By Prof Ozodiobi Osuji
Western military tradition requires a defeated general to stand tall, chin out, look straight and walk to his conqueror and hand to him his instrument of command (sward) and take the consequences the conqueror intends to meet out to him, which may include imprisonment or death. In this light, during the American civil war (1860-1865) when General Grant defeated General Robert E Lee, Lee mounted his horse, dressed in his full general’s uniform and rode off to hand in his sward to Grant. Lee accepted his fate; he did not run away!
Emeka Ojukwu led Igbos at war for three years (1967-1970). When, in January, 1970, General Olusegun Obasanjo defeated him at Owerri; instead of dressing in his supposed general’s uniform and go surrender to his conqueror and take whatever consequences the victor deemed necessary for him, he ran away!
Ojukwu abandoned his troops, troops he had told that Nigerians were coming to kill; the man abandoned his followers to be killed by Nigerians!
He ran to the Ivory Coast and, as if nothing happened, as if he had not led over a million persons to their death, he immediately shacked up with a new wench and was gallivanting with her all over the place.
In other words, the death of his soldiers and his fellow Igbos meant nothing to Ojukwu. In military language he is a coward. In Britain or the USA they would have repatriated Ojukwu from his safe haven and court martialed him and shot him to death.
In Igbo land, instead of treating the coward as he deserved, he was seen as an all-conquering hero. Igbos always stand the truth on its head. They always define terms to suit their amazing disregard for the truth.
I redefine the term cowardice with the word ojukwu; henceforth, I will use the term ojukwu as a verb, as indicative of cowardly act, as running away from danger to ones life.
Ojukwu could have immortalized his name for Igbos and became their eternal hero if he had stayed and had his self arrested by Obasanjo. He would have set a new tradition for Igbos to behave like courageous folks who fight and die for their people.
If you recall, for four hundred years (1500-1900) all Igbos did was capture and sell their people to white men, make them slaves in the Americas. Courageous people protect their people and not sell them into slavery. Well, Ojukwu turned tail and ran; he lived to make the familiar Igbo noise of phantom invincibility.
Apparently, our tough talking boy, Nnamdi Kanu, the supreme military commander of IPOB has ojukwued his followers; the man turned tail and ran away! His followers were left to take whatever is coming to them by the Nigerian army. Some of them have been killed.
Now, suppose that when the Nigerian army came to Kanu’s father’s house and banged at the gate (as shown by a video making the rounds at YouTube) and Nnamdi Kanu dressed up in a militants attire and came out to meet them, stood tall and boldly asked them what they wanted, what do you think that they would have done to him? They would probably have arrested him.
They would not have beaten or killed him for the whole operation was caught on tape; the world would have seen them doing so and that would have damaged the image of the Nigerian army. At any rate, if they killed him they would have made him a martyr of the Biafran cause!
So, they arrest him and take him back to jail. He would have looked like a hero to his people; all of us understand that the Nigerian military assets arrayed against him were such that he had no chance of fighting back so surrendering made sense.
Running away and going into hiding? That makes Kanu a lily-livered coward. He was not a true leader, after all.
In January 1966, before the military struck in the first ever military coupe in Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe suddenly became sick and went to London for medical checkup. I suspect that he probably knew that something was in the air and ran away to go protect his self from been killed as his prime minister and others were killed.
After Azikiwe, Ojukwu and Kanu would anyone ever see an Igbo as a courageous leader? Would rational persons not dismiss them as pussies but not real men? When will Igbo leaders stand up and hold their ground and not run away; when will these motor mouths take bullets for their people?
At Nigerian Internet forums they verbally put people down and generally abuse whoever does not kowtow to their infantile understanding of politics. Some of them do so with their real names hidden. They present themselves as the Igbo Mandela in drag. Raise your voice at them and they panic, pee in their pants and run away; they run to go live to see another day to verbally abuse people.
When will these traders who all they know how to do is seeking ways to make chomp change ever stand their grounds and fight to death instead of giving folks the impression that they are men when in fact they are women?
Of course, I over generalized; I deliberately stereotyped Igbos as cowards. However, if you disagree with me then show me the exception to the rule; show me Igbos who stood their grounds and died for their people; don’t just remind me that in logic there are always exceptions to every general rule.
Aristotle (see his Politics) correctly differentiated the psychology of traders and military men. He said that traders are motivated by self-interests and, as such, are cowards whereas military men are motivated by public interests and are willing to die for their people hence are courageous; he said that only those who have martial spirit should be allowed to participate in politics.
Plato (see his Republic) recommended a severe training regime that all boys must go through to select society’s philosopher kings; one of the requirements is military training and standing their grounds in the face of enemy fire.