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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Understanding Fani-Kayode’s Igbo Problem



Femi Fani-Kayode
One of the first indicators of a sufficiently educated mind is the unwillingness to resort to stereotypes in the understanding and analysis of contending issues of the day. True learning entails the intentional broadening of one’s mental horizon to eschew lumping human beings - with different genetic make-up, background, upbringing, intellectual acumen, social interactions and exposure, and moral values – into one indivisible whole, in order to ascribe attributes - good or bad – to them.
The adequately socialized person is one who has cultivated the habit of stepping back from the primitive propensity of man to grab the nearest weapon at the mere sight of whiskers. For cats are harmless, bush rats make great delicacy and lions kill; one is to be left alone - petted even, for the other, a small arrow will do and the last demands a mean weapon. A cosmopolitan mind sees the whole world, one person at a time.  The true sign of a great mind is one which seeks to understand and to engage his neighbor based on his neighbor’s attributes, not on pre-conceived notions and perceptions.  
Racism, ethnic bigotry, religious fanaticism, and class consciousness are some of the ills the world has been confronted with, as a result of the ignorance that plagues the greater part of humanity. However, the civilized soul, throughout a lifetime, consistently resists the internal urge and the external push to classify, to hurriedly label and to hastily conclude on any human grouping. For in ever succumbing to that convoluted mindset, the man of learning realizes that he closes his mind off to possibilities of goodness, and of progress for both himself and the other. The one in pursuit of civility knows that should he allow his heart to close off to one group, from that same heart will spring hatred for his own self, and for his kind, sooner than later. A heart that is set at a default rejection of the other soon diffuses that rejection paradigm inwards, leading to low self-esteem and a rejection of own kind;  it is only a question of time.
There are few things more disturbing to a mind in search of balance and serenity, than the forceful granting of audience to the words of a man who is closed to possibilities. Few minds in search of equilibrium would voluntarily submit to a speech uttered from a mind fixed at two extremes; black or white, up or down, big or small, us or them. Fani-Kayode’s article, “Nigeria: The Bitter Truth About the Igbos” classifies as one such utterance. In the article, Fani-Kayode classifies every Igbo person as having a mentality of “we own everything", "we must have everything" and "we must control everything" It becomes fearful when the utterance comes from a source that is looked upon as sufficiently exposed to global realities, a person inputted with cosmopolitanism, and a being who has declared himself as being perpetually engaged with the search for truth.
What is wrong with Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin? By Fani-Kayode’s stereotypical analysis, nothing. Zimmerman acted accordingly; Black boys hold guns. What is wrong with detailing a shop attendant to follow a Fani-Kayode around at Harrods when he goes shopping? Nothing, black men steal stuff at Harrods because they can’t afford it. What is wrong with telling an Oprah that she can’t afford a $38,000 purse in Switzerland? Absolutely nothing; how many black millionaire women are there in the world? Or how many millionaire white men date or are married to black women? Unfortunately, the paradigm of analysis for quite a handful of the global population is founded on stereotype. But stereotyping has brought the world much problems, it is the worldview of the uninformed, and the mindset of the ignorant and sometimes arrogant.
Four years before the genocide of 1994, where over 800,000 Tutsi Rwandans where killed by their Hutu countrymen, a speech titled the Ten Commandments of the Hutu was published. Casting the Hutu as victims, the Fourth Commandment called for the Hutu to know that “every Tutsi is dishonest in business. His only aim is the supremacy of his ethnic group.” This dehumanization of “every Tutsi,” removing from him all traces of being an individual human being with distinct feelings, characteristics, mannerisms, and worldview, made it so easy for several Hutu men and women to kill the Tutsi without conscience. While cutting the baby, the woman, the girl, or the octogenarian with a machete, the Hutu were, in their mind, killing dishonest businessmen whose aim was to impose supremacy of his ethnic group over Rwanda. Just before the Holocaust, one of Hitler’s favorite ploys was extracting sayings from certain Jewish leaders that seemed to imply that the Jews were desperate to take over Germany. Anybody who has read Fani-Kayode’s “Nigeria: The Bitter Truth About the Igbos” will need no further explanation on the two examples given above.
The fundamental reason why Fani –Kayode’s piece is a hate speech is because it did not address the issue in question from a dispassionate and objective lens. Fani-Kayode’s article only succeeded in using propaganda to declare the Igbo child born today, guilty of a heinous crime.  His speech villianizes the Igbo and canonizes the Yoruba, giving even someone who has never had a negative interaction with an Igbo person a weapon of assault.
As individual Africans, we have become acquainted with racism in some manner, but before we criticize the racists, we must stop to check our own hearts. Are we guilty of such thoughts as - Igbos are this, Yorubas are that, Ghanaians are so, while Hausas are such? During a recent visit to Nigeria, I cringed at the words of a parent disciplining her child “Stop acting like a _________ (insert an ethnic group) person.” The person dishing out the admonition was not of my ethnic nationality, and neither was the ethnic group mentioned, but I remember telling a friend that it sounded to me like a white American telling her child to quit acting like a black person.
Nelson Mandela’s famous saying remains true; you must be the change you wish to see in the world. Fani-Kayode is free to hold his biased opinions about any ethnic nationality or people grouping anywhere in the world, but for the sake of the younger generation, he should keep such retrogressive views to himself. Younger Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Tiv, Fulani and Kalabari Nigerians want peace and progress. Peace is a state mind, a mind that is devoid of bias and pre-judgments. Peace comes to a mind when it is open to learning and knowing people as individuals, not concluding and foreclosing on them. May we, as a people, continue to learn and seek for more ways to know ourselves better.
Dr. Chika Ezeanya
NVS

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