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Fear: How Ndigbo Can Convert Retreat Into Advance By Churchill Okonkwo

June 15, 2017

Irrespective of whether the heated political atmosphere in Nigeria calms down or not, Ndigbo should step out and conquer the perennial fear of living in a multicultural Nigeria.

Ndigbo have a saying that preparedness does not symbolize fear or cowardice (nkwucha abughi ujo). The quit notice to Ndigbo by Arewa youths should, therefore, be taken seriously. As such, Ndigbo in the North should take precautions to avoid a repeat of the genocide that led to the Nigerian Civil War. So, safety first while mutual respect and trust are rebuilt to prevent the voice of wisdom from being drowned by the rumble of fear.

However, irrespective of whether the heated political atmosphere in Nigeria calms down or not, Ndigbo should step out and conquer the perennial fear of living in a multicultural Nigeria. To conquer this fear, we can’t just “sit-at-home”, then go “home”, neither should we hang on to fear by sharing fake news and audio recordings from Pakistan and other anonymous sources meant to reinforce apocalypse for Ndigbo on social media. It is meant to manipulate our consciousness by creating and imposing fear on ourselves.

In his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt, asserted that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. Ndigbo should fear the unjustified terror the separatist groups have placed on our consciousness by using their countless soldiers on social media to invade and intimidate. We should fear that terror that is forcing us to retreat rather than advance.  

To excel in Nigeria, what Ndigbo need is an advance and not a retreat or irresponsible attack. Celebrating the quit notice to our brothers from the north is a retreat; abusing other ethnicities in Nigeria is an attack; calling for the destruction of the “zoo” is a reckless attack; to advance is to show courage and wisdom in asserting our rights anywhere in Nigeria. To advance is to form a partnership with all ethnicities and push for the protection of our interest across Nigeria.

In the midst of the confusion that followed the quit notice, I carefully listened for the voice of advance from Ndigbo. As usual, I heard the same defeatist voice of the separatist groups urging Ndigbo to come back “home” -Selfish people that think of themselves alone. But, I also heard the South East Governors and the Senate Caucus, ask Ndigbo to ignore the ultimatum to quit. According to Senator Abaribe, “nobody or groups of persons have the right to abridge the right of the Igbo or any other Nigerian for that matter”. When I heard this I said YES! Checkmate, the first step to advance.

This is the fearless voice of advance that we have been missing in the Igbo nation. A counter voice of reason that will challenge the unreasoning and fear the separatist groups have foisted on our people. Where have this SE governors and Senate Caucus been? Are they challenging Arewa youths, but still afraid of telling the separatist groups that they hurting the interest of Ndigbo residing outside southeastern Nigeria by calling for the destruction of the “zoo”?  

To strategically position Ndigbo for advance in the Nigerian political chess game, Abaribe and co should adopt the position of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu that Ndigbo will fight anybody who wanted to secede from Nigeria. That’s how to act in spite of our fears. The right response from Ndigbo to anti-integration in our multicultural Nigeria is more integration. We should not let fear paralyze us to the extent that we forget to initiate steps that will lead to prosperity.

Rather than just sending retreating messages on why we should stop eating cow meat, I urge Ndigbo to encourage our businessmen to invest in the ranching business. Thousands of Igbo men and women make their living in that trade. We can’t be calling on Ndigbo to come back home and invest only to let the Hausa Fulanis’ dominate the multi-billion Naira business in cattle rearing. What investment is bigger than that? It will not only create employment, but it will show them the modern way of conducting that business as well as save lives too. That is an advance.

To convert retreat to advance, every Onye Igbo who has a different view with the separatist agenda should speak up. Do not be cowed into submission. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the minority. Speak up. When you see all those fake messages of hatred and fear being circulated in any social media platform, call the propagators out and remind them of the dangers of spreading such lies packaged with fear. That is the only way to break the defeatist aim of forcing all of us to retreat out of fear. Again, I agree that nkwucha abughi ujo, but we should not be instigating false ujo on ourselves.

According to Nelson Mandela, courage is the triumph over fear, and not the absence of fear. If you are in any other region other than the East, speak up and let your brothers in Aba or Onitsha know that they are hurting your interest. If you are in Lagos and think that the quit notice is only limited to those in the North, think again. Agitation and realization of Oduduwa republic can also result in quit notices to Ndigbo or retreat out of fear. Remember the June 12 “Oso Abiola”? Was it the northerners that asked Ndigbo in the whole of the southwest to run for their lives?

You see, the more you retreat, the more you get to the point of surrendering. Where will you run to when the Yorubas come after us in Lagos? Think. Don’t swallow poison out of fear or because you don’t want to offend your brothers and sisters. Stand up now and protect your interest by speaking up against the mentality of fear and retreat.

According to President Obama, the arc of the moral universe doesn't bend on its own - we have to reach up and pull it towards justice ourselves. It is the responsibility of Ndigbo to keep pulling on the arc, by aligning with groups across Nigeria and then pushing and defending our interests.

To change the course of Ndigbo in Nigeria today, and pave the way for better lives for our kids being raised in the “zoo”, we should not be retreating, rather, we should be advancing. With the future of our sons and daughters who were born and raised in the “zoo” at stake, it is not too late to get involved. With the employment prospect of our sons and daughters who were born and raised in Igbo land dependent to job prospects in the “zoo”, it is pertinent to get involved.

The chicken that keeps its eyes on the ground sees with fear. Ndigbo should stop looking down. Look up. We should not out of fear shut our eyes, face the west and then complain that we can’t see the rising sun. Let us counter fear with courage by slowly releasing our foot on the clutch. By releasing our foot from the clutch and breaks, we will challenge our fears and I have no doubt that we will overcome.

Finally, the truth is that courage, wisdom, love, optimizing and hope are all better than fear. Whether 2% or 98 % of Ndigbo believe that the instigation of fear on our psyche and promotion of hatred across Nigeria is hurting us is irrelevant. Truth is not a democracy and is independent of sentiments. Preach the truth, as my father used to say – “irrespective of whether the students are listening or not”. I see that as a moral responsibility. What about you?   

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