Editorial: The Assault of Ekweremadu and Matters Arising

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The impropriety was simply mind-boggling and inexcusable, but the assault of former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who was attacked by members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) in Nuremberg, Germany last Saturday was pathetic, disgraceful and devoid of any perfunctory exaggeration. The video of the incident that went viral on social media was another blight on the toga of Nigeria’s battered international image as a country with highly dysfunctional institutions where bizarre things can, and do happen. The assault, and the reasons advanced to justify the dastardly act are unacceptable, and Ndigbo owe Nigerians a full apology for the national embarrassment.

Ekweremadu confirmed the attack in a statement by his Media Aide, Uche Anichukwu. In the 64-second video, Ekweremadu was seen being violently questioned over his alleged conspiracy with the Federal Government to proscribe IPOB in the Southeast and killing several of its followers. There were initial speculations on the veracity of the video where Ekweremadu was attacked with eggs by the irate IPOB members.

“I attended the Second Annual Cultural Festival and Convention organized by Ndigbo Germany in Nuremberg today where I was billed to give a keynote address along with the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, who however could not make it eventually. I was given a resounding welcome by Ndigbo in Germany and everything went smoothly until some men, who identified themselves as IPOB members stormed the venue and began to complain about the killings in the South East, stressing that there would be no Igbo event at the venue. I tried to engage them, but when they became unruly, I had to leave the venue. The organisers also invited the police and I was accompanied out of the venue.

“Much as I am disappointed in their conduct, especially as I am one of the persons, who have spoken up on justice for Ndigbo, the Python Dance, judicial killings in Igbo land and elsewhere both on the floor of the Senate and in my written and personal engagements with the Presidency and the media as well as rallied the South East Senate Caucus to secure Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s release with Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe taking him on bail to douse tension in the South East, I nevertheless do not hold this to heart against them, for they know not what they do,” Ekweremadu noted.

It is just as well that a towering babel of criticism and condemnation has trailed the incident with the Nigerian embassy in Berlin saying the perpetrators will be court-martialed. Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege described the attack as an affront against the Igbos and Nigeria. In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yomi Odunuga, Omo-Agege said the attack was not “only a dastardly exportation of irrationality but an aggressive international affront against the image of Igbos and Nigeria.” The PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) called the attack unwarranted. “The attack was totally uncalled for, unacceptable and unjustified. We therefore call on the federal government to address the issues that led to this attack.”

But even as condemnations continue to fly in from all quarters, Nigerians should take a deep breath and ask why Ekweremadu was assaulted in the first place. Huhuonline.com understands that the IPOB members were incensed that Ekweremadu desecrated the traditional Igbo outfit he wore to the event by adorning it with the Nigerian coat-of-arms. For an Igbo man who has witnessed the extra-judicial slaughter of Igbos in the so-called Operation Python Dance, this attire which suggested patriotic support was naked provocation and an affront on the collective sensibilities to IPOB which continues to question the basis of their co-existence in the face of Igbo marginalization and systemic exclusion from the commanding heights of authority positions within the Nigerian federation.

By this singular act of civic callousness, dancing in mockery even as the Igbo nation continues to mourn and count its dead, Ekweremadu advertised a certain hollowness in morality that dragged Nigeria and the Igbo nation down to a hitherto unprecedented low in ethical degeneration. This insensitivity betrayed a weakness of asinine proportions. Whoever gave Ekweremadu the obnoxious idea of lampooning the traditional Igbo outfit during an event to mark the New Yarm festival, may not have realized the implication of parodying the Igbo nation, but it exposed in spectacular fashion, the quality of Ekweremadu’s character and raised fundamental questions about his judgment.

The impropriety of Ekweremadu wearing that adulterated outfit was the nadir of gracelessness and should ordinarily not jolt any public outrage. In the event, the self-seeking morons who chose to plumb the abyss of self-degradation and drag the nation down to a hitherto unprecedented low in ethical degeneration, have done a great disservice to the Igbo nation and the cause IPOB is fighting for. It is even more grievous than the whimsical, disdainful and mundane craving by self-aggrandizing political jobbers, who have seized the opportunity to cast the Igbos as treasonable felons. Nnamdi Kalu, to whom much has been given; and from whom much is expected, must have the gumption and circumspection to sense damaging events that may portray the Igbos and the country in bad light, and act proactively to preempt them. His applause of the assault on a fellow Igbo man who rescued him from jail was shamefully pathetic and a clear example of that inherent predilection for digging a grave beyond the proverbial six feet.

Nnamdi Kalu’s twitting his support of the assault on an elected official in a foreign country was amateurish, senseless, unimaginable, disgraceful and advertised a hollowness in morality that challenged sundry observers to question his character. Lacking in any principled intention to honor the memory of Igbo civilians who have paid the ultimate price in pursuit of the Biafra project championed by IPOB and Kalu, the public defense of brigandage by Kalu was nothing short of a desecration of Ndigbo, and a smear on IPOB and sundry groups that symbolize the sovereign will of the Igbo people.

Certainly, no modicum of morality or decorum supports Ekweremadu’s reckless display of insensitivity, but some pertinent points need to be made. One is that the quality of leadership in Ndigbo has been exposed, in spectacular fashion, to the whole world. The self-righteous indignation by some Ndigbo leaders is a sad comment and an unflattering advertisement of the division that pervades Ndigbo leadership. It illustrates another poor dimensioning of the stature of Ndigbo and the amplification of the absence of purposeful leadership, from the group championing the cause for an Igbo presidency in 2023.
While some will dismiss the odious act of assaulting an elected official in a foreign country as simply bizarre, desultory and even comical, the brazenness, callousness and audacity of the act, was a bad joke taken too far. It is surprising that this indiscretion has not engendered an apology from the organizers of the event or, perhaps, worse still, enjoyed their approval. Whatever the case, this debauchment is a clear demonstration of how low the image and reputation of Nigeria has now gravitated. And the reprehensible action has no redeeming value, as it is neither edifying to Nigeria, nor to IPOB’s image as a pan-Igbo organization. Indeed, more sinister motives can be inferred from this buffoonery but far more than anger or anything else it engendered, questions must be asked: why Ekweremadu indulged in such despicable and indecorous conduct by adorning his traditional outfit with the official coat-of-arms?

What goes on in the mind of such a person? Pray, how can anyone justify such a willfully unscrupulous and vainglorious desire to propagate such high level official rascality and imprudent display of statecraft? The motive aside, this sad episode advertises a certain pettiness at the highest level of the nation’s leadership. By his perfunctory action, the former deputy senate president, impoverished the sobriety and dignity of the upper legislative chamber in ways that ridiculed not only Ekweremadu, but the entire country. Without equivocation, the absence of stately comportment by persons who, by authority and common trust are saddled with the responsibility of running the nation’s affairs has rendered Nigeria a fertile ground for breeding the improbable. This is a tragedy Nigeria can do without.

It will be dignifying if a thorough probe is done to reveal the perpetrators of this national shame. For, after all is considered, public office is a call to national duty and only the ready, willing, and able deserve it. The job of a Senator of the Federal Republic is a tough, thoughtful and burdensome position that demands self-discipline, gumption, prudence and sagacity. A Senator should not do, and must never use the platform of a foreign visit to advertise their profligacy to embroil the country in anomie. This public humiliation scandal is a telling sign of a weak governance culture that does no good to Ekweremadu’s reputation or the country’s image.

The humiliation of Ekweremadu in faraway Germany was an affront to the nation and Ndigbo leaders at all levels must hide their heads in shame. Indeed, Nigerians may have borne the untold shame and embarrassment with equanimity, but let Ndigbo not be in any doubt that the country has been mightily insulted. And never again should it happen. The next time Senator Ekweremadu decides to celebrate the New Yam Festival abroad, he should remember this quote from famed author and Ndigbo prominent son, Chinua Achebe who said: “He who travels to eat his ancestral YAM in a foreign country should be ready for the wrath of Dike the warrior of the seven seas and seven mountains.”