Ezekwesili and Nigeria’s heroes and heroines -By Japheth Omojuwa

Filed under: National Issues |
Pastor, Dr, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili

Pastor, Dr, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili


Nigeria is not the sort of place to try to be anyone’s hero. It is a great thing to go out of your way to help people; to stand for those in need of justice; to be there when the needy come calling; to be the voice of the downtrodden; to break the chains of injustice and all those things heroes do but whatever you do, in Nigeria, never let anyone place you on a pedestal where they dress you up as a hero because of two major things; this country has a history of misappropriating hero-ship.

Oftentimes, we end up naming the wrong person a hero or heroine; so if you get placed on that pedestal, you are likely to be lining up with mostly men and women who did some really bad things all the while but found the grace to do just one good thing, or just one cosmetically good thing. Then they get called heroes by thirsty human-idol worshippers. The other side of it is that, most of those who will call you a hero only place you in a box where you are limited in terms of your scope of national engagement.

I’ll break that down. More often than not, genuine activists are seen as some sort of heroes. But more often than not, Nigerians often say something like, “but he is an activist, so why is he joining government?” It is one of the underlying paradoxes of our society; that people curse and blame most of those in power for being bad, wicked and corrupt but are first to discourage those even they agree are good people from joining government. Mallam Nasir el-Rufai will by 2019 have transformed Kaduna State into a haven of investment and a desirable place to live in, but he had some people you would expect to know better accusing him of even daring to run as governor, after all, “you are an activist.” I doubt any other anomaly could be more shocking.

So then, before you are termed a hero or “good person,” decide whether to wear the toga depending on whether you’d be joining government some day. If you’d be joining government, refuse to wear that heroes’ apparel. Stay being good and serving people in your private capacity, they will come looking to dress you up as their hero, just make sure to turn their dress down. Let each refusal to be their hero be louder than the last time, before you go by the way of Julius Caesar.

This is why one was impressed and excited to see Oby Ezekwesili recognised by TIME as one of the most influential people of 2014. The recognition, like the early ones received by the late heroic Dr. Stella Adadevoh, had to come from abroad even when known rogues and election riggers were being “honoured” by the Federal Government. The TIME magazine recognition was not an award for her Oby, it was a genuine recognition of the Bring Back Our Girls movement all over the world, especially the resilient Abuja end of the movement. The Chibok girls have been in captivity for almost 500 days now and their advocates have been standing up for them and being their voice for almost just as long. That their recognition came from abroad should not be shocking to anyone alive today as it would not be to the audience that already heard Jesus Christ say, “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”

Ezekwesili, to me, represents the cover image of Nigeria’s uncelebrated heroes and heroines. She is that person you want your son or daughter to have a chat with and be guaranteed that the young person would better understand the essence of life. She is not the one to just advise and wish you well as you depart through the door, she is the type to help you open the doors to your dreams; she will make the calls, she will call the meetings, she will guide and guard, pray and stand, she will drop a seed out of her own humble income and she will continue to help push you and your dream until she sees you both flying.

And then, the woman popularly called Oby will be there again letting you see nothing has been done. She will be the one to remind you that the praises and criticisms are not your business, that your business is the goal. This is not one sharing just a personal experience, this is me sharing the personal experiences of many young and not so young Nigerians that have had the privilege to meet and be blessed by Oby Ezekwesili. She has her imperfections and like most of those who stood against the impunity and maladministration of the last administration, she has been abused and demonised by those who would rather Nigeria continued to slide into the dark tunnels of a dark abyss, one without the hope-inducing light at its end. In those dark days, being with her alone was enough to bring life and light to the cause and resolve never let go of Nigeria. As she would not be celebrated in our country, it at least helps for one to write this, so the young ones can see that not everyone who was in government and who is in government is a bad person or a thief.

Yes, everyone who joins government in this part of the world is likely to be demonised but those who are not of the devil cannot have the insignia of evil successfully stamped on their heads.

Please do not miss the point as this is not a call for us to start decorating these men and women, known and unknown, who are helping to make ours a better society. I would not want us to decorate them heroes and heroines so they do not end up competing with heroes like Goodluck Jonathan who only had to make a call, concede an election he fairly and genuinely lost, to be called a hero by a crowd that had spent the better part of a year cursing and castigating the Ezekwesilis of this world for daring to bring the issue of the Chibok girls and other victims of terrorism to the fore.

Nigeria will change and this country will move forward. The time would come in this country when those who ought to honour them will honour our true heroes and heroines. They will not be honoured because of what they are able to donate at these award ceremonies that are more about giving plaques and trophies to the rich and powerful in exchange for money and privileges. They will be honoured because of the content of their character, because of the effects of their deeds and because by their works and ways, they inspire the rest of us to be better.

That time is here soon enough but before the dawn of that day, let it be said that some of us recognised and celebrated the men and women, known and unknown, who are helping to make ours a better society. Someone sees your sweat, your love and your help. It does not matter what the ignorant and depraved minds call you. In the hearts of those who value your sacrifices for others, your names will be enshrined forever. Make sure to celebrate someone you know belongs to this group today!

Omojuwa is a social media entrepreneur and political commentator