Since we are on the subject of Chinua Achebe’s eternal truths, let’s briefly reflect on the cryptic conclusion of his seminal work, Things Fall Apart, which reads: The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger. The lucidity of Achebe’s creative imagination is given its most eloquent expression in the mockery he projected to the title of an imaginary book that the whiteman was going to write about Africans.
Amanze Obi’s ridiculous charges against Governor David Nweze Umahi of Ebonyi State in his back page column in The Sun on July 5, 2018, provoked two diametrically opposed impulses, namely, laughter and derision on the one hand, and sadness and pity on the other. If one’s mood had ended
at laughter and derision, the need for this rejoinder would clearly not have arisen. But the sadness and pity compel me to assess elements of the man’s thoughts and allegations that are so lacking in distillation and so recklessly malicious as to call for pacification, at least for his own sake. No mockery intended.
In metaphorically fitting Governor Umahi into the unedifying jacket of Vidkun Quisling in an opening paragraph that fits all parameters of plagiarism, Mr. Obi alleges that Umahi has “…exhibited tendencies that easily give him away as someone who prefers to fraternise with those who do not mean well for his people.” This assertion is altogether baseless and there is no shred of evidence to sustain it. The underlying truth in the assertion is that a genuine, transformative leader who is propelled by a sense of history must always have the best interests of his people at heart and then project their collective aspirations, their wellbeing, security and sense of community above and beyond everything else, including self-interest and personal ambition. Ebonyi people, Governor Umahi’s people, are living witnesses to the fact that Umahi has not only lived by these principles but has done so in a manner that some have described as obsessive. Over here in Ebonyi, we like leaders that are obsessive about our wellbeing.
In referring to the savage slaughter of innocent men and women in Nimbo in
Uzo Uwani Local Government Area, Enugu State, in April 2016, by a marauding horde of Fulani herdsmen, Mr. Obi alleges: “Umahi, acting as opposite man (whatever that means) … said that he would not ban herders from Ebonyi State because his people had no problem with the cattle rearers.” This allegation is patently false. On the contrary, Governor Umahi was the first off the blocks in issuing condemnatory statements over that tragedy. He did not speak through a spokesman or any third party. He addressed the press himself in order to underscore the gravity of the matter and as a clear demon- stration of courageous leadership at such moments when the dark clouds of conflict that had the potential to presage a war hovered over us. I refer you to http://dailypost.ng/2016/05/05/governor-umahi-orders-fulani-herdsmen-out-of-ebonyi-community/. “Governor Umahi orders Fulani herdsmen out of Ebonyi State.” That was the headline carried in many national dailies. That was followed by “Governor Umahi gives Fulani herdsmen 7-day ultimatum” – https://www. naija.ng/820563-igbo-governor-not-want- herdsmen-vacate-state-makes-u-turn.html#820563.
Mr. Obi is not yet done. He alleges that soldiers invaded Umuahia in September and massacred Igbo people and that “by his studied silence, Umahi has labelled the dead as outlaws whose lives do not matter. A huge stigma is hanging around the governor’s neck…” How dare you, sir? How dare you condemn in such a sweeping and damning fashion a man you do not know, have not interviewed or interrogated and on a matter about which you know absolutely nothing beyond infantile speculations?
At the risk of divulging sensitive and classified security information, it was the effort of Governor Umahi, through rallying his colleagues, under the South East Governors Forum of which he is the chairman, and the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and other Igbo leaders, that tragedy of indescribable proportions over Igboland was averted.
In his reference to the Federal Government’s plan to establish cattle colonies in some states of the federation, Mr. Obi writes: “Ebonyi State is the only state in Eastern Nigeria captured in the plan.” This is true and it is a matter of national record and public knowledge and the selection was not done in consultation, directly or indirectly, with Governor Umahi. But Mr. Obi’s impulse for lies and fabrications is overpowering because he followed up with this assertion: “While those who mean well for their people are speaking up, Umahi has maintained a suspicious silence.” This falsehood is categorically refuted with overwhelming evidence: “Umahi: No cattle colony in Ebonyi” (New Telegraph, February 11, 2018) -https://newtelegraphonline.com/2018/02/umahi-no-cattle-colony-ebonyi/; “No cattle colony in Ebonyi, Umahi insists” (Thisday, February 11, 2018) – https://www.thisdaylive.com/ index.php/2018/02/11/no-cattle-colony-in- ebonyi-governor-umahi-insists/; “Ebonyi re- jects cattle colonies proposal by the Nigerian government” (Premium Times, February 10, 2018) – https://www.premiumtimesng.com/ regional/ssouth-east/258224-ebonyi-rejects- cattle-colonies-proposal-nigerian-govt.html; “Our rejection of cattle colony is irreversible – Ebonyi” (Punch newspapers, February 18, 2018) – http://punchng.com/our-rejection-of-cattle-colony-is-irreversible-ebonyi/.
When those who have shown sufficiently positive attributes to warrant the prestigious portfolio of a newspaper column descend to this level of crassness and unfounded allegations, I am choked with pity for the profession of journalism in this land.
The weight of evidence against the emotive and sensational tirade against the Governor of Ebonyi State by Amanze Obi is not only staggering but also so formidable that he cannot rebut any. And he knows it. That raises the question: why would a supposedly thinking man with a certain level of education embark on such a disreputable campaign to traduce and malign a fellow man, propping every single word that flowed from his pen on falsehood, fabrications and outright lies? I have a postulation, and it is to the end that, among the numerous malaise that afflict the Igbo, particularly those that parade themselves as pseudo intellectuals and crypto populists, the sight and knowledge of a fellow Igboman whose performance, be it in public or private service, is widely acknowledged and celebrated tends to stir their bile and provokes the worst of their nature. Accordingly, they mobilise malice and the full lengths of the vicious strokes of envy to destroy the one that has risen or is celebrated or who, in whatever form or fashion, has distinguished himself.
Just last Sunday, July 1, 2018, writing also in the back page of The Sun, one Echezona Okechi, who describes himself as “leading the movement to reform the Anambra APC,” launched an unwarranted and altogether pointless assault on Governor Umahi, deploying as an alibi the side story of Abakaliki Street in Awka, Anambra State. In assessing its qualification for a response, I found the article so risible that I could not bring myself to dignify it with my pen nor present to its author the notoriety he desperately and manifestly craves.
Vultures’ talons are out for Governor Umahi not because he has erred or offended anyone, but because he has carved a niche of distinction and recalibrated the essential matrix of accomplishments in public service statewide, regionally and nationally.