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Nigeria and Its Heroes Past

Posted by By Obi Nwakanma, Vanguard (Lagos) on 2006/10/02 | Views: 605 |

Nigeria and Its Heroes Past

MARGARET Ekpo is dead. To say she was a great woman, a great patriot, a great heroine of the anti-colonial, nationalist movement, one of the true founders of modern Nigeria, would be to add nothing new to a settled truth. We commend her to the bar of history.

MARGARET Ekpo is dead. To say she was a great woman, a great patriot, a great heroine of the anti-colonial, nationalist movement, one of the true founders of modern Nigeria, would be to add nothing new to a settled truth. We commend her to the bar of history.

History will be kind to her. As Nigeria finally totters towards almost inexorable implosion, those who would examine its ruin another era from now would look and truly see that Margaret Ekpo was one of the few good ones; she was no thieving minister or head of government; she in fact led women when to be leader of women was serious business and not part of the NGO industry.

It was part of a truly, self-conscious civic propulsion. Margaret Ekpo was also a daughter of two great people of the East; that land of the rise of the sun - the Igbo and the Efik: her father was Igbo, and her mother was Efik. She was married to a fine Efik gentleman; one of the first Nigerians who trained as a medical doctor at the Yaba Higher College.

She became the true symbol of the possibility of what the old Eastern Nigeria was already becoming before it was viciously dismantled by the envy and fear of those who thought is progress was too threatening. She was a denizen of Aba politics, in that city of the early gathering of people from across cultures in the East and beyond, where people like the brilliant Udo Udoma had equally made his mark as newspaper publisher, lawyer and politician, before going on to greater things. Those days, seem gone forever, the tragedy of a demonic order that took hold of Nigeria. Gowon says that it seemed to him that Aso Rock, the presidency in short, is haunted by a demonic shadow. He has no idea how true! But he should know: the innocent dead like Johnson Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi are still lurking around, crying for justice. And no amount of national prayers can quell this bloodguilt, or prevent an encounter in hell for those who sold Nigeria down the river.

The truth is simply that Nigeria owes too much to its victims whose blood it has shed for the comfort and ego of just a few men: the cry of the millions of Igbo massacred and killed during the atrocities, the cry of widows and orphans whose fathers died in plane crashes because someone pays the full price for second-hand death traps in the sky, the injustice and poverty to which men, women and children have been condemned, who have died because some government official stole money that could provide basic services: healthcare, education, food, housing; the atrocity of the last forty-six years stares us in the face. And Nigeria has nothing to celebrate.

On every occasion we rise to sing: "The labours of our heroes past/shall never be in vain... ." Well, lets do the math: first, the true heroes of the anti-colonial struggle have been treated shabbily. A national memory of their struggles erased. In July, for instance, Professor Ikenna Nzimiro, scion of the Oguta merchant aristocracy, Marxist sociologist, Nigeria's leading social anthropologist of the 20th century, Zikist, one of those who suffered the "Babylonian capture" for their anti-colonial activism died. There is no plaque to commemorate him anywhere. Before him of course were people like MCK Ajuluchukwu, fiery journalist and chronicler of the nationalist struggle, and Kola Balogun, lawyer, journalist and Zikist, among the many. These were the young men radicalized by Nnamdi Azikiwe's entry to Nigerian politics in the interwar years. Kola Balogun in fact served in the busiest, most strategic transition ministry in Nigeria as minister for Information and Research in 1957, and later as Ambassador to Ghana, one of the key foreign ministry postings of that era.

Simple, self-effacing, and unassuming to the end, I used to visit him occasionally at his Apapa GRA residence, and often marveled at the simple details of his life, and the spartan quality of his surroundings in a house, which equally served as his home and as his office. No sign of stolen wealth from the public till. There is no monument to honour his memory, or the memory of other true heroes of modern Nigeria - MCK Ajuluchukwu, or Saad Zungur, or Raji Abdallah, or Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, and indeed many of the true visionaries for its egalitarian order. You hear names of streets like, "Mississippi" street, or some such names in Abuja; there is no name like Edward Blyden, John Payne Jackson, Mbonu Ojike, I.U. Akpabio, Saad Zungur, Ikenna Nzimiro, MCK Ajuluchukwu, Abiodun Aloba; such names who are closely associated with the true heroic struggle for the emergence of the Nigerian state.

There is no Heroes Arcade with their busts lining the avenue, only the intransigent cenotaph of the Unknown Soldier - that faceless monster of modern Nigerian history. In place of true celebration is the tradition of cynical self-adulation: we will see this displayed today as we hear the names of people on the "national honours roll." There was something my occasional interactions with the late Kola Balogun taught me: he used to say, "the trouble is that those who took over Nigeria were those who were always clients of the colonial forces we thought we fought to a standstill."

These are not Nigerians. They are those who occupy Nigeria, steal from her, and send the loot to their friends and adopted countries; and celebrate these with loud, in-your face parties as marks of their alienation. Indeed, on the occasion of Nigeria's 46th anniversary in the struggle for independence, a new nationalist movement must arise, based on a broad coalition of forces with its true roots among Nigerian peoples, to commence the second liberation movement, and the battle to free Nigerians from "arrested decolonization." We must examine the pitfalls of the last movement, the methods by which the colonialists penetrated and broke the ranks of the anti-colonial movement, isolated and demonized its leaders, and recruited their internal agents to whom they finally handed symbolic power, and thus undermined the aspirations of a generation's struggle for freedom in the last century.

Duty calls upon us again to fight for the dignity of our people. To free them from their internal colonizers, and clients of a very deep international elite conspiracy. Today is not an occasion for celebration. It is a day for rumination and reflection. A day to gird the loins for the second liberation movement by all those who still find something recoverable in the Nigerian ideal. Otherwise, not too long from now, tourists will point at a grave of what used to be Nigeria. We should never let graves mark the labours of our true heroes.

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Comments (3)

Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.