having their “son”, Osinbajo, in the 2019 election massively voted for the party with our “son” Peter Obi.

The only practical way of getting up from the ground is to build bridges. A bitter political reality is that the current shaky bridges across the Niger or the ones that are truncated in the Middle Belt or the Creeks of the Niger Delta are not enough to pull us up. We must, thus, build bridges to the heart of the caliphate and to the banks of Lake Chad. That is a metaphysics of becoming, a pragmatic politics that will help us regain political relevance.

Let me stress that the political platform for Igbos to reclaim and remain politically relevance is immaterial. What is important is that we help heal the division in the country by building bridges. In the process, we will build the pedestal on which to stand and play a leading role once more in the difficult task of building a great Nigeria.

If you make friends with the boatman in the dry season, you will be the first to cross the flooded streets when the rains come and the tide is high. Ohaneze that openly campaigned for Atiku in the dry season should stop lamenting that the faces of Igbos around Buhari are not Igbo enough.

The frowning of a goat does not prevent it from being priced in the market. With or without Igbos in key leadership positions in the National Assembly, the work of the legislators, whatever that is, will keep rolling. With or without the support of Igbo majority, the few that backed Buhari will be fully compensated in his administration. That will never make them less Igbo than Nnia Nwodo.

Igbos are beautiful people, enterprising, caring and trailblazers. But we cannot achieve political greatness on our own in a supper multicultural Nigeria. This is succinctly captured in this word of wisdom - only someone can scratch your back.  Just as rising early makes the road short, building bridges make navigation of the shark-infested political rivers in Nigeria safe and sure.

At a time when the familiar and old politics of division is, again, demonstration its incapacity to win the hearts and minds of broader Nigerians, a new politics should rise in its place. That new politics should be focused on aspiration than complaint, on dreams than nightmares, on possibility than limits and on building bridges, not barricades.

Let our greatest trials be the launching pad into our destiny. I am here to encourage us, and shepherd us forward with the confidence that we will get through this; we will regain political relevance and we will eventually overcome, not by barricading ourselves, but by building bridges.  

Together, we can.

You can email Churchill at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @churchillnnobi

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