It has become a common sight nowadays, especially in cities within and outside the Igbo land, to see men without traditional titles wearing "red caps" meant for chiefs.
While some of these men wear the "red cap" out of sheer ignorance; others wear the cap out of utter mischief, deceptively parading themselves as chiefs.
Nevertheless, a handful of the cap wearers, indeed, deserve to wear "red caps", as they are titled men and chiefs who are recognised in their various communities as 'Ozos', 'Nzes', 'Ichies', 'Ogbuefis' and so on.
By most accounts, the "red cap" in Igbo land is a symbol of authority, culture and tradition; and it represents the chieftaincy institution, its power, and authority.
The categories of chiefs who are permitted to wear this sacred cap must have met certain standards which they still maintain in their respective communities.
For instance, they are not expected to lie, swindle or engage in any activity that can bring the traditional institution into disrepute.
The number of eagle feathers on the "red cap", as the case may be, illustrates the status of the cap wearer.
However, an Ozo title holder, whose father is still living, cannot wear the "red cap".
Against this backdrop, custodians of the tradition and stakeholders are bemoaning the deliberate and sustained abuse of the "red cap" and the Igbo chieftaincy institution in general.
The Ezendigbo of Abuja, Nwosu Ibe, said that the "red cap" could not be worn by everyone, insisting that it should only be worn by those who were permitted by the society to wear it.
He stressed that the right to wear the "red cap" was usually granted in recognition of one's contribution to the socio-economic development of a community.
"In Igbo land, there are certain achievements or deeds that will qualify one to wear the 'red cap'; it is not for everybody," Mr. Ibe said.
"We have traditional rulers in Igbo land and traditional rulers in the Diaspora. Wherever you reside, if you are doing things that impact on the people's lives or living an exemplary life, you will recognised with a title and the 'red cap' will be given to you."
Mr. Ibe, however, frowned at a situation where people of questionable character now wore the "red cap" and paraded themselves as chiefs or even got chieftaincy titles through fraudulent means.
He said that Igbos, who were not living in Igbo land, were also monitored by the Igbo traditional institutions that were represented in the communities where they resided. He added that the monitoring exercise was carried out, with a view to making recommendations on those who deserved to wear the "red cap".
Mr. Ibe reiterated that it was abominable for people to wear the "red cap" indiscriminately, describing those who flouted the cultural norms as people with no sense of value.
"It is regrettable that these days, many fraudulent people get 'red cap' titles through the back door and some even wear the cap without receiving it traditionally from anybody. And such people parade themselves as chiefs and titled men.
"Even those who are not recognised in the Igbo land or by the communities where they reside still wear the cap on their own volition and this is a taboo.
"We regard such people as worthless. We have people in every community where Igbo people reside who monitor their activities and make recommendations on who deserves chieftaincy titles," he said.
Mr. Ibe said that through efficient monitoring mechanisms; his council of chiefs had been able to identify all recognised Igbo chiefs residing in the FCT.
He, nonetheless, conceded that non-Igbos, who never received Igbo titles but were wearing the "red cap", were doing that out of sheer ignorance.
He added that such people should not be criticised unless they impersonated Igbo chiefs.
"We have a list of all those who are traditionally and formally recognised as chiefs and titled men in the FCT.
"For those non-Igbos wearing the cap out of ignorance, it is their business. Such people are not representing the Igbo culture; that is no problem unless they begin to parade themselves as Igbo chiefs," he added.
A former member of Abia State Council of Traditional Rulers, Barnabas Okoronkwo, of Oguduasaa autonomous community, however, said that such aberrations should not be allowed to continue.
He said that such anomaly was tantamount to an erosion of the Igbo culture, even as other ethnic nationalities tended to hold every aspect of their culture high.
He underscored the need to enact legislation that criminalised such behaviours, as part of efforts to apprehend and prosecute impersonators of titled men and chiefs.
"More efforts should be made to check the abuse of the 'red cap'; it is strictly for chiefs and other titled men.
"I think a taskforce, drawn from all Igbo states, should be set up to check this trend, especially in the cities," he added.
Mr. Okoronkwo said that indiscriminate wearing of the "red cap" has led to untimely deaths in some places, as some of the impostors were attacked by some metaphysical forces.
On his part, Emeka Okolo, a Lagos-based businessman, said that chieftaincy titles, which were hitherto difficult to acquire, had become easily accessible to all and sundry.
"This explains why we have many undeserving chiefs nowadays," he said.
Mr. Okolo noted that people now gathered in meetings in big cities to choose whatever titles they wished to acquire if they had the wherewithal to buy drinks regularly.
He stressed that such acts were prevalent among wealthy Igbo traders who wanted to further flaunt their opulence by wearing "red caps".
"The 'red cap' is gradually losing its significance because many city dwellers feel that by being philanthropic; they deserve to be called chiefs.
"Some of them are of questionable character; therefore, they cannot seek such titles from their villages. They assume the titles in the cities since they have the money to throw around.
"They attend launching activities and donate big money; they go to the church; donate big money and buy a car for the priest; they sink one or two boreholes in their neighbourhood and before you know it, they appropriate a title.
"But go their villages and inquire where the titles came from and you will be shocked at what you will discover," he added.
He urged the Igbos everywhere to always insist on knowing the source of a man's title vis a vis his "red cap" before identifying with such a person.
Cultural experts stressed the need to preserve the sanctity of the "red cap" in Igbo morals and ethos, saying that the cap has been a symbolic feature of the Igbo culture over the years.
Poster For ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’ – Starring Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor,Genevieve Nnaji, Anika Noni Rose & John Boyega is out.
'Half of a Yellow Sun' is a movie based on the best seller novel written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that took place during the disastrous Nigerian-Biafran Civil war that led to first documented genocide in modern Africa.
"This new poster has arrived online for ’Half of A Yellow Sun,’ the feature adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s acclaimed novel of the same name. For me, ’Half of A Yellow Sun’ is one the most compelling novels of the last decade. The Orange Prize-winning story follows the intertwining lives of several characters before and during the Nigerian-Biafran War of 1967-1970. The story is told through three different points of view: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old boy from a small village who becomes a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the warm, progressive and beautiful daughter of well-to-do city-dwellers; and Richard, a white ex-patriot originally from England, who falls in love with Olanna’s twin sister.
Thandie Newton takes on the role of Olanna, with Anika Noni Rose as her sister Kainene. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the role of revolutionary professor Odenigbo, with John Boyega as his houseboy Ugwu. Joseph Mawle plays the English writer Richard. Cobhams Asuquo and singer-songwriter Keziah Jones are also said to be involved in the production, producing original music for the soundtrack. Set to arrive later this year, ’Half of A Yellow Sun’ is adapted for the screen by Nigerian theatre director, playwright and novelist Biyi Bandele. The official synopsis for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel can be read below.
The movie tells the story of two sisters, Olanna and Kainene during the Biafran war and the effects of the conflicts on their lives and the lives of everyone around them(Flicks and Bites)."
"Half of a Yellow Sun which premiered last year in Toronto at the Toronto Film Festival features Oscar nominee and British Independent Film Awards winner, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Africa Movie Award winner Genevieve Nnaji, BAFTA Awards winner, Thandie Newton, Nigeria's X Factor judge, Legendary Musician and African Movie Academy Awards winner Onyeka Onwenu, Gemini Awards nominee Hakeem Kae-Kazim, African Movie Academy Awards winner O.C Ukeje and more! The much-anticipated movie is scheduled for release worldwide in March 2014, " as Chris Twum reported in The Chronicle.
'Half of a Yellow Sun' movie that came out of Nollywood featured many Nollywood stars including Geneieve Nnaji together with Award Winning artist D'Banj producing the sound track is a major breakthrough for Nollywood and Nigerian movies. 'Half of a Yellow Sun' will soon be in the movie theaters and cinemas near you.
One of the reasons usually given by Igbos for overwhelmingly supporting President Goodluck Jonathan was erased with a stroke of the pen this morning following the sweeping changes in Nigeria’s Military High Command.
Ndigbo used to boast that for the first time in the country’s history, their ethnic group produced two Service Chiefs under the Jonathan presidency. All that is now gone as there is no single Igbo in the new set of Service Chiefs. Both Abia State’s Lt.-General Azubike O. Ihejirika, erstwhile Chief of Army Staff, and Delta State’s Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba, until this morning Chief of Naval Staff, were dropped in the shake-up announced via a statement issued in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, by Jonathan’s Special Adviser (Media & Publicity), Dr. Reuben Abati.
As announced by Abati, “Air Marshal Alex Badeh takes over from Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim as Chief of Defence Staff;
“Major-General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah takes over from Lt.-General Azubike O. Ihejirika as Chief of Army Staff;
“Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin takes over from Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba as Chief of Naval Staff; and Air Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu takes over from Air Marshal Badeh as Chief of Air Staff.”
It is not yet clear how this turn of events will affect President Jonathan’s political fortunes as Nigeria counts down to the next general elections in 2015 in which he is determined to contest. Already, Igbos, who constitute Jonathan’s electoral backbone, are angry that he is yet to keep his promise to build a second bridge across the famous River Niger in view of the expected collapse of the old one – a situation which does not only endanger lives but also holds the prospect of cutting off Igboland from the entire South-West.
Source News Express
“I said to the guide, who didn’t know anything about my background, I said to him, ‘What are those bolts in the wall?’ ” Mr. Ejiofor said recently. “And he said, ‘That’s the extra chaining for the Ibos.’ And I said, ‘I am Ibo.’ ” He paused, then continued: “That’s when you are aware that you were there as well. That it’s your blood, that someone with DNA close to yours was right in the middle of that situation. You recognize that you yourself were there. And that’s powerful.”
If “12 Years a Slave” is in the running for best picture and a slew of other Academy Awards, it is in large part because of Mr. Ejiofor’s powerful, disquieting portrayal of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who, in 1841, was drugged and sold into slavery in Louisiana. It is a role to which Mr. Ejiofor, 36, obviously felt deeply connected, but one that, from start to finish, also taxed and drained him.
My determination to keep well away from insult from current conversations between Ndigbo and the Yoruba was so compelling until recent interventions from some Yoruba sons who appear to be playing political games or avenging old personal wrongs. I am angry and sad because I know that Yoruba families have taken their responsibility to succeeding generations more seriously than these two.The tribe is the only one today in Africa that instinctively makes sacrifice towards the next generation without even thinking of the cost or pain. I know of no family in Yoruba land where duty can be considered sufficient when the children in the household are not in school.
On the contrary, many current Igbo parents send their promising generation to fetch money by all means from Lagos and the rest of this country. A significant number of male Igbo population is substantially an illiterate one. Only the girl child is lucky because tradition finds them physically inadequate for the rigour of excruciating toil. The society is therefore an asymmetric one, with substantial female population too educated to relate long term with their illiterate male counterparts. Finding no place in an unbalanced society, some behave with impunity as they adopt western cultures and seek relationships away from uneducated Igbo men not fit to handle their dustbin.But since the early 50s Igbo elite has sought to dominate Yoruba land and colonise its people. It has not yet happened but it will if care is not taken because I am also quite conscious of the power of aggression and the tendency for ignorance to seek to dominate. History reminds us, and Arnold Yognbee tells it clearly:
”History teaches us that when a barbarian race confronts a sleeping culture, the barbarian always wins”.
How can we be sure our culture is not in slumber with regards to the confrontations of Ndigbo? Are we not, by our negligence preparing the next generation for colonisation? I believe it is time to benefit from this exchange going on between Igbo and Yoruba youth and their elders. For if we do not seize this moment provided fortuitously by the Achebe and “deportation” provocation, we may be preparing the road of guilt and shame for our children. I certainly do not want my children to wonder if ever a Yoruba leader, particularly one of the status of a deity like Awolowo committed genocide. I do not want to answer charges that we are a race of lazy buffoons who surrendered their homeland to barbarians.
Ndigbo is aggressive and determined in pressing their agenda with deliberate focus as they buy up indigenous family homes, concubinate with Yoruba divorcees, marry their children and jubilate triumphantly around town all with dirty money. At the moment, they adopt noise as strategy to shut down alternative ideas and viewpoints. For me, Fani- Kayode has just only burst the bubble. We cannot afford to put our children in harm’s way by permitting a crowd of ill-educated, poorly trained semi illiterates to superintend over their future.
But as arguments and debates go, In the process of child education, I plan to advance some arguments on the Starvation allegation as I have studied it, offer an opinion on Igbo “superiority and success” claims from a purely indigenous perspective and warn about the need for strategic definition of Yoruba objectives in the light of internal strife. I hope to write briefly about what Awolowo means to my generation and what that meaning should translate to as we contest with the Igbos for Lagos and the rest Yoruba land.
THE CURRENT DISCUSSION BETWEEN YORUBA AND NDIGBO
First, permit me to admit that Igbos have been winning and Yorubas merely reacting to their carefully orchestrated agenda. Their reactions are in some cases self-defeating, apologetic and unsure and sometimes self-serving and opportunistic ways. Some have criticised Femi Fani-Kayode even to the extent of abusing his illustrious father. And these are Yoruba men, prominent and intelligent but with no reputation for wisdom and common sense. This may be the time to teach some wisdom to them and those still hibernating under some illusion of studied diplomacy, biblical morality, duty to Nation, fairness rights under a confused constitution. Ndigbo has no time for these sentiments. Igbos fight rough, obey no rules and attack and destroy you if you hesitate. That Cambridge educated young man, Femi Fani Kayode is a Lawyer but also a historian. He has been educated in the best traditional Institutions teaching his trade, just like his father before him, his Grandfather before his father and his great grandfather before his grandfather. He comes from a long line of educated elites and knows that silence does not carry far where noise prevails. Personally, I can live with his occasional indiscretions.
Talking about Igbo insults, One Chuka Odom, one time Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory writing on the back page of This Day Newspaper of 23 August 2013 advances this insult to ridiculous heights when he said:
”Yes, the Igbos are proud of their entrepreneurial skills just as the Yorubas are proud of their penchant for fanfare and merriment. Every tribe has an identity”.
Now you heard a former Federal Minister talk disparagingly of a superior race as one of laziness and constant merriment. If this was Fani Kayode speaking, some Yoruba opportunists would be blaring jingoism from the roof tops. By the way, I cannot be angry with Odom. That is his belief. And Fani Kayode was right to go into the history books to tell Odom and his likes the history of a barbarian which migrated to Yoruba land to be educated but failed to learn any manner along with the letters. But must we just shut up and observe them dance naked. No. A Jewish proverb says:
”He who puts up with insult invite injury”.
Again here I believe we do not deserve insults and Pierre Corneille warns
”He who allows himself to be insulted deserves to be”.
Like Fani Kayode, I am convinced that we do not deserve to be insulted and must not stand insults lamely. We have put up with insult for too long, hence the current injury inflicted by Ndigbo. Now with Femi insulting them, we are not just getting some attention, we got lots of it and the conversation is finally changing.
Diplomacy does not work where punches are already being thrown freely. George W. Bush made that point clearly:
In defence of our Nation, a President must be a clear eyed realist. There are limits to the smiles and scowls of diplomacy. Armies and missiles are not stopped by stiff notes of condemnation. They are held in check by strength and purpose and promise of swift punishment.
The Igbo initiative is clearly an invasion which cannot be checked by pacification or diplomacy but strength of purpose and swift and stiff punishment.
Fani Kayode has challenged Ndigbo with historical facts and apart from abuses and curses; he is yet to get a rebuttal of facts presented.
It is time for old and young Yorubas to cut out the diplomacy nonsense, don their reading glasses and adopt the power that has always been considered worthy by their forebears, the power of ideas and get to the debating table with invaders from across Onitsha, the Igbo. It is time to match them fact for fact, boast for boast, noise for noise and aggression for aggression. Yoruba should use the superiority of the brain which we suffer to invest in over brawn that petty trading demands.
BIZARRE YORUBA MEN
Two prominent individuals frighten me in their motivation on this matter. Mr Femi ArIbisala who claims to be a pastor and Mr Adeseye Ogunlewe, the former Obasanjo Works Minister who held Lagos including his home town of Ikorodu to ransom while he tarred the shiny roads you see today around Kubua and Katsina. But we must not lose the advantage of accommodating differing opinions. That has been the strength of the Yoruba and the gift we must present to the next generation.
DEPORTATION OR COLONISATION
We all know what this should be about but unfortunately, is not. It should be about elites and destitute, about rights and power and right and wrong. It should be about whether a Government has a right to decree that the poor must not exist alongside the haves that Government can as a matter of impunity throw away Nigerians in the dead of night from anywhere they chose to reside like Lagos Government did. It should be about whether Nigerians cannot live in convenience with others as Anambra did in the past. It is about whether Abia Government will win tomorrow if somebody takes them to court for sacking over two thousand Igbos from its civil service. It is certainly not about deportation. The Igbos do not believe that Fashola has any tribal sentiments neither do they sympathise with the poor destitute in their midst, how much less the deported to their midst. They fully understand that Raji Fashola is a one way bulldozer of demolition for as long as a Mega City remains to be built. Machines can demolish anything or anybody as far as his fanaticism goes. Fashola is therefore just an excuse to extort concessions and embarrass the Yoruba. He certainly does not belong in this conversation which we all have longed for since Chinua Achebe wrote that valedictory book. We need everybody in this dialogue, our area boys, our demolition squad, our professionals and most importantly, our intellectuals. I believe we can steer this talk anyway we want it if we understand how significant this time is in our lives with the igbos. The conversations must be propelled to the logical end through research, debates and disagreements no matter how controversial and partisan or divisive. I shall seek to contribute to the conversation Ndigbo wants and Achebe provoked and so should you. First let us deal with the our domestic destitute.
FEMI ARIBISALA AND OGUNLEWE
I talked about some Yoruba people, their confusion, their distractions, distortions ill motives and selfishness. But more importantly their pettiness just because they have minor disagreement with individuals or are hoping to harvest Igbo electoral potentials. Two very good instances surfaced in articles recently. One from one Femi Aribisala who practically handed Lagos over to Ndigbo for Governor because he and his parents encountered Late Chief Remi Fani Kayode, Femi’s late father in unpleasant circumstances almost 50 years ago. It was the most distasteful article I have read in a long time.
I shall not dwell on the unimportant in regards to this individual. It is left to the people of Ikorodu to call him by his true name. The severity of that verdict will reflect the values of the Ikorodu people and I know them. They are true sons of their parents.
As Minister of Works at Abuja, Ogunlewe did nothing to ameliorate the troublesome hold ups at Ikorodu while he concentrated all his energy on Kubwa, Katsina and Mokwa roads. But that did not make his larger than life image of “Akotileta” which he enjoys today as that man who as Minister prevented the vegetation of Lagos and formed a flotilla of miscreants around the Marina attacking all motorists and collecting tolls. These are not my concern. For our children’s sake, I want us to examine what this man said in reaction to current Igbo Yoruba debate.
He said, “The arrival of Dr. Namdi Azikiwe to Lagos in 1937 from Accra after his studies in the United States, stimulated the political and cultural environment of Lagos as no other has before or after him. Zik literally resurrected the wizard of Kirsten hall from political death. Zik represented Lagos in the western house. The NCNC was the power in Lagos, and not the Action Group. The Igbo were prominent in the governance of Lagos in the Lagos City Hall.”
What a patriot, what a lover of unity. My questions to Ogunlewe are as follows:
I. Is Lagos a No man’s Land because it allowed Azikiwe his oratory? Simple yes or no will suffice
II. Was Nnamdi Azikiwe the sole founder of NCNC? The first leader of that party, Herbert Macaulay, was he Igbo? Where were the H.O. Davies of those times and so many prominent Yoruba sons who gave accommodation and comfort to Azikiwe after he was thrown out of Ghana?
III. What point is Ogunlewe making by saying NCNC was in power in Lagos and not AG. Was NCNC an Igbo Party at the time it was in power in Lagos?
Ogunlewe embarks on self-glorifying name dropping.
“Interestingly, I was born at plot number 8, Okoya Street, Idumagbo- Lagos, while the Ojukwu families were residing at number one to three on the same street. I grew up to know the father of Odumegwu Ojukwu. Chimbizie and Azuka grew up with us on the same street. Even the Chibeze small parking space at the end of Okoya Street is called Ojukwu.”
When he says interestingly, who is interested in where he was born. The questions are:
I. Did Sir Louis, Chimbize, Azuka and Emeka Ojukwu claim even at that time or at any time in their lifetime to be Lagosians?
II. At Okoya Street Idumagbo, was the Igbo man the King or paramount ruler. Was Okoya and Idumagbo Street a no man’s land way back then when Mr Ogunlewe was playing “Lagos Boy”?
III. Why is Adeseye Ogunlewe claiming Ikorodu and not Idumagbo today if he does not know where his parents belong and that vegetables have roots?
IV. At that time, were Hausas, Kogi and other Nigerians not living there? Did they claim to own Lagos as Orji Kalu and his co travellers claim?
V. In spite of Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Lagos roots, did he ever claim to be a Lagosian. Bless his soul, that true son of Nnewi always knew and acknowledged the mother that gave him suck.
I am Yoruba but I know where I come from. Even though I am Yoruba and have lived three quarters of my entire life in Lagos for upwards of 40 years, I shall not claim to be a Lagosian and when you ask my children, all born here in Lagos, they tell you with pride bordering on arrogance, where they come from. Another Yoruba adage says it is the crack head who points at his father’s house with his left thumb.
Ogunlewe is not finished yet with his “Uncle Tom” essay.
He said, “Anytime I visited where I was born today in Idumagbo at Lagos Island, the entire place is covered by Igbo traders in their thousands. They were never troublesome but decent and accommodating. They have virtually taken over all properties of the indigenes. They succeeded in developing all our properties, married to most of our children even from the royal families. There is no single house you will visit without an Igbo man selling wares there.”
Ogunlewe is the happiest man alive because Igbo took over his entire family. The street car park, the Ogunlewe house where he was born, they now occupy with their wives and married their children. All because of money.
Congratulations. Is that not what you have been waiting for all your life? For Igbo to take over your house, marry your children and rule over your home? He says they have virtually taken over. No, they have not “virtually”, they have actually taken over and driven Lagos “Akotiletas” your kind out of town. Like the Cowboys of Western movies, they may indeed produce a Governor the way they arrive in morning, afternoon and night busses, thanks to physically tall but mentally short characters like some who claim to know where they come from.
After the success of his two full length movies, Mirror Boy and Last Flight To Abuja, United kingdom-based Nigerian filmmaker, Obi Emelonye, returns with an Igbo language movie, Onye Ozi. In this interview with FUNSHO AROGUNDADE, the producer and director spoke why he decided to do a film in that language.
Why did you decide to shoot a film in Igbo language this time around?
I have always wanted to shoot a language film because I believe our language remains our form of identity. Many Nollywood filmmakers use English language as a medium of expression because it is a language imposed on us as official language. But the ability to tell our story and deliver messages in our native language always has a lasting effect. Tunde Kelani, a filmmaker, that I look up to as an inspiration has proven that with almost all his works. He is one of the successful filmmakers that Nigeria has produced and he has used Yoruba language as a medium of communication in his films; and has recorded tremendous success and earned international recognition as a filmmaker. However, I am concerned that Igbo language is becoming an endangered species, according to UNESCO. A lot of parents no longer speak the language to their children because they don’t consider it hip. They feel the language is not trendy enough. But we have to change this warped perception. So, I thought after the success of my last two films which were done in English language, I have to take up the challenge to take the present Nollywood back to where it started with the film Living In Bondage an Igbo language film that helped revolutionise the Nigerian film industry.
Tell us about the new film?
It is called Onye Ozi. It is a situational comedy set and shot in London. It is all about a young graduate played by Okey Bakassi who just arrived in United Kingdom from Nigeria. He came in with very high expectations but at the welcome party organised for him by his wife, a white man being pursued by some assailants was shot right in the middle of the party venue. While everybody ran away, Okey braved the odd and offered to help the dying man. Before he died, the man handed over an envelope and a bunch of keys to Okey. From that moment, Okey embarked on a journey that was to change his life and people around him forever. Onye Ozi is a situation comedy with a deep spiritual story. The film also features a number of white actors who spoke pure Igbo language in the movie. They include co-lead Stephen Moriaty and Anthony Aclet. Also in the film are Ngozi Igwebike, Adesua Atuanya and D’Kachy Obi-Emelonye.
Why the choice of Okey Bakassi for the lead role?
Okey Bakassi fits well for the role. I have worked with him twice before on some comedy flicks and they were successful. In Nollywood, he has not really done a lot of acting as he is more of a stand-up comedian. But after he dabbled into politics a couple of years back, he slowed down. But since his return, he has done more of stand-up comedy but I thought he should come back to his natural turf. And he has proved me right with his A-class delivery in Onye Ozi.
Are you not bothered that producing a language film will limit your scope?
Producing an Igbo language movie for me will cause no limitation. In fact, if you see Onye Ozi, it was produced in such a way that without even listening or understanding the language you will flow with the message. Basically, it is well sub-titled. But the success we recorded when the film was premiered in London in 18 October was a huge boost. Besides, while the premiere was on in London, we simultaneous premiered it online on IrokoTV, Africa Nolly and Ibaka TV platforms in about 60 countries. The most popular place where the film was watched online was the United Kingdom. It was followed by Saudi Arabia. On the night of the premiere, over 66,000 people clicked to see the trailer, while about 2,000 people paid online to watch the film. That alone confirmed that the film will be a success.
What is your take on the fact that M-Net Africa has AfricaMagic channels for Hausa, Yoruba and Swahili but none for Igbo where the bulk of Nollywood practitioners come from?
You know what? I am deeply concerned. I was at the maiden edition of the AfricaMagic Viewers Choice Award held in March this year. At the event, my earlier film ‘Mirror Boy’ won the ‘Best Drama’ award. During the award ceremony, there were categories for Yoruba, Swahili and Hausa and non for Igbo. That was part of the motivation and I said then that I have to make an Igbo film even if it the only one that could earn a nomination in the subsequent edition of the award.
Part of the problem we were told was that there are not enough content to start a channel for the Igbo. So, are you championing the cause now?
Yes. What I wanted to do was to encourage more of our people because apart from the art of making film, it also a business. I see no reason why an Igbo story being told from Igbo perspective and culture and shot in an Igbo village setting should have English as a medium of expression and delivery. With due respect, I know that if you tell a story about witch doctors and become successful, every other person will follow suit. So if I make an Igbo film in Igbo and it is successful definitely everybody will want to make one because they think it is the common denominator.
As a producer, how was the transition from serious drama to comedy?
There is no transition my brother. This is not the first time I would be producing a comedy movie. Even in my past productions, I always inject comedy into some of the scenes. Gone are those days where you shoot a film and it comes out a serious drama. Even in Hollywood, most of the films now have a bit of thriller, adventure, comedy and suspense. Good films should have comic scenes because comedy is good. It relaxes people. It makes us forget our problems. The idea of people coming to watch a film is to relax not to get stressed but to escape from their immediate problem and get entertained.
Talking about budgeting, how much did it cost you to produce Onye Ozi?
Seriously I don’t like discussing budget. But Onye Ozi is a much smaller budget production compare to The Mirror Boy and Last Flight To Abuja. Nevertheless, big budget never determines the success of any film. Just like a producer who spent almost $8million to produce a film in Nigeria and is struggling to sell the film, it is not just about spending money, it is about doing something that works.
The Igbo, whose traditional homeland — Igboland — is in the southeastern portion of the country, are Nigeria’s largest ethnic group. Most are Christian, but many Igbo, even while practicing Christianity, nonetheless consider themselves Jewish.
In the past few decades, several thousand Igbo have taken this self-identification a step further and embraced Judaism, which they see as their lost heritage. The phenomenon of Igbo identification with Jews dates to the 18th century, following the Igbo’s encounter with Christian missionaries and their introduction to the Bible, in which they found similarities between Igbo customs and those of the ancient Hebrews.
Some Igbo, such as the 18th-century writer Equiano Olaudah, concluded “that the one people had sprung from the other,” an opinion shared by the worshipers at Tikvat Israel. Earlier this year, Nwafor invited me to Abuja to celebrate the annual Purim holiday — the Jewish Festival of Lots, based on the biblical Book of Esther — as well as to learn more about Nigerian Jewry.
Upon exiting Abuja’s air-conditionless airport terminal, I was met by Nwafor, who was wearing a blue and white Tikvat Israel T-shirt. A waiting car took us to Kubwa, the neighborhood where Nwafor and his wife, Amaka, live with their children. For the next week I was their guest, and as my host, Nwafor never left my side, accompanying me on all my trips to homes, synagogues and sites in Abuja. Among the many vis
I used to be a keen observer and admirer of the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola (SAN). Apart from the visible progress he might have made in governing Lagos, I believe he is an astute and tactful politician. That could go as the most outstanding part of his personality. For almost eight years, he worked out a very rare but functional arrangement where he focused more on the day-to-day running of the state, while he allowed his former boss and Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria now All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, to hold sway and take full charge of the political arena. Do not take my word for it but it takes a man of considerable political acumen to function effectively under the shadow of a maverick politician larger–than-life politician like the “Lion of Bourdillon”, as many call him, and yet be able to create a remarkable political niche for oneself. Managing overbearing political bosses is a virtue that many of our politicians have not developed. Fashola not only achieved this but managed to create an impression of a visionary leader on anyone who visited Lagos recently.
However the controversial deportation of Nigerian citizens of Igbo extraction resident in Lagos by giving them an emergency destitute status has brought Fashola’s true divisive and odoriferous tribal personality into the public domain. It is unarguable that many admirers of Fashola are rankled and startled and now see him in a different, largely uncomplimentary light. Apart from the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Fashola is one other governor who has demonstrated, in my view, that he has a direction and who anyone can hold a conversation with about good governance and development. My admiration for the conduct of these two used to be so boundless that I would nominate them without hesitation for any bigger national assignment only if I had the slightest opportunity. But not anymore, at least for Governor Fashola.
For the benefit of those who do not know the details. A Lagos State agency known as the Kick Against Indiscipline, obviously on the orders of the state governor, was said to have arrested some people predominantly from Igbo extraction about two years ago on the suspicion that they were leading destitute lives. They were detained in several locations in Lagos under some dirty and largely inhuman condition. Many of them allegedly died in the process out of starvation and sickness. A few who survived were later packed into a lorry like cows and deported to Onitsha where they were dumped near the head bridge at Upper Iweka and abandoned there. There is a possibility that not all of these hapless deportees were doing meaningful things before they were caught. However, some of them reportedly confessed to be petty traders and roadside food hawkers before they were nabbed by some overzealous KAI operatives. They disclosed that much when they were interviewed. But those are all by the way. How come they were interviewed to find that if they spoke Yoruba language before bundling them into prison? How come they bundled all of them into Onitsha even when some of them might have been from Calabar, Yenagoa, or even Uyo? Was it a pre- rehearsed attack against a perceived enemy ethnic group? When and where were these hatched?
As the debate continues to rage, many informed minds have continued to condemn Fashola and his government. However, a few ethnic jingoists have tried desperately to justify the action of the governor, who I am sure might have realised the import of his mistake by now. But I am certain that such arguments as indigene/settler, host/guest conversations have become anachronistic. And so I will not waste valuable time on the contribution of one tribe or the other to the growth and development of Lagos State as some have been preoccupied with.
However, I want to point out some personal views for all of us to consider, extrapolate and draw conclusions. The first point is a short story. During my days at the University of Ibadan, I used to spend time with a relation who lived in the Mushin area of Lagos. I remember it was a storey building and I often came to the narrow balcony to watch a mammoth crowd hurry across to Isolo, Idi-Araba, Surulere and other parts of Lagos. I recall vividly how I helplessly watched hoodlums on several occasions snatch bags and valuables from unsuspecting passers-by. If you are in doubt, try to walk around the area in the evening. You will notice some people following you and singing praises initially and appealing to you to “bless” them. If you hesitate, they will turn violent and “bless” themselves by force by dispossessing you of your valuables. They are still there as I write. Now, if a destitute person is someone who is poor and does not have the basic necessities of life. If the goal of the KAI campaign is to rid Lagos of poor, homeless beggars and non-taxpaying individuals as someone opined, then their destination should be Mushin. There, they will find trailer loads of such individuals but of course the destination of such vehicles will never be Onitsha. If the Lagos State Government was talking to its Anambra counterpart, why did it decide to drop the “deportees” at the Onitsha head bridge in the dead of the night, not in Awka or any government establishment?
Besides, how come the Lagos State Governor decided to contact, as he said he did, only the Governor of Anambra State on a matter as sensitive as this? Why did he not write other state governors in the South-East and South-South?
Instructively, during the last census exercise, Fashola and his fellow politicians were literally begging Ndigbo and other “settlers” not to go back to their states but rather stay back in Lagos and be counted. Now that they might have contributed to the mega population size of Lagos for which is a clear tool to bargain for national resources, these same people have become disposable street urchins. What could have inspired this state-sponsored hatred? Some say that the pre-civil war fear of Igbo dominance is still a factor. No. Not at all. The effect of the civil war on Ndigbo is so devastating that it will take many more decades to be neutralised, whatever anyone might think to the contrary. Many of the Igbo who left the East after the war went out in search of survival. After the war, they lost their jobs, money, properties and everything. Some of them who had millions of pounds in the bank had to forfeit them and were given only 20 pounds, on the orders of the Federal Government to start life. The only option they had was to continue to travel to places that were inhabitable to trade and farm etc. That was how the Igbo began to migrate to other parts of Nigeria in search of livelihood and survival. It takes a hard-working person to rebuild considerably from the rubble of war with only 20 pounds. Sadly, many years after the civil war, many other tribes with covert backing of politicians are still fighting against Ndigbo. Ndigbo are the least represented in everything Nigerian because, unfortunately, the divisive sentiments that pervaded during the civil war are still very active in the hearts and minds of many. If you look at the lopsided nature of the Nigerian civil service under the name of Federal Character, you will cry.
Since independence in 1960, ethnic issues have been deliberately politicised to give a clique of power-thirsty individuals, a dubious legitimacy. The civil war worsened it and politicians have continued to exploit it to their advantage. Amidst these sad and almost inescapable realities, one would only imagine that Fashola would have known and done better.
It must be noted out that the deportation saga has very tricky political implications. It has a potential of deepening inter-tribal suspicion with counterproductive political repercussions. For instance, Ndigbo constitute a majority of the non-Yoruba voting population in Lagos State that will be too difficult to ignore. How come Fashola mobilised these “street urchins” to vote for him only to remember towards the end of his last tenure that they are a bunch of nuisance that needs to be deported? Why did he not do it before 2011? What about 2015?
CNPP cautions Obi over backlash
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State yesterday cleared the air on the controversies trailing the alleged forceful ejection of some Igbo from the state, saying only 14 destitutes were picked on the streets, ehabilitated and resettled back to their state.
Governor Fashola thus distanced the state’s government from the claim that those resettled were 67 or 72.
Fashola who also disclosed that he just ordered the rehabilitation of a mad woman who was allegedly impregnated by unknown person in Oshodi, said the state’s government’s care for its residents had no ethnic or political colouration.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State chapter of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) has urged Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State not to allow the controversy cause rancour between Igbo and Yoruba in Lagos.
In a statement signed by the state’s chairman of CNPP, Hon Akinola Obadia, the group said that the issue should not be allowed to cause disaffection among the Igbo people living in the state with their Yoruba neighbours.
The CNPP also warned against tribalising the alleged deportation issue. The statement reads in part: “We in the CNPP have gone extra mile to find out the fact from government source on the issue of the return of destitutes in the state to their states of origin.
We decided to make a clean breast of the matter against the disinformation and rumour some people are making.”
Speaking during a visit of Aka Ikenga, Igbo community in Lagos to his office in Alausa, Ikeja, Fashola said what happened was indeed minor issue that had been exaggerated to score cheap political gain.
Explaining the genesis of the controversy, Fashola recalled that there was correspondence between the Lagos State Government and the Anambra State liaison in Lagos.
Governor Fashola explained that his Anambra State counterpart could not claim ignorance of the whole matter.
Anyone wandering the back streets near Omiya Station at 7:20 a.m. on Sunday, June 2, might have passed a particular office building, unremarkable except for two African men standing on a 2nd floor balcony, rope in hand, lowering a car-sized Ugo (eagle) costume down to the parking lot. One of them was Tony Ikeotuonye, chairman of the Anambra State Union, one of Japan’s two largest Nigerian immigrant civic associations. He had slept lightly and awoken at 6 to begin loading costumes into a Nippon Rent-a-Truck, a process culminating in the curious scene that greeted passersby that morning in Saitama.
This was the unglamorous prelude to an African masquerade performance more than two years in the making. Ikeotuonye and the costumes were expected in Yokohama by 10 at Africa Fair, the public face of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). They were to take the stage at noon, and theirs would be the sole scheduled event representing the diaspora that links Japan to Africa.
For Ikeotuonye, it was gratifying to find himself only 70 km and a few hours away from showtime. The idea of establishing a masquerade troupe in Japan had initially provoked a great deal of skepticism among his constituents. Since then, much time and money had been spent, and odds defied, to make this ambitious aspiration a reality.
The potentially momentous economic developments TICAD invoked also provided the Africa Fair performance — and its participants — with a sharpened sense of occasion. Rapidly rising GDPs meant that many investors again regarded Africa as an emerging market. Breakneck Chinese investment had stirred Japanese insecurities. Yet Japan’s trade aspirations mingled with enduring uneasiness about a continent troubled by weak institutions, its culture and customs utterly remote to most Japanese.
Surely Japan’s African expatriates could play a role: They were the only Africans that Japanese citizens encountered on a daily basis, and — as one masquerade performer put it — “No one who knows Africans personally is afraid of Africans in general.” But Africans constitute a mere sliver of Japan’s comparatively small immigrant population, and their role in public discourse remains minimal. The scheduling of two masquerade performances at Africa Fair — by the Anambra State Union and its Imo State counterpart — offered members of the Igbo Nigerian immigrant community a rare opportunity to publicly present themselves in a manner that might surprise and impress a Japanese audience: as a highly organized, civically engaged diaspora whose culture shares common features with Japan’s. After all, what is masquerade if not matsuri’s African equivalent?
Dreux Richard is an American writer, journalist and literary translator living in Tokyo. He writes about Japan’s African community for The Japan Times and serves as Kyoto Journal’s literary translation editor.