Saturday, October 21, 2017

Resolving Anambra Political Arithmetic

I shall try to resolve the political reckoning of Anambra at the moment. In fair estimation the battle is between three powerful forces: APGA, PDP and APC.  Each of this party is standing on a foundational endorsement of formidable political agents. For example in APGA Ojukwu's photograph is constantly implanted at the rear of the photos of APGA's governorship candidate, Dr Willie Obiano and his running mate, Dr Nkem Okeke. By this visual gimmick, it is assumed that Ojukwu, the celebrated leader of  Biafrans, shot into prominence by the Nigerian Biafran war of 1967 to 1970, would invoke the medieval science that will ensure  victory for APGA come November 18. By this visual stunt, again, it is assumed that Ojukwu, the Oxford University graduate of History, being an acclaimed Igbo leader and a founding father of APGA  would evoke ethnic sympathy whereby APGA is seen as an Igbo cause that will enable a landslide victory. However, a critical assessment of the import of Ojukwu's photo into APGA's visual images and posters may provide a counter reading. Peter Obi deployed this visual strategy and won election as governor under APGA, for two consecutive tenures. The fact is that the circumstances that surrounded Obi's emergence then were far from what is currently obtainable today. APGA's legitimacy as at then was not in question. I may not want to delve deeper into the question of legitimacy at the moment for obvious reasons.

For PDP, the contender Oseloka Obaze has been described by many as a man of decorum, a man of letters and a man whose scholastic life disgusts the oracle  of ignorance.  He subtly stands on the supposedly superlative political demeanour, or antecedents, of Mr Peter Obi who is seen as his benefactor. However, a modicum of public observers believes otherwise: that Obi is just a political Mafioso, desperately canvassing to oust the incumbent governor for some narcissistic reasons. Yet, majority of Anambra citizens believe that Obi's political style remains an unresolved conundrum. And that Obi is, as described by High Chief Ndi Obi, "a young man who can conveniently sell sand in the desert". Whatever Ndi Obi means by that I do not know but I think he was overwhelmed by Obi's transcendent political prowess at a time Anambra seemed asphyxiated by some powerful forces of the PDP. Obi defeated PDP by invoking all the combative political arsenals of APGA to emerge as governor and now Obi has dumped APGA and is now fighting with all the pugnacious armoury of PDP to send APGA packing. Are you surprised? Don't be, for that is politics. In politics, they say there is no permanent friend or permanent enemy, only permanent interests. Again, some believe that Obi-Obaze amalgam is a huge miscalculation. This few sceptics believe that Obi does not mean well and that he is only coming back for vengeful recuperation where the current compromise with the incumbent seems to have been toppled by forces beyond Obi's control. It could be true, because Obi's compromise with the incumbent governor could actually be for the genuine actualization of the gains of democracy which he established in Anambra and wished to be sustained but which, perhaps, was mishandled. Obi is seen as a saint in politics by many.

For APC, Dr Tony Nwoye is  seriously basking under the hefty political weights of the leading national party in Nigeria, APC. APC defeated PDP to produce the Nigerian president and majority of the governors.  If APC could produce the president and majority of the governors in Nigeria, what with this Lilliputian called Anambra. Nwoye believes he is positively advancing his flotilla towards a win. Many Anambra people think in the obverse: they see APC as a mere joke. In the minds of many voters in Anambra APC  is a painful infliction on NdIgbo. Since the inception of Muhammadu Buhari as president, there seems to be an upsurge of baleful acrimony running in the veins of NdIgbo all against the president and his winning party, APC. Again, the president seems cognisant of this ill will and intends to penalize NdIgbo for their untoward feeling. His body language and actions proved this: the Nnamdi Kanu incarceration, the continuous human rights abuse, the dissenting presidential speeches and the consummate brutality of Nnamdi Kanu's house invasion. What else? NdIgbo in Anambra believe that no Jupiter can manoeuvre victory for APC. Tony Nwoye's determined confidence in the inexorable machinations of APC will play out on November 18. Then Anambra NdIgbo will know whether the Baboon and the Monkey will be smeared in blood.

On another level IPOB is counting on their Social Media wrangle to declare that there will be no election come November 18. They have asked all Anambra people and Biafrans to stay at home that day. For some individuals, IPOB members are not just cynics, they are political atheists in the eyes of November 18.  They neither believe in APGA, PDP nor APC. Their kind of politics is radical: declare Biafra an independent State or nothing else. For a handful of opinionated Anambra, and indeed, NdIgbo elites, IPOB is a psychotic set-up that must be dismantled. Tobenna Okwuosa​, Chigozie Anarado, Colin Oguzie Uju​ and Ikeogu Oke  belong to this group. Yet for others IPOB is the inevitable backwash of a historic mistake, the aftereffect of a thoughtless politics and the underprivileged subordination by the devilish political aristocracy. Yours truly, Chike Ofili, and co belong to this later group. What can I say again? My people, November 18 is decisive; let us await it with a prophetic mind.

Okechukwu Nwafor is an Associate Professor of Fine Arts and the current Head, Department of Fine and Applied Arts in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Thanksgiving Service and the gospel according to Saint James Ibori

by Okechukwu Nwafor

Chief James Onanefe Ibori returned to a cheering crowd of his townsmen and women on February 4, 2016, after spending four and half years in a UK prison for criminal charges. Ibori's kinsmen staged a performative, flamboyant welcome for him and organised thanksgiving church service and reception ceremonies in his honour. During the church event which took place on 12 February 2016 at a Baptist Church in his hometown Oghara in Delta State, Ibori declared: "I am not a thief and cannot be a thief". In fact, according to Ibori, "Today is the day they say I should give testimony to God. For those that know me, you know that my entire life is a testimony itself and I have said it over and over again that my life is fashioned by God, directed by God, sealed, acknowledged and blessed by God and I believe that since the day I was born."

One, therefore, needs to rationalize Ibori's recent pronouncement, and its attendant aftermath, against a prevailing Nigerian psyche: first the fact that Ibori did not accept being a thief after serving a jail term for criminal offence, second the dominant Nigerian behaviourism of corruption, third the significance of God to Nigerian Christendom and for Ibori as a Nigerian politician. Indeed, this sounds like a lecture outline but it needs dissection.

Firstly, one must be alarmed that Ibori made such a statement in the first place. After a rigorous court process and an uncompromising verdict Ibori (himself pleaded guilty of the offence for which he) was convicted. It is, therefore, surprising, and at worst, embarrassing, that having fulfilled the terms of the crime in prison he would come back to deny the charges. The implication is that the moral bastion upon which human character is built is lacking in Ibori. It also means that his mind could possibly be suffering from a dangerous form of amnesia for which he totally forgot why he was held in the UK.

Secondly, there is nothing wrong in welcoming Ibori back home by his people. There is also nothing wrong in the affable and cheerful sympathy with which his people accepted him. Being away for so long eluded Ibori's loved ones of his affectionate presence. However, one becomes worried at the manner Ibori's people celebrate his return: effusive show of public festivity.  The tragedy of the Nigerian socialscape is such that there is no distinction between ignoble events and dignified events. The bash Ibori's return was treated to is utterly unnecessary. His return is not an enviable mark of achievement rather it is an ignoble anti-climax that should be treated with secluded cocktail. Such actions, obviously, sound bizarre in normal human reasoning for it means that plunderers are celebrated and should be applauded. What type of moral lessons are the Oghara people teaching to their younger generation?

Thirdly, we understand that the event was a thanksgiving church service. The question for those who were present during the event becomes: what was the subject of the pastor's sermon? One would have been able to provide a more sincere analysis had one been present during the church service. But even without being present during the service, the usual Nigerian style is for church ministers to eulogize wealthy corrupt politicians and church members, even when their source of wealth and livelihood is indisputably nefarious and malicious.  One is not surprised, therefore, that the Baptist Church in Oghara would celebrate Ibori for his 'steadfastness.' It is shameful indeed that many churches in Nigeria are mere spaces where atrocious credo of evil are legitimated. Oghara church cannot resist the compelling gospel according to Saint James Ibori. It is a gospel of double-dealing, of hypocrisy, of disturbing and arrogant religiousity and above all a gospel of visionless churching among a teeming Nigerian public.

Lastly, I want to understand the type of God some Nigerian Christians worship. Or do Nigerians have their own God who understands their capricious ways? Do Nigerians have a God who understands that even a thief should be celebrated and allowed to declare self-acclaimed innocence in the church, even after serving jail term; do Nigerians have a counterfeit God, who can be bought and asked to exculpate convicted criminals in church and he does so instantly; a God who usually invokes the case of the penitent thief beside Jesus on the Cross of Calvary to exonerate every Nigerian thieving politician and clear his road to heaven. Last word for Ibori, his people and the Baptist church in Oghara: There is God and they must attempt to discern the difference between the gospel according to James Ibori and the Gospel according to Saint James in the Holy Bible.  

Okechukwu Nwafor is an Associate Professor and Head of Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. Email: