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Of chiefs and high chiefs

By Tony Afejuku
14 January 2022   |   1:37 am
Let me urgently make this urgent confession urgently: I don’t know why I am engaging on the chosen subject. There are many concerns in the land; there are many, many concerns in the land yet I am dwelling or wish to dwell ...

Let me urgently make this urgent confession urgently: I don’t know why I am engaging on the chosen subject. There are many concerns in the land; there are many, many concerns in the land yet I am dwelling or wish to dwell on the question or subject of chiefs and high chiefs in this country: your country my country our country. Why? Before I attempt to tender an answer let me state that I am unsure of what form to cast my subject into. Should I carve an orthodox or an un-orthodox essay? Or should I begin with a kind of story-telling account? Or I should pack whatever I deem fit into the packet truck of my un-empty mind? Or should I decide to pack from my mind’s wisdom everything about the chiefs and high chiefs in our land and country of folly?

I remember Friedrich Nietzsche’s Zarathustra: “I wish I were wise! I wish I were wise from the heart of me, like my serpent!” But in my context my serpent is the creative trunk at the beginning, the middle and top-most point of my mind. Regarding my present subject, the trunk had accumulated for many moons and suns to everything about my thoughts on it – perfumed, scented, lavendered and mothballed to prevent corrosion. As my eyes examine my oil-of-lavender thoughts I can see the moth-eaten thoughts of the creator(s) or inventor(s) of high chief to replace the familiar, orthodox chief the British introduced to us when their power of conquest swayed in the wind of our conquered territories. As many of us know, warrant chief, paramount chief or plain chief became laudable nomenclatures invented for us by the British nomenclators. In places such as the territories of Igbo land of our country warrant chiefs who automatically became the big men and local political controllers of their people on behalf of the foreign conquistadors were invented and given powers, enormous powers, unbeknownst to them. In nearly all parts of Igbo land the warrant chiefs flew themselves to the statuses or stools of kings. Their noms de guerre became truly their noms de guerre.

Of course, in other territories outside Igbo land, for example, the Western parts of our country, un-titled men in kingdoms of kings and titled men who were commandeered by their foreign commanders became chiefs (as styled by their creators aforesaid). It was quite preposterous for the colonialists to do this. As I argued elsewhere, the colonial concept of “Chief” as at then was totally different, for example, from the “Itsekiri concept of “Ojoye” (the British equivalent of Lord, Earl, Count and Countess, etc.) which is actually a title meant for people of sound, impeccable character, nobles – who strictly speaking, should not see themselves (and were never seen), no matter their wealth and influence as “superior” to or higher than princess and princesses (oton-olus). Now in their fickleness as­ chiefs or high chiefs of chiefs they wish to supplant princes and princesses. Fie!

Over the years and decades since the colonialists established the chieftaincy the way they did to rouse our interest and thirst for the accommodation of their new accomplishment, whether or not we were gratified by it, the centrality of chieftainship to our political system and welfare cannot be denied. Ever since, it has been unique and contingent. But in our current consciousness and aliveness are we satisfied with the projected image of the average chief in our clime? Are many of them qualified in the true sense of the term to be called chiefs or recognised as such – no matter the questionable yardsticks by which they were selected and appointed? Do their demeanour and demagoguery not often birth the danger of provoking a rebellion? And how many of them can explain their wealth, stupendous or not stupendous, with which they dominate our lives and systems? Many of them are makers and manufacturers of blood wealth and roguish money. The identity each one has, possesses and carries is the identity of roguish rogues. They always believe – and very erroneously for that matter, that their rogueries can make them kings. This is clearly the reason why in many kingdoms and palaces in your country my country our country today we have high chiefs who believe that they are higher than chiefs who are low and lowly chiefs. If they cannot be kings they can make themselves high chiefs and compel their arrogance to fly them to the heights of high chiefs. But how their arrogance may fly with their folly – as Nietzsche might have dubbed it. Our high chiefs who are out of wisdom are the wisest animals in their heights of folly. This makes them the most dangerous animals in our every land and every kingdom. They are more dangerous than the serpent in each and every one of us. How do we rightly dub them? Paramount demons or paramount lovers of folly or, better, high demons or high lovers of folly – or can you supply me the pointed appellations to give them?

Indeed, when they are in politics or find themselves in politics they become paramount serpents preying on us all. Their relations including their wives, sons, daughters, brothers, cousins, and village people join them or are encouraged to swoop on us like dangerous beasts of prey that capture us with pretence sparkling with the colour of gold that is not gold. Some of their sons want to be governors, some of their wives want to be senators, some of their daughters and cousins want to be visible anywhere there is tantalising money, some of their brothers and village people want to be harvesters and herdsmen turning us into dead bodies while they themselves grope after the spirit and blood that will fly them to the destination of the highest power edifice in the trunk of your land my land our land.

Every day I try as best as I can to read hard copies of as many dailies as possible. How many high chiefs without knowing it display the unimportance of identity in their respective identities that underline their identitylessness! What they present in our dailies as advertisements of their sense and fullness of dignity appeal only to their own infirmities and to the follies of those who cannot rouse their thirst for countless of ideas to lift them with wonder upon the world of virtue they should live in and enjoy. I must be foolish to think as I am thinking. Is this country a place of virtue? Is our country the real world of virtue? Our chiefs and high chiefs, the majority of them, are a pack of foxhounds. They know that our politics, like our local culture, currently is run by those riding to hounds.

In the north of your country my country our country I am not aware that there is the existence of high chiefs. In this wise the north has demonstrated that its culture of elevation of its heroes is peculiarly deep and devoid of the politics that rides to hounds – or that follows the hounds. The North’s anticipatory concern about its own cultural future cannot be underestimated. Am I wrong? Or has my thought led me astray?

May, after all said and done, our devilishly and demonically super rich chiefs and high chiefs of this land running and ruining our politics and culture not take us to the slaughterhouse of our existence as a people, country and nation in the long or short run.

Here I may have been pictured to have committed class suicide. But does it matter?
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.