Rev Agbali calls a truce, in the spirit of a scholar and a seasoned Catholic priest:
Dr. Chika Onyeani has spoken as others have. I do not want enmity with this great Chief of Ohafia, who are known as great warriors. In all respects, I think that I have done some homework and discovered some things about Dr. Chika Onyeani. I might have also pushed some aspects of our diatribe a little too far. Sometimes, doing so is stimulating as playing soccer!
But first, let me allay some misconceptions relative to my pointing to the Arochukwu or instancing the Igbo. This is not meant to be anti-Igbo sentiment, rather, it was intended to use some examples that were familiar to Dr. Chika Onyeani. I am not a tribalist, but I am a true apostle of my own ethnicity as well, but I have equally called my fellow ethnic conferes to question, when I deem fit and reasonable. Throwing up the Igbo ethnicity is not at the core of the issue here. I have very great Igbo friends, including an Igbo in-law. One of my greatest Igbo friends, was the Late Rev. Professor Edmund Ikenga Emefie-Metuh, a Professor of African Traditional Religion, who died in a plane crash in January 2000, as well as many others, that I respect. I respect the Igbo ingenuity- even the priests of the Ibinokpabi, though I despise their strategies- and industrious nature. I have known very fine and respectable Igbo priests, nuns, Professors, Medical Doctors, and other professionals, including very simple hardworking people from Igboland.
I also dare to say that my late father saved an Igbo photographer in Zaria, following the Araba of 1966, hiding him in the ceiling and sending him onward to the rail station, where he was lucky to have left for Eastern Nigeria, surviving his killers, in the last train that left Northern Nigeria safely for Eastern Nigeria. An accidental meeting between my late father with this man around 1977/8 was a very touching experience, and was fundamental in my curiousity to understand the events that culminated in the Nigerian Civil war.
Dr. Onyeani called me infantile, yes I have an infantile sympathy for the Igbo fate and situation since hearing of the events that led to the lost of millions of Igbo lives and destabilization in Nigeria. On a personal note, I have significantly traversed Igboland and I venture to say that I have been to Ohafia, the hometown of our venerable Chief. I can say, I know more of Igboland than many other spaces in my native Nigeria homeland, in spite of having traveled within almost all states of the Nigerian Federation. I have ventured into certain of the significant civil war sites- such as the airstrip around Ugah, Umuahia, Enugu (site of the Udi hill mishap), as my own personal attempt to understand the situation of the time.
I still dislike the fate of the Igbo in modern Nigeria, as much as I do those of the Ogoni, or the Kataf, or any ethnic group anywhere in Nigeria, Africa, and around the globe. Thus, to sense anti-Igbo sentiments is to miscalculate squarely, because that does not represent who I am. Those who know me know I have stood for justice, and would suffer for it, anytime and anywhere. To have anti-Igbo sentiments is to be crassly unjust. However, I under the sensitivity that anyone who tries to touch on any example relative to the Igbo is quickly and often erroneously adjudged an Igbo-hater. Chinua Achebe notes this that the Igbo is the only ethnic group that every Nigerian ethnic group targets. I do not know whether this is true or not? But should it be true, what are the reasons for this state of affairs, and how can it be corrected? This is not for Dr. Onyeani to answer, it is a general concern of mine. I do not want to use the referent here, but could it be that analogously, as Dr. Onyeani has postulated about the Black condition that some of these antagonisms is not external but one that the Igbo themselves, like any ethnic group, should examine?
While I do not often sanction geriatrical appeal, in this case, I want to note that Chief Dr. Onyeani is an African elder, and as such within the realm of African tradition I would renege in that spirit, not of cowardice, but of reverence for his position, as older than me, and as a Chief of Ohafia. My brief research on Dr. Onyeani indicates that while some views of the Dr. Onyeani have been controversial, as was the case of his earlier speech posted herein, I have equally noted that he has the good of the African polity in mind. His example of trying to get African nationals (and leaders) to Wall Street to try to generate African participation in economic generation represents to my mind a singular example of goodwill. Again, his African Sun Times published out of New Jersey, was predicated on the fact that he did so when no such medium existed, thus from what I read this was a singular effort by an individual to make a difference in and for his community. I have gone back to read some of his blogs. Nonetheless, they are instances where we will still differ, may be superficially or profoundly on issues, like for instance his past postulations on the Zimbabwean land issue, where all things considered, I think that President Mugabe is holding his country hostage, rather than moving forward in today's fast evolving global space. However, he seems to have done a lot to while retaining and celebrating his Igboness (as a political construct and metaphysical fact) that he has, like Zik of Africa, not lost touch of the overall African ideal, hence a Pan Africanist.
Secondly, I have equally appreciated, though at times vitriolic and addressed the issues that were not central to some of my discourses, that at least, he is a man who can engage his opponent, even when I can suppose that certain aspects of such engagement may not be representationally correct or appropriate. Yet I concede to the fact, that it is within his right. Thus, he offers African leaders and elders a certain kind of example of engagement rather than outright attempt at annihilation. Nonetheless, he often hold to his grounds.
Further, Dr. Onyeani knows that I am not his first critics on some of the positions he has taken, one of the vignettes I read noted that even his own wife, felt at one point after publishing his "Capitalist Nigger" that he hates African-Americans. I guess, that any idea has an autonomous power to generate multiple reactions and instincts in people, and I personally do not bother about that. My task as a scholar is to mute, and see where it is taken, and I know that in many cases, I can learn from such perspectives, including those soaked in high diatribes.
I am not saying Dr. Onyeani, must know me or meet me, but I must state that beyond all of these, I hold nothing personal against him. However, he must know that I value him, even if and when we differ in our approaches to issues, and on perspectives.
Finally, I am intrigued that the spices that keep this dialogue tasty comes from controversies, which allows many silent voices to jump to the fray. I am wondering, what a more veritable experience this forum would be, if those that are currently "laid back" but virulently capable of advancing participative discussions would engage more than they are currently doing. Thus, it shouldn't take an Ayittey-Ochonu, or Agbali-Onyeani hot-talks to induce their engagements, because their perspectives on issues are critically significant.
On a last note, Dr. Onyeani, at last you can owe yourself a drink tonight and with ease, in any case, I owe you a drink- if the good Chief-would allow me to- the next time I am able to catch a glimpse of you. One more last thing, is that it has taken this forum to open up Dr. Onyeani to me, and maybe others. I have enjoyed his short mention of the Ojukwu's visit to the US. I guess from the foregoing there are so many actors of that era that need to talk more about that situation, and even document it for posterity. I urge- this time, I am not challenging, that Dr. Onyeani do us some good, in spilling forth for our consumption, some of the still unknown of the Biafran reality. I am interested in the diasporic approach to the Biafran issue, how people like Dr. Onyeani and others in Europe and America, acted and reacted to events. I guess, it is not too much to ask, when the tempers are down, please can you give this a serious thought, as a significant project.