Opinion

Ebubeagu and Igbo of Liberia

ebubeagu-and-igbo-of-liberia

By Ethelbert  Okere

 

A popular aphorism among the Yoruba has it that only a bastard uses the left finger to point at his father’s house. I am yet to find out the full meaning of this saying but I can for now interpret it to mean that a bastard, not knowing his father in the first place, would be fidgeting least the real son of the father he claims to be his shows up.  I do not know if there is an equivalence of it among the Igbo but no matter, I think the saying finds a good expression in the way and manner some so called Igbo critics have been reacting to the proclamation of Ebubeagu by the governors of the Southeast states.

I liken the scenario of the restless child with the fact that most of the so-called (Igbo) critics of Ebubeagu have been going about it nervously, evidently showing a dilemma over whether to be for or be against it. My own brother, Sam Amadi, was perhaps the first to betray this tendency. Barely an hour after news went out last Sunday that the five Southeast governors had proclaimed the formation of a security outfit for the zone to be known as Ebubeagu, Amadi made the following comment on Facebook. “Ebube Agu! What a name. Great!”

Yet, a few hours later, Amadi made a long post on Facebook as follows: “I have read the communiqué of the Southeast governors meeting on security in the region. I am sorry to say that I am not IMPRESSED (emphasis mine) with both the quality of thinking and political will displayed by the document”. He went further to say: “This communiqué is almost nonsensical”.

After these apparent contradictions, Amadi then wrote: “I was already rejoicing that Ebubeagu has come to protect the Southeast so there will be no need for a private security outfit ESN. Now I have read the communiqué and hereby withdraw my excitement”

Of course, Amadi had and has the right to change his mind but one thing he cannot change is that he made both the first and second comments in haste, as I have already told him in a previous comment also on Facebook.

I appreciate his honesty in admitting that he was initially excited but what I do not understand is why a social commentator and intellectual of Amadi’s standing would get that excited over a matter without getting the full story. It does not matter to me that he initially jumped up in praise of “Ebubeagu”, my worry is that he got excited without getting the full story. Objective critics and commentators do not get carried away by a mere wind of an issue. They wait until the whole matter plays out before going to town. Needless to say, Amadi will no longer find it easy to accuse others of going into “hasty” conclusions. Beyond him, however, it is this tendency to jump at issues that is the bane of public commentary among so many Igbo critics and social commentators.

In a previous article, he accused Imo state governor, Senator  Hope Uzodimma, of making “hasty” conclusions on the Owerri Correctional Centre attack and that the conclusions were “based on prejudices and preconceptions”. Today, he also stands accused of the same prejudices and misconceptions especially going by his subsequent posturing after reading and – expectedly  –  digesting the communiqué. He wrote: “If I know my beloved governors well, there will be no “Ebubeagu” at least not as an organized and equipped force. It will end as another PR gambit or it ends as a file pushing entity in Enugu where some beloved associates earn some salary… these governors are not engaged at all in solving difficult problems”.

I then ask: what worse preconception and prejudice than this can anyone have? A fellow  mentioned that Amadi changed his mind after a former governor of Imo state called him to register his disappointment over his, Amadi’s, hasty support for Ebubeagu. I cannot take that to the bank even though I know that he was an appointee in the administration of His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the immediate past governor of Imo state, and that he is currently an arrow head in the former’s image management team. The above passage was Amadi’s response to insinuations that Ebubeagu will clash with the Eastern Security Network (ESN), a non state outfit around which some controversies arose sometime ago. Just like that? Not even sparing a second to contemplate a way out.

Amadi or any other fellow is free to insult the governors since we are in a ‘democracy’ but I make bold to state that his comment amounts to a talk down on the entire Igbo. To write off five governors as so inconsequential is a clear assault on the collective psyche of Ndigbo, no matter his grievances over certain matters in his home state, Imo. Critics like him elsewhere have their own personal scores to settle with political actors in their states but they do not, on a day like this and on a matter as sensitive as the instant one, openly ridicule their entire race.

Let me, for purposes of illustration, reproduce a passage from an article by Dr. Reuben Abati, a well known critic and writer, probably of Amadi’s caliber, on the formation of Amotekun, a similar security outfit in the Southwest. In an article on January 21, 2020 about two weeks after Amotekun was proclaimed, Abati wrote: “What the governors of the Southwest have demonstrated is that they have a “Responsibility to Protect” their people. Their recognition of that responsibility can only be meaningful in terms of intervention hence Operation Amotekun. They deserve to be commended and not harassed by an over-bearing federal government interpreting the law rather selectively …” (This Day Tuesday January 21, 2020).

Abati, a hard hitting journalist of several years who has maintained one of the best newspaper columns in the country, could by no means be the best of friends of all the six governors of the Southwest. If anything, he was a deputy governorship candidate in the 2019 general election in his state Ogun, and if we know how elections go, it would be surprising if Abati has made up with those he slugged it out with, including the fellow who won the election.

So, it is most unlikely that Amadi, who was a mere governorship aspirant in  the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) would be more aggrieved than Abati who threw the regrets of that set back aside to encourage the governors of  his home region over the very vexatious issue of insecurity. Yet, witness Abati’s level headedness in approaching the matter.

That is not all. As against the sheer vitriolic and violence with which the likes of Amadi have descended on their own kit and kin, here is what Abati, from far away Yoruba land, wrote  about Ebubeagu. “What would be IGP Usman Baba’s response to Ebubeagu? The timing of the initiative is striking. The Southeast governors did not even give Baba enough time to settle down in his new office. Given the worsening security situation in their region the stand on a high moral ground “ (Thisday Newspaper, Tuesday April 13, 2021). Does this not settle the matter that Southeast governors have been afraid of proclaiming a regional outfit for their area?

In the frenzy over Ebubeagu, these Igbo critics have inadvertently repudiated their Igboness, or at best sounding as returnees from Equatorial Guinea or Liberia. A faceless group that goes by the name, Inter Society, through its spokesman, one Emeka Umeagbalasi,  an entirely unknown fellow, made the following statement on Ebubeagu: “Ebubeagu is inspired by the caliphate to truncate or weaken non-state actor arrangements. The outfit can never operate successfully in the Southeast where 100% of top security, especially military and police, are in the hands of officers from other regions most of who are Muslims of Fulani-Hausa extraction”. The question to ask is: Are all the heads of security agencies in the Southwest where Amotekun operates indigenes of the Southwest itself?

Then there is one Ozioma Izuora, an Abuja-base lawyer, according to a newspaper report, who wrote that Ebubeagu “… does not exist at the moment. That was not how Amotekun was established. There has to be enabling laws first”. This comparison is, however, drawn from her ignorance of what actually happened in the Southwest; in that it was only after the governors proclaimed Amotekun that the different State Houses of Assembly enacted laws backing it.

Even the query over the nonexistent of a law backing the ban on open grazing is misplaced. Yes, the Benue state government made a law prohibiting open grazing but it had earlier made a pronouncement of that before the law was enacted. I ask: what makes these Igbo critics believe that the five Southeast governors are that daft that they do not know that there has to be an enabling law? Must we make a song and dance out everything in Igboland? Must we continue to be this despondent? No government reveals its strategies on security openly but alas, our Igbo critics wanted the governors to reveal all their plans in a mere four- page communiqué.

It is possible that some of these critics feel aggrieved because, as brilliant lawyers and public affairs commentators, they have not been brought in by their respective state governments on the matter. But perhaps they are not aware that there exist in each of the five states Attorneys-General who are among the brightest in the country. It is preposterous for these so called critics to assume that the state Attorneys-General do not know that laws are needed.

If these activists had taken some time to inquire – and not post hasty comments on the social media –  they would have been told that a draft bill on open grazing already exist in each of the five states of the Southeast, waiting for enactment. They would have been told that for the past one year, the Attorneys-General of the five states have been meeting on the matter and that the final draft was made not too long ago. They would, therefore, have learnt that the governors wanted to arm themselves properly before making their pronouncements last Sunday.

 


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