Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Igbo Politics: The Struggle Against Orji Kalu's Cults And Demonic Gangsters

by Ambrose Ehirim
I have written long time ago in praise of Orji Uzor Kalu and Igbos political future, in which I expressed my profound gratitude. I was driven by Kalu’s “pragmatism” when the Fourth Republic came into being, and upon the course of the fate of Nd’Igbo, notably, a Biafran memorial, Biafran veterans who hanged around the motorways by Oji River begging for dimes to make ends meet, and a final resting place for Biafra war heroes. The struggle was arduous as Igbo politicians and related governors made many arguments about what should be done to avoid complicating matters with Olusegun Obasanjo’s-led administration in an issue that had to do with Biafra.

It also had to do with a lost civil war, and that Igbos were getting back on a good political footing with Kalu’s no nonsense approach towards Igbo leadership and political future, which presumably should be handled with care, in other words, diplomacy, to secure a final resting place for Biafran war heroes by way of a memorial.

The veterans, among a case load of Igbo problems, grand and small, weren’t an issue. The case of the Biafran war heroes and a memorial seemingly was the real deal when the gulf between Obasanjo and Igbo leaders began to surface on the premise Obasanjo, then head of state, and a civil war commander who bridged the gap resulting to armistice, coupled with leading a political party that was in power, had Igbo political leaders cornered to avoid a misinterpretation of the war and Biafran heroes which may be detrimental to a “new republic” that had been on a litmus test.

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had had sleepless nights when the idea of a Biafran war heroes and a memorial was not coming through based on the tactical debate which came along with it, with regards to a conflict of interest between Igbo related governors and Obasanjo. Specifically, the tactical debate was about where in particular should Biafra memorial be situated and which of the governors would be bold enough to pull the bull by the horn and take some action since the initial location at Uli had been backpedaled by Chinwoke Clement Mbadinuju of Anambra State. Apparently, there were none but Kalu who stood bold enough to scorn Obasanjo and take the heat, notwithstanding the fact he belonged to the same political party with the president, which probably could lead to disloyalty and violating party principles.

Kalu had thought about it and the ripple effect it might have on his political career, that is, if he okays a final resting place for Biafra war heroes in his home state of Abia. Eventually, Kalu made up his mind and Biafra war heroes were finally recognized by way of a memorial in Umuahia. Kalu had gained my respect doing that, and I had adored him, henceforth. I would be wrong in my gesture and Kalu would be full of it, not knowing a gangster and a demonic cultist had emerged.

But the case of Biafra war heroes was of concern to every Igbo – at home and in Diaspora – for historiography and the importance of the struggle for self-reliance, as in the Balkans, for posterity. As it happened, the hackles raised on the Biafran subject reflected much on the youngish intellectuals who founded Biafranigeriaworld –BNW -- and its sister related sites, which embarked on extensive to near exhaustive commentaries and analyses on keeping the Biafran struggle alive. The founders of BNW were adequately consulted to every move in establishing a resting place for Biafra war heroes. Kalu was part of the negotiations and a new born BNW backed him up based on his front as Igbo pragmatist.

Kalu’s life and stewardship of Abia State would turn out to a full blown Orwellian and Shakespearean drama, with mean spirited characters and tragic stories transcending the opening acts. But since the gangster-like operations initially in Umuahia, and especially with the revelations at the Okija Shrine and how Kalu orchestrated every deal at the oracle, so many among the deadly culthood under Kalu’s orders took different positions becoming obvious and impossible to tell where they will come out in any new situation because of a political switch for a bargain not too favorable to Abia citizenry.

The abomination and unbecoming conducts at the Okija Shrine and other related shrines where these shameless politicians had convened has triggered a whole series of heated debates among the pundits about a questionable past election in which Kalu’s party, Progressive Peoples Alliance –PPA – won two gubernatorial seats from the seven Igbo related states; and thanks to Obasanjo who engineered every move in a rigged election never ever seen in the nation’s history.

There has been much discussion of the voodoo and what had been going on at the shrines in Okija and elsewhere. What is more disturbing about the Okija visits and invocation of agwuisi, is the nature from around which civilized people supposedly should have preferred a sound political order typical of organized societies than resorting to cheap shots; to the spirits dancing in the flesh and witchcrafts, just for the purpose of attaining a public office by which they have pledged during the course of election campaigns to do their best and make their respective zones and states better, by way of providing basic amenities as it is done in all organized societies.

The Okija incident and other cases of abominable character may be opening our eyes, suggesting such a spooky, and demonic scenes had been an ongoing affair within the power structure of a so-called neo-democratic experiment; the power seekers and the ones that had already taken a grip to power, thus, the ability in a likewise position to dictate to would be power brokers on how democracy works in a “Nigeria” set up – ala, the legitimacy to voodoo and witchcraft in sustaining a viable and intact government – and what that actually means to a new kind of democracy which may also suggest visiting the shrines and swearing to “fetish oaths” makes these states in question viable and may no longer be viable the moment it stops visiting the shrines. It is the norm and accepted when the citizenry of these related states are not complaining, and not doing anything about it, practically.

“Governor” Theodore Ahamefule Orji of Abia State whose Okija visits was all over the news with more questions popping up, and a Youtube video of the governor seen in his underwear proved the governor had agreed to a “fetish oath” as a done deal to fulfill the terms of his stewardship to the people of Abia State. Orji had been locked up for corruption charges before winning the gubernatorial seat and was released some few days to inauguration, and hurriedly sworn-in to succeed Kalu who had suddenly given up his executive throne knowing scores of charges will be leveled against him, as well, by federal agents upon leaving office. However, the constitution’s immunity clause saved Orji from further prosecution until probably he serves out his term, that is, if he survives an election tribunal that may likely nullify his election and send him back to jail.

What has transpired in the Orji and the Okija affair is an Igbo tragedy, which calls into question the validity of Orji and his master Kalu. And what that means is, Kalu and his cohorts who ultimately believed in igwo nshi, of the bewitched and sorcery in the name of power politics, and which as it happened, rendered the people who reside in Abia State and elsewhere in AlaIgbo without a say in what supposedly should have been a nascent democracy having nothing to do with elections conducted by means of a social contract or any form of contract; should be basis for an ultimatum and sanctions, especially when such demonic scenes like the Okija episode and Umuahia are not healthy to a democratic fabric, and civilization, in particular.

If elections in a democracy with regards to power belonging to the people by means of electoral process based on the rule of law, and then, all of a sudden, fetish rituals springs up, making it valid for would be politicians seeking political appointments and things like that to pledge allegiance through bloodsucking and igba afa, invocation of the gods in order to struck a deal according to the principles of ndi dibia and agwuisi, soothsayers, idols, and so on and so forth, then, upholding and respecting democracy, the said election should be declared null and void for the simple fact democracy and demonic rituals does not add up.

And I believe most of the nonsense that keeps hanging around Igbo states should be blamed on a failed leadership. I remember the World Igbo Congress convention which was held in Los Angeles on Labor Day weekend of 2005. And I also remember Igbo politicians and “power brokers” who came from Igbo land. It was not inspiring and one was left to ponder what happened to Igbo people. When Kalu spoke, a vulnerable Igbo Diaspora applauded, and applauded for reasons I’m still having problems trying to figure out and what had happened to a people who are now politically impotent, demolished and conquered.

Somehow, Kalu had inspired his admirers when he quoted himself of saying “I want to be the next president of Nigeria” noting it was time the Igbo man gets on the block for the nation’s top job. The entire chant turned out to be a political gimmick to persuade Igbo Diaspora that much need to be done regarding an Igbo president, a post that had eluded top-notch Igbo politicians since the post-civil war era. Kalu seemed to be talking tough when his entourage began a campaign on a different political setting realizing his pursuit of the presidency would not be entertained within the framework of the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party – PDP – which had already been designed for the president to handpick a presidential candidate from the Sultanate North, to be precise, Umar Yar’Adua, younger brother to the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, and the president’s best crony during his military dictatorship was the predetermined choice.

Kalu regrouped and formed the Progressive Party Alliance with a platform which he wrote. His friends and kitchen cabinet members backed him up including Orji who would be the flag bearer of the party for Abia State, and a kingpin of the Okija saga where demons invade the natural being through rituals which sets the tone on how to follow the deadly rules when one is elected into public office.

On the other score, nobody can say for sure what had been involved in the visits to the shrines, even with abstract revelations, which would amount to nothing; for instance, say, if human heads and other body parts are linked to the rituals. Nobody knows the whole truth yet, and in this case, the question is, why hasn’t the government permanently closed these abominable shrines of demonic worships after discovering and excavating body parts from these places? Why would such a cult that has destroyed all aspects of civil liberties and dangerous for practicing Christians be allowed to operate without questions asked whatsoever? Why are devoted Christians engaged in affairs against the will of God?

It all boils down to agreeing to a catch phrase “oath of allegiance” based on a deal, and in reality looks very bizarre considering the fact that both Kalu and Orji had been friends since the Fourth Republic popped up. The whole story seems bizarre, indeed, and Orji, in particular, according to a series of newspaper reports did not care about the consequences if one should look at it the other way with his humble beginnings through Holy Ghost College (Arugo High School), and University of Ibadan. Orji must have been desperate or perhaps blindfolded to have gone mad exposing himself to dumb and stupid characters.

From the scheme of things, however, Kalu has denied getting involved with anything relating to shrines in his native village and the ones in Okija even though he knows nobody is buying that hogwash. In a Tell magazine report, Kalu declares:

“The only shrine I know in my life is the shrine (grotto) of the Virgin Mary, revered in the entire Catholic Church. I am a devout Christian, God-fearing, and I wish to state categorically that I do not have any business with the Okija Shrine. I challenge the accuser to make available to the police his letter of employment, identity ca5rd, pat slips and other such accoutrements of legitimate employees to substantiate his claims”

The hook up here and Kalu’s denial is dangerous. First, starting with one Gordy Duru, former Chairman of Abia State Local Government, and Kalu’s mother lover boy over the years, has been the brain behind all the messy stuff because of his sexual relationship with Kalu’s mother, and his political connections to Kalu himself. The Duru of a guy who powered the entire episode and captured the events at Okija knows it all, and surprisingly, he is not telling much which has something to do with the “oath of allegiance” coupled with his courtship with Kalu’s mother, his own mother in relative terms since Kalu is age mate to the said Duru of a guy who ran Abia South Local Government and had nothing to show for it but an abandoned Aba Township which is uninhabitable in human standard, a cult fellowship satanic in nature, and sad that Christians had contacts at night with arushi, the devils that invade the spirits after paying homage to a Catholic Priest during the day for redemption. It is sad indeed, and it got to stop if we really want to come to terms with reality. Apparently, we have become more of idol worshippers with evil intentions than the Christian doctrine we proclaim to uphold.

With an ordained Christian doctrine that we pretend to respect and uphold while we crawl at night to invoke Agwuisi and Amadioha, the gods of our fathers, which never meant any harm from its origin on a traditional standpoint necessary to keep its values related to a socio-cultural concept as history demands in keeping up with the status quo – the ability to maintain those values for a healthy society – was all they prayed for in their endeavors. It had nothing to do with putting someone under duress on the grounds of vulnerability which is the case with Kalu’s cults and demonic gangsters who altered the way we use to be in that capacity. What beats me is the pretense to use God as a cover to deceive the people when Kalu insinuates he is a “devout Christian.” Just like the devil in the flesh, they walk around to preach the Gospel but yet they are evil in character. They will pray, and pray, praising the Lord, with a tongue in cheek, in a stanza that goes something like this:

Woke up singing Hallelujah
In the morning time
Sons of God
Hear His Holy Word
Gather around
The children of the Lord
Eat His body drink His blood
And we sing the songs of praise
Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah

This is the true nature of how we destroyed all that our forefathers built with their good intensions, limited learning capability and exposure.

The idea that our forefathers worshipped idols does not make sense at all, compared to what an “educated” folk like Orji reduced Igbo land to by drinking some concoction of human blood and swearing to an oath that would sustain his power as governor, and under the same oath, to answer to his master who had made it possible for him getting to that political height in a state turned to empire and anarchy by thuggish elements. Our forefathers did not have the kind of resources we have today, yet they prevailed. They were true republicans. They functioned as a democratic fabric with transparency and accountability taking its right course. They had values and upheld, and respected our cultural heritage which is why they gave us a sound and quality education based on the status quo.

I can understand a cultural phenomenon, like Owu, Okorosha, Ekeleke, Ogbamgbada, Ogbu Opi, Egwu Onwa, Ikeji, Ifo, and things of that nature – which was established by our forefathers – as a norm to our well being culturally and socially; but when a group of thugs hijacks this very phenomenon to a level unimaginable, then, the Igbo people have a problem which did lead to another Igbo tragedy when the intellectuals stood by and watched these abominable acts unfold in an era where civilization thrives to make life better for the citizenry. These thugs who overnight gerrymandered the electorates with lists of ghosts as voters proves the democracy as we thought it to be is nothing but quasi. A democracy and an election where vulnerable voters are left with no choices but take gifts – bags of rice, meats and bottles of soda – to succumb to a state of empire and anarchy in what supposedly should have been a true democracy where elections are free and fair should have us ponder why we got trapped by the Kalus and the rest political thugs who now call the shots in our land.

The failures of Igbo intellectuals and a confused, collective, efulefu, worthless Diaspora are reasons why people like Kalu are running the affairs of state in AlaIgbo today, which is now typical of fascism. Of course, Kalu seems to have known his way around in dirty politics, having spent more of his time as a crook in high school, swindling his peers, and his stunt without credentials at University of Maiduguri where deception to the nadir took its course. But one shouldn’t be amazed on how Igbo intellectuals and its efulefu Diaspora bunch did not get things done on a tone that would have kept the Igbo on top of the game in politics and leadership, which under normal circumstances should be based on merit, and not the Kalu type who hijacked the citizenry with looted public funds.

Never mind Igbo intellectuals and a confused Diaspora bunch. Kalu had succeeded in his cruel behavior and criminal activities because of an inept and corrupt judiciary in the state which lacks judicial independence due to external pressures coupled with “Ghana must go” bags which did compromise the integrity of their rulings. In any democracy the judiciary must be independent and accountable; accountable which requires that the laws that they interpret based on its judicial decisions responds to the constitutional values of the state. A state that lacks this very measure in its democratic fabric ends up in anarchy, and that is why the Kalus have gotten their way and calling the shots.

The saga continues!

Not Aba, Not Onitsha

Written by Obi Nwakanma

Sunday, 30 March 2008

IF you asked most people today to go to Aba or Onitsha to settle and live, the first impulse would be to think that you are placing a curse on them. And I am totally serious. Young men and women, the most productive and active catalysts of city life, do not find any incentives to go to these once thriving cities of the East to settle, and live a full life.
I once asked a friend of mine who grew up in Onitsha, and who now teaches at the University of Denver, Colorado, if he could ever think about living in Onitsha or raising his children in Onitsha, and his response to me was quite frank: “there is nothing for me in Onitsha!” he said.

It was no longer even the city in which he grew up. The decay of a city like Onitsha is so terrifying that an encounter with both the image and reality of the city is nightmarish - a true ghostly miasma that is.

Until you have felt and seen it, it is quite unimaginable. The sludge of human and industrial waste that runs on the public and private spaces; the sense of the brokenness of everything; the disorder in city planning; in code enforcement; in street planning; in the general ordering and layout of the city makes Onitsha today, one of the most polluted and certainly one of the most ungainly sites of human habitation anywhere on God’s earth.

Yet encrusted in that pod of waste is a possible gem; a once well planned city which becomes only clear from the air, which has only been distorted by the barbarous rage of a most philistine generation for whom beauty and civility are alien values.

Onitsha still has some of the finest colonial architecture which are indeed great set pieces and which could just be rehabbed with a little imagination, care, and some respect for heritage. Yet also, Onitsha is dotted with some of the most monstrous forms of architecture, a pretence at the high-rise apartments, which give little room for aesthetics. The buildings are often largely utilitarian.

They are most times constructed with little rhyme or reason, possibly inspired by the competitiveness of the Onitsha landlord who draws the design on the sand, and builds just to prove to everyone else that his “four decking is higher than yours.”

The result in Onitsha, as one drives in, is a sense or an impression of a vast project – those low income, box-like constructions of high-rise apartments that dot the landscape of American urban ghettoes that are infested with drugs, prostitution and poverty. I have nothing, of course, against urban housing, but let it be built with respect for the people, with a sense of spatiality, with some aesthetic purpose.

Onitsha’s image suffers from its certain lack of awareness of its own history or importance. My early vision of Onitsha was shaped by an early encounter with Chinua Achebe’s novella, Chike and the River, a book I read in primary five.

I also associated Onitsha with what one imagined to be the magnificent bridge across the Niger at Onitsha, which even now, remains as powerful as New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, as an authentic symbol of Nigeria’s entry into high technological modernity.

The Brooklyn Bridge has been celebrated in the epic poetry of great American Romantic and modernist poets like Walt Whitman and Hart Crane, but not the bridge across the lordly Niger in Onitsha. Onitsha was for many years the cultural and commercial center of the East – something of the Boston of Southern Nigeria – with its place as the epicentre of Christian missionary movement into the Igbo heartland.

For many years, it was the headquarters of the Church of the Niger. It was the city of Basden and the Archbishop Denis, as well as the Joseph Shanahans. Those icons of the Roman and the Anglican churches, who ironically were also figures of early Igbo modernity of the late 19th century.

Onitsha was the intellectual capital of Southern Nigeria, with its famous parochial schools, like the Christ the Kings College, the Catholic boarding school for boys, or the Denis Memorial Grammar School, the Anglican equivalent, or the Queen of the Rosary School, the Catholic boarding school for girls, or the famous St. Charles Teachers College, and so many pioneer schools that made Onitsha the gathering of the early Igbo towards cultural modernity.

It was the city that drew the great generation of Igbo, and indeed Southern Nigerian modernists. The city of the great Zik, whose statue still adorns an important historical site of the city; the city of Denis Osadebe, Mbonu Ojike, Nwafor Orizu, Ikejiani, Raymond Amanze Njoku, Pius Okigbo, Chike Obi, Sylvanus Cookey, Birabi, Ben Enwonwu, Cyprian
Ekwensi, and too many others too numerous to mention.

It was the city, whose centrality in the evolution of modern Nigerian culture has been recorded permanently in Emmanuel Obiechina’s canonical study of the literature now called, “Onitsha Market Literature,” produced in the great forges of its little presses, much like the grub street, which basically disseminated the most significant tradition of city penny literature in that march towards the modern. Onitsha once had a great newspaper too: the Nigerian Spokesman, which gave this city its
certain flavor.

I could go on and on, but I hope the picture is clear, that from the time of the Saro and Caribbean middle class of lawyers, doctors, teachers, and so on, who first constituted the society and culture of Onitsha, of the Onitsha Literary Society, funded by a remarkable whiteman whose grave is still marked in one silent corner of the of the Onitsha city cemetery, to today, a city like Onitsha has undergone radical transformation. A cultured middle class seems absent.

The city exhibits the marks of dystopia. Yet it is a city of possibilities, if only the Anambra state government, can think slightly out of the box and commence an ambitious City redevelopment plan, by bringing a number of things to bear: the reconstitution of Onitsha as a Metropolitan district with its own city government, and execution of a plan that would integrate Ogidi, Obosi, Nnewi, Oba, and the surrounding districts, as part of the conurbation of a new Onitsha Metropolitan District.

This metropolitan authority should then think about raising property and other municipal taxes and begin the very clear process of redesigning and rebuilding Onitsha as a modern, 21st century city that should integrate the grandeur of its own history as the first epicenter of Igbo modernity, and promote that history as part of its culture and image, and
its new offering.

This is what great cities do. It should also work inexorably towards the development of its valuable water front into a great residential, business and culture district, with splendid private and public residential facilities, fine offices, great restaurants, galleries, theatres, well designed public parks, and such a place that would draw people to its profitable use, and that would enrich the city significantly; and in some ways, connect it to its twin city across the river, Asaba, for the
benefit of all.

This is the only way to stimulate growth and economic development on a scale that is purposive and significant. I have used Onitsha clearly as a foil even in my description of the other city, Aba. I have always said that one of the most important reflections of the kind of mindset that have destroyed once well-made cities like Aba, designed by Pius Okigbo as Development Officer in 1947, is in the destruction of the Aba golf course and its parceling off to speculators who quickly turned this once beautiful place into a monstrous space.

Aba and Port-Harcourt are also inevitably bound to shake hands and rejoin themselves at the hip, as it was once conceived, sooner than later.

And so it is important for the authorities in those two cities to begin the process of joint planning and remodeling, including creating joint sewer districts, protected forest areas, river and lake recreation areas, that would link the triad development from Owerri, Aba and Port-Harcourt, starting at the Owerrinta Port, near Okpala.

But as it is, it seems like very little thinking is going on at a grand scale in government. These cities cannot recover their economic powers, if they do not attract the right kind of human energy. It is imperative therefore, to draw people back, with great schools, great city hospitals, great museums and galleries, and generally, great environments to live and nurture families in a healthy and sustainable way