The Acrobatic Nwabueze

The Internet has been awash with alleged improprieties of some South-west former office holders. Some are accused of land grabbing and financial irregularities. Others are said to have signed certificates of occupancy for lands after they left office. How one would wish these stories were true so that it would be sustained that greed is not the preserve of the South-east.

But some of the allegations are very absurd and unsubstantiated. How could someone be alleged to have bought the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, which was established by an act of the Lagos State House of Assembly as per the creation of the Lagos State University? And those making these allegations are also from the South-west. There is no appealing to base tribal sentiments in public affairs in the South-west. You are credible as long as the people can read your page without blemish. In the South-west nothing can be hidden under the sun.

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Great leaders from the region never operated without robust challenges and contrary to the chronicles of some puerile commentators, no leader from the region ever had it easy because their actions were always questioned.

Their plurality and urbanity have always saved them from being herded sheepishly to one camp. They never put their eggs in one basket and so there can be no dictator in the West.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo emerged leader, but had a powerful Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu to check every of his action. And Adelabu was a veritable alternate premier. Even in Awolowo’s household, Oluwole, at age 12 in 1954, declared for the youth wing of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons, NCNC, still sharing the same roof with his father. Olusegun, his elder brother, was no less independent and benignly rebellious because their friends were Bamidele and Ayodele Azikiwe, the sons of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, leader of the NCNC. Were their fathers not also pals? The great secret. It was commonplace for families to share different political stands in the old Western Nigeria from Lagos to Asaba.

Chief Humphrey Omo-Osagie was an NCNC leader, but his eldest son, Michael, the celebrated artist, was in Awolowo’s camp. Chief J I.G. Onyia was an NCNC leader, but many of his sons like Robert, the trade unionists and Zillinjo (Zeal), the musician, were leftist and prominent in the opposition to the central government in which their father was a minister.

How one would wish the new Ndigbo leadership borrow a leaf from the plurality of the West and broaden the public outlook of those who speak the same tongue with them.

But with clannish elements like Dr. Ben Nwabueze in leadership one cannot see that happening in the immediate future. Surprisingly, these were hurdles the political breadth of men like Zik cleared 70 years ago to create pan-Nigerian politics. Have the Ndigbo lost creativity? When Mbonu Ojike was crusading for, “boycott the boycottable” he was wearing “agbada”, which was not an Igbo attire, and appealing for a national consensus. When Dr. Nwafor Orizu was preaching his sermon on “horizontal and perpendicular” education he was not addressing the Igbos but advocating the type of system that would accelerate Nigeria’s political, social, technological and economic advancement. Nigerians, without division, received and benefited from those messages. Even Dr. Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe’s, “forward ever, backward never” was a strident and sonorous strain in the ears of a nation fighting for liberation…

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