Posted by News Express | 15 August 2013 | 4,821 times
“On a final note I would like to take this opportunity to make a general appeal to the Igbo people of Nigeria who I have obviously hurt very much by some of the contents of the three essays that I wrote since this debate started. I did not in any way seek to debase them or insult them in my submissions but evidently I did so inadvertently and this explains their sense of outrage. …….
“I hereby offer my unreserved apology for the things which I have said which may have hurt them and they should be rest assured that there was no malicious intent. …... I am not an Igbo-hater and neither did I mean to hurt anyone’s pride or wound their feelings.”
The above words were the latest from Femi Fani-Kayode. Those words were a part of a longer statement, in which the man’s humanity and complete vulnerability were made apparent. I was touched by his own account of events and his several submissions to God and destiny. I think it would be almost cruel to not forgive him after he has admitted he realised that his words caused great hurt to a people.
I have been one of those who have vigorously challenged and criticised the man for the extreme things he said about the Igbos. I don’t normally jump in on ethnic-based disputes. I have over the years spoilt myself with the feeling that I am too educated in literature, history, philosophy and law to descend to ethnicity in my perception of man. I have been blessed with the opportunity of spending half of my life living in a country larger and better mixed than the ethnic divisions of Nigeria. And I have in that period come to face humanity with an understanding higher and deeper than an ethnicity-based consciousness.
However, in this case, I had to come in, notwithstanding the fact that I have had the opportunity of meeting Femi Fani-Kayode on multiple occasions and considering him a jolly good fellow then. On those occasions, we addressed each other as “brother” with all sincerity of the heart.
It is still possible that Femi Fani-Kayode did not really understand how the Igbos felt about his comments, and there are many comments from him. Therefore, I would like to show him an aspect of what he was understood to be saying, just a tiny aspect of it.
On the surface, Fani-Kayode seemed to have known what he was doing. It seemed he calculated it carefully. His goal appeared to be to humiliate the Igbos whom he had been attacking many times in the period. Consider the following points on the listing of Igbo women he had had relationships with:
(a) When he spoke of Chioma Anasoh, he admitted she was his PA. So, they did actually meet.
(b) When he spoke of Adaobi Uchegbu, he admitted he nearly married her. And that also was a description of a social context.
(c) When he spoke of Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu, however, there was no social context described.
(d) When he mentioned Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, he appeared careful and calculated to describe him as a “Colonel”, which was his rank in the Nigerian Army before the war. He knew that Ojukwu became a General and the Supreme Commander of the Biafran forces. He also knew that Ojukwu could have been described with the title of Colonel only in his back and by those who wanted to denigrate him. So, even if we had assumed that Fani-Kayode did not feel comfortable describing Ojukwu as a General because that would be to acknowledge Biafra, he had other titles he could have used for Ojukwu. He could have just called him Ikemba. He could just have called him Chief Emeka Ojukwu. He could simply have called him Emeka Ojukwu, since he is among the class of people who do not need titles, just like Chinua Achebe or Wole Soyinka. So, why the emphasis on his pre-war military rank?
(e) How come that Fani-Kayode did not have any Igbo male friend he could have used to prove his point? Why only Igbo women if he did not mean to suggest sexual intimacies? If he had said that he had called his Igbo friends “brother”, I would have admitted that publicly. It must not be forgotten that during the civil war, the federal troops used rape as a weapon of war. So speaking of Igbo women in the manner he did was bound to offend the Igbos gravely.
So, it seemed reasonable to conclude that he wanted to insult the Igbos. He literally seemed to be saying: “I have slept with the Queen of the Igbo people.” It seemed he understood that the Igbos respect Ojukwu’s memory for him leading them through the War. It appeared he wanted to mock the Igbos by hitting at that symbol of their resistance and their honour. As his widow, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu symbolises Ojukwu;s personal dignity. And that is important because of what Ojukwu stood for in the minds of the Igbo people – a symbol of their resistance and their hero. That was what Fani-Kayode failed to understand. Anyone who has met Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu would have nothing other than admiration and the greatest respect for that woman. I hadn’t meant to say this publicly, but I am going to do it now. In August of 2005 Ikemba Nnewi and his beloved and extremely beautiful wife honoured us with a dinner at my home in Maryland, USA. Within the three hours we spent together, I saw an incredible couple. Bianca is one of the most dignified women I have ever come across. She speaks flawless Queen’s English and flawless Igbo and flawless Wawa dialect. (And I believe she speaks fluent French, too).
She was genuinely and totally respectful to her husband. She has grace and class and poise. (That was not the only time I met them, but rather the only time I met them together in such setting). So, I could tell how unfair it was to make demeaning allegations against such a person, by people who have no idea about the life of such a fascinating woman. And that was sufficient for me to openly challenge and criticise Femi Fani-Kayode. Yet, I was also quick to state yesterday that the story from one Shama about the Fani-Kayode family was a fabrication and I discouraged its dissemination by refusing to approve it for posting on the wall of a group that I founded.
I hope we have all learned a lesson from this. The only point of personal difference for me is that I do not believe that the Yorubas as a group are against the Igbos as a group. It would be unscientific and unintelligent for me to think like that. Neither do I believe that Fani-Kayode was speaking for the Yorubas. I can admit that a Yoruba person may not understand the significance of the Biafran experience. He may not understand what the people suffered. He may not understand how offensive the remarks of Fani-Kayode were. And he may not show sufficient sensitivity to the feelings of the average Igbo person. But in the main, the Yorubas must not to be viewed as enemies of the Igbo, regardless of the shortcomings of any particular Yoruba man. I believe that if you explain these things to the Yoruba person from an angle he could related well to, such as the angle of human rights, you would see that he will oppose injustice and uphold the rights of the Igbos as well as the rights of other Nigerians. And besides, we must stop treating the Yorubas as if they have had it much easier in Nigeria. There is poverty and there is suffering all over this country. All groups have been hurt and oppressed at different times. After all, MKO Abiola died in detention, and he was not an Igbo. Similarly, the least developed part of Nigerian in terms of human development is the northern part of Nigeria. We must therefore resist the urge to see things from ethnic point of view.
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode’s apology must be accepted in good faith and in totality. Those against him must now show that they are fair-minded people and must cease from further attacks. And above all, under no circumstances should the innocent be attacked. His children and wife ought to be beyond reach regardless of the level of anger.
•Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire, whose photo appears alongside this piece, is an international lawyer practising in the US and Nigeria. He is the Group Founder/Principal Administrator of Due Process Advocates (DPA).
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