Growing Up Was Tough For Me Until God Sent Me A Helper
- Lawyer, Femi Okafor
In this interview, Femi Okafor, former President-General of Ibusa Community Development Union (ICDU) and a former worker with Benin-Owena River Basin Development Authority who rose to become the President of the local chapter of the Agriculture and Allied Workers Union of Nigeria (AAWUN) speaks to EMEKA ESOGBUE (PEN MASTER) on issues that touch Ibusa, his community in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State. The American-based Legal Luminary, Unionist and Social Crusader also evaluates the Nigerian political system. Excerpts:
Pen Master: (Smiling) Sir, you are a well-known personality in your Ibusa community. Now, for the purpose of our readers outside your Ibusa community who may not know you, can you please tell us about Mr. Femi Okafor?
Okafor: Thank you my dear Emeka Esogbue for this unique opportunity to once again respond to issues that touch my heart. Femi Okafor is just a common man from a humble, yet uncommon parentage and home. Uncommon parentage because though we were very poor and despite the size of our family, love reigned supreme. Like l had said many times, poverty made my educational pursuit to come to a skidding stop after the first school leaving certificate. Faced with no advice on the way forward, l took to the street in lbadan, doing all sorts of menial jobs. And when the 1964 elections triggered protest, l quickly joined the juvenile group of the Action Group militants known as A.G. Mosquitoes. Our main business was to seek out the camps of members of the opposition, foment trouble, get beaten and in turn the big boys in the A.G. Militant group will swing to action. In such situations, blood would flow, human limbs get broken and we will be gone long before the law arrives to clean up whatever mess was left behind. The group thrived and was part of the resistant force that supported the more dangerous Agbekoya group that launched the Operation Wetie in lbadan throughout 1965 which eventually resulted to the January 15, 1966 Coup that brought the military into politics for the first time in Nigeria. With the successful coup and a new political order, politics and political parties were proscribed and the A.G Mosquitoes as a group was disbanded. And that was the beginning of the second phase of my life, living on the streets of lbadan. The rest, l guess, is now history.
Pen Master: Thank you very much sir for the delivery of this background. But you have come to mean different things to different people, a trained lawyer of many years of experience, a social critic with zero tolerance for societal ills and a writer. How exactly do we reconcile these?
Okafor: Let us say that l have been fortunate in life and that l found favour early in my life with Baba God. Combining these areas of my life was inspired by my upbringing as a kid without the usual paraphernalia associated with good living. I was a victim, at my tender age, of injustice due to my struggles for a better life which education could provide. Because l had no good education, l faced a lot of discrimination and rejection. Ten years of roaming the streets, living very rough and dangerous life in a hostile environment without any clear path to future and greatness, molded my resolve to fight injustice if and when l find my feet. Somewhere along the line, l ran into a man, apparently sent by God, who took pity on me, without any knowledge of my past and decided to mentor and reshape the trajectory of my life. He encouraged and assured me that l could still make 390-degree U-turn from my then hopeless lifestyle to a more purposeful one. He showed me the way and like the prodigal son, a listened and followed his guidance. Being a Senior Federal Government official, he offered me a job in his office in lbadan, even without the requisite qualification for employment after he sort and obtained permission from his headquarters in Lagos. He advised me to study privately for the GCE Examinations, he selected the subjects of study due to his assessment of my potentials and within one year, l studied, sat and passed the GCE O/Level examination conducted then by University of London. With that initial breakthrough, l quickly enrolled for the A Levels, and before the result came which l also passed, l changed jobs and my economic power and social interaction changed for good. Now, with the new job, economic freedom and enhanced social and societal acceptance, came more challenges. First, l moved to Benin courtesy of my mentor who helped me to secure a job. Being from the then Bendel State, he was transferred to Benin City from his lbadan office to head a Federal Agency. Since, according to him, he could not find a suitable position in his office commensurate with my new qualification then, he decided to look around. That was how l got to Benin-Owena River Basin Development Authority where l worked and voluntarily retired after 34 years of meritorious service. It was while at the River Basin Development Authority, that l faced serious administrative discrimination, especially after l became the first President of the local chapter of the Agriculture and Allied Workers Union of Nigeria (AAWUN). Virtually, l was denied by management nearly all entitlements including regular promotion. As l was recruited as.a Confidential Secretary. Despite my hard work, l realised that unless l changed my profession, l probably would retire on the same grade as long as the crop of Management at that time remained in place. As a way out, l opted to go back to school. I got admitted into University of Jos in 1983 for a One year programme of study in Public Administration. But when l applied for study leave with pay, a privilege already extended to some of my colleagues, l was denied. However, since l realised that my future success in life is tied to education, l opted to go to Jos on study leave without pay. At this point in my life, l was already married with 4 kids to support. It was a painful decision that l took, though seriously opposed by my ln-laws, my late wife, God bless her soul, encouraged and supported my decision. When l came back to the office after the programme at the University of Jos, the discrimination and opposition still existed against me in the office. To surmount this intractable and recurring problem, once again, l headed back to school. As it were, l figured out that the best and the surest way to fight injustice in our society, is to study law. Besides, l had had a long romance with lawyers through my assigned official duties. That was how l ended up studying law at the University of Benin. Now, l decided to tell you this long story of my journey in life so as to throw light and answer the questions as to how l combined social crusade for justice, intolerance for any kind of injustice and a writer. One thing led to the other. First it was my poor upbringing and the denial of basic necessities of life in addition to lack of early education. Secondly, discrimination, oppression and denial of entitlements in my work place also fired my determination to channel my energy in doing everything within my power to resist and oppose such situations happening to any one again. And to be more equipped for my chosen path, the best tool remains the acquisition of a law degree. Writing, being the best channel through which information can be disseminated, just came up in the process of pursuing my vocation, which is, crusade for social justice.
Pen Master: Anyway, away from growing up and work history, you have also been a member of the famous traditional dance group, Otu Ofuobi of Ibusa. Can you take our readers down the memory lane on your membership of this group?
Okafor: I first heard of Ofu Ofuobi Dancing Group of Ibusa in 1975 at Ifo in Ogun State when my then bosom friend, Mr. J.I.M. Okonji went to pay the bride price of his wife. All night throughout that event, our host, late Mr. Ashikegbe, entertained us repeatedly with this chart busting album, the first of its kind in those days, being a long playing album. Remember that l earlier stated that l moved to Benin City from Ibadan after l got a job in Benin City. While in that employment, knowing that earnings from my job could not sustain my dream, l teamed up with another colleague from Ndokwa nation, Ossissa, to be precise, and we floater an advertising agency promoting small business entrepreneurs within the then Bendel State and more active within the Ndokwa nation. With proceeds from the extra-curricular activities, came more business diversity. I bought a Datsun Nissan bus (then known as Tuketuke) to do commercial transportation, while still living a modest life. In 1980, after 3 years of childless marriage, Baba God blessed my family with a baby boy. The excitement was so great that l threw a big and lavished naming ceremony party, an event that brought my famous father Okafor known as “Mexico” all the way from lbadan. The Otu Ofuobi was in attendance for the event. As at this time, because of my modest economic success, freedom and generosity, l began to flex my muscle, partying and having loads of fun plus being active in lCDU activities in Benin City, including holding the Office of ICDU Benin Branch President for close to 9 years. Generally, l became a social butterfly, a man about town, enjoying his life to the fullest. In 1983, my beloved father passed away. At his burial ceremony in lbusa, the members of Otu-Ofuobi Dancing Group, without prior engagement by me, voluntarily performed pro bono that night. It was an honour that had remained indelible in my mind and l remain eternally grateful to the leadership and members of the group for the honour. Around this time, a group of young Ibusa men in Benin City floated the Isunanmbogu Social Club, a club that later ballooned with branches all over Nigeria and in the Diaspora, while their wives also launched the Duchess Club of Ibusa. On October 31, 1982, l bought a brand new Peugeot 504 Series 2 from UTC Motors, where Mr. Sylvester Amaife was the then branch Motor Manager. The car was first of its kind in Benin City at that time. After l bought the car, my profile went up and so was, unknown to me, my haters, especially amongst my Ibusa brethren domiciled in Benin City. Remember my bosom friend that l went for the traditional bride price of his wife to be? Okay in 1983, he informed me of the existence of the Isunanmbogu Social Club of which he was their secretary, with a request that l should join. He brought me a form, which l filled and he signed as a sponsor before submitting same for consideration by the club’s screening Committee. Several months after my form was supposedly submitted to the club, l had no response. Some Ibusa men who submitted their applications long after l did, have had their applications considered and admitted. Apparently, l became worried and each time l approached my friend who supposedly sponsored my application for admission into the club, his reply was always, ‘the screening committee of the club is yet to get to your turn’. One day, l visited another lbusa friend and brother ln-law, Mr. Marin Onwuhai who lived with his family in Benin City and very close to my house. It was while having a chat over a glass of wine that he asked me casually about the outcome of my application for admission into the lsunanmborgu Social Club, since he was also a member. I replied and told him about the response from my sponsor. It was then that he told me what was responsible for the delay or the club’s refusal to consider me for admission. According to him, when my sponsor was called upon to say a word or two in my favour, he told the committee that he could not vouch for my character as he was not aware of the source of my supposed wealth. Mr. Onwuhai then promised to obtain a fresh form for me to re-apply and that he will personally sponsor and defend me before the screening committee of the club. But of course, l had lost interest in becoming a member. Instead, l resolved to, and l joined the Otu Ofuobi Dancing group and until l left for the law school, l was a lead dancer of the group. My dexterity in choreography earned me the gift of a baby girl when the group performed in Obior several years ago. In a nutshell, the stone that was rejected by members of Isunanmborgu Social Club out of hate and bias became one of the chief corner stones in the Otu Ofuobi Dancing Group. That was how l found myself in Otu Ofuobi, and it was worth the effort and rewarding after all.
Pen Master: But several years after, interests in traditional music among your people are dying. What is the difference between before and now?
Okafor: It is most unfortunate that my people are no longer interested in most traditional things and events, including core and undiluted traditional Ibusa music. It has been said that the dearth is due to civilization and modernization. But of course, l refused to buy into that school. Amongst the Yoruba ethnic group, regardless of the intrusion of modern life, they still hold till date, their undiluted cultural heritage. If you visit Benin City or Benin kingdom, modernization has not, and may never erode their culture to the point that it is adulterated and or goes into extinction. Just check out and see how many Ibusa families living outside Ibusa whose children cannot speak Enuani dialect. You will be shocked at your finding. The same disregard and outright neglect is responsible for the demise in our traditional music. Without any disrespect or condemnation intended, l regret to say that with the introduction of jazz drum, guitar, electronic organ or piano instruments into traditional Ekobe music as we have these days, it is a matter of time before our core traditional music as was handed over to us by our fathers and ancestors will become history, trust me. For instance, if still in doubt, just play Otu Ofuobi’s chat bursting album titled “Kalama kalama” side by side with any of the modern Ibusa music and trust me, the difference is clear. Hardly do current Ibusa music feature the talking whistle “Akpele” (native flute), an instrument that is already on its way to complete extinction.
Pen Master: …but now, let us into your growing up years?
Okafor: (interrupts) …I guess l have given you a rundown of my growing up. It was rough, it was tough and it was very challenging. Growing up in those dark days as children of very poor parents with close to 11 siblings alive couldn’t have been less challenging with every primary and basic needs of life and existence in short supply or totally absent. However, children were free to roam around without fear of any harm coming to them. Children were raised by the community unlike now that a teacher could be attacked for disciplining a pupil in the class. There was trust amongst brother and kindred. Social life within the limited provisions amongst the people were things of joy. Life then, compared with the one we live today, regardless of all the things science and technology had thrown our ways, was stable, and to a large extent, safe.
Pen Master: You are a former President-General of the Ibusa community Development Union. Are you satisfied with the present leadership?
Okafor: The ICDU (worldwide) that l presided over was different from that which you now have in place. For the records, the word (Worldwide) added to the ICDU was the creation of my National Executive Committee, and l floated the idea. And there is no controversy as far as the above is concerned. The records are there. Now, having left office over a decade ago and with two successive administrations in place, it is practically impossible for me to comment on the effectiveness or otherwise of the body without a shred of bias. This is more so, as everything is now politics. For example, the incumbent President-General is a card carrying politician, and no matter how hard he tries, the political culture and climate will always be a factor in his decisions with regard to how he pilots the affairs of the Union. Take for instance, the case of the Union’s Secretary-General, Bar Andy Isioma Ogbolu, a legal practitioner who appeared for clients that sued the Obuzor of lbusa amongst other defendants, and seeking court interpretation in the extant provisions of the Obuzor Chieftaincy declaration. Meanwhile, the President-General of the ICDU Worldwide is, by the provisions of the Chieftaincy declaration being challenged. a legal member of the Obuzor-in-Council. Bar. Andy Ogbolu, as Secretary-General of the same ICDU Worldwide is a member of ICDU Executive of which Dr. Izagbo is the President-General. You can see confusion in that leadership and apparent clash and conflict of interest. I leave you and your readers to judge for themselves whether or not a body so constituted could move the community forward under such condition and composition. Less l forget, Bar. Andy Ogbolu was forced to resign or he resigned voluntarily, but that notwithstanding, and regardless of the circumstances of his departure, by that singular act, an irreversible damage had been inflicted on the present executive. That is my personal assessment and opinion, and of course, no apology to anyone.
Pen Master: (Laughing) You have driven me to Ibusa affair through the ICDU. Let us into your community traditional affairs proper. In 1995, your Ibusa community came up with the Obuzor system. What is your evaluation of this Obuzor system today? Has the Palace in your opinion, met the will of the people?
Okafor: You have touched a rather sensitive topic. As you may well know, l am a die-hard supporter of the person of the Obuzor as well as the Obuzor Traditional institution.
When lbusa leaders of thought in those days sat down to evaluate the effect and the impact of our traditional Senior Diokpa rulership style on the community, it was resolved that, in line with modern trends in traditional rulership, a new order was necessary, and the idea was not only welcome, it was unanimously accepted. Of course, changing an age long traditional rulership system, entails concessions and those changes are bound to attract some resistance. But in a more united community, 25 years is long enough time for rough edges to have smothered for the people to come to terms with reality. However, looking at the rigid stand and resistance of some of our elders towards the new order and the stout rejection of every peace move since the inception and inauguration of Obi (Prof.) L. C. Nwaoboshi as the Obuzor of lbusa, one is inclined to believe that we, as a people, still have a long way to go. The reverberating negative implication of the resistance is the social price that the community is paying till date. Those opposed to the new order are doing so because under a confused state of affairs, they profit therefrom. For example, because of lack of unity, it seems that every decree for good traditional governance, after extensive consultation, emanating from the palace is flouted with ease. Mischief makers abound everywhere. Many of the so-called lbusa elites are most times, self-seeking in their individual and collective conduct, both in public and in their private community life, many are on ego trips, undermining the peace in the community. Some of the political elites are the worst enemies of the people. Most of them are insincere, public cheats, who use their exalted public position to rape and rob the people. Just look around, compare and contrast the quality of what development they claim to have attracted to their community vis-a-vis the amount of public resources they have collected on behalf of their constituents and you will get my drift. In a sane community where the age old respect for constituted traditional authority subsists, a member of the apex Union would not agree to drag the traditional instruction of which the leadership, he is by proxy, a member to court, for any reason, even if personal. Neither will a political gladiator be bold enough to publicly disrespect his traditional ruler by his conduct and utterances without dare consequences, not necessarily from the stool, but from the community at large, his or her political status notwithstanding. It was because of lack of cohesion and sustained traditional rulership structure, occasioned, fueled and sustained by most of Ibusa self-seeking elite, that ‘Ego di na oshia”, hitherto unheard of in lbusa has now become a soothing mantra, to the extent that even a First class traditional chief was framed with a nebulous murder charge and remanded. These are things that are alien to our culture and completely inimical to peaceful co-existence. Now, that is not to say that the Obuzor is perfect, no, not at all. He is not. He a human being. He is bound to make mistakes, just like the rest of us. But he is a guinea pig that is being used to experiment the new traditional rulership order. The people must be tolerant and not constitute a formidable resistance and crude opposition to every Idea he presents to move the community forward.
Pen Master: …But critics of the same Obuzo may point to circumstances like the Odogwu title of the community taking too long to achieve. Also for long now, the community has not had the Omu traditional stool. Still, a good number of traditional titles are duplicated. As a stakeholder being a former Town Union head, where does the problem lie – the people or traditional system?
Okafor: Thank you for this all important question. If you recall my answer to the topic with respect to the Obuzor and the traditional institution, there lies the answer to this Odogwu and other chieftaincy brouhaha in the community. Cast your mind back to some years ago when late Odogwu of lbusa, Chief Clement Nwanze was still alive. A certain young man in person of Dr. Anthony Nwaezeigwe, ably supported by a faction, the very factor opposed to the Obuzor Traditional rulership, started parading himself as the Odogwu of lbusa, creating the erroneous impression that the Chief Clement Nwanze has been stripped of his Odogwu Chieftaincy title. For years, while this charade, absurdity and assault on the traditional institution persist, most elites in the community saw nothing wrong in the ugly development and they said nothing. Surprisingly, some educated and enlightened members of lbusa community started to address and accord the young man the respect due to the Odogwu even though they knew that in doing so, they were helping to fuel disunity and escalate conflict amongst the people within the community, and that compounded the problem. Throughout this period, and at every given opportunity, especially through social media, I kept reminding the guy that he is a fake and that he is not and can never be recognized by me as what he claimed he is. Fortunately, nature stepped in and Odogwu lbusa, Chief Clement Nwanze passed on. Chief Clement Nwanze’s passage finally put paid to Dr. Anthony Nwaezeigwe’s ambition and false claim to the Odogwu title. In its wake, a new chapter of hassle. crisis and conflict was opened as several people stepped forward to contest for the vacant title. Ordinarily, it was a welcome development, except of course, for the lbusa factor of ‘loss and find’, which we natively call “Dum tufu, Dum chor”. The fact is, a community where the elders and the elites are strangers to truth, will perpetually remain in unresolved conflict. Why is it such a difficult thing for a big community like lbusa with a long history of successive ascension to Odogwuship and other traditional Chieftaincy titles not have a workable criterion in place, so much that it is now an all comer’s affair? Why? why? The other serious problem in the community is the love and worship of money. It will appear as if the people are cursed so much that good character has finally taken flight from the community. It doesn’t matter these days how you make your money. The crazy Onitsha slogan has finally found a home in lbusa. “Ife onye fu ya mea, ma ya chie Ozor”. It does not matter what you do, provided you take the Ozor title, a local version of the Machiavellian mantra, which also means “The end justifies the means”. Therefore, to answer your question, there is a big disconnect and distrust amongst the people and by extension, the fragmented traditional set up. Fragmented because we still have Otu Diokpa co-existing, side by side, with the prescribed traditional authority in lbusa, that is the Obuzor of lbusa working in tandem with Obuzor-in-Council. So you see, like the Bible says, “except two people come together and agree, there will be no progress or movement but perambulation”. A situation such as we have in lbusa traditional setting in the last 25 years can breed nothing but a fertile ground for confusion and chaos. That is exactly why the Odogwu issue is still dragging. That also explains why we have, l think, duplication of traditional titles, and that, perhaps, may explain why the Community till date has not produced a new Omu since the passing away of the last known Omu to me, Ada Ekea, Madam Eseweuzor.
Pen Master: On the other hand, are you happy the social media is giving a good number of Ibusa indigenes the opportunity to push for their demands?
Okafor: The answer to that is yes. The social media is playing a significant and commendable role in giving lbusa indigenes the opportunity to press and demand good governance from their elders and elites. Beyond that, through initiatives like Igbuzo Singles Meet, an Association that l have been following since its creation. Social media activities opened up a new chapter in relationship amongst lbusa youths. However, it is a matter of regret that the Ibusa youths, like their counterparts through the country, have failed to take the bull by the horns, politically so as to effect a change in the local politics in other to enthrone a more purposeful political leadership and thereby safeguard their future. It is sad that at this point in time and age, some youths in the community still make themselves available to some misguided community and political leaders to be used for devilish and life threatening assignments. While they risk their lives to keep their oppressors perpetually in power, their ‘users’ children are safely kept far away from harm. Take for instance, while the matter of suspected murder of Emeka Onianwah was on the front burner, a couple of prominent lbusa sons living in and outside the town, got in touch with me with a firm promise to give and assist me with credible information that may help in bringing those involved in the act to justice. But fear, and the need to secure and protect the source of their livelihood, forced and drove them underground and so, evil once again, triumphed over good. In all these, the young widow and the kids Emeka left behind, including members of his immediate family continue to bear the brunt of his demise.
Pen Master: Let us now extend our discussion to the Nigerian state. With President Buhari taking over in 2015, the people’s expectations were high but now, with increase in fuel, electricity tariff, VAT and maybe more which now comes with increase in prices of commodities in the market, the same people are beginning to complain while TUC and NLC plan strike. What is your take on this?
Okafor: I am not into partisan politics but as a Nigerian whose greatest desire is for social justice, l monitor politics, politicians and socio- political development the world over and more importantly, happenings in Nigeria political landscape. I am an unapologetic supporter of President Buhari. I had faith in his ability to effect some needed changes if given the opportunity. This faith was born out of, and built on his past antecedent of incorruptible and exemplary leadership during his tenure as Nigeria’s Military Head of State. So when he won the election in 2015, l was happy and from my base in the States, l kept amassing support for his administration. And the question that you probably want me to address is how far. I think Nigerians have been short changed, not by the President per see, but by his government. But he is the President and the ball stops at his desk, you may say. Yes. But have you read the extract from a recent lBB (Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida), the former Nigeria Military President interview on the reasons he gave for the annulment of the June 12 election in Nigeria? That is where Mr. President’s good intention to give the nation a purposeful leadership crashed. In other words, the crisis we have today both in politics and the economy are the handiwork of the Northern political cabal, like they did in IBB’s time, whose hidden agenda, till date, are completely the opposite of what Mr. President had in mind when he sought and obtained power after 3 failed attempts. And, l suppose, this sad state of affair came about during the long period of absence and sojourn abroad due to undisclosed health challenges. While he was away, the cabal perfected their strategy. When he came back, he was no longer the same, he became a lame duck president. It seems to me his health issue, in addition to natural demands of old age, probably were responsible for the loss in track. Remember that his wife warned Nigerians about what was ongoing, but the ever strong cabal found a way to water down her warning, thereby re-enforcing their grip and influence over the now weaken president. From that time till date, l very much suspect as far as the Nigerian Presidency is concerned, just like in the Bible, what we see is the hand of Esau but the voice is that of Jacob. Remember that after 2019 election and Mr. Resident’s re-election, as a safeguard, a new political arrangement was foisted on the nation whereby all powers were concentrated on the President’s Chief of Staff, the late Alhaji Abar Kyari. With the Northern cabal firmly in control, the original Mr. President’s political manifestoes were jettisoned. What we now have in place is a Northern agenda, or to put it the other way, Northern Regional/tribal agenda. And of course, here we are. Let me take you down to some of the decisions that the Buhari regime had taken which l found objectionable. First, the pardoning and reabsorbing the so-called repentant Boko Haram terror group into the Army. That is a crazy idea. It was a wrong decision, period and we have seen its negative effect in fighting the insurgents. It was, l think, since the programme was implemented that soldiers were being ambushed by insurgents anytime, as we were informed, whenever they embark on any assignment to flush out the members of this murderous group. It beats me hollow how the military authorities have not been able to figure this out. Being a member of the terror group is like being a member of the secret cult. Once a member, always a member. Other questions that had and still gives me sleepless nights are firstly, how do these militants finance their murderous agenda? Who buys them arms and ammunition? How do the arms get through the borders and are there conspirators within the government or the Armed forces on the one part and the terror group on the other hand? Take a look again at the recent exodus of able bodied Northern youths streaming down and into the interior and remotest part of the towns and villages within the South East and South-South parts of Nigeria. What was the movement for? These are purely unskilled young men, no women. There are no jobs available that one could say will take care of their needs and worse still, when they arrive in their unwilling host community, they prefer to live in the bush rather than stay in close proximity with the locals, thereby raising strong suspicion about their motive. There are also the several years of killings by the so-called Fulani herdsmen for which to date, there has been no documented records of arrest or conviction. The failure of the administration to check mate the tribal slur and drum heats of war incessantly coming mostly from the Northern elites, fuel, in my mind that this regime, may probably indirectly piloting the Nigerian State towards disintegration. I recall the recent publication l read online whereby some world leaders are said to have sent a message of solidarity to the National leader of IPOB and the prediction that the United Nations would soon make a pronouncement on the people’s demand for the creation of Biafra nation. Finally, on this issue, it is sad that from reports, and that contrary to the hyped expectation, there are reports of high, middle and low level acts of corruption within the governments. And it was for this reason, based on Mr. Presidents past antecedent of incorruptible profile that Nigerians chose him by popular vote to redeem the nation in 2015. If these allegations are true, it is a betray of trust.
Pen Master: Where do you see the country in the next few years?
Okafor: Well, l am not a prophet neither am l a seer. However, with the benefit of hindsight, coupled with empirical evidence of bad governance and policies that tend to superimpose people from a section of the country over the rest, the wanton killings of citizens in most parts of the Northern geographical space because of their faith and religion, while the leaders, due to their insatiable greed, aversion and self-serving agenda, looks elsewhere, except Baba God intervenes, the country Nigeria as we see and know it today, may be something else in 5 or even shorter years from now. And don’t forget what l said about the actualization of the IPOB demand. With the incessant and wanton killing of Christians in the North, the ever watchful eyes of world leaders may persuade the United Nations to make a pronouncement granting self-determination to the most marginalized, most discriminated yet most industrious group of Nigerians. It happened in India, it happened in Sudan and trust me, it may very soon happen here in Nigeria.it is called Right to Self Determination. It is guarantees in the United Nations Charter. Personally, l believe in the sovereignty of Nigeria and l will prefer it remains one united and indivisible nation. However, whether or not it will remain so, and for how long, time will tell.
Pen Master: Back to Delta, your state, have your Ibusa people’s aspirations been met by the administration of Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa?
Okafor: In the first place, l do not know what kind of aspiration my people have neither will l be able to say precisely if the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa had met same. But don’t forget that where there is rancour, insecurity, marginalization and remote oppression of the people by their leaders, whether spiritual, political or temporal, there will be no cohesion and as such there can be no aspiration or goal to achieve. If in doubt, ask the political leaders when last did they meet with the leaders of thought in Ibusa to rob minds on how to move the community forward or how often they have consulted with the traditional institution on how to plan and present a united front over any situation that calls for collective response. Every one of them is interested in what he or she could get for himself. Those projects attracted to the community, are uncoordinated. Since the beginning of the current political dispensation in 1999 till date, ask them to account for their stewardship, juxtapose the cumulative resources they have garnered on behalf of their constituency to date over what they claim as projects l, and be the judge. The concept of loss and find “Dum Tufu, Dum Cho” still rules. And because of stomach infrastructure, truth has become a very rare commodity to behold amongst our people.
Pen Master: Okay, but let us also look at your Anioma representatives on a whole. Have they been doing well for you?
Okafor: With due respect to the Anioma reps in politics at all levels, l am not in any position to evaluate their individual or collective performances as l do not even know who they are apart from those from lbusa. However, their personal goals in terms of development projects they attracted to their respective constituency may differ as the needs of members of their respective constituents may never be the same. How credible are the Anioma political representatives before the people they represent? All you need do is look at their life styles. How many of them are free from scandals and how frequent? A good politician, l am told, is the one that grooms a successor. This is very important since nothing is permanent in life. Take a cursory look around the politicians you know in Anioma and most importantly, in Oshimili North and point out just one that has plan and is grooming a successor. I do not know of any. Those l see are just jesters, anxiously putting in place strategist that will make them remain relevant in political and economic spheres and in perpetuity as long as they wish. In any case, let the people they serve be the judge.
Pen Master: In 2016, the Igbuzo Singles Meet, a well-known youth group of your community, conferred you with an award in honour of your social crusade for your community. What do you owe your ability to speak out where many look timid?
Okafor: Let me now use this unique opportunity to openly thank the Management of ISM for finding me worthy for the award, the first of its kind in my life. It was unexpected, but well appreciated. I never knew that l was doing anything worthy of appreciation since we live in a world and in a community where truth is considered subjective and not objective, we live in a society where good names is nothing compared to wealth, where everything about life is measured in terms of money, regardless of how you make it. We now live in community where we have forgotten that empty handed and naked we came into this world and ln like manner we shall surely leave it. So, when the announcement of the award was made, l was humbled in gratitude to those who found me deserving of the award. To answer your question directly, l think that, throughout this interview, l have given you my life challenging experiences some of which shaped my life. And all is focused at pursuing social justice for the oppressed people in my generation. That boldness to speak the truth comes from my unshakable conviction that truth will always prevail, that the absence of war is no sign of peace and that as long as you hold on to the truth, people may dislike you bur in the secret recess of their soul, the truth that you have spoken will convict them. Let me give you a simple example. When the current President-General of ICDU Worldwide, Dr. Austin lzagbo, a gentleman in his own right, visited the States last year or so, we met at his request and l voiced my concern over what l considered gross disrespect from Distinguished Senator Peter Onyeluka Nwaoboshi the Senator representing Delta North Senatorial District towards the person and the office of the Obuzor of lbusa. I gave him a run-down of the senator’s acts over the years, whereby he showed to the world, by my observation, during and even after his successes at the polls, complete disregard and disdain and contempt to the person of the Obuzor, long after he was conferred by His Royal Majesty Obi (Prof) L. C. Nwaoboshi the prestigious and highly cherished chieftaincy title of Agu Ajieje Mba. Dr. Austin lzagbo agreed that relationships between His Royal Majesty and the Senator is not as it ought to be and that they were working on it. He assured me that things would be brought under control and that l needed not to worry. I agreed and thanked him. The next thing l read online and the picture l saw was a publication that the Obuzor was now a guest of the Senator in the Senators house, ostensibly for a reason totally uncalled for and that through the said meeting, both party had reconciled. The guy who wrote the story even added proudly that at a point the Senator and the Obuzo held, behind closed doors further conversation. To those of us who have all along been close watchers of events from the beginning till now, we know that those who arranged the meeting sort of cajoled the Obuzor to step out of his palace to meet Peter in his personal house for the supposed reconciliation. The flimsy reason given was that the Obuzor’s house was not big enough to accommodate those expected at the meeting. How could people tell such brazen falsehood just because one individual believed that he is so comfortable as to vilify and embarrass the stool. Those behind the facade are, l am told, a group of concerned lbusa citizens. Assuming without conceding that the Obuzor palace was too small as they claimed, what is wrong in holding such reconciliatory meeting at the newly renovated Nkata or even, for prestige purposes, in the conference room of any of the best hotels in lbusa or Asaba? I am in regular contact with the palace and l know that His Royal Majesty, had to swallow his pride and in deference to the pressure from those who mooted the idea, followed through the charade. Since that unfortunate misadventure, what has come out of it? Is it in our culture that a father should bow down to the child and more so in public, for that is exactly what transpired. There can never be true reconciliation without remorse. Apart from the office of His Royal Majesty as the Obuzor of lbusa, a community with so many accomplished citizens in all fields of human endeavour, the Obuzor, now in his 80s deserve maximum respect from all of his subjects, especially those far younger in age, and the Senator is no exception to that age old tradition. A truly repentant son, like the prodigal son, will humbly retrace his steps back to the father. Which is why our fathers declared long time ago that ‘Nwata we okpa, mana ezi be nnaa ka okpaa ha kwa’. Nothing is permanent and nothing, both life, money and position last forever. But name and character remains long after we are gone. Recall also when His Excellency Dr. Uduaghan was the governor of Delta State and they floated the idea of building a pollutant styled ‘incinerator’ in lbusa, almost all the indigenes were unanimous in their rejection of the project being located in lbusa. I raised alar and what did our conniving brethren in government do? Rather than join in affirming the resolve of the people that the project be located elsewhere, they saw what was in it for their personal gains and alas, that incinerator has compounded the health challenges of the people. All the claim that it will provide employment opportunities to the people were part of the conspiracy. Both the elites and the politicians in the community kept mute or tacitly endorsed the project. The rest, as they say, is now history. These are part of my concern why l chose my social justice obligation as the tool in mirroring the ills in our society occasioned by false hope that with wealth and position we are above the law. In the first scenarios, it was the mountain being cleverly manipulated to see Mohammed. To cap it all, l believe that whatever we do, posterity will judge us when we are no more. My courage and strength of character are from Baba God and there is nothing l, or anyone else can do about it. I guess, l have seen it all, except for one thing, death which, lnsha Allah, shall come in its due time. But until then, l shall, God willing, continue with my crusade for Social justice. Throughout my careers so far, l have been falsely accused by my detractors, detained in Police cell on four occasions as a result of my labour activities as Branch President of AAWUN, charged to court twice, one in Benin City and one at the State Police Headquarters in Asaba. As a matter of fact, one Mr. Ben Okoji a learned colleague connived with the then CSP in charge of State CID at the Police, Asaba to have me arrested. And detained ever night on Thursday, charged to court on Friday and be remanded at the Ogwashi-Uku Prison over the weekend. He did not even stop at that. When l was finally charged to court, he applied and obtained permission to personally prosecute me in other to secure my conviction. He prosecuted me but he failed to nail me. As for the trials in Benin, l was discharged. I sued my employers for wrongful detention and we settled out of court with Fifty Thousand Naira paid to me by my employers. That was almost 20 years ago.
Pen Master: What is that thing not known of Femi Okafor? Share with us.
Okafor: I have a secret which only a few people are aware of. Behind the hard line posture and nerve of steel which my outward outlook and gang style character depicts, lies the softest heart you can ever expect. Besides, I am a lady’s man. l am also a silent giver. In my journey so far here in life, l have, and l am still there for widows welfare. I have a number of kids who l take care of their basic needs. I am also in the business of rehabilitating ’bad boys’ if and when they get in trouble, because l was once on their dangerous lane. But you may never know or hear any of these things. Those beneficiaries shall remain a mystery until my death. I am currently retired and living with my wife, a Professor of Strategic Communication in one of Americas top most and leading private Universities here in Texas. I have 4 gentle boys, several vibrant grand kids and a host of several adopted daughters, scattered all around the globe…i enjoy travelling and with Baba God’s blessing, l have travelled round all the continents of the world. So far, l enjoy relative good health, notwithstanding all those health issues associated with ageing. I am also receiving lessons for my next project. You will be stunned if you know what l am into. However, for now, it is under the rap.
Pen Master: It was nice speaking with you sir.
Okafor: Once l again, l thank you Pen Master for giving me the rare privilege and the opportunity to be heard. Give my regard and respect to your numerous readers.