By Femi Adesina
On February 27, 2019, lawyer and activist, Mike Ozekhome, wrote a piece under the headline, ‘Buhari’s skewed view of the Igbo race.’
On face value, the piece seemed to advocate the cause of the Igbo race, but a dispassionate analysis shows it for what it truly is: drivel meant to incite the Igbo against the Muhammadu Buhari administration, and further inflame passions that would pedestal the ethnic nationality against the rest of the federation. Ozekhome appeared to be a friend to our brothers and sisters across the Niger, but in actual fact, he was a ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing. Shakespeare describes such as “goodly apple but rotten at the cheek.”
It is always so very easy to claim that Nigeria is disunited, while at the same time be a purveyor of hatred and discord. What Ozekhome did was simply to fan the embers of hatred, bile and disunity, playing the Igbo against the rest of the country, while appearing to be their friend. Well, it is not surprising, as the Good Book tells us that even Satan has a way of appearing like an angel of light, to deceive and beguile the unwary.
The verbose and bombastic article (make it simple, is one of the principles of good communication) is filled with half truths, outright falsehood, and vitriol, all to ensure that the Igbo nation sees President Buhari as its arch enemy. It is example of an outsider weeping more than the bereaved.
Lawyer Ozekhome has a right to his political persuasion, which is also very well known. He is a friend of that rent seeking political class, which is fast becoming endangered species in Nigeria today. Under President Buhari, it is becoming crystal clear by the day that the political breed that the lawyer loves is becoming a vanishing sect. And that breed may never control the levers of power, and the purse strings of the country again. What grief for lawyers that thrive better under such circumstances!
See a portion of the acerbic piece that betrayed Ozekhome’s political preference: “It was enough that President Jonathan had been sacrificed and booted out of office by APC and its international collaborators, led by the US, UK and EU. These are the same countries the very government is now tagging meddlesome interlopers in our internal affairs.”
So, after all, the piece was not about love for the Igbo nation. At the substratum level is love for the free spending Goodluck Jonathan administration that frittered away the commonwealth of the country, looting everything from the Federation Account, to Excess Crude Oil Account, central bank, and the foreign reserves. Some lawyers possibly made a killing under such laissez faire atmosphere, and wished it had lasted forever. But here’s the truth for Ozekhome: the Jonathan administration is gone, and gone forever. Nigerians are not likely to ever afflict themselves with such squander-mania again. Those who long for the onions, garlic and cucumber of Egypt had better accept the fact that we have left the land of servitude forever. We are now almost in Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, and there’s no turning back.
Ozekhome described the February 23 presidential election as “complete murder of democracy and electoral process by the Buhari government.” Really? Millions of Nigerians don’t think so. Rather, the day of the election goes down in history as one in which bloody nose was given to the confederacy of wheeler dealers that wanted to seize the public treasury again, and make a mess of it. However, the people said a resounding no. It pains the lawyer and his ilk to the marrows. But not to worry, he can still make some fast bucks from the community of senior lawyers being assembled by Atiku Abubakar in a futile bid to regain a ‘mandate’ which never existed in the first place.
The Agenebode, Edo State born lawyer merely used the Igbo nation as a smokescreen to display his angst against the Buhari administration. Hear what he wrote about the Igbo in respect of the February 23 election: “However, notwithstanding the militarized process and disenfranchisement of many Nigerians, the Ndigbo people tenaciously stood their ground as a proud race. They clearly rejected Buhari through the ballot box.” True? False. What about the Igbo that gave the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari more than the required 25 % in Abia, Imo and Ebonyi states? Are they not members of the ethnic nationality again? Does Ozekhome think Atiku Abubakar, or anybody else, would ever become Nigerian president by just locking down two geo-political zones out of the six in the country? It will never happen. They are the ones that fooled the old political war horse into believing that he was already president before the first ballot was cast. Soon, they will leave the man in the lurch, and look for economic benefits somewhere else. But they should never forget that the days of free money are gone in Nigeria. Yes, you can still get quite wealthy in this country, but you must work for it. And hard, too.
Ozekhome gave himself away as a typical person that speaks from both sides of the mouth. He said President Buhari did not visit Anambra State till he found the need to go for political campaign, first in the gubernatorial election of 2017, and the recent presidential race. You never can win with some people. Head or tail, you lose. They can cavil, and live permanently at the complaint counter of life. The president visits a state, he is criticized. He doesn’t visit, he is excoriated. The best thing is just to ignore the professional complainers, and do what you think is right.
Pretending to love the Igbos, while inciting them to what may tantamount to political doomsday, the lawyer said President Buhari never attended the burials of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, Chinua Achebe, and Dr Alex Ekwueme. Some people make political capital out of everything, including shedding crocodile tears at burial ceremonies, but not Muhammadu Buhari. We all know what he did when Dr Ekwueme took gravely ill, and he arranged medical evacuation by air ambulance abroad. The government also footed the medical bill. The state burial was attended by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo. So impressed was the Igbo nation that a high powered delegation came to the presidential villa to say thank you. Yet, a man from Agenebode, pretending to love the Igbo more than themselves, is playing cheap politics with burial ceremonies.
See this pettiness about the mausoleum of the great Zik, which had been abandoned before the Buhari administration completed it: “He was in Onitsha to commission his only project and ‘federal presence’ since 2015, the repainted grave tomb of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik of Africa) whose burial obsequies he had also shunned in 1991.”
If Ozekhome had been less consumed by hatred, he would have realized the deep friendship that existed between the then Gen Buhari, and Zik’s son, Bamidele. They were so close that the latter played host to Buhari many times in Onitsha.
Bile and ‘bad belle’ also led the lawyer to describe the magnificent mausoleum as ‘repainted grave tomb.’ This was a project that Power, Works and Housing Minister, Babatunde Raji Fashola, personally supervised, and delivered in grand manner. But Ozekhome probably has not been to Onitsha, and does not even know the road to the city. That’s why he calls it a repainted tomb. Yes, the horse of an adversary is never tall. If it stands at over six feet, the enemy says ‘oh, see this dwarf horse.’ Hatred blinds. Animosity addles the mind, and poisons the soul.
Sometime last year, Federal Government unveiled about 69 projects currently being executed in the South-east alone, including the Second Niger Bridge, roads, other bridges, electrification, and many others. But people like Ozekhome would not see it, as they would rather chase briefs in Ekiti State under Ayo Fayose, for which they got humongous legal fees. God dey!
In the Good Book, wise men came from the East to see the holy child, Jesus. Wise men still abound in the eastern part of Nigeria. They know what pertains to their peace, and they voted wisely on February 23. The Igbo must inevitably produce the President of Nigeria. But that eventuality will not come by listening to hate preachers like Mike Ozekhome. We have seen how hate preachers from the pulpit failed resoundingly in the presidential election. Hate preachers from the bar will also fail, and no mistake. You can only be president when you build a coalition round the country, and not by circumscribing yourself in two regions. That, at best, can only give you a clan head.
▪ Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity