By Noel A. Ihebuzor
Twitter abounds in twitfights – fights between foes as well fights between former friends who have now parted ways for one reason or the other. When fights are between former friends who now find themselves on different sides of the political divide, the clashes tend to be very mean and vicious. The acrimony betrays the persisting bitterness and hurt that one party or both feel over the parting of ways. It is as if the fighters ignore one basic fact of life which is that some good friends must part someday, and that associations do not all always last forever. In life, friends do often fall out and part ways. This basic truth appears to be lost on quite a number of persons. Such persons hold on to a position which I call the permanence of associations and immutability of views position. Parting of ways or rethinking of positions by the other party are often very strongly resisted to the point where the person who decamps or changes his/her view is often treated as a deserter, a defector and a sell-out.
Positions of the type described above abound in the thriving twitter political party activist community. (I use this term to describe a community of persons who use Twitter mostly to actively promote the cause of a particular party. Members of this group, the political party activist group, must be distinguished from political activists. The former tweet and blog more like political party agents. The latter maintain more objective positions and tweet on governance, political, and accountability issues without favouring any political party. This distinction is important as a lot of unnecessary misunderstanding is caused by a conflation of the two terms).
In this political party activist community, change of positions and perceptions is viewed as a clear indicator of defection and desertion, offenses that are seriously viewed. Such changes are viewed as some form of social “apostasy”. And apostasy is perceived as a grievous sin, a perception that is most accentuated in communities with tendencies to self-ascribed moral righteousness. “Apostates” must be condemned to “social” disgrace and demise. Apostates must be treated as social lepers. They are to be ridiculed and subjected to all forms of social pressures. And all of this because apostates are a danger to the group they left. They possess a Snowden-type risk potential and precisely because of this, their credibility must be seriously eroded and progressively destroyed.
Matters are also not helped by the attitudes of the deserters/defectors, these modern day social apostates, themselves. Like most fresh converts to new faiths and belief systems, these social apostates consistently betray excessive zeal typical of neophytes as they try to settle in to their new camp. Most exhibit a tendency to dwell on and detail the evils of the groups they have left, a tendency that irks that group and one which then further exacerbates the already seething acrimony between the deserter and his/her former associates. Soon, the leaders, gate keepers, enforcers, whips and foot soldiers of that group are up in arms, defending the honour of their group and attacking the deserter. They have recourse to a variety of strategies in doing this.
These strategies include naming, recalling of previous tweets which the attacking group believes are diametrically opposed to the deserter’s current position and shaming the deserter. The deserter’s reasons for leaving are trivialised, ridiculed and made to look pecuniary and materialistic. The tweets and comments of the “apostate” are unearthed and hurled in his/her face just to show how inconsistent and unreliable he/she is. The strategic goal here is to call attention to glaring inconsistencies between present position and previous tweets – the end game is to undermine the credibility of the defector. Taunts abound. Wicked jibes and hurting jabs fly around. A campaign of name calling is unleashed on the deserter, a campaign where no punches are pulled and which may even go as far as in one case to saying that a deserter was so poor that he “used to drink garri” in his undergraduate days. People watch from the sides, either amused or too frightened to wade in as the gladiators engage in bloody, vicious but mutually demeaning bouts and jousts.
The attack on the defector is an eye opener and dampener to those within the circle who may have been contemplating either changing camps or moving to more neutral positions. The message to such persons is clear. This is what you are likely going to get should you ever desert us. The attacks are thus not fortuitous but have a functional intent – to discourage and deter other potential deserters. Successful defection deterring strategies keep members in – once you are in, you cannot leave – a bit akin to what I call the Hotel California syndrome – you can check out anytime you want but you cannot leave!
Most deserters/defectors act as if they cannot understand the flurry and fury of the attacks on them. A little reflection should make any deserter/defector understand why those attacks are necessary and likely to come.
- First, a defector must realise that his/her defection is a threat to his/her former associates. You know too much. Your former associates are not sure how much you will give away. They will want to put you away socially for good before you can do their group any harm. Basic survival principle, not ideology or any higher order principle, I believe, is what drives the chief whips of your former group as they come after you.
- Secondly, a defector must also realise that he/she is also a threat to the his/her former associates in the sense that he/she is a reminder to those inside that they too could defect one day. Now, that must be an uncomfortable feeling because it introduces some gnawing doubts in the minds of persons who cannot afford to have their present beliefs or rightness of their present positions tested/questioned. Remember what George Santanaya said about some group of persons re-doubling their efforts in situations of doubt – well a defection creates one of such a situation.
- Thirdly, a defector should realise that his/her defection hurts the pride of his/her former associates. And when people are hurt, they hit out, and hitting out on impulse does not subject itself to the controls and norms of rational conduct.
The foregoing should enable the deserter to understand the onslaughts against his person. Desertion is not cost-free. You should expect them to come after you. But you must not fight them each time they come after you. Choose your battles! Don’t go galloping into every battle! One key aspect of successful military strategy is knowing which battles to fight and which ones to walk away from. Walk away, avoid the fight – even if they call you “Coward of the County”. Walk away, “walk on by”. If you do not respond, they are likely to get tired and find other things to spend their energies on.
This write-up would not be complete without a brief mention of what happens in the camp that receives the “decampee”. It is simple. The strategy of attack and damage is reversed:
The new “decampee” is presented as someone who has seen the truth, who has suddenly become aware of the folly and evil in his/her previous ways, one who has seen the sinfulness and greed of former associates and as one who now regrets ever associating with such evil people in such an evil party. The devil, who is a convenient scapegoat, takes a good bashing in this new dance of the converted and the redeemed.
- The decampee’s conversion narrative is cleverly spun and elevated to achieve about the same dramatic intensity as Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. A blind eye is suddenly developed to everything that the new convert and prized acquisition ever said whilst a member of the opposite side.
- New spins are put on any comments such a convert may have made on persons, character flaws, fat bank accounts, crimes and indiscretions of members of the group he/she is now joining. Damaging comments on how non-electable some members of the receiving group are get blacked out! An unwritten rule which places an embargo among the “faithful” on ever remembering or writing on these telling social comments, except to excuse them as either slippages or works of the devil immediately comes into effect.
- A package of rewards and incentives, including mentions and praise, is made available to the new convert to encourage continued membership…and all is rosy and honky-dory until there is a falling out. And then the dogs of war are unleashed and we are back full cycle.
There are some lessons in all of this. And I will summarise these as bullet points
- Be careful who you associate with on Twitter.
- Be careful who you dine with
- If you must dine with the devil, go with a long spoon.
- You do not have to belong to the “in-crowd” to be relevant.
- Do not let others be the ones to determine your relevance
- All that glitters is not gold.
- Shine your eyes
- Free your mind
- Use your mind.
It is good to belong on social media but please do not sell yourself or your soul to belong. You can use social media to grow, to learn, to engage and to share but that same social media can kill your mind and stunt your thinking if you allow yourself to be sucked into unhealthy associations. Engage wisely!
Noel A. Ihebuzor
Ekwe, ogenes and udus
from a dawning new day
play a sombre serenade,
whispering and suggesting
new worlds, new possibilities
and on the waking skies, words inscribed
on a rainbow-ed horizon hum
your amazing qualities of universal verity
Sister, daughter, seed carrier,
Future assurer, energiser, builder,
Calmer, softener, sweetener, peace maker
The tunes stir and wake you
you rise, a flower about to blossom
and gaze in sober silence at the signs scripted
in golden sprinkles on the aprons of a dawning day,
your smile of innocence splays the sky
salutes the dawn and sprays the new day
with fragrances of hope and possibilities
And the rainbow-ed horizon hum on their truths
Sower, harvester, protector, shock absorber, sufferer
Nurturer, Nurse, first responder, stabiliser,
Keeper, organiser, model, inspirer, teacher,
And I thought I saw a new smile kiss your face,
saw in that smile the dancing hopes
of glow filled futures for all
if culture and gender
do not suffocate the seeds you carry within for all
and in this dawning morning,
where hope sang to my anxious ears
and possibilities danced and beckoned
I prayed in silence for the world
to nurture and cultivate
the generous seeds of transferable greatness
that nature has richly embedded in your bosom
and your fertile and supple mind
so that we all could harvest from it
a future of gladness and greatness
**Adding my raucous voice to those celebrating this year’s (2013) day of the girl child. Not the best of songs, but the intention should redeem all its imperfections
Noel A. Ihebuzor
Activism is now one of the fastest growing buzz and fancy words. It has style and appeal. It has class. Quite a number of persons on social media would immediately lay claims to be engaging in this highly rated practice either as a hobby or as a full time professional pursuit. But like all buzz words, the word activism “contains” a lot of fuzz. The fuzz arises because “activism” is gradually becoming a label that has been hijacked and is now being used to describe the activities of a variety of persons from genuine crusaders for social justice through to paid political party agents to social media demagogues. Confusion clearly abounds and an important step in wading through this confusion is to try to come up with a simple scheme that would enable a citizen to distinguish between genuine activism and fake activism. I call fake activism confused activism just to recognise that not all manifestations of it are intentional since some clearly result from situations where unbridled zeal and exuberance have outrun sense, self-restraint, competence and capacity. Here are some signs of confused activism I have gleaned from social media.
- The display of selective moral outrage
- The abandonment of reason
- The embrace of illogicality and the descent to inconsistency
- The rejoicing over any government misfortune
- Refusing to see the very obvious
- Denying or rejecting clear evidences of government successes
- Trivialising landmark events and changes brought about by government policies
- Magnifying government mistakes out of proportion
- Maintaining total silence on opposition gaffes
- Defending glaring flaws in persons in the opposition
- Enforcing total silence on the crimes of members of the opposition
- Demonizing the government but beatifying anyone opposed to it.
- Blanking out the unsavoury pasts of newly turned “progressives”
- Revising and photo-shopping the past to fit the present
- Purveying inaccuracies and merchandising distortions
- Becoming salespersons and champions of exaggerations
- Looking before leaping; tweeting before thinking
- Commenting on things without any full understanding of them
- Consistently condemning government and commending the opposition
- Charging into battle like a Don Quixote & engaging in non-evidence/non-fact based utterances
The incidence of confused activism can be reduced if we all begin today to turn our backs to behaviours such as I have listed above and start to embrace a culture of more balanced, evidence based and socially constructive engagements which are the hallmarks of genuine activism.
Noel A. Ihebuzor
Mr Femi Fani Kayode’s sequel “The bitter truth about the Igbo” did not disappoint in the least. We must remind ourselves that this article is part of Femi Fani-Kayode’s efforts to prove that Lagos is Yoruba and that any claims to it by any other indigenous group is spurious. Part of Femi’s method was to trivialise the contributions of any other group to the development of Lagos, preferring to ascribe this development largely to the genius of the Yoruba genus. In an earlier response, I had sought to show that Femi’s efforts in that direction were not successful. I showed that his claims and argument were neither grounded in history nor in economics, and that it was indeed so easy to puncture those claims.
The problem with Femi Fani kayode’s concluding article on this issue is that it runs out of ideas and abandons the issue under review after the fourth paragraph and only returns to it in the last four paragraphs of the article. The contents of paragraph 5 (paragraph 5 begins “That single comment, made in that explosive and historic speech…”) up to the end of paragraph 13 are hardly relevant to the issue under discussion. Let us remind us what the main issue is using Mr Femi Fani Kayode’s own words
Permit me to make my second and final contribution to the raging debate about Lagos, who owns it and the seemingly endless tensions that exist between the Igbo and the Yoruba. It is amazing how one or two of the numerous nationalities that make up Nigeria secretly wish that they were Yoruba and consistently lay claim to Lagos as being partly theirs.
How relevant then is the diversion to the political history of the NCNC, the Coup, the Ironsi regime, the pogrom, the civil war to this issue of who owns Lagos and who has contributed to its development write up. How does this advance the debate? How does this elucidate the key issues under discussion? I doubt very much that they do. What they certainly succeed in doing however is to rouse emotions, enflame tempers, to whip up sentiments. Even here, Mr Femi Fani-Kayode’s use of history is suspect, since his historiography is very selective. In the deployment of this elective historiography, Mr Femi Fani-Kayode comes across as an apologist for the killings of the Igbos in the north and as an ethnic driven revanchist historian out to even out scores with an imagined enemy. Revanchist and ethnicity-sodden historiography are poor and demeaning pursuits as the prisms of bitterness, revenge and ethnicity which come with them soon trap the historian, blur his vision, dull his criticality and destroy his objectivity and capacity for detached interpretation. The “history” we are thus presented in paragraphs 5 to13 are replete with instances of these. In succumbing to the appeals of this type of historiography, even if he was doing this as part of his on-going efforts at rehabilitation with a view to regaining entry to his “tribe’s” confidence, Mr Femi Fani Kayode does himself and his country a great disservice. He does himself a disservice because he ends up with an article where more than 55% of its contents (55% again!) are of doubtful relevance to his declared purpose. And because he fails to identify what is relevant and what is not, he ends up saddling his article with major problems of cohesion and coherence. He does his country a disservice because he presents a history of a difficult part of her history that is deliberately flawed and skewed by his selective use of sources and by his uncritical interpretation of events and casting of persons – Ironsi is a coup plotter, Igbo indiscretion was responsible for the pogrom unleashed against them in the North, the Igbos provoked the civil war – all of which are examples of a flight from intellectual rigor, mono-causal analysis, faulty attribution and one dimensional thinking, and all very painful, pernicious and debilitating ailments in persons they afflict. It bears repeating that good historiography is about balanced sources. To rely on sources that only support the case one is pushing pushes one away from doing history on to the slippery slopes of ethnic jingoism, “clan hagiography” and propagandising of the cheapest sort. This is what has happened in this article, and it is indeed a tragedy for Mr Femi Fani Kayode. I believe that this tragedy has arisen less from a fundamental lack of intelligence on his part but more from his allowing himself and his mind to be shackled and blinkered by bitterness. Mr Femi Fani Kayode sets out hoping to write “the bitter truth” about one ethnic group and ends up clumsily splaying the reality and truth of his own bitterness in public for an amused world to behold and laugh at. As he navigates this current discomfort he has created for himself, he once again deserves our compassion and not our condemnation.
Noel A. Ihebuzor
I read Femi Fani-Kayode’s article and I am responding to the claims in the excerpts below. (I prefer to leave responses to other sections in his very revealing write up to persons with about the same skill sets and mindsets as he has).
“The igbo had little to do with the extraordinary development of Lagos between 1880 right up until today. That is a fact. Other than Ajegunle, Computer Town, Alaba and buying up numerous market stalls in Isale Eko where is their input”?
“for Chinua Achebe records in his book, and we can roughly confirm that there were not more than a few thousand Igbos in Lagos before the civil war”.
The excerpts are amazing and reveal a lot. One thing they reveal for sure is how much economics and history Mr Femi Fani Kayode actually knows. For one thing, he appears to ignore the fact that contributions to economic development can take several forms – hard and soft. Some soft contributions, in the form ideas and the projection of certain work ethics can and do catalyze development even more than the building of infrastructure. Secondly he does not recognize the facts of multiplier effects. Thirdly the claim that there were not more than a few thousand Igbos in Lagos before the war would be more meaningful if the reader was informed of the population of Lagos and the distribution according to ethnic groups during the same period. Were the other ethnic units in their millions in a geographical space where the total population was in its thousands? (The total population of Lagos was 272, 200 in 1952 and 665,000 in 1963 according to the Federal Office of Statistics). Fourthly, concerning the ethnic supremacist claim that one ethnic group’s efforts were largely responsible for what Lagos is today, were the industries in Lagos established in the industrial estates in Apapa, Mushin and Ikeja the work of one ethnic group alone? What of the Federal Government infrastructure that helped facilitate growth and development in Lagos – The Port, the Airport and the Railway – were these the work of one ethnic group alone? Fifthly and coming to the present, there are quite a number of institutions with Headquarters in Lagos which are either fully owned by persons from the South East or which have strong South East ownership. These include quite a number of successful high street banks and financial institutions. One can easily list a number of insurance, oil marketing and several South East owned SMEs companies operating in Lagos and making invaluable contributions to the development of Lagos State. These institutions pay taxes, provide employment and their presence creates secondary employment and a number of other ripple effects with net positive development impacts on Lagos State. Mr Femi Fani Kayode either failed to take such contributions into consideration when making his dismissive and sweeping statement or he was simply not aware of them.
I could go on and on citing such non-indigent contributions to the development of their host states inspired by the need to present commentators on public issues with information which could help them to push back the frontiers of bias and inaccuracies. Inaccuracies (half-truths and untruths) and bias in articles arise from a number of sources – one of these is the tendency to want to rush to be the first to publish, a tendency which causes quite a number of persons to leap before they look and to talk before they think. Sometimes too, they result from the fact, that over time, some people have become impervious to facts and truths and become resistant to the time tested methods of searching for them. There might not be any malice in such people. Such people deserve prayers and compassion, not condemnation.
Incidentally, Mr. Femi Fani Kayode is always at pains to inform his readers and listeners that he is a historian. He tells us so in this article as he also did in his comments on late Chinua’s Achebe’s TWAC. I am sure he also aspires to be a good historian. Good historians are “slaves”, not just servants, of truth and facts. Good historians are never servants or slaves to emotions. True, there is a role for emotions in life, but in contributions to discussions on important and sensitive matters of national importance, emotions should always be reined in and disciplined by facts and truths. To do otherwise would be to court folly.
For her love is the unshed tear
The hushed cry of a strangled soul
As he strikes her
With the palm that once stroked her cheek
The mark of his, no their, wedding ring scarring her blush painted face
Her mascara veiled eyes clouded by the frozen pain of tears iced into anger
Search for their, no her, two year old son
As her decaying soul howls a lullaby in prayer
To the Jesus that is supposed to live in her so that
The blows of her husband’s blows do not wake her child
Their love was of passion
For love was loving and his love was her living
Their love was of moon-bathed nights
Little black dresses, rouge lips and coal-lined eyes
Her stiletto raised legs, planted onto virgin hips
As she was swayed by the rugged palm of her tall-dark-and handsome
For love was the promise strum
By that passion-driven scum
For his promise was of security, not this mine-field of an alcoholic’s ticking emotions.
Now her emotions hold her hostage to this monster, this phantom,
This parasite that nourishes on her insecurities.
***I met this young poet two days ago. She has just completed her IB exams and is waiting to proceed to university in September this year in the USA. Her poetry blew my mind. Here is one of her poems.