April 18, 2024

Pathfinder News

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Three Months Later: Back To A Strange World!

Ik Muo, PhD

On 16/2/22, just after the commencement of the ASUU rolling strike and a medical check-up at OOU Teaching Hospital, I headed back to my roots.  I had little choice because as a loyal employee, I have no other business apart from reading, writing, speaking and community service, all of which I could do from home. So, I got home, went into the business of preparations for Nwamaka Muo’s(my sister in-law) funeral and immediately thereafter, my uncle  Cyril 404 Muo also ‘rejected food’ and so, the arrangements for his funeral commenced.  Between these funerals, I invested a large chunk of time on the Ezeozonka AAO Onwughalu Memorial and Book Presentation, of which I was the Chairman of the Planning Committee and had the singular honour of writing the foreword to the book (Igbo-Ukwu: a Historical & Cultural heritage). I also attended some village meetings (which I have consciously reduced), attended other funerals (my friend and comrade, Ide Nath Dike;  Chief Mrs Njideka Ezeife, Madam Lucy Umenwa, Jerremiah Adibe;  Mrs Evelyn Nwobi, Mrs  Ngozi Okeke, ( where I led one of the Lagos delegations), and Mrs VictoriaO Ezeokoli, who belonged to  St. Michael’s Parish by proxy being the  mother of our Parish Council Secretary and mother in-law to the Chairman of Parish Catholic Men Organisation). I participated some of the activities of St Michael’s catholic Church, Igbo-Ukwu: the send-forth and welcome of our outgoing and incoming Parish Priests, which coincided with the Divine Mercy Sunday , the Mothering Sunday, and first dedication anniversary ,as well as the Father’s Day celebration on 14/5/22. ( women’s own: Mothering Sunday; men’s own: Fathers Day. Why?) I spent some these days at Aba, where I now have a ‘branch-office’! (please keep it secret!), tendering my large farm (just 45 tubers of yam), receiving and exchanging greetings from passers-by from my balcony and visiting my neighbours, especially those who are  not in a position to return my visit.

Ezeozonka memorial,  Send-forth,& welcome, & Fathers’ day.

In between all these, I got used to life in ana-Igbo, under the vicious grip of the  blood-thirsty UGM. From 16/2/22 to 22/5/22, I never ventured out on Mondays due to the self-destructive SAH( Sit at home), which has become a routine( I easily converted it to RAH: Read at Home). Even my regular walk to the market square stopped after my relations repeatedly ‘pulled my ears’ over my intransigence. The SAH was not just on Mondays; it was any day that pleased the ruthless enforcers. It was either a Monday, or MNK was going to court, or he was returning from court, or there were rumours that he would go to court. And that was after IPOB had dissociated itself from the SAH madness. Last week (May 15-21), there were only 1.5 working days: full SAH, Monday-Wednesday, and half SAH on Thursday as people had to go out and check before eventually venturing out later in the day.  Few weeks earlier, it was 1 day working week at Aba; The FG declared 2 days public holidays, people went to work for a day and UGM commandeered the remaining 2  days. People had prepared to do their normal business when the UGM went round the markers to announce the emergency SAH, and unfortunately, the victims, were hailing them.

UGM @ Ariaria Market

At Aba, the surest route to safety is to keep silent in public transport when  MNKs issue  was raised because  it would be deadly to make any comment influenced by contrary spirits, like arguing that the SAH was counterproductive. You would be lucky if you only ended up at the hospital! And these SAHs had made bank transactions worse than those days when we  visited the bank with mats and had tallies. My experience when I had occasion to visit First Bank Ogbor-Hill were better imagined. It was not because the staff were lousy; it was because 3 days’ business would be done in a day, especially when no one was sure that banks would open the following day. And due to the same ‘security situation’, the bank usually opened, 10am.

At Igbo-Ukwu,  stampedes were regular as the arrival or passing-by of UGM ( real, imaginary) would lead to multi directional stampede, with people running from whom  and to where they did not know. Vegetables, fruits and fresh meet would be abandoned to rot at the expense of the petty traders and business would close abruptly for the day. People involved in ‘uka-mgbede’ ( evening relaxation/ hospitality)businesses  now closed earlier while some even suspended their operations. ‘Nataaed people’(returnees from the cities) sneaked in and out of town; they no longer came home with their cars;   others patronised kekes and okadas  while some deliberately bought derelict cars for home usage or even consciously dirtied their cars.  One of us came home with a car that was hitherto not good enough for refuse disposal in his house and in the spirit of the day, I asked him to launch it! One good thing though: we were no longer being oppressed by siren-blaring compatriots who had started competing with the length and quality of their convoy as well as the number and type of security that accompanied them. People readily watched their backs and every evening, one had to enquire whether there would be movement the following day before planning his or her programme. People also regularly listened to all news sources, including RWB (radios without battery), consulted God, the gods and the mystic pots before scheduling their movements or activities. The news about where ‘they struck’ the day before, enabled one to determine the appropriate route- that was if one must venture out. Night buses were reactivated, especially on Sundays and Mondays while those who dared to move on Mondays would leave around 3 am. It was a life of fear, tension, uncertainty.

 One day, I  went to Okija for a traditional wedding and the parent of the groom took us through the notorious and deadly  Ukpor, Azia, Ihembosi axis. People came for thanksgiving when we returned safely even though the man felt that there was nothing wrong with the route. Two weeks later, he  and his entire family were ‘arrested’ by a gang of 15 armed ‘liberators’! Luckily, he lived to tell the tale. One of the questions they asked him was why his youthful children were enjoying life rather than joining in the struggle! One of my townsmen spent 3 days in captivity and had to bail himself and his personal staff, whom they also wanted to conscript for the struggle. My mouth is too holy to mention the conditionalities he had to fulfill to rescue himself and his PA from his abductors who were 100% Igbo.  They were gracious enough to give him N2,000 (less than 0.0000000000001% of what they extorted from him) for fuel after his release! A Lagos-based home-friendly friend of mine, a Chief  from Ukpor got to Onitsha, stayed almost 1 week but  sadly, could not visit his people at home, a few kilometres away. In some areas, people are billed for their functions (funerals, weddings) based on perceived capacity and in other areas, people in diaspora are asked to ‘drop’ in absentia or else… As I write this, school kids were asked to stay away from school on 26/5 but were rather asked to ignore the earlier order – as MNK’s trial was rescheduled but most of them stayed away. 27/5/22 was the  Children’s day and as such, they had a 2-day week. The unusual had become the usual, a new-normal, because we live under the vicious grip of UGM, who are now called Unknown-Guvment. Some years ago, MTN came with a positive EWYG (Everywhere you go). Now the UGM have become the negative EWYG and Anambra has inexplicably, become the epicentre!

 On 20/5/20, my wife and I had to go for a World Wide Marriage Encounter engagement at Enugu and made the greatest mistake of our lives driving through Awka-Amansea  road. Any pregnant woman who wants to undertake an abortion or any car that wants to undergo a ‘torture-test’ should just pass through it! Indeed, there was a road. Luckily we arrived Enugu safely, moved into the expansive  Holy Ghost Complex, ( undergoing continuous modernisation),had the good luck of an audience with the humble and smiling Bishop of Enugu, Most Revd Calistus Onaga, and left for Lagos with ‘Dana night-bus’  around 7pm+ on Sunday, 22/5/22. The hostess, with the traditional artificial smile, reminded us about the guidelines on in-flight smoking but I asked her about the guideline on delayed flights,( 2 hours delay, no announcement, no apologies) she pretended not to have heard me. At the airport, I noticed that there was an exodus of sorts as everybody who could, was trying to run out of the South East.  Sunday had become the busiest day at our airports and motor-parks. The plane was so filled up and it was almost like people desperately trying to exit from  Afghanistan on the arrival of the Taliban!  In fact, I sat on the last seat on the last row (the kitchen line), just next to the toilet but contrary to my expectations, there was no advantage of being close to the ‘source of raw materials’. From my enquiries, it was the same at Asaba, Owerri and Umuleri airports. Immediately I arrived at Lagos, that late, the atmosphere changed, maddened   and  charged, an indication that I was in a new, strange world. Why did I return to Lagos/Ogun axis? Because 3 months later, those who used to tell me ‘come home and rest’ were now asking: ‘what are you still doing at home’; I wanted to ensure that my house and office were still there and  I have been missing in action from the usual church, community and social engagements in the ax

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WWME engagement & Dana Night-Bus with Fr Miguel, Helen & Emma

Anyway, beyond the charged Lagos atmosphere, I soon noticed that I had come back to a new, strange world! I needed some cash to settle some accounts on Monday ( 23/5/22)and I was worried because I had been observing Monday SAH for the past 3 months. But lo and behold, everywhere was full of the usual bustle and hustle (now unusual in the East); there was free  movement, people went about their businesses and the socio-economic life was in FULL swing. On a Monday? The Oando filling station boldly advertised its N165/litre price ( I bought N300 last week) and there was no queue. I walked into the bank and walked out; I didn’t have to sleep in the back or seek special elders treatment from the staff. But I had cause to spark. At the Wema Bank Isolo, all the 9 staff I saw on the banking hall were FEMALE. And as there was no male NGO to lead a protest against gender bias, I started the protest there and then. That was when they showed me one lonely young man in an obscure corner of the office and the way he sat, you would know that he was an endangered specie!  He was not even ready to join me in the  protest against maginalisation , oppression and suppression by the womenfolk! If it were 9/10 in favour of men, even the UNO would hear, the Minister of Women Affairs would call a Press Conference and Arise/Channel would do special documentaries on the gender insensitivity of the bank! Even CNN would join the fray. However because because it was against men, NOTHING happened!

There were other evidences that I was (and am) back to a new strange world. There was a horde of cattle belonging to an unknown rich man in our neighbourhood. I still saw them sauntering around majestically along our street. The mallams (from Niger or Chad or wherever) were everywhere selling their suya, vegetables, tea and water, polishing the shoes and doing their dua-dua (emergency untrained tailoring), business.  The okada men, even when they have been banned, re-banned and counterbanned, were everywhere. The Unknown Knife men and Unknown Young Men amongst them who occupied every open space in Lagos and its environs were also around. Those involved in uka-mgbede were FULLY on ground and all the shops and kiosks were opened as long as they wanted. At Ago roundabout, I saw a decently dressed, graceful and dignified traffic management woman. I don’t know if I had seen any in the past 3 months, (except uniformed touts enforcing rules that they did not understand). The spirit directed me to offer her a bottle of water, evidencing support. She did not reject my offer but she called one hawker by the roadside to collect the monetised water from me. In the evening of 26/5/22, we had a full-scale wake in honour of Mrs Oge Azike (sadly, just 36). People were at the massive  Enugu-Ukwu Hall town  Complex there in their numbers and would have been there until… if not for the rain. This is not possible where I just returned from.

Mrs Oge Azike, just 36!

Indeed, I am back to a new, strange world; where the 5-day work week is given; where any SAH (public holidays) is known in advance; where people move day and night freely, where businesses and socials go on and where those who want to showcase obscene opulence are free to do so . It is a world where I have been for the past 28 years but I did not notice it until I spent the last 3 months in the land of UGM. Sad

Meanwhile, there was joyful and tumultuous effusions from ‘Muo Family Union’, Lagos Branch (5 of us are Lagos-based) to celebrate my return to Lagos. But they have not organised any corresponding item7-based owambe! They were among those asking ‘what are you still doing at home’? Also, my house is still there; my office at OOU and my house-of exile in Ijebu-ode are still intact. That was one of the reasons why I returned. I had also offered myself for hire and only one of my sisters who runs a primary-secondary school responded. She offered the minimum wage and I asked her whether it was the Federal, Lagos, Anambra or UGM rate, the currency of transaction (now that Naira is gyrating wickedly), whether it would be through IPPIS or UTAS, MUOTAS  or cash and carry and we are still negotiating. This has become imperative because the government is not interesting in this ASUU roll-on matter. Please, don’t tell ASUU and my employers that I have offered myself for hire! 

Ik Muo, PhD. Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye. 08033026624