Raymond Arazu was a catholic priest of the Spiritan congregation. He was a man, who was far ahead of his time, in his attempt to decolonize Christianity in the Igbo World. He did alot to initiate a dialogue between Igbo culture and philosophy with Christianity. He was among the anchors of a Programme on Radio Nigeria Enugu for many years, titled “Patterns of Our Lives”. That was a platform from, which he tried to demystify those aspects of Igbo culture that were bastardized by Christianity.
But that was not all that Arazu did. The aspect of his life that is less known, is that Arazu was a man of many worlds. He loved the psalms. He was proficient in Hebrew language and a seasoned man of his Igbo cultural milieu. He bridged both worlds as a translator, who choose never to become a traitor to any of these cultures. It was from that perch that he rendered one of the best translations of those Jewish poems into Igbo language.
In his translation of Psalm 2, any Igbo person, would be edified, feeling the fibres of his being vibrate at those words.
“Kedu ihe ndi mmadu ji emere nkpotu”- Why the tumult among the nations”
Ndi eze nke uwa, agbago izu megide onye Dinwenu m tere mmanu- The Kings of the earth have conspired against the Lord’s anointed”.
When I hear those psalms in Arazu’s Igbo translation, devoid of any religious interpretations, one cannot but think that Arazu was allowed a peep into tomorrow, where he anticipated the phenomenon of Peter Obi in the Nigerian politics of today, and the armada of character assassins, huddled in various covens of iniquity, scheming against Obi and his message preaching an end to impunity.
It is no doubt that those earthly kings of Nigerian corruption, are ganging up against a Peter Obi, who came preaching an end to impunity.
Why wouldn’t they?
Their livelihoods are on the line. Maggots feed on rotten flesh. These maggots of our commonwealth are in great panic. When Shylock told the judge in the Merchant of Venice, that “you take away my life, when you take the means by which I live”, he was not only speaking for himself. He was also speaking for all leeches of all lands and climes, whose livelihoods are dependent on sucking the life-blood out of us, pursuant to their avarice.
Arazu was a genius. So was Chinua the son of Achebe.
In a tiny booklet that escaped many, at its publication in 1983, but which eventually grew into a vade mecum for any analysis of Nigeria, Achebe, with an acuity unmatched till date, not only wrote down for eternal reference, what ails Nigeria; he looked into the future, laid down the archetype, the opposite of which a leader that Nigeria needs would be. He, in effect recommended that Nigerian leadership must rise to what Peter Obi made of himself, in order to be successful-namely, the responsibility of personal example!
Peter Obi as a man has been a definition of integrity in public life. Achebe defined this integrity as “the blunt refusal to be compromised”. Peter Obi in his public life has made the blunt refusal to be compromised, his philosophy and praxis. His frugal management of public resources, his not given to ego trips, and his blunt refusal to commit political simony or bribe people for their votes, greatly impressed the Nigerian youth, who watched as succession of politicians ate their patrimony at their corrupt tables. Obi was a different breed. He made money as an international business man in London. Invested heavily and quietly in Nigeria before his people beckoned on him to serve them as governor. His first trip into gubernatorial politics made the Godfathers strangulating Anambra State with their thievery, to believe that they could rig him out and steal his mandate.
An impostor took his office. But they underrated the fight in Obi. He waged an all-out legal war, on that impunity. He won back his mandate and changed the face of Anambra State for good, retiring Dogfathers and their dogs.
He was a leader that rose to the challenge and responsibility of personal example, which Achebe pointed out, as what ailed Nigerian leadership.
Achebe doubled down and urged us to insist on such leaders, and not allow those leeches whose livelihoods depend on the corrupt status quo to masquerade their greed as patriotism, and arrogate to themselves, the arrogance to define patriotism for us.
I will let the Eagle on the tallest Iroko speak. And thus spake Ugonabo:
“Who is a patriot? He is a person who loves his country. He is a not a person who says he loves his country. He is not even a person who shouts or swears or recites or sings his love of his country. He is one who cares deeply about the happiness and well-being of his country and all its people. Patriotism is an emotion of love directed by a critical intelligence. A true patriot will always demand the highest standards of his country and accept nothing but the best for and from his people. He will be outspoken in condemnation of their short-comings without giving way to superiority, despair or cynicism. That is my idea of a patriot.”
“Quite clearly, patriotism is not going to be easy or comfortable in a country as badly run as Nigeria. And this is not made any easier by the fact that no matter how badly a country may be run, there will always be some people whose personal, selfish interests, are in the short term at least, well served by the mismanagement and the social inequities. Naturally, they will be extremely loud in their adulation of the country and its system, and will be anxious to pass themselves off as patriots and to vilify those who disagree with them as trouble-makers or even traitors.”
We have an abundance of these pretend-patriots across all tribal grottos, sectional and party cocoons in Nigeria.
But undaunted, Achebe warned us:
“But doomed is the nation which permits such people to define patriotism for it. Their definition would be about as objective as a Rent Act devised by a committee of avaricious landlords, or the encomiums of a colony of blood-sucking ticks might be expected to shower upon the bull on whose back they batten.
Spurious patriotism is one of the hallmarks of Nigeria’s privileged classes whose generally unearned positions of sudden power and wealth must seem unreal even to themselves. To lay the ghost of their insecurity, they talk patriotically. But their protestation is only mouth-deep; it does not exist in their heads nor in their hearts and certainly not in the work of their hands.
True patriotism is possible only when the people who rule and those under their power have a common and genuine goal of maintaining the dispensation under which the nation lives. This will, in turn, only happen if the nation is ruled justly, if the welfare of all the people rather than the advantage of a few becomes the corner-stone of public policy.
National pledges and pious admonitions administered by the ruling classes or their paid agents are entirely useless in fostering true patriotism.
In extreme circumstances of social, economic and political inequities such as we have in Nigeria, pledges and admonitions may even work in the reverse direction and provoke rejection or cynicism and despair.
One shining act of bold, selfless leadership at the top, such as unambiguous refusal to be corrupt or tolerate corruption at the fountain of authority, will radiate powerful sensations of well-being and pride through every nerve and artery of national life.
I saw such a phenomenon on two occasions in Tanzania in the 1960s. The first was when news got around (not from the Ministry of Information but on street corners) that President Nyerere after paying his children’s school fees had begged his bank to give him a few months’ grace on the repayment of the mortgage on his personal house.
The other occasion was when he insisted that anyone in his cabinet or party hierarchy who had any kind of business interests must either relinquish them or leave his official or party position. This was no mere technicality of putting the business interest in escrow but giving it up entirely. And many powerful ministers including the formidable leader of TANU Women were forced to leave the cabinet. On these occasions, ordinary Tanzanians seemed to walk around, six feet tall. They did not need sermons on patriotism; nor a committee of bishops and emirs to inaugurate a season of ethical revolution for them.”
Can anyone doubt Achebe’s foresight and genius after this reading these words, oozing from one of the most fecund imaginations ever to grace the African continent?
If Achebe and Arazu are geniuses, what about Jonathan Swift?
This Irish cleric of the Anglican church was the famous pamphleteer and satirist, who authored masterpieces like Gulliver’s Travel. He left nuggets of genius in many of his satires and essays.
He was reputed to be the guy that uttered these eternal words:
“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”
Have you seen Peter Obi and the Nigerian confederacy of dunces massed against him in this quote?
If you have not, just take a look at those, who have come out to speak ill of Peter Obi, or make fun of his ambition. Those characters have been the who-is-who of the trouble with Nigeria. It has been the greatest confederacy of Nigerian dunces.
You can see that these three geniuses saw tomorrow and converged on this moment in our history, and landed on such personalities like Peter Obi, whose ambitions speak to the noblest parts of us. But whom the profiteers off the status quo, the cattle egrets of Nigerian power, and the Nigerian confederacy of dunces are not only in tumult against, but are in an active conspiracy to derail.
But there is one other verse in that Psalm 2, that Arazu beautifully rendered. It goes thus:
“Mana Obi n’igwe na achi ha ochi. Osebruwa achigbuola ha na ochi”.
For those tumult, conspiring against the Lord and his anointed:
” He who sits in the heavens laughs! The Lord has them in derison”
The full psalm reads thus:
Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
It is not only the Hebrew God of the Psalmist’s consideration that would laugh such confederacy of dunces to scorn; our local Gods would too. Sango and Amadioha’s thunderous peals of laughter, made manifest in the exuberance of the Nigerian youth, who spends his meagre resources to campaign for the man, who “no dey give “Shishi” for votes, is laughing the looters of our future to scorn, and preparing to make them history come February, 2023.
Gwazia ndi yard unu!