Chief Joseph Igbokwe is a Lagos-based businessman turned politician of fortune. He is a proud ‘Lagosian’ much like his mentor, the former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, whose ancestral origin is elsewhere other than the state of aquatic splendour. The mega city-state of Lagos is of course home to Nigerians of all tribes and religions apart from the Yorubas who ‘own’ it. Igbokwe is a detribalized Nigerian, a patriot whose patriotism must have been engendered by material and political interests other than those dictated by nobility and/or altruism.
At 65 the graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, is doing well in Lagos politics. He hails from Nnewi, Anambra State. He cannot be described as a political neophyte even though he has never won any election all his adult life. He cannot be ignorant of the world around him since he is an intellectual.
Big brother Joe may have worked hard enough to be a Tinubu lackey and Gov. Sanwo-Olu boy in Lagos. Presently he holds a top job in the Lagos State Government — Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Drainage and Sewage. And he is doing very well earning his deserved pay and playing his servile part. But Lagos is Lagos and not Biafraland. At the end of his service years a time shall surely come when he would need his Nnewi ancestral homeland for his retirement.
Few days ago the chieftain of the ruling APC party was reported to have dispatched a petition to the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba Alkali, alleging that the IPOB members had threatened to kill him and wipe out his family over his consistent criticism of their incarcerated leader. In an emotion-laden SOS memo sent to the IGP Joe was expressing himself more on parables and fables.
“A mother chicken says she is crying out to the world that a kite stole her chick not because she can do anything to retrieve the stolen sibling but to let the world hear her voice” — he had written and continued: “Blind people should not lead people with eyes… You do not tell the deaf and the dumb that war has started. When he sees others running he will join them”.
Days before Igbokwe’s allegation and petition surfaced online, Aloy Ejimakor, one of the principal lawyers to the detained IPOB leader, had raised an alarm over threats to his life he had been receiving from some misguided IPOB members over his perceived role in the controversial suspension of the ‘ghost monday’, a sit-at-home directive since suspended. Lawyer Ejimakor could not understand how and why he could be threatened with death by “those he had been defending for years”.
And before him, sometime last year or thereabout, a Lagos-based journalist and writer, Fredrick Nwabufo, had disclosed that the IPOB leadership were threatening his life. The so-called “Mr One Nigeria” (who pretends to love Nigeria more than the rest of us) was so terrified that he had to petition the police and DSS authorities in Lagos over the threats.
Journalist Nwabufo is convinced of his Nigerianess even when ours is ebbing fast! Coincidentally Nwabufo happens to hail from Nnewi with Igbokwe. Nnewi is a great industrial town that produced the likes of the late Biafran warlord, Dim Emeka Ojukwu.
Faced with a deteriorating and disorienting living conditions majority of Nigerians could not find any meaning in Nwabufo’s constant rabid defense of a forced unity in an insecure, unjust and chaotic environment.
Even before his controversial capture and extradition to Nigeria Mazi Kanu had used his Radio Biafra to issue open threats to Igbokwe. And on one occasion he had mandated his followers to cut off Joe’s head whereever they saw him!
When Mazi Kanu was abducted in Nairobi, Kenya, and renditioned to Nigeria he had come out to say some nasty things about the fall of the Biafran champion. He was captured on video kneeling down and thanking God for ‘surviving’ Kanu! And when the self-appointed Yoruba (Oduduwa) nation agitator, Sunday Igboho, was apprehended in Cotonou en route to Germany Igbokwe mockingly declared that ‘juju’ had failed Igboho as it had failed in the South-east! Tasteless and classless stuff of course. Yet he is entitled to his opinion.
In the struggle for the soul of Biafra not everyone would necessarily agree on the methods, tactics and strategies to adopt to achieve the objective: self-determination. Joe Igbokwe is not alone in his opposition to the violent tactics being deployed by the IPOB/ESN gang. The Biafran elite (politicians and big businessmen for example) are united in their mutual opposition to the dismemberment of the nation. Not that they ‘love’ Nigeria as presently constituted but because they benefit from her vacuous national leadership and corruption.
In 2019 as the Spokesman of the ruling APC party in Lagos state, prior to his present position, big brother Joe had declared before the state House of Assembly screening Committee that he belonged to no ethnic group! He described himself as a Nigerian and not belonging to any ethnic group. Lampooning those he described as “ethnic bigots” he said he got angry whenever people mentioned ethnicity.
Igbokwe has the right to express his opinion but the manner he goes about voicing his objections raises concerns about his Igboness, his fraternity with his origin. He has not come out openly to say he hates Igboland or Igbos or love Yorubas more than the Igbos but his body language gives him away as one at home with the oppressors of his ancestral people.
We believe Igbos are a formidable people and they deserve better in the Nigerian laborious project. The present systematic marginalization for which they are glorified victims ought to interrogate their ‘place’ in the Nigerian federation. So whoever questions the injustice, skewed appointments and inequity against which they justifiably cry out must not be ‘crucified’ for saying the obvious.
We have had cause to declare on more than one occasion that Nigeria as currently constituted is not only unfair and unhealthy but unsustainable. It must be renegotiated if her survival as one indivisible entity must be assured. But with a Fulani irredentist as President any ‘idle’ talk about restructuring or re-negotiation would always fall on deaf ears. He may not even understand what these demands entail!
Igbokwe has been called names in the past for his rabid ‘patriotism’. He has been labelled ‘efulefu’ (a wasted child or a prodigal son) by his critics for his anti-IPOB/ESN rantings online. It seems he hates the guts of Kanu and his followers, those vociferously and uncompromisingly demanding the establishment of the Biafran nationhood east of the Niger.
But before they kill brother Igbokwe as he is alleging we must warn against visiting violence or murder on anyone in disagreement with our views or stands on any issue. Igbokwe may have ‘sinned’ but he must be allowed to be, he and his family. Nothing he has said or done thus far deserves or warrants issuing a ‘fatwa’ on his head. No!
Not everyone are fans of Nnamdi Kanu but majority of Igbos share in his Biafran vision. If things continue as they are in the south-east region then he may be vindicated sooner or later no matter the final outcome of his current judicial travail in Abuja.
Please, let big brother Joe and his family be! We cannot afford to lose him now (even though we concede that he is a glorified executive ‘efulefu’)