Times Are Changing In There

I sometimes wonder why we have to spoil a good thing. What’s wrong in helping to sustain a process or a system that has served and is still serving us well? The buzz word all over the world at the moment is sustainability. That means using less of today’s resources or rather using today’s resources in such a manner that there will still be plenty left for the generations coming after us.

As a writer, one sometimes does get the finger itch to write but still one should always excise caution in the things we spew forth from our keyboards. We should always bear in mind that words are powerful; they could damage careers, hurt relationships and friendships and even leave permanent scars on people’s minds. The Bible also tells us that the power of life and death lies in the tongue. (Proverbs 18:21).

I think that the moment we move away from discussing our social, economic and political issues and get into attacking personalities, that we will no longer be any different from those we have so conveniently blamed for our problems in Nigeria.

Lately, I just keep thinking that things are no longer as they used to be on the website – nigeriavillagesquare.com (NVS). Could it be that the operators of the website are now so busy with their professional lives, and thus have very little time to actually edit or evaluate the quality of articles being posted on the site?

Time was when NVS was high on debates on topical issues of interest to Nigerians living at home and in the diaspora. I could still remember the corruption stories that broke on the website, the daily debates on Obasanjo’s infamous third term misadventure etc. But it appears the focus is now shifting to the discussion of individuals on the website.

My worry is that if the owners of NVS do not check this emerging trend, it may end up scaring long term visitors and contributors away, some of whom have through personal interactions expressed their shock at what is now being allowed to be published on Nigeria’s flagship internet discussion forum.

Now that the furor generated by Sabella Abidde’s scathing attack on Reuben Abati on the website has died down, one would have though that both NVS owners and writers on the site have learnt their lessons – to keep attacks on individuals to the barest minimum but no.

Pray, what is the motive behind Chidi Anyaeche’s article – Leery Writers like Okey Ndibe? What is the article meant to achieve? Did the article aim to ‘unmask’ Okey Ndibe and did it achieve that purpose?

What has referencing Mr Ndibe’s town (Amawbia) in the article got to do with anything at all? As someone who recently participated in the celebration of the 2008 Egwu Imo Awka cultural festival, a festival aimed at reviving the dying Igbo culture in some our communities, I feel embarrassed reading the following lines from a fellow Igbo man:

“Okey is from a little town in Anambra state called Amawbia (Ama Ndi Obia) meaning ‘settlement for visitors’. It is a settlement given to some roaming nomads years ago by the good people of Awka but rather than show gratitude to Awka people these Amawbia people decided to pay them back with ingratitude, with uncalled vengeance. So you can see that Okey’s writing vengeance is genetic just like his premature greyness”.

Unless, I can no longer read the English language properly, I see only wicked insults and callous attempts at distortion of history in the above lines and feel further embarrassed that a website that we all have come to love will allow such to be published on its index page.

When Mr. Anyaeche was given the platform on the website to publish his vainly article (Who is Chidi Anyaeche?) last week, I thought to myself, what next? To also allow him the platform to attack a town and one of its illustrious citizens is indeed taking this free speech debate a bit too far.

I do not know Mr Ndibe personally, neither do I Mr. Anyaeche but I see ominous signs in the path Mr. Anyaeche is currently threading. He knows his motives but we should not all stand and applaud his naked dance in the village square. ‘Though the mad man may feel no shame, his people actually do’ goes another Igbo proverb.

Recently at the 2008 Aka Ikenga lectures held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, prominent Igbo citizens gathered once again in search of a roadmap for the progress of the Igbo nation. At the forum, all kinds of phrases were thrown around by the speakers with ‘the Igbo man at a cross roads’ being the one that was most highly favoured and used.

As we debated the Igbo man’s fate in today’s Nigeria on our way back to the office from the event, my boss, Tony Chiejina raised one pertinent question. He wanted to know when the Igbo man will finally cross the fabled cross road. Reading Mr. Anyaeche’s article once again and thinking back, I can see why many of the speakers at the Aka Ikenga lectures blamed the Igbo man for his many woes.

At the slightest provocation, justified or not, we seem to be so quick at condemning, tearing down, mauling over and pulling down our own people. Perfect these people may not be but at least they are clearly doing something. For that which they may not be able to do, we can lend them a hand in accomplishing. They call this cooperation or rather collaboration (Igwebuike).

You may also wonder where respect and dignity for the individual has gone to in our world today. Just what would the founding fathers of the University of Nigeria (UNN) who gave it the motto – To Restore the Dignity of Man think? What was Mr. Anyaeche thinking when he referred to Mr. Ndibe’s grey hairs as premature greyness?

NVS should not encourage opportunities that detract from the more noble cause of building and sustaining a more united and progressive Nigeria, one where her citizens can freely express their views while also respecting the rights of others. I’m afraid that lately it has not been doing that.

Written by
Uche Nworah
Join the discussion

  • Uche,

    My disagreement with this piece of yours are two-fold:

    1. Why are you holding briefs ONLY for Odibe and Abati? Whatever happens to many other writers/commentators on the NVS who have been abused, disrespected and practically driven off the site over the years…and long before Odibe and Abati came on board? All that time, you were right there on the NVS…you never deemed it fit to complain or hold brief for those writers.

    2. Why is this article of yours not published on the nigeriavillagesquare web site up till this moment? As I always do, I’ll like to quote some Yoruba proverbs here. One says, “semi ki nbio ni ogun ore” (the medicine that makes a friendship wax stronger and stronger is for one friend to ask why the other friend does what she or he does to offends him/her). The other proverb says, “ija de ni orin dowe” (it’s only when a quarrel ensues between friends that a mere song is misconstrued to be a disrespect). The mission of these proverbs is to remind you of your long association with NVS. You even used the site to propagate your personal business. It’s only fair that you get this article published also on the NVS…or are you scared of getting “attacked” by the reckless internet hounds that abound on the NVS?

    Apart from the above observations, I’m with you in noting the recklessness, indecency and the absolute lack of decorum that flourish on the NVS. In the name of free speech, a lot of kids who are having their first contacts with a computer are running riot with insulting words…especially against any one who dares possess an opinion contrary to theirs either on the issue of politics, ethnic jingoism or even religion. It’s a shame that a site that started as a fresh breath of air against the background of what happened on the nigeriaworld could be turned into what it is now. How many of those great writers/commentators that started with NVS are still there now? So far, among all the Nigerian-oriented web sites, only the nigeriansinamerica web site is still operated with maturity, decency and decorum. And one hopes the editor will keep it up!

  • In an open society, criticism is the best tool for correcting maladies. Like they say, no one is a sacred dog. All animal are equal. To my mind, I do not see the literary sin committed by the chastiser of Reuben Abati and Okey Ndibe, respectively. My concern is whether the historical reference is correct,as relates to Mr. Ndibe’s village, and the facts are right, regarding Mr. Abati. People should be free to vent their opinions but should do so with decent facts and not concocted lies and half-truths. For a radical departure from the norm to occur, radical ideas must erupt. And in so doing, certain people-the establishment folks- will be hurt and attempt to push back but what must be said must be said. Having said that, we should continue to maintain the unequalled decorum and unalloyed conviviality that exist on this website and continue to speak truth to power and eschew bitterness of any sort as we have always done. He who throw stones should not be afraid of one. It is a cyclical world we live in. Simply put, what goes around, comes around. If I’m not told my weakness, I will never have the opportunity of igniting it into a resourceful link. So writers should be open to criticisms-good or bad. Criticism makes the man.

  • Uche Nworah,

    I feel sorry for you. I pity you. Really, I do. Reuben Abati has written about 500 essays in the last 10 year — of which 40% or more are attacks on private and public individuals and on institutions. How many of his targets have sent rabid attack dogs after him? How many of those he attacked foamed in the mouth? How many of those he attacked cried and whined like spoilt toddlers?

    But here you are — you and your group — panting, wailing, and howling like deprived and depraved sycophants. In the future, please allow Reuben Abati and Pat Utomi to defend themselves, let them speak on their own account.

    My take on Dr. Reuben Abati and Professor Pat Utomi was not obnoxious, disrespectful or malicious. Your problem was that I took on your bosses, your meal-tickets. Was your response (to me) a way of showing your loyalty to them? Nna, there are better ways to show you’ve earned your bread and butter.

    Let me repeat what I said a couple of days ago: those of us who comment on events, ideas and personalities should not forgo a minute of sleep when others comment on us. There can be no untouchables. Reuben Abati, Pat Utomi, and others will hear from me if and when it is necessary, just as I expect to hear from my many critics.

    Sabella Abidde