By Collins Ughalaa KSC
“For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it (Ecclesiastes 7:12). “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver” (Proverbs 16:16).
The closest translation of the Igbo word, ako, to the English Language, is wisdom or intellect. The Holy Bible enjoins us to “Sell everything and buy Wisdom!” and “Never walk away from Wisdom” because “she guards your life” – Proverbs 4:5-7. The Holy Bible further admonishes that we should “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” – Proverbs 23:23. Wisdom is profitable, protects and directs at all times. It does not fail.
On the other hand, ndu means life. When the Igbo people say that ako bu du, what they mean is that wisdom gives life. Wisdom is life. It also means that in whatever situation you find yourself, especially in very tough situation, wisdom should guide you. That is why Igbo people say that a man whose house is on fire does not abandon it to chase rodents, and that a man surrounded by enemies would always jealously guard his life.
Notably, this is not the best of time in Nigeria. If there is any group that should apply wisdom, it is the Igbo people. We cannot behave like toddlers in the midst of obvious danger, especially after the most horrifying military incursions into Igbo land since after 1970, particularly in 2017. We should be wise enough not to swim in crocodile infested water nor bring home ant infested woods, because lizards would come feasting. We should rather see what is in the pocket by merely looking at the pocket.
No doubt, the Igbo people, by their republican nature have made every part of the country their home. They have turned swamps to palatial estates and squeezed water from the stone. They have tuned deserts into water fountains. Whatever the Igbo man touches becomes gold. This natural endowment of the Igbo people, sadly, naturally attracts all kinds of reactions, including jealousy and hatred. In this milieu, coupled with the civil war experience where the Igbo people were unjustly treated, and the consequential economic sanctions and government hypocrisy, the Igbo man is in the best position to rein in his emotions and let wisdom prevail at all times. Igbo people should imbibe the principle of ako bu ije (your intellect guides you in life’s journeys) and calculate their moves or count their words carefully.
The recent #ENDSARS protests should provide a lot of lessons to the Igbo people. Nigerian youths from all backgrounds stormed the streets in protests against what they termed police brutality. One notorious department of the Nigeria Police Force called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was the leprous finger. SARS was the finger that picked oil and soiled the other fingers. Having terrorized Nigerians for years, the youths decided it was enough. One of the most beautiful things about the #ENDSARS protests is that it had no ethnic, religious or class biases. The youths came together to fight for a better Nigeria in their own way. But the protest was hijacked across the country by a group now called hoodlums. The destruction and carnage that trailed the hijacking of the #ENDSARS protests is better imagined. The destruction was so severe that most of those affected may not recover from the loss.
With the outrage that greeted the killings, lootings and destruction of public and private properties in various parts of the country, mischief makers crept in and tried to insert ethnic, religious and class biases into the narrative. And guess what! The Igbo people were accused of masterminding the destruction in some parts of the country. If good spirited Nigerians did not step in quickly and rejected the ethnic and religious storylines inserted into the #ENDSARS protests by fifth columnists, we would have been in for a worse situation. The failed attempt to paint the protests in ethnic and religious colours was enough for the Igbo people to apply wisdom. But that seemed not to be the case. In Igbo land, hoodlums also hijacked the peaceful #ENDSARS protests and went on a killing spree. Properties worth billions of Naira were destroyed in the frenzy.
We do not think that some strange persons from outside Igbo land invaded the entire Southeast destroying properties and killing people as they liked. Never in history had the Igbo people descended on themselves and wreaked havoc. We have suffered deficit in development, especially in terms of infrastructure; turning our anger on ourselves and destroying the much we already had may not be justifiable to most people. We do not see the destruction and killing that happened in Rivers State as justifiable either. If for anything, the destruction and killing in some parts of Rivers State, particularly, Oyigbo Local Government Area, tended to provide credence to the mischievous narratives being inserted into the #ENDSARS protests. The sad Oyigbo episode was one event that should have been avoided at all cost if we allowed wisdom prevail.
One group that has dominated the news space as far as the mayhem in parts of Rivers State is concerned is the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Governor Wike accused them of masterminding the destruction and killing of soldiers and other security personnel in the state. And you know, to some people, the loose interpretation of IPOB is Igbo people. In fact, some people think that the group speaks for the Igbo people and whatever they say becomes the position of Ndigbo. But that is not true. The alleged killing by the IPOB in Rivers forced Governor
Wike to sign an executive order after his ban on the group. What followed in Oyigbo is what many people have described as massacre.
Predictably, the Governor has been accused of ordering the killing of innocent civilians, especially Igbo people living in Oyigbo, in the name of fighting IPOB. The Governor has denied the allegations, describing it as a politically motivated falsehood. He said the curfew in Oyigbo was to restore calm after 6 soldiers, 4 police officers were killed and police stations and court buildings destroyed in the area, and that soldiers were on vengeance mission and he didn’t have control over it. He accused the IPOB of trying to use Oyigbo LGA to launch Biafra, insisting that he will not allow that.
“I know that this is not the first time IPOB has used Oyigbo as launching ground. The security agencies are aware. IPOB added a new dimension this time. They killed 6 Army Officers and burnt one. They killed four Police Officers. They destroyed all the Police Stations and Court Buildings. What offense did we commit as a state?” He added: “I will not fold my arms and watch criminals destroy my state. If those few criminals are Igbos then they should know that I will not allow them”.
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State added his voice to the narrative. He said that the IPOB was trying to instigate another civil war in Nigeria. A statement by Umahi’s Media Aide, Mr. Kelvin Ebiri, quoted the Governor as having made the comment during the meeting of the Southeast governors and leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo with Governor Wike on Sunday, November 8. “I find it nauseating that IPOB could go to Benue and Rivers states to foist its flag and claim the territories belong to the Igbo people. Igbo leadership are opposed to this stance by IPOB.”
Umahi’s narrative that the IPOB is trying to incite another war is not a sweet tale. We find it objectionable and unbecoming of an Igbo leader of his stature. Umahi is not only the Governor of Ebonyi State. He is also the Chairman of the Southeast Governors Forum. He cannot for any reason make public utterances that could endanger the entire Igbo nation. While we call on our leaders to rein in their emotions likewise and stop making utterances that could further endanger the Igbo people anywhere in Nigeria, we call on Igbo people anywhere in Nigeria to apply wisdom at all times and not allow their emotion get the better hold of them. For us, Governor Umahi’s comment on the IPOB is a great disservice to all Igbo people as it is capable of inciting the war he was accusing the IPOB of. One of the hallmarks of wisdom in elders is that they do not speak out of anger but rather have soothing words for every situation.