When Your Enemy Is Greater Than Your God By Patrick O. Okigbo III

As the old Igbo adage goes, “nwatakili etoluro welu juba ife gbulu nna ya, ife gbulu nna ya egbuo ya”. When a son is not strong enough to inquire into the cause of his father’s untimely death, that which killed the father will kill him.

This was the thought that occupied my mind, seven years ago, when Mr. Assange decided to poke his middle finger in the eyes of the United States and other western powers. At the time, I prayed that he had a strong plan. However, when he ended up in the Embassy of Ecuador, I knew that he was an “efulefu”; a useless man. I knew that it was only a question of time before he will realise that that “surugede” is a dance of the spirit world.

About two decades ago, I read Claude Ake’s Democracy and Development in Africa (1995) where he laid out various thesis on why Africa has failed to launch. There are many interesting nuggets in the book and a few images that have lingered in my mind. One of such images is how western powers pressure African leaders to adopt and implement policies that may not be in the best interest of their people. Any leader who tried to resist such pressure was easily dispatched in a western-endorsed regime change. As survivors, many of the leaders learnt, very quickly, how to toe the line.

A few years after reading the book, I saw this play out in Nigeria-U.S. relations. To end the civil war in Liberia, Nigeria had offered asylum to the warlord, Charles Taylor. On the grounds of international conventions, Nigeria was expected to protect Charles Taylor for as long as he is within the country. However, Charles Taylor became a pawn in international power relations. The U.S. wanted to bring Charles Taylor to justice at the International Criminal Court (ICC) but there was no way to lay their hands on him without infringing on decades-old international conventions. The U.S. found their opportunity when Olusegun Obasanjo (then president of Nigeria) embarked on an ill-advised campaign to change the constitution and extend his stay in office. When President Obasanjo sought audience with President George W. Bush to plead his case for the “Third Term” agenda, he was told to hand over Charles Taylor before he could meet with George W. This “demand” triggered a chain of events that forced Charles Taylor to escape from Nigeria. As soon as he stepped outside Nigeria’s soil, he stepped into the waiting bear-hug of the U.S. (sorry ICC).

When I saw that Assange had taken refuge in Ecuador, I said another prayer for him. This prayer was more for his soul because I knew it was only a question of time before the U.S. will get him. As another Igbo adage goes, “onye kali mmadu, kali chi ya”. He who is greater than you is greater than your personal god. How could Assange seek refuge in the bosom of a country that seeks refuge in the bosom of his assailant?

Sorry, Mr. Asange, but if you grew up in Enugu you would have learnt that there is a difference between a fight in a classroom and one in an open field. You must be sure you can go the distance before getting involved in the latter because there is no teacher round the corner to settle the fight. It is just the way it is.


Opinion contained in this article is strictly the writer’s and not Aledeh’s. 



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