Femi Fani-Kayode: Achilles to the Igbos?

Since Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK) published his essay/article titled “The Bitter Truth About the Igbos”, tempers have risen and rightly so. It even resulted in a twitter war between FFK and Oby Ezekwesili. I would spare readers the details of that article, but it suffices to say that in my opinion, that article is not only spiteful and hateful, it is also insultive and insensitive.

As an anecdotal point, I must clarify from that I am not Igbo and have no ties with Igbo land. I have close-knit relationships with as many Igbos, as I do with Yorubas, so I am not speaking from a biased perspective. I have consulted a decent number of Yorubas and Igbos I know and they support my point of view.

This article is not intended to dispute any fact (whether correct or incorrect) in FFK’s essay(s). Rather, it briefly examines implicit dimensions and potential ramification of his essays. By ‘implicit dimensions’, I refer to issues beyond tribalism that result from his piece- the bigger picture, in other words.

In his article, FFK argues that he speaks the “truth” and is not afraid to say it. Whether or not the facts alleged in his piece are true, it does not give him the right to berate the Igbos or tell the “truth” from a spiteful and venomous perspective. The “truth” about history can be effectively told from an objective perspective and the message would not be lost in transit. If an objective person told the story using the same facts as FFK, such hate and spite would not flow from it.

Further, in an attempt to prove that he is not a tribalist after the trail of criticism that followed his article, he mentioned that he had had intimate relations with three prominent Igbo women, most notably, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu. In my opinion, that was not only unnecessary, it was a failed attempt to cheapen the wife of Mr Ojukwu, who till date is seen as a great leader of the Igbos. When he realised the error of his ways, he apologised for mentioning their names; after the harm had been done.

The human rights of Igbo Nigerian citizens were violated and instead of being sensitive and objective on the issue by providing a legal justification, FFK embarked on an anti-Igbo historical discourse, to justify why Lagos belongs to the Yorubas and the Igbos should be grateful for their hospitality.

To the best of my knowledge, we are “one Nigeria” and everyone is entitled to reside anywhere in Nigeria. FFK has the right to free speech, but that right is not absolute; rational human beings know when to stop talking and what not to say in the first place. According to Abraham Lincoln, “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

But FFK refused to heed Lincoln’s advice and said: “We cannot be expected to tolerate or accept … irreverant and unintelligent rubbish simply because we still happen to believe in one Nigeria and we will not sacrifice our rights or prostitute our principles on the altar of that one Nigeria. Whether Nigeria is one or not, what is ours is ours and no one should test our resolve or make any mistake about that… We are not the problem, they are”.

An implicit dimension of FFK’s article is the fact that he has agitated the Igbos and there is no telling what could result from that. Boko Haram has similar (religious) views and we all know what the situation has become in Nigeria. Also, the Rwandan Genocide was fuelled by the incitement of the Hutus against the Tutsis, and the mass media played a visible role in facilitating that genocide.

FFK knows that people pay attention to him so he has used social and the Nigerian mass media to disseminate his views; he acknowledged the power and effect of the media when he said: “The two essays have been published in various newspapers in our country and outside and it will continue to be published by others long into the foreseeable future… The message is clear and it is already out there. It cannot be called back in. The horse has bolted from the stable and the falcon has left the nest.”

Such incitement should not be taken for granted – we have Rwanda’s story to learn from; and as Oliver Wendell Holmes stated, “every idea is an incitement… eloquence may set fire to reason.”

From his statement and the tone of his essay trying to establish that he is not a tribalist, it is clear that FFK is looking for a fight and I sincerely hope he does not get it. He even said: “I am itching for a real debate with a worthy adversary on this issue.” He calls himself ‘Achilles’, who has no match; he requests for a Hector to challenge him. I do not intend to be his Hector because although Hector put up a great fight, he lost the battle.

However, FFK fails to realise that every Achilles has a heel; his heel is his hot-blooded nature and tendency to get carried away when blurting – this is the “bitter truth about FFK.” I would rather be his Paris, than Hector, who according to Homer’s Iliad, was the one that shot Achilles’ heel, which led to his death.

Interestingly, Paris is also known as Alexander (in Ancient Greek) and my baptismal name is Alexandria.


Originally published by The Nigerian Telegraph here



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