CHUKWUEMEKA EZEIFE— From the Pits of Apprentice-Aba ((Nwa-Boyi) Motor-Parts Trader to the Pinnacle of State Governor and Igbo Leadership Part Two

Not long after my arrival in Lagos to begin another phase of my activism, I was adopted as a political son and Special Advice by Chief Frank Ovie-Kokori, the then General Secretary of NUPENG and iconic hero of democracy of June 12 fame, who unfortunately just departed this mother-earth few weeks ago. That period coincided with the incessant harassment and attacks against Igbo traders and land-owners by “Omonile” including those working in Apapa Wharf, backed by members of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) in Lagos State, just as it is presently happening.

 

Every now and then Chief Kokori would mock me over the helpless situation the Igbo found themselves in the hands of OPC in Lagos State. “Dis yah Ibo pipulu sef, why dem no wan do something about dis OPC nonsense.” Even though I am from the same Delta State with Chief kokori and all the ethnic groups in Delta State see themselves as kinsmen when outside the State, but I am Igbo and I cannot deny my Igbo identity. If I decide to do so, how would I defend my name, the name of my town, my language, and my tradition of origin? So I knew that Chief Kokori was mocking me directly and not only the victims.

 

To me therefore, even though those affected were mostly the Igbo of the Southeast that was only a matter of professional preference. An Igbo is an Igbo, no matter which State of the Federation he is partitioned into. Neither the 1945 anti-Igbo riot in Jos, the 1953 anti-Igbo Kano riot, the May 1966 anti-Igbo riot in Northern Nigeria, the September-October 1966 pogrom against the Igbo in Northern Nigeria, nor the on-going demolition of Igbo property in Lagos State defined the victims by their States of origin. An Igbo is an Igbo everywhere and I am the proudest person to be an Igbo. I have always lived throughout my life with the legendary Egbuna Akpa’s view on Igbo identity, when writing for the then Chief Jim Nwobodo’s Satellite newspaper issue of June 6, 1983, at page 11, he ipso facto defined a true Igbo, not by his belongingness to any of the five Southeast States but:

“One who believes in his identity and is determined to preserve that identity, even in the face of dangling naira baits. He is also one whose very sense of morality is unquestionable, and one who fully comprehend the stark realities of Nigerian Federalism.

 

So, one day I decided to confront the monster frontally. I moved to Dr. Frederick Faseun’s Century Hotel in Ago Palace Way, Okota, to meet him. He was however in a meeting. So we agreed to meet the next day at his private clinic, Besthope Hospital, off Araromi Street, Mushin. In fact getting to Dr. Faseun’s base in Ago Palace Way was not difficult for me since I was well familiar with the area; having lived there for sometimes with my elder brother Pastor John Nwandu at Balogun Street, Off Ago Palace Way.

 

As I pointed out earlier, that was in 1999, after my dismissal from University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and much of what is today the beautiful and exquisite suburb of Okota was abandoned swampland. In fact, after Femi Killa Street, that is two streets after Frederick Faseun Street where his Century Hotel is situated, the rest were uninhabitable marshlands to Mile 2, Lagos. Today, over 90 percent of those swamps were reclaimed by the Igbo and turned into habitable beautiful scenario, which eventually became what is today a source of demonic jealousy.

 

When I arrived at Besthope Hospital the following day at Mushin and demanded to see Dr. Frederick Faseun, not as a medical patient but for special appointment with my lanky flexing body, I was confronted with red-eyed, tough-looking OPC paramilitary guards, some of who later became my close allies and comrades-at-arms in the struggle. My first meeting with Dr. Faseun was as instructive as it was memorable when considered in the context of his characteristic simplicity in contrast to his outward carriage as a dreaded OPC monster.

 

Indeed, there is something I eventually discovered in my many years of interactions with several Yoruba people, both high and low, which most Igbo and Yoruba ethnic bigots might not appreciate. The average Yoruba man has more respect and value for the Igbo than the Igbo have respect and value for themselves differentials in age notwithstanding. This might sound weird, but that is the Gospel truth. It is easy for an Igbo to meet the Ooni of Ife than for the same Igbo to meet the Obi of Onitsha.

 

Indeed I have always seen the orchestrated conflict between the Igbo and Yoruba in Lagos State on the part of the Igbo as a question of: “O bu na okpu-isi amaro akpu, k’obu na aguba adiro nko?” (Is it that the barber does not know how to barb or the barbing knife is not sharp?) I have always said, and I continue to say, that any Yoruba man who hates the Igbo or delights in making the laudable Igbo contributions to the development of Lagos State a source of regret for the Igbo, must be of Nupe (Tapa) origin. No true son or daughter of Oduduwa or Obatala will hate the Igbo.

 

I have had the opportunity to meet Chief Ayo Adebanjo at his office in Obafemi Awolowo House, situated on Marina Street, Lagos Island, and our discussions on national issues were done in an air of mutual equality of views without reference to the wide gab in both age and status. At that time Ohaneze Ndigbo under Prof Ben Nwabueze was tilted towards Fulani oligarchy; and so our discussions were centred on how to bring the Igbo and Yoruba together. I have equally worked very closely with Dr. Beko Ransom-Kuti in the struggles among many others including my peers. Many Yoruba men I have never met in my life have also contributed immensely to my survival in the course of my present struggles. And I know that many Igbo people who have and continue to relate with positive-minded Yoruba people will agree with me.

 

If a Yoruba man trusts an Igbo man, he trusts him final, so long as the Igbo man does not show any intent of cheating him. Indeed the Igbo man has always been the best husband every Yoruba woman would wish to have. This was Okwadike’s number one quality that puts him apart from other Igbo leaders. Okwadike had the sense of the snail that makes it walk perfectly with ease on thorns. This was my instinctive observation of Dr. Frederick Isotan Faseun when I first confronted him on entering his office at Besthope Hospital.

 

After taking my seat before him, I quickly introduced myself and without waiting for him to ask my mission, I went straight away to the issue of the constant harassment of Igbo residents in Lagos State by members of the OPC, harping on the reason why the Yoruba, including the OPC should see the Igbo as their closer kinsmen than the feudal Muslim Fulani of the North. He subsequently defended himself by blaming the situation on the Igbo leadership who had always chosen the Fulani over the Yoruba on national issues.

 

It was right there that both of us agreed that there must be an Igbo organization outside MASSOB which would work in alliance with OPC to protect Igbo interest in Lagos State and at the same time checkmate OPC actions against the Igbo. This was how I founded Igbo People’s Congress (IPC) in Lagos State, with such men as the now discredited Joe Igbokwe and Eze-Ndigbo (Pastor) Okey Anorue of Igbogbo Bayeku, Ikorodu, then  Chairman of Yaba Bus-Stop Railway Line Traders’ Association and popularly known as “Okey Starch”, as members.

 

In less than one week after the formation of Igbo People’s Congress I was in Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan where Dr. Faseun formally held the first OPC Convention; while Gani Adams, then his deputy, who was financially suppported to revolt against Dr. Faseun by Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, held a separate OPC Convention in Onikan Stadium Lagos. That was how OPC became two factions.  At Convention, I was formally inducted into the OPC family as associate member. But then I had my own OPC special variant of salutation. While the general OPC coded salutation is “Oodua ni mi, tokon tokon”, my own variant of the salutation was “Omo Igbo ni mi, tokon tokon.” So I was popularly known among the OPC hierarchy as “Omo Igbo tokon tokon.”

 

From that moment I swung into action with the full backing of Dr. Frederick Faseun whose relationship with me metamorphosed from that of senior-junior partner to father-son relationship. Dr. Faseun had so much respect and confidence in me that there was no serious national issue, including some topical personal matters, he never failed to consult me, even after I had returned to my job as lecturer at University of Nigeria, Nsukka. One notable instance was his conflict with his wife over the issue of whether his only daughter, a medical doctor would be allowed to marry an Igbo man, precisely the younger brother of the notorious international fraudster, Mr. Fred Ajudua from my hometown.

 

His wife was in support of the marriage but Dr. Faseun was totally opposed to it, not because the man is an Igbo but the stigma of being related to Fred Ajudua. Knowing my rigid stance against fraudsters, Dr. Faseun called me and bitterly complained about his wife’s support of such marriage. I told him it was not something we will discuss on phone and that I would be coming to Lagos in three days-time. When I came to Lagos and we sat together, I asked him one fundamental question, and that was, “did you at any time instrument your daughter who and where to marry?” He said he did not! Thereafter, I told him the implication of opposing the marriage, particularly how it would affect the ambient of his carriage as a driver behind the wheel of Igbo-Yoruba understanding, more especially since the young man in question has a credible livelihood and a medical doctor like your daughter, unlike his elder brother. He then said, Tony you are right, the young man from my observation is on the quiet and humble trail.

 

That state of confidence still lives between me and his OPC members till date. It is important to note that Dr. Frederick Faseun would not have supported a Bola Ahmed Tinubu Presidency if he were alive; and indeed, much of the members of OPC till date do not support President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. This is also the case with Iba Gani Adams. MC Oluomo’s political gangsterism against Ndigbo in Lagos State during the last Governorship election was therefore never predicated on the support of any of the OPC factions, but on a medley of hunger-stricken street urchins, motor-park touts and aggregated rag-tag army of Yoruba Muslim NASFAT hoodlums. The OPC, whether of Dr. Frederick Faseun’s faction or, Gani Adams’ faction operates within a set of Codes of Conduct.

 

What happened during the gubernatorial election and is still happening today in Lagos State could have been averted through diligent response to early-warning intelligence reports which could have resulted to increased political respect to the Igbo in Lagos State and not the present situation where the Igbo see themselves as besieged. Indeed, to state the obvious, if credible Igbo leadership of the calibre of Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Rear Admiral Godwin Ndubuisi Kanu were on the Igbo leadership throne in Lagos State, the present messy situation of the Igbo in Lagos State should have seen the light of the day.

 

There is therefore no denying the fact that the major factor that enabled the present Igbo predicament in Lagos State was the absence of credible, self-assertive and self-confident Igbo leadership in Lagos State.  My futile attempt to alert the Igbo leadership in Lagos State of the coming danger in the Governorship election explains this lacuna most vividly. With the shock of the defeat of APC in Lagos State in the Presidential election still fresh and the subsequent heated preparation for the Governorship election, a senior member of Dr. Frederick Faseun’s OPC who has remained in contact with me, alerted me of the planned violence against Ndigbo in Lagos State during the Governorship election. He informed me that the OPC was willing to defend Ndigbo in Lagos State if called upon to do so because they are not in any contract with Tinubu or APC.

I tried to reach my brother Prof Pat Utomi, it was not possible. I reached out to the Administrative Secretary of Ndigbo Lagos, Mr. Kalu Onuma and all he could say was that he was in his hometown Abriba in Abia State and would get back to me. He never got back to me till this moment of my writing. I then contacted Arch. Arthur Obi Nwandu from Enugwu-Ukwu to link up with notable Igbo personalities in Lagos State and other parts of Nigeria to address the coming danger. All he could say was that he would need to consult Mr. Peter Obi in person first before initiating any action. Whether he consulted Peter Obi or not, I am yet to be informed?

 

The Governorship election came and we all saw what happened. So who should be blamed for the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea? Was it God who sent Moses to warn Pharaoh, or Pharaoh who refused to listen to God’s warnings? This boils down to the earlier hypothetical question, “O bu na Okpu-isi amaro akpu, k’ obu na aguba adiro nko?” (Is it that the barber does not know how to barb or the barbing knife is not sharp?

 

The Jews like in American international politics believe that business and politics are like Siamese twins which cannot be treated in isolation of the other. Successive American Governments of both ideological divides have continued to support the State of Israel not because they love the Jews as a race but because the positive impacts of the Jews in overall US political economy cannot be treated with levity.

 

We saw what happened recently in three Ivy League Universities and how their Presidents— Harvard University’s President Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania’s President Liz Magill and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s President Sally Kornbluth were drilled by members of the United States House of Representatives for their inability to curtail anti-Semitism in their campuses, with many people calling for their resignations. The Jews were able to call the shots in those Ivy League Universities because most of their financial bases were contingent upon strong Jewish funding and investments.

 

The American Jews and African-Americans started on the same trail of campaign against discrimination founded on anti-Semitism and racism at the turn of the 20th century. Today, the American Jews have left their African-American comrades-at-arms far behind. Today no serious American Presidential candidate goes into election without addressing the “American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).” We are currently witnessing what is happening in the United Nations Security Council over the on-going Israel-Hamas war with the unshakable American support for the Jews and State of Israel.

 

Last November, I was privileged to witness the opening and closing plenary sessions of the American Jewish Z3 Project International Conference on the on-going Israel-Hamas war and came to understand that there is more to being a Jew than the ordinary outsider can fathom—something that kept the Jews floating on mother-earth for more than two thousand years of exile with unimaginable series of persecutions by different peoples and nations that rose and eventually fell, with most of them disappearing from the world map. In the course of the event what really came to my mind was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s highly impacting statement on page 58 of his Civil War Soliloquies:

As an Igbo, I know what it means: To be snubbed, to be cheated, and to be ignored, by Lilliputs.  As an Igbo, I know what it means: To be a scapegoat, to be slandered, to be dreaded clandestinely, by Lilliputs. As an Igbo, I know what it means: To be interned to be a refugee, to be manipulated, by Lilliputs as an Igbo, I have tasted the gall of defeat in war: of having been bamboozled, of being tolerated. As an Igbo, I shall be vigilant: To be politically free, economically secure, socially compatible. As an Igbo, I will raise my eyes to the starry skies: And the lilliputs will tremble. As an Igbo, I will raise my eyes to the starry skies: And see a future, spiced with splendour and glory; and the Lilliputs shall be ashamed.”

 

Without mincing words, the truth of the matter is that if Ndigbo are willing to take back their rightful possessions in the present Nigerian nation, which I have always believed is not by secession, they must be willing to be told the truth on the root of their present state of political quagmire from historical stand-point by those qualified to do so, and be equally willing to accept it, otherwise they will continue to fine themselves in the same cyclic state of political mirage.

 

But most fundamental is that the Igbo must apply the strategy of reflective outboard political investments combined with diligent investments in opposition, against the current unreflective self-centred political investments which often come with iniquitous servility coloured in Judas Iscariot sense of conscienceless saboteur-syndrome, that has continuously kept such morally bankrupt Igbo political leaders as Chiefs Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Hope Uzodinma, Orji Uzor Kalu, Rochas Okorocha, Nyesom Wike, Ifeanyi Uba, Dave Umahi and Arthur Eze, among others floating on the destructive political pool of Igboland.

 

Indeed, has it ever occurred to anyone that Chief Obafemi Awolowo never and, never contemplated one day in his life-time working with the Fulani oligarchy? That is the mark of a man of principle, a leader with reflective historical consciousness, and a leader with sustainable political vision. Chief Obafemi Awolowo had always understood the nucleus of Nigeria’s problem, which is the quest for immutable Fulani political dominance founded on the devious framework of jihad and islamization. How many people actually understood that Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been operating on this jihad framework in Yorubaland through Nasrul-lahi-li Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT) since his emergence as a Senator in the Second Republic?

 

This Obafemi Awolowo’s ideological stance had been Okwadike’s political philosophy and the reason he had always been more disposed to working politically with the Yoruba, than with the Fulani oligarchy. It is on this ideology that Chief Ayo Adebanjo and those members of the Afenifere on his side stand today. It is on this ideology that every patriotic member of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) stands today. This was the ideological nucleus of Okwadike’s emergence as the first Executive Governor of Anambra State under Social Democratic Party (SDP), when the other Southeast States—Abia, Enugu and Imo States went with the Fulani-led National Republican Convention (NRC). This was the ideological raison d’etat of Okwadike’s spirited role as one of the few Igbo leaders that distinguished themselves as members of the pro-democracy organization— NADECO.

 

This has remained my guiding ideological searchlight and the reason I will never accept Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the President of my own Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is the reason why any Christian who accepts the current political framework of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a Muslim President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a Muslim Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a political fait accompli for Nigerian Christians is no more and no less an unquestionable apostle of Judas Iscariot.

 

This ideological position was well reflected throughout my activism as the leader of Igbo People’s Congress (IPC) in Lagos State, much of which cannot find space in this tribute to “Okwadike Ndigbo Nine.” But for the avoidance of doubt, I will just highlight few episodes which in sum consequently brought me into the fatherly arms of Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Rear Admiral Godwin Okwadike and other positive-minded Igbo leaders in Lagos State and beyond.

 

One of such episodes was the anti-Igbo protest led by members of OPC at Apapa Wharf, which cost the life of one person. At the emergency meeting of Igbo Speaking Community of Lagos State held at Chief Anomneze’s residence in Ikate Surulere, it was proposed that a delegation of Igbo leaders in Lagos State led by its President Chief Uche Momah from Nnewi should be sent to Dr. Frederick Faseun to plead with him to call his men to order. Nobody was willing to be part of the delegation to Century Hotel for the fear of being attacked by members of OPC.

 

Following the stalemate, I told them to select any venue in Lagos State they considered to the safe for them to meet Dr. Frederick Faseun and I would invite him to come and address them. They did not believe could do that, but when I insisted, they decided to cave in if only to give the seeming impossibility a trial and prove me wrong. It was at that point that they chose a venue on Apapa Road, not far from Costain Bus-Stop, but with the proviso that Dr. Faseun should not come with members of OPC.

 

After discussing with Dr. Faseun, he agreed to address the Igbo leaders at their chosen venue but with members of OPC. It was a herculean task convincing him to drop his security because on my side I was not in position to provide him the needed security guarantee. We finally settled that we would go with a bus-load of 15 OPC members but that they would anchor about one pole before Costain Bus-Stop waiting in case there was any cause to intervene, which I knew would never come. That was how I compelled Dr. Faseun to attend the meeting with only one of his assistants called Mukaila, where he assured the Igbo community that they should alert the OPC through me in the event of any OPC harassment of Ndigbo in Lagos State.

 

However, what followed afterwards temporarily dampened my spirit of Igbo patriotism, safe for the reason that it was impossible for me to change my Igbo identity. When the same Igbo leaders decided to pay Dr. Faseun a thank-you visit, I was neither included nor informed. So, one afternoon, Dr. Faseun called me and said, “Tony where are you?” I said, “Surulere.” He then said, “Can you make it to Century Hotel in 30 minutes? I have a surprise for you.” I said l would try. Immediately I proceeded to Okota to meet him.

 

Arriving at Century Hotel, I saw the cream of the leadership of Igbo-Speaking Community of Lagos State seated in their well-starched caftans and flowing traditional Igbo apparels adorned with rioting red-fez caps. As soon as I entered their midst, there was a myriad of conscience-revolting mumbles among them. Dr. Faseun immediately beckoned on me to sit beside him. Ashamed of their failed attempt to undermine my importance among Ndigbo Lagos before Dr. Faseun, the President, Chief Uche Momah feebly made frantic efforts to justify their brazen act of sabotage against me. Dr. Faseun in the course of the meeting subsequently informed them that  I was his best Igbo friend in Lagos State and that there was nothing I would tell him to do for the Igbo that he would not do.

There was also the OPC-IPC joint intervention in the attempt by some Yoruba people led by TheNews Magazine to compel the Federal Government to remove the Managing Director of Niger Dock Shipbuilding Company, Snake Island, Dr. Nnamdi Ozobia from Onitsha over a trumped-up allegations of corruption. With the full support of Dr. Frederick Faseun, Dr. Ozobia was able to withstand all the callous onslaughts against him.

To be continued.

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