GUEST COLUMNIST BY James Okolie
It was William Shakespeare, who wrote in “Macbeth” that “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”. Also, the Scriptures in Jeremiah 17:9 says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know (understand) it?”
Tongues have expectedly been wagging since the death squad visited wickedness on Enugu State on 22nd February, which happened to be the last day of campaign for many political parties ahead of the 25th February presidential and National Assembly elections. The driver of a branded campaign bus belonging to PDP’s Hon. Ofor Chukwuegbo Campaign Organisation was attacked and burnt along with the bus at Topland area of Amechi Road. They proceeded to the popular Eke Otu Amechi Awkunanaw where they attacked and set ablaze a fine soul, an illustrious son of Nkanu land, and Labour Party senatorial candidate for Enugu East, Barr. Oyibo Chukwu. The death squad did not spare the convoy of the governorship candidate of the APC at Agbani, but luckily, no human casualty was recorded.
Although about five souls were lost, the callous killing of Oyibo Chukwu, the Labour Party senatorial candidate for Enugu East zone has naturally been the focus of commentaries. William Shakespeare writes that “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; (but) The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes”. Permutations and conspiracy theories have continued to evolve. While some believe that Oyibo’s tragedy was a happenstance, just like the numerous killings in Enugu by unknown gunmen, some also swear by the gods that it was a calculated political assassination.
However, my take is that whatever the motive, it is a heinous crime and the perpetrators must not go unpunished. They belong to the hottest part of hell. But while we have continued to pray for peaceful repose of Oyibo’s soul and eternal damnation of the perpetrators, the manner some political players in the opposition and the Labour Party in particular have now turned Oyibo’s death to campaign manifesto and are bent on making a political capital out of it should naturally get some of us thinking. Could there be more to Oyibo’s death that meets the eye?
Going by numerous examples in history, it is old strategy in the game of power for some stonehearted power mongers to carry out nefarious activities like killing, arson, etc. to turn the heat on their opponents, whip up sentiments, and sometimes find reasons to destroy those they consider as stumbling block to their plot. It is a fact of history too that sometimes, the culprits even cry more than the bereaved.
On Monday 27th February 1933, exactly four weeks after Adolph Hitler was sworn in as the German Chancellor, the Reichstag (Parliament) building was gutted by fire in an apparent case of arson. Hitler quickly attributed the fire to Communist agitators without allowing any form of investigation and used it as pretext to sell the narrative that Communists were planning against the German government. He manipulated President Paul von Hindenburg to issue the Reichstag Fire Decree, a kind of state of emergency law, which halted civil liberties and empowered Adolph Hitler to pursue a “ruthless confrontation” with the Communists.
Thus began indiscriminate arrests of communists, including their delegates in the German Parliament by the Nazi-controlled police, paralysing communists participation in the 5th March 1933 elections. Van der Lubbe, who was found in the Reichstag during the fire was convicted and executed. But many years later, it came to be known by historians and researchers that the Reichstag arson had been planned and ordered by Hitler’s Nazis as a false flag operation to implicate and get rid of those standing in the way of a fully Nazi Germany. Van der Lubbe was pardoned posthumously under the 1998 law that nullified unjustly passed verdicts. But the harm had already been done. Therefore, Reichstag fire incident is considered very fundamental in the establishment of Nazi Germany, which paved the way for the evil that Adolph Hitler represented to happen not only to Germany, but the entire world.
In similar vein, the series of contrived crises that were carefully woven by Napoleon Bonaparte, which ultimately made the “Code Napoleon” and “The Livret”, legal but draconian weapons with which he decimated his opponents, a fiat accompli are still flowery in the annals of history.
Just a few minutes after the dastardly killings of that evening, the Labour Party governorship candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, took to his Facebook page to point accusing fingers and to incite the public. But wiser counsels must have prevailed as he quickly deleted the post. Also, when he paid a condolence visit to the family of the deceased, he craftily stoked the same emotional and inciting lines, saying that Oyibo Chukwu was killed “in a manner that recalls the days we thought we had left behind… and thanked Sullivan Chime for putting behind”.
Again, speaking on Thursday 2nd March, Edeoga, rather than calling for the arrest and punishment of the perpetrators to assuage the soul of Oyibo Chukwu, said rather instructively that only a total victory for the Labour Party in the 11th March governorship election could soothe Oyibo Chukwu’s spirit. To my mind, this selfish act of placing political gains over and above human life speaks volumes.
Also, while addressing his supporters at his Itchi residence, the senator-elect for Enugu North zone, Chief Okey Ezea, did not campaign for Edeoga on any manifesto or programmes. He instead told the people to prepare for the 11th March election as a “do-or-die game” for Nsukka cultural zone to which Edeoga belongs, to retain power and also to avenge the death of Oyibo Chukwu.
In all, there has been deliberate programmes, planned processions, video and audio messages, etc. centred around the Oyibo Chukwu in a clear and desperate bid to sensationalise and make a political capital out of another man’s misfortune. This is why Ndi Enugu must pause and think twice before jumping into conclusions over the real motives and persons behind the Labour candidate’s death.
We must note that Oyibo Chukwu’s death is not just any other death. It holds deep and wide ramifications not only for the 25th February and 11th March election, but also for the politics of Enugu in general and Nkanu land in particular. It is also said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Therefore, anyone familiar with these implications and the two-family dichotomy in Nkanu land should also know that anybody or candidate or party that stands to gain from the deliberately stoked public sentiments and widening of the divides in Nkanu land occasioned by Oyibo’s death at the verge of a governorship election that Okey Ezea has already declared as a do-or-die war between Nkanu and Nsukka cultural zones should not be overlooked in the search for the real culprits and motives behind his death. Oftentimes, what eats the leaf lives in the leaf; the reason investigations into murders usually start from the inside to outside.
Meanwhile, the elders of Amuri and Nkanu must rise now to save what remains of Nkanu unity. For the elders of Amurri in particular, this is the time to utilise their famed potent traditional means of solving crimes and murders to get to the root of Oyibo’s death so that we don’t bark the wrong trees. Remember, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know (understand) it?”
But importantly, this is the time to do away with polemics, incitements, and all forms of divisive utterances as the state goes into the final lap of the 2023 general election. A recent trending video of the senator-elect and Labour Party senatorial candidate for Enugu North senatorial district, Chief Okey Ezea, is typical case of beating the drums of war.
Like other states, Enugu State is made up of three senatorial districts, namely, Enugu East, Enugu West, and Enugu North (where the current governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi hails from). With the incumbent governor, the governorship seat has rotated fully among the senatorial zones and the rotation is supposed to start from Enugu East, which is predominantly Nkanu people in addition to Isi-Uzo LGA, which used to be part of the old Nsukka zone. The candidacy of Edeoga, who is from Isi-Uzo is therefore promoted by the likes of Ezea as an opportunity for Nsukka cultural zone to retain power for another eight years, hence making it a contest between Nsukka and Nkanu.
Addressing his supporters at his country home in Itchi, Igboeze South LGA, Ezea said: “The March 11th election is a straight fight between Nsukka and Nkanu to know who is bigger than the other because Nkanu people want to turn us, the majority, to minority. So, you must prepare very well. You must make sure the directive goes round. This is about Nsukka. Young men, please, you must prepare yourselves very well. We are going into a war on March 11th and it is a do-or-die game. Nobody can come from outside to use Nkanu votes to intimidate us here”.
This is most unfortunate coming from someone that rode on the crest of Peter Obi’s credibility to the Senate and someone, who by the reason of election into the senate has joined the club of statesmen.
But it is reassuring that Ezea’s diatribe has been widely denounced by all and sundry in the state. For instance, an elder statesman and former governor of old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo, has condemned it in its entirety, noting that such utterances were capable of not only dividing the state, but also capable of precipitating war and bloodshed in Enugu State in the March 11 governorship election.
Nwobodo, who addressed a press conference on the development at his country home in Enugu stated unequivocally: “I watched a video where Okey Ezea (Ideke), the Senator-Elect for Enugu North Senatorial Zone, was saying that the governorship election would be a do-or die battle.
“I was shocked that somebody, who has just been elected to represent his people at the National Assembly could make such an inciting statement while addressing a gathering of his people. He was inciting the good people of Nsukka against the people of Nkanu, literally drumming up war on the day of the next election.
“First, I want to plead with the peace-loving people of Nkanu not react violently to the unprovoked statement made by Ideke. The people of Nsukka are our brothers and sisters and not our enemies. As a governor of Old Anambra State, I had a very good relationship with Nsukka, and they were my great supporters.
“I strongly believe that statement from Ideke does not represent the view of the good people of Nsukka that I know”.
This is a soothing and timely intervention and it is hoped that all men of peace and goodwill will rise to the occasion so that Enugu people will continue to co-exist as brothers and sisters that they have always been both during and beyond the 2023 general election.
Okolie is an Enugu-based psychologist
Late Oyibo Chukwu