While the assault on Senator Ike Ekweremadu has been strongly condemned by all Nigerian diaspora organisations, some commentators have called for a broader look at the import of the unfortunate incident for the culture of governance in their home country.
Dr Ike Ekweremadu, a member of the Nigerian Senate – the upper chamber of the country’s bicameral national legislature, was one of the dignitaries invited to the 2nd Annual Igbo Cultural Day, which took place on Saturday 17 August 2019 in Nuremberg.
The parliamentarian honoured the invitation and arrived at the venue only to be physically attacked by a group of protesters, numbering about 30, according to the local police.
Ekweremadu, a former Deputy President of the 109-member Senate, had to be smuggled away from the venue of the event, which however went ahead and was graced by, among others, HE Maitama Tuggar, Nigeria’s ambassador to Germany.
The images of Ekweremadu’s attack instantaneously went viral over social media and the incident became, within hours, the major issue in the Nigerian media, sparking a debate on how to properly hold elected leaders to account.
The protesters who harassed Ekweremadu, believed to be members of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), were aggrieved over what they describe as the Senator’s collusion with federal authorities during a military operation against the organisation in 2017 at which many IPOB partisans were killed.
IPOB, which is agitating for an independent nation for Southeast Nigeria, was subsequently banned by the federal government, supported by the Igbo states of Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Imo and Ebonyi. Since the incident, the separatist movement had held a grudge against Igbo political leaders.
The Nuremberg incident, reminiscent of a large protest action by Cameroonian exiles against visiting President Paul Biya in Geneva in June 2019, signals the increasing tendency of Africans in the diaspora to confront their leaders when they’re outside their home countries.
Opinions are however divided over the action of the IPOB members in Nuremberg as prominent members of the Nigerian diaspora in Europe take different positions on the unfortunate incident. These are some of their views:
Ken Chigbo, UK
This act by IPOB is likely to shake things up
“The incident in Nuremberg represents the first few baby steps in getting those in power in Nigeria to fear the people. For too long, a culture of impunity has driven the brazen lootocracy that passes for governance in Nigeria.
“When politicians start recognising that there are consequences for their shameless acts against the interests of their people, the chances of modifying their behaviour increase. John Barnhill said: ‘When the people fear a government, they’re a tyranny. When a government fears the people, there is liberty.’
“One may disagree with IPOB’s objective – secession of Southeast Nigeria from the rest of the country. But making life difficult for looters of public funds, who have made life a nightmare for most Nigerians, and preventing them from swanning around in Europe, flaunting their ill-gotten wealth, is a worthy cause.
“This act by IPOB is likely to shake things up a bit and likely to prompt more similar acts.”
[Mr Chigbo is a London-based public intellectual and political analyst]
Colins Nweke, Belgium
Address a crime but please don’t ignore its causes!
“A careful analysis of the reactions to the Ekweremadu attack in Nuremberg will reveal that each individual or constituency pitches its tent based on their interests and political roles or purely on the basis of political correctness.
“The Diaspora, in my candid opinion ought to ask itself the cardinal question of whose interests it serves to enable it determine how and where to pitch its tent. My view is that the Diaspora serves no interest of government or anyone serving within it.
“The Diaspora MUST take the side of Nigerians. I therefore consider it a hugely missed opportunity if, next to squarely condemning the Ekweremadu attack as unacceptable, the Diaspora fails to equally touch on the reasons for the boiled anger of Nigerians, the pain they feel, the impunity of governance and the lawlessness that has pervaded lawmaking in Nigeria.
“These are all at the root of the pent-up anger everywhere in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. Nuremberg is yet another sign of the keg of gunpowder that we all as Nigerians are sitting on. And we want to ignore it and concentrate on a one-sided single story of condemnation? For Christ sake, address a crime but please don’t ignore its causes!”
[Mr Nweke is a media and development consultant and an elected communal politician in the Belgian city of Ostende]
Kenneth Gbandi, Germany
Today it’s stone in Germany, tomorrow it may be gun in UK
“In Germany and I guess in most European countries and the US, the rise of violence as a means of political expression has become a thing of great concern to all.
“The brutal killings and insecurity in Nigeria is a serious problem, a situation that should worry any Nigerian both at home and in the Diaspora. It was no wonder that one of the main focuses of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Worldwide (NIDOWW) during the recent Nigerian Diaspora Day 2019 [on 24-26 July in Abuja, Nigeria] is the problem of insecurity. The continental leaders met virtually every day and sometimes three times a day over the issue of insecurity and the best way of engagement.
“I was privileged to give one of the opening remarks at the Diaspora Day and I stated that the value we place on life at home reflects how we are seen in the Diaspora (with South Africa as a classic example) and the need for security overhaul.
“Let me state that all forms of protest in my opinion is legitimate, as long as it’s within the limits of the law where we reside. We cannot complain of violence again our people in Europe and all over the world and not condemn one from our own to our own.
“We don’t want to see a repeat of South Africa in the streets of Germany where the rules of violence is right. Let it be known that the majority of Nigerians and Ndi-Igbo in Germany are against any form of violence in the streets of Germany. Today it’s stone in Germany, tomorrow it may be gun in the UK‼”
[Mr Gbandi is the chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe]
Pastor Ibrahim Abashie, the Netherlands
Two wrongs don’t make a right
“What is wrong is wrong and no excuse can justify it. In any case, two wrongs don’t make a right. Senator Ekweremadu did not invite himself to the Nuremberg event and it behoves on the event organisers to have watched his back and shielded him from the ignoble attack on his person.
“There are decent and better ways of expressing disagreement and promoting one’s interest.”
[Pastor Abashie is a clergyman]
John Emeka Akude, Germany
Nigerian ruling class will read the handwriting on the wall
“A couple of weeks ago we were debating whether it was right or wrong for the Federal government to arrest Omoyele Sowore and whether Sowore was calling for a revolution or a revolutionary protest. I then made the point that successful revolutions are hardly planned. They just happen.
“I want to add here that the incident against Senator Ekweremadu in Nuremberg is symptomatic of the beginning of revolutions. It often starts with an unplanned incident whereby the people suddenly feel that enough is enough. The relatively recent Arab Springs is a case in point.
“However, the Ekweremadu incident happened in far away Germany. It could therefore hardly have consequences on Nigerian streets. Were such a thing to happen in Nigeria, it could have been enough to make the ruling class in Nigeria tremble.
“I hope that the Nigerian ruling class will read the handwriting on the wall. But even if they do, it would not be enough to engineer the radical change in government that we so urgently need. The reason is simple: the class in government is a petit-bourgeois one, unproductive and dependent on the exploitation of other classes.
“Corruption which engenders governmental irresponsibility/bad governance and consequently promotes poverty and underdevelopment is just a form of that exploitation and appropriation.”
[Mr Akude is a political science scholar and development consultant]
Chuks Lewis Ehiwario, Germany
Nigeria is in a total mess
“This is open display of hooliganism no doubt but where do we go from here as respected diaspora stakeholders?
Where is our constituency?
Whose interest do we represent?
“Nigeria is in a total mess and some of us here are pretending and hoping that things will get better by dinning and shaking hands with those in power without a fight.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, Edmund Burke said.
How many of us are speaking truth to power directly or indirectly?”
[Ehiwario is an activist of Concerned Nigerians Germany]
Lola Visser-Mabogunje, the Netherlands
Does this portray a good image of Nigerians?
“Does this portray a good image of Nigerians residing abroad? Far from it. It is also damaging to the Igbo communities residing abroad. Well they must know for themselves.
“I hope those involved are residing in the country legally as this is the type of action that leads to deportation.”
[Ms Visser-Mabogunje is a development consultant]