Dr Dozie Ikedife, who died recently, was by any stretch of the imagination a very distinguished personality.
I decided to engage in this discourse because of the way we do things, not just in our country, but across Black settlements all over the world. The Black people lack self-respect, and the problem is not that they want it; rather, they earnestly desire it but the challenge is inability to cultivate it. Respect and dignity are earned; put another way it means that you work for it as an individual or as a collective as in a society. One way a society cultivates respect and dignity for itself is through identification and honour for her heroes.
The Black Man, except in very few instances, is not good at this. They trivialize everything including men and women of distinction, who should serve as their heroes and heroines. Coming home to my country, Nigeria, the Hausa Fulani and the Yoruba are some of the groups that know the worth of celebrating their icons and have in fact excelled in this aspect of life and that could be one of the reasons they attract some measure of world attention and respect. Of the other tribes the Igbo is the worst. They observe but they never note. Even when circumstances push them to take note, what you have is of the peripheral kind.
In the North and the West, when their distinguished sons have events, you can trust that every “who is who” from the area will be in attendance. It would not matter their station in life, whether president, governor, legislator, captain of industry or international personality of repute, everyone makes effort not just to attend but to celebrate the individual to a point the world must take notice. Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto died many years ago, but till date he is being celebrated on a scale those who know could think the great man is still alive. Same goes for Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Compare those examples with the treatment given to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who was head and above the other two.
Prof Chinua Achebe made far higher impact than his contemporaries but those with lesser results have been so celebrated that one could think they were the best and this came about because some people know how to celebrate their own more than the others. Both Chukwuma Soludo and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi were at different times governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), one went ahead to assume the exalted seat as Emir of Kano without struggle and the other is still battling to find political direction. There is nothing like birthday or remembrance ceremony for distinguished Igbo sons like Zik, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Dr Michael Opara, Major Ifeajuna, Aja Wachukwu, K. O Mbadiwe, Alvan Ikoku, Dr Akanu Ibiam, Dr Stanley Macebuh, Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Prof Okigbo Afigbo, Prof Eni Njoku, Prof Ikenna Nzimiro, Prof Humphrey Nwosu, Stephen Osadebe and Oliver De Coque, just to mention a few.
If these men were from the other climes earlier mentioned they would still be celebrated but since they are not from those climes, they have become subjects for history only. It is so because they come from East Central Nigeria. Dr Dozie Ikedife, who died recently, was by any stretch of the imagination a very distinguished personality. Born around 1945 he went abroad to study medicine at a time it was not common for a Blackman to do so and he graduated in flying colours specializing in gynecology. He returned to a thriving practice in the country. For any selfish person that would have been enough but for Ikedife it was not. Loaded with ideological ideals, Ikedife felt, and rightly too, that one man in chain diminishes the humanity of the other. For that reason he became the champion of the human rights of others. In the process he became a strong voice against the emasculation of his people, Ndigbo, by the rest of Nigeria.
Few years ago he was voted the President-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, the apex socio-cultural body of the Igbo and Ikedife distinguished himself with his brand of service that is yet to be equaled. He had ideological clarity and so it was easy for him and the executive he led to understand what the issues were, engage in defense and elevation of Ndigbo, and to stay on it without distractions. He was a true revolutionary in every sense; he had commitment, lived austere and was not covetous especially in acquisition of material gains. He dedicated his life to his people Ndigbo and was not afraid of whatever consequences his disposition could impose on him. Till he died he envisioned and agitated for a common home for the Igbo to be known as Federal Republic of Biafra. He spoke and canvassed for it till death.
That is the excellent part but the bad portion began with his transition. He was indisposed for months and nobody knew. I can bet that none who call themselves Igbo leaders, especially those in public offices knew. Concede to them that they knew and the question would be, what measure did they put in place so that the people can show him their appreciation and express the desire to have him remain alive? It is possible if the larger population knew, in addition to prayers, all hands would have been on deck to find solution. It is true it was his wish to be buried quickly and without fanfare. In my estimation injunction does not preclude public acknowledgement by the governors and other political and cultural leaders from the East Central states of Nigeria. Ikedife’s final wish cannot be the reason there were no high powered delegation to the family even after the burial.
This is unfortunate. It is an attitude that must change if Ndigbo must cross the boundaries of defeat and enter the territory of progress and victory. A people without heroes and heroines are just what they are: ordinary. They carry no weight and have no voice, hence no respect and dignity.