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A Love Letter To My Late Father And Lessons For Ndigbo By Churchill Okonkwo

June 24, 2019

As a philosopher, you warn that whoever goes on site-seeing, must absorb, alone, any consequence(s), good or bad, from the adventure. That is, it is the head that disturbs the hornet's nest that will be stung.


Ten years ago, on Father's Day, June 21st, 2009, you, my dad, Honorable J.C. Okonkwo, Onye Nkuzi, moved on to eternal glory. In the past ten years, each time I make a quick reflection on those good old days I had with you, I remember the finishing touches you put to my life painting, the love you shared with all and the words of wisdom you used to decorate my heart.

As a community leader, you not only served with your time and resources, you served in truth. It was you that first taught me that truth is not a democracy. As an elder, you were always quick to remind everyone around you that you are a teacher. As such, you vowed to keep teaching the truth irrespective of whether the students are listening or not.

As a politician, you not only understood that everyone is free to choose his or her political alignment but that we should do so without any element of fear. As a philosopher, you warn that whoever goes on site-seeing, must absorb, alone, any consequence(s), good or bad, from the adventure. That is, it is the head that disturbs the hornet's nest that will be stung.

As my teacher, you understood that the best education is not given to students but drawn out of them. Everything about me you helped to create. You assisted me in self-discovery. With your help as my father and my teacher, I attained laudable goals with inadequate tools.

As I listened to the BBC and the Voice of America with you from the age of 3, you awakened the joy in creative expression and knowledge in me. As a young potential student, you, my teacher and my father met the untapped potential in me and liberated me as a free thinker that I am today.

Ten years on, I've lots of good news to share with you J.C. One of the good news is that Buhari chased away the corruption masters in the PDP that was bent of crippling Nigeria with their looting. I can still recollect your New Year greeting to me on 1st January 1984. On that fateful morning, you greeted me with shouts of “Happy New Nigeria” following the overthrow of Shagari’s administration by the military junta led by Buhari and Idiagbon.

Now, I understand why I routed for Buhari until he became President in 2015. I inherited your disgust for corruption and corrupt politicians. I am, thou, worried that Buhari’s administration is attracting and retaining so many corrupt elements. As a teacher, I know you would have been disappointed in Buhari’s failure to makeaccountability an integral part of a public service ethos.

I also have some bad news to report: the Igbo nation is in disarray after being eliminated as a constant in the Nigerian fluid political equation. I know you would have agreed with me that it is a political anomaly to eliminate an important constant in a complex, non-linear political equation. Yet, Igbos were alienated, politically. Doom and gloom is currently hanging over the Igbo Nation

Were you alive, I trust that you would have sized this golden moment to teach Ndigbo how to overcome. I know that you would have seen this moment as a teachable moment to encourage Igbos to shepherd ourselves forward with the confidence that we will get through this.

And it is on this subject of seeing every anomaly in the community as a teachable moment that reminds me of my role as a commentator on Nigerian political affairs. Even though I don’t wear a clericalcollar, I believe, sincerely, that I was ordained and sent by God, you and the rest of my forefathers to be the Igbo voice of wisdom.

So, here is the key lesson from you, my father, in this installment of Igbo unpopular opinion: politics of fear, doom, and gloom has its drawback. Politics of fear may motivate some people, yet, it turns off many others. Fear has its limitations and it is hard to live in a world of wounds.

The lesson from my father is that it is difficult to hold these sorrows so many Igbos feel in being left in Nigerian political wilderness for a long time. Such sorrows breed pessimism, and despair which in turn increases a sense of despondency and depression. 

The lessons from you, my father, to Ndigbo is that we should stop walking around angry at other citizens for the way they are absorbing the difficult economic and security challenges facing every Nigerian as if we were isolated and being punished for being Igbos.

You, my father, have just asked me to remind the Igbo of what Criss Jami, Killosophy said: the higher you fall, the heavier your heart; the heavier your heart, the stronger you climb, the stronger you climb, the higher your pedestal.

J.C., you must have heard that Igbos failed in 2015 while carrying our “hero” Goodluck Jonathan. You must have also seen that, with a heavy heart, we carried Atiku and all his baggage in 2019 and that the fall was even heavier.  

The lesson from you, to Igbos, as a teacher, is that to get to the higher pedestal, we need to stop digging and start climbing. Your lesson to Igbos is that we should let our greatest trials be the launching pad into our destiny. If only we can stop looking down and start looking up. 

Leaving the troubles of Ndigbo aside, J.C., I want to say a big thank you on this anniversary of your ascension to eternal glory. I thank you for the love that you shared with all. I thank you for the army you left behind; your contributions to your community; the hearts that you touched; the people that believed in you. I thank you for the special privilege you gave us to address you as J.C.

I thank you for turning on the light when it was too dark; for showing me the way when the road was closed; for lending me a hand when the climb was too tough; for pointing out the way when the going was directionless. I thank you for accommodating me in your shrine when I was homeless. I thank you for allowing me to fly back under your wings when I was exhausted and wounded.

Thanks, J.C., for being there for me.

From Obinna, with Love.

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