You are the book you read, says Indian writer, Sandhyna Patnala. Her full quote is: “You are the books you read, the movies you watch, the music you listen to, the people you spend time with and the conversations you engage in.”
She ended that line with a caution: “Choose wisely what you feed your mind.”
The last line troubles me. Reason: I visited two state capitals in southeast Nigeria recently and took time to wander about at some newsstands. Yes, I decided to waste time at the newsstands. I like doing so so that I may listen to ‘gossip’ and ‘expert’ analysis from the members of the ‘Free Readers’ Association’ who throng the newsstands every morning to read, argue and falsify or interpret the day’s news as published in the newspapers. You may not know that there are very many ‘expert analysts’ who operate from, and at, the newsstands. Many of them ‘know’ much more than what is published. They analyze and interpret the news in such a manner that would confound the reporters and their editors. Most times, you wonder if they are actually interpreting the event you covered and reported. Simply put, they have all the angles to your report. So, once in a while, I stroll to a newsstand, pretend to be a novice and just listen.
But this time around, I did more than listen. I took time to see what our people in those two states feed their minds (It is not limited to those two states). I observed at one of such newsstands that the ‘experts’ ignored all the headlines in the regular newspapers and focused their discourse on the myriad of publications promoting the propaganda of IPOB. I did a count and had 10 different publications, sold at N100 each, propagating ‘news’ about IPOB and Nnamdi Kanu. I pretended to be an IPOBian and ‘patriotically’ bought a copy of each of them. Some looked at me with suspicion and I heard one say “he may be a security person”. I quietly sneaked away with my buy to avoid the possibility of stories that touch the heart.
I retired to my hotel room to ‘educate’ my ignorance about what was actually happening in Biafra. I stopped scanning the ‘newspapers’ after the third one. They all had almost the same ‘stories’ and images many of which were obviously photoshopped. I do not have the barometer to measure the truth or falsehood of the ‘stories’ published in those ‘newspapers’ but the fact that they neither had bylines nor editorial address told me that something was amiss. Two of those publications bore the same Lagos address and phone numbers but had different titles. This suggests that they may have been produced by the same person. The rest had neither contact address, telephone numbers nor email addresses. Well, I entertained myself with the ‘stories’. Though I read with disbelief what was being circulated and sold to people as ‘news’ in those publication, I also wondered how those papers remain on the newsstands.
I also imagined what publishers of those materials want to achieve. Instigate crisis or misinform, uneducate and ultimately mislead Igbo people? For instance, I saw an obviously photoshopped image on the cover of one of those publications where a jet fighter plane had Biafran colours cropped on it with a military Air Traffic Controller standing before it, also with Biafran colours cropped on him. The jet had a title which suggested that it was a new jet fighter acquired by IPOB to begin its war against Nigeria. I laugh! I mean, I am not an expert in warfare but I am made to understand that espionage (intelligence) is an essential part of the process of war. I am told that, through such intelligence, countries try to know the weapon capabilities of each other in order to help them define their approach. A military expert tells me that knowledge of the weapon capability of an enemy nation enables you to know what weapons to attack with. So, even if IPOB has such a jet fighter, will brandishing it make for a workable strategy? It reminds of Saddam Hussein boasting of Iran’s weapon capacity and ability to turn Arabian deserts into a cemetery for the Allied Forces, if they attempt to attack his country. When the Coalition Forces, led by General Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf, fought their way into Baghdad, the boastful Hussein found solace in a rat hole. He had no weapons. The Allied Forces actually did not need the sort of weapons they attacked Hussein with but for his boasts.
On other pages, there were ‘stories’ of how the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guttierez, had agreed to announce the independence of Biafra soon (I have heard similar stories since Ralph Uwazurike started the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB). There were so many other amazing falsehoods published in the guise of creating the necessary narrative to enhance the quest for Biafra. In sum, they mislead, brainwash and destroy.
But the question is, whose mind is being toyed with? Igbo minds, of course. Many outside Igboland, who come across those publications, will read them and have a good laugh. Their conclusion will be that Igbo people are not serious. My problem is that, with such publications freely produced and sold to us by our own people, we begin the process of the systematic destruction of the Igbo youth. And, gradually, we are seeing the effects of such publications blow in our faces with the progressive retrogression of the Igbo youth who is now led to believe that the reason he is yet to become who Chukwu Okike Abiama planned him to be is because someone else, of a different ethnic and religious orientation, is holding him down. Many Igbo youths are now led to believe that, unless the Republic of Biafra is created, as a physical reality, there is no way they can excel in their private endeavours. I am tempted to believe that it is for such publications that some Igbo youths now think, and believe, that whatever destruction they bring to Igboland, bring them nearer to the realization of the Republic of Biafra.
With such propaganda materials in circulation, some Igbo youths now see the burning of police stations and attack on security formations as an action in service of the Republic of Biafra. We forget so soon that Boko Haram started as a movement to sanitize Islam and enforce the strict observance of the Sharia legal system. But they soon started robbing and burning police stations. Those who are driven by the Biafran passion to destroy police stations also fail to understand that many of those facilities were built through community effort, by the financial contributions of their parents, and not necessarily by the Nigerian government. It is, however, not like being built by the Federal Government is ground enough to burn them. We may not see the impact to those actions immediately, but it is our communities that stand to suffer the effects in the long run.
The negative orientation that Igbo youths are getting through the consumption of false propaganda published in such ‘newspapers’, will, over time, take a negative toll on them. Therefore, it is time for Igbo parents to begin to be mindful of what their children read. Is it not disturbing that the Igbo youth, who once was the envy of others outside his geographical domain because of the apprenticeship system that has helped create wealth and jobs, is now gradually relegating himself structurally by consuming negative propaganda that destroys his mind and sets him against society? Many are so consumed by what I call IPOB nationalism that they do not mind paying income tax to Biafra even when they run away from paying local government levies for services provided by the local government, not Biafra. Isn’t that ironical?
It is time Igbo youths began to choose wisely what they feed their mind