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Sam Omatseye: Nnamdi Kanu and the three wise men


Sam Omatseye: Nnamdi Kanu and the three wise men

By Sam Omatseye 

The fate of ethnic entrepreneur Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB calls to mind the Greek myth of Icarus, the son of master craftsman Daedalus. Icarus thrilled to his father’s new invention. He gave Icarus a set of feathers and wax to make wings. The prospect of flying amused him, and provided him an escape opportunity from a place of oppression called Crete. It flattered his ambition.

Icarus was, however, warned. Daedalus his father asked him against what he called hubris, which referred to an over-bloated ego and self-confidence. Icarus saw that the contraption worked. He soared out of the earth and savoured the dizzy heights. He was above his fellow humans, glided with birds and even levitated above them. He forgot himself and started to see himself as a god. He thought, in the words of Shakespeare, that “the world is my oyster.” He was more than a dove or eagle. He was abandoning time and conquering space. If God asked Abraham to claim the earth as long as his eyes could see, Icarus was plumbing space to infinity.

Hubris became his undoing. He forgot his father’s warning. He flew high towards the sun. The mighty ball of heat melted the wax and the feathers came away from his arms. Icarus tumbled down in a giddy fall and plunged into the sea.

Kanu should have read about ambitions. He should have read, from his Jewish texts, that Jehovah punished hubris. He should have learned from the failings of the father of Biafra, Emeka Ojukwu. But he would not stop. He would not stop violating bail terms, stop piling invectives and lies, stop ratcheting up venom against other ethnic groups. He mounted a guard of honour, set up uniformed army, called Igbo worshippers fools for submitting to their preferred non-Igbo pastors. As an ethnic entrepreneur, he did not ask Igbo traders to stop doing business with non-Igbos.

He developed a delusion of grandeur, saw himself as His Excellency, pooh-poohed legitimate southeast governors, threatened boycott of Anambra State polls, mocked the Buhari who returned from illness as an impostor, called everyone not Igbo as zoo animals, called for arms. Like Satan in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, he overstated his power. He had become a sort of political icon of glamour, a signature stride, a sash over his shoulder, his glasses, his measured smile. Like Jesus, a fanatic got healed by touching him. He endowed his followers with catharsis. They kissed his feet, worshiped his halo, danced for him.

His followers began to believe the impossible. Foolishness overcame them and they started to search for northerners in vehicles. It showed they had no sense of history. They forgot the Igbos doing business in peace In Kano, Kaduna or Sokoto. They forgot the pogrom of the 1960’s and slaughter of many a kinsman.

From new revelations, Kanu was feeding fat. It was not for nothing I tagged him ethnic entrepreneur. He was gorging on his kinsmen. The army thought he had had enough. Yoruba would say, O ti jeun kanu (He was well fed). It was time for him to plunge like Icarus. Burned by the yellow sun, Kanu splashed head-on into the bight – shall I say bite – of Biafra. Now, in quiet, he would console himself like Satan in Paradise Lost, “solitude sometimes is best society.”

We have a tranquil country today, and the consequences of Kanu are not combustion and butchery because some men handled the matter with intricacy of wisdom. They are the three wise men of the moment. They are the Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar 111, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State and Governor Okezie V. Ikpeazu of Abia State.

When the state seemed on the boil, Governor Ikpeazu walked a delicate line when he declared curfew. Rash leaders could have bungled it and seen the state descend into chaos. By declaring curfew, he nipped violence. He was, as it were, the host governor of Kanu, and yet he maintained a poise of control that neither portrayed him as supporter of the scoundrel nor as accommodating the excesses of the army’s presence. This is the sort of leadership of balance that is bringing attention to the Abia governor. His signature project about indigenising our taste through enterprise is now known as Made in Aba, a vision the rest of the country will do well to ape. He is Nigeria’s apostle of local content.

As the chairman of Northern Governors Forum, Gov. Shettima hit on the great idea that northern governors should head east to reassure northern folks living there. Backed by southeast governors like Ikpeazu, Shettima and a few other governors, including Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, embarked on the trip of the olive branch.

Shettima has shown great presence as leader of northern governors. His trait has taken centre stage since the fiery day of Boko Haram. He was not rattled by the militants, and he stood with his folks in the furnace of war when over half of his state fell to the brigands. Other than that, he has run his state with cooperative elan, letting Christians and Muslims to embrace in an ambience of mutual respect and benefits. He has also shown great sensitivity to southern tribes and given them positions in his government. It must be noted, too, that Governor Tambuwal has also shown great initiative with the Ohaneze Indigbo in Sokoto and pursued a project of mutual understanding.

The Sultan’s role has been pivotal. He knew that Friday is fire in the north. Prayer can burn. So, he sent word around the north, reinforced by the emirs, including the Emir of kano, that the messages should emphasise peace, which is the hallmark of Islam. His words percolated the prayer grounds across the north. It made the difference between love and conflict, and averted blood and thunder.

All three, Shettima, Ikpeazu and the Sultan made the triumph of the triumvirate. The three gave us peace by keeping us in one piece. This is the sort of cooperation that this country is capable of. If we took this serenity of approach to other issues, including the tempestuous bickering over restructuring, we will find that it pays us to live in unity through dialogue and understanding. This quiet did not need a senior advocate or political wheel horse, or the rancour of a debate. It was informal and heartfelt.  The three show that triumvirates are not always bad. In Rome, Caesar ruptured the informal triumvirate with Pompey magnus and Crassus. The second triumvirate fell to Antony’s heart beat for Cleopatra.

Yet many have been successful, whether in China, India or even in the Bible. The transfiguration had three men. The trinity is three in one, just as in Buddhism. Many will agree that Trump, Ivanka and her husband Kushner form the White House triple pillar. Gov. Ipkeazu, Gov Shettima and the Sultan were each a third of the country, to paraphrase Shakespeare in his play Antony and Cleopatra. They just crafted a model of coexistence for us as a nation.

– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Sam Omatseye/The Nation

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