Ikemba II & the politicization of Igbo tradition
By Odimegwu Onwumere
It’s not only theatrical, but also profanity that one of the sons of the deeply revered late Igbo Icon, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, has unwittingly chosen to haul the corridor of disrepute.
Not the quintessential Barrister Debe Sylvester Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu – the applauded first son of the late Ojukwu who has respected the father even to death – but the ambitious Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Jr. was it who has acted diminuendo by going to his maternal home and was crowned Ikemba II by some (better called autonomous community leaders) masquerading themselves as Traditional Rulers, when they could not conduct themselves in the ethics and ethos of the tradition they are boasting of defending.
An elder does not stay at home and watch children celebrate vulture for kite or celebrate masquerade for human being. It is not of a child to play with the father’s penis instead of the mother’s breast, but this Ojukwu Jr. has preferred to play with the proverbial father’s penis instead of the mother’s breast. As if the Ikemba title is a dynasty, and even if it was, is it in the position of this Ojukwu Jr. to be crowned Ikemba II? And if he must be crowned Ikemba II, is it supposed to be at the maternal village? And if it must be at the maternal village, is it supposed to be when his father is not buried? This act is the height of orchestrated rudeness and mumbo-jumbo ever practiced against the Igbo tradition.
When Dim Ojuwku was alive, many of us could retrospect the dawdling this Ojukwu Jr. made of himself by the center of attraction scenario he created around/for himself and was parading himself in that mode and his incessant complaints that certain persons should stop playing politics with the health of his father. This was published in the media. He went further and mandated that information henceforth about the health condition of his father should ooze out from him. Reading Nigerians thought that he was the late Ojukwu’s first son.
But when observer-Nigerians who knew those he was talking about saw that they continued to dish out the news about Ojukwu’s health in London, we didn’t get any contradiction from this figurative first son of Ojukwu. Also, when the news of Ojukwu’s death filtered into Nigeria and we waited for him to (make a nationwide broadcast because he likes much publicity), he didn’t. To the point the palace of the Igwe Nnewi, the hometown king, lost its patience and was infuriated that it was not aware that Ojukwu had died because it had not been formally informed according to the tradition and culture of the Nnewi people. At his point, this Ojukwu Jr. seemed was hiding under the table and was peeping from there to envy whoever that would officially inform their kingdom that Ojukwu had died.
To the upset of many people that (a whole man like) Ojukwu could die and upto that period his kingdom was not duly informed, we read from Barrister Debe Sylvester Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in the newspapers of how he (as the first son of the late Ojukwu) was accompanied by some elderly uncles in the enlarged Ojukwu family to the Igwe Nnewi and informed the palace of the death of his father. It was a shocking revelation that the late Ojukwu had (a first son) whereas this Ojukwu Jr. was expending his energy as if he was. And he didn’t argue against Debe.
One characteristics of Debe Ojukwu which is in line with Igbo tradition and culture is that he respected his father by not making his voice heard while his father was still on the socio-pol-eco stage in Nigeria. Even when his father wanted him to be his ‘successor’ while he was alive, Debe was always ‘running’ because the big masquerade was on the stage. This is what a wise son who was bred and brought up in the Igbo tradition and culture does. Even in the European cosmology, do we not hear that two captains do not stay in one boat? So, how come is this Ojukwu Jr. not remembering the mother’s breasts he sucked before navigating against the tide to collect Ikemba II? (Ochekwara ka nna ya nwuruo tupu ya gawa ichi ozo?).
The abominable act of this Ojukwu Jr. is evidence in any community where the real custodians of culture are deprived of the Igwe or Eze stool because they are not university graduates or do not have money, but someone who made his money through questionable means will be the preferred candidate because he has money or a Professor who has never lived among/with his people will be the preferred candidate.
This has been the new culture in ala-Igbo in crowning the ‘modern day’ Igwes and Ezes who use money to lobby for autonomous community for them to be appointed Igwe or Eze after. And instead of the Ofo (Ancestral Staff) known of the Igbo tradition will be given to them, Staff of Office from the State Government will be given in the place of the Ofo and an enlarged Certificate of Office will also follow.
All the newspapers and radio and television jingles will celebrate the coronation of such Igwe or Eze hence he leads his people from the Aso Rock or Government House of his state and confer chieftaincy title to both the good, the bad and the ugly without checks because he singlehandedly appoints his cabinet (are there traditional kingmakers in Igbo communities again?) and becomes business associates of the ruling politicians and surround himself with formidable security agents and becomes lord to his people that they hardly see him or have access to his house christened palace he visits at will to run his kingdom like a political office because every of his power comes from the political office.
Ndigbo do say that a woman dances and walks on a fallen Iroko tree the way and manner she likes of which she cannot do when the Iroko is standing. We also say that it is only a foolish child that points at his father’s house with the left hand and sells the land his late father bought. This Ojukwu Jr. should know that through proverbs Ndigbo and their ancestors communicate so much. Our ancestors, in one of their proverbs, warn that it is only a foolish child that chases the rat (like the Ikemba II) while his house is on fire, especially when his ailing father or mother is lying in the burning house.
The late Ojukwu during his life time never minded such a shilly-shallying rat. He was majorly concerned with the acuity of a united Ndigbo, which epitomizes the Igbo philosophy, that a bunch of broom is expedient to one broom. How will the late Ojukwu look at this equidistant of the Ikemba II title? This act of the wise man’s son should not be treated with equanimity, because it will lead the Igbo to be watching without help, the sun crossing the equator and watch helplessly, the day and night become equal.
Odimegwu Onwumere, a Media Consultant, writes from Rivers State.