Amid global backsliding of democracy, Ebe, a small Nigerian community in search of a new leader becomes laboratory of participatory governance. The Solutions News Contributor, Osy Ekwueme reviews the race for traditional ruler.
“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”….President John F. Kennedy. I substitute here community for country. Let’s challenge every Ebe indigene to contribute in some way to the public good. This is a call to action for the public to do what is right for the greater good. The following is a brief script added to my previous read (circa Oct. 21st 2023) on Igweship !!
When it comes to community events, there are two types of people. Those who step up and get things done, and those who complain about the people doing those things. I have a lot of respect for people who do things and make things happen in their communities. People like Roming family in Holman who have used their business leadership in the community for the past many years to bring success to the entire Holman area. Name of family and city changed for confidentiality.
There are people like that in every community. If you have lived in a place for any length of time, you can pick them out. They are the people who get things done. They may not do it the way I would or may not even go in the same direction as I would take it, but I respect that they got up off the couch and got to work. That says something in my book, and I will raise a cold beverage (palm wine) to any of them.
Social media brings out the worst in people. There is something about the relative anonymity of sitting behind your computer monitor or staring into the screen behind your computer monitor or staring into the screen of your smartphone that turns people from being reasonable adults able to express empathy and understanding to the trolls out of some fairy-tale nightmare.
I have noticed this particularly around community events. People on social media are very quick to point out all the ways the people who actually did the work to put on the events “should have” done it better. Because of the social nature of social media and computer algorithms intended to ensure we all live in echo chambers of people who share our world views, biases, blind spots and outlooks, it doesn’t take long for a single comment to become a lengthy thread expanding into questioning the minutia of an event, activity or performance before going into the personal lives of the people involved and how we would all be better of if they just quietly fled the country.
In all fairness, it is within human nature to want to complain about something. In past generations, this would have been accomplished by gathering and gossiping over ngwongwo, isiehu, cold beverages, or at the local watering hole. In the process, people would temper some of what they said with some sense of decency or social awareness or risk being bopped in the nose or shunned from their group if they went too far. Regardless, there would be a delay in the time between when you had your epiphany about something that irked you and your ability to broadcast it to the world.
I was raised not to complain too much but to do something about what irks me. The last letter I got from my father, (Late) Chief Nathaniel Chikelueze Ekwueme, when I was in medical school in Europe, entreated me to always remember that contribution is the key to ultimate fulfillment and that nothing in life will give me a sense of personal satisfaction than contribution in service to something greater than myself. Contribution to loved ones and the community. To be a man of principle, conscientiously to stand for critical thinking and logic or you will fall for anything.
Social media has eliminated those barriers, providing a platform for ignorance and rudeness to shine with all the glory of a flaming bag of dog poo. This would be fine if the people whose sole contribution to society is to complain would do so among themselves. It really is a kick in the pants to be one of the people who are doing things and have the comments shared to you detailing all the things that you did wrong (like purchasing an ambulance truck or sending medical equipment to the community) and how your actions didn’t in fact help the greater community. Btw, that ambulance was written: Ambulance for EBE Community (not Amagu Ebe), and some called it a hearse (vehicle for dead bodies). And not to talk of $25,000 (millions of Naira at that time) grant money for the renovation of Ebe schools and health centers all in Ikenge. Once again, we are like the man in Igbo proverb who does not know where the rain began to beat him and so can not say where he dried his body.
Let us not allow ignorance to lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. The task of reforming and remaking Ebe community lies before us. It will take decades. If we are very clever and very lucky, we might change enough to avoid becoming a “laughing stock of communities” in a record time. The youths have awakened and went to the mat on the future of the Ebe community. I applaud them. It is a known fact that Ebe is not developing and living up to her potential as she should. Let us find in our youth the unity so that we may journey and not stray from the way of truth and what is right. Backwardness always thrives on disorganization and defeating it requires an organized effort. For this reason, it is imperative that we all join forces with the younger generation and hold each other accountable for actions and results.
Dear citizens of Ebe, please cool it off because building a better Ebe community is something worth working toward and fighting for. I love the facts that you are passionate about wanting your wants. But using threatening hash tags #operationstopomadi# was not necessary in the overall discussion. Casting aspersions on each other was uncalled for. Nevertheless, we do need to challenge the status quo, questioning “groupthink” and educating readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary. The last time I checked, the present Ebe Community’s constitution is still in force, and the government refuses it to be amended until after the coronation of the new Igwe. Now, it is absolutely necessary for the sake of peace to respect the constitution. Let peace reign. Btw, you can’t treat the constitution as a tissue paper. It is the bedrock of any community and country. It was through the consultation of all “Umunnas” that the constitution was ratified in the first place. We are not doing away with it, but to reinterpret it and raise it to a different level. We should respect others and always follow our own conscience. No one should assume an irritating mantle of righteousness. It dissuades instead of convincing anyone. Hence, it is better to start working on a gentleman’s agreement on term limits and jettisoning the mindset of Etiti/Ikenge palaver. It seems as a determined obstacle to the betterment of the Ebe community.
Challenges abound in this quickly-changing world… refusing to constructively address them only underscores the many failures of it. Again, old ideas, like old medicine, can be dangerous to have around after they have done their job. It doesn’t take a futurist to see the limitations of this approach. Narrative and perceptions can significantly impact public opinion. I might be wrong! Let me borrow from Chinua Achebe about the Igbo ethnic group. Yes, Igbo has long been a very democratic person. They express a strong anti-monarchy sentiment with the common name Ezebuilo, which translates to “a king is an enemy”. There is no doubt that they experienced the highhandedness of kings, so they decided that a king cannot be a trusted friend of the people without checks and balances….hence I was proposing making the Ebe Representative Assembly the governing power for checks and balances.
In selecting the next Igwe, let the candidate reside in Ebe or within Nigeria….because I am privy to some Igbo colleagues that are Igwes in your communities but live here in the USA with us…we call them “Daigwes” or “Flyoverigwes” just like Snowbirds…retirees from Midwestern USA driving down to the Southern part of USA to live for few months during winter season and driving back during the summer season. All I am saying is that that’s not the best way. We can do better than that. Methinks, if you can not afford to retire and stay physically, emotionally, and spiritually around your people, why bother. Love and wanting to be Igwe of ones community means giving of self. The self-giving is a source of happiness, but it entails sacrifice as well. My chief aim here is to make the people see and feel what is written. There are also ample opportunities for people to get involved and be part of solutions. When it comes to making our smaller corner (Ebe community) of the world a better place, we all need to do better and be better.
Chief, Sir, Dr. Osy Ekwueme is a retired physician and public affairs analyst