Despite his activism on social media, it is a safe bet that many Nigerians have no clue who Reno Omokri is. He is a rabble-rouser without a rabble, whose main claim to fame was a “job” as a special assistant on social media for former president Goodluck Jonathan.
Since his boss ran into bad luck in terms of electoral defeat in 2015, Omokri spends a lot of time attempting to burnish his former principal’s credentials as an international statesman. This involves arranging speaking sessions for Jonathan especially in the UK and the US.
The former president, as many Nigerians would testify, is a hard sell as a public speaker and it is even worse when he has little of substance to say, considering the speeches are written by Omokri. Beyond this general dogsbody role, it is not quite clear what Omokri does for a living, even though he fancies himself as an intellectual of some sort.
His Wikipedia profile claims he is a pastor of the Mind of Christ Christian Center in California and Abuja. The centre has a website, but there is no information on whether there is a church where Omokri ministers – a pastor without a congregation to go with being a rabble-rouser without a rabble. His profile also claims he is the author of three books. Those books are very likely to lack in depth considering the shallowness he displayed in an article yesterday called “4 reasons why Igbos have not fulfilled their destiny”.
What makes Omokri an expert on Igbos is not quite clear. But anyone claiming to know why Igbos “have not fulfilled their destiny” should have first bothered to define what this “destiny” is. The author didn’t, instead proceeded to claim that “it is true that the Igbo are marginalized in Nigeria, however, I am of the opinion that a lot of the blame for this can be laid at Ndi’Igbo’s doorstep”.
Omokri, as to be expected of one so ignorant, did not explain what he meant by the “marginalisation” of which he claimed Igbos were authors of their own misfortune. He just leaped into his four “reasons”:
- Igbos misunderstood the term “strength”. “They lacked discretion” and thought strength was physical. Igbos also tended to be “reactionary”.
- Igbos apparently also “arm their enemies before the battle” by making their hostility apparent to whoever they don’t like.
- The guy was on a roll now and accused Igbos of lacking “humility”. He then damned them with the faint praise that they are more intelligent than their neighbours, but “doomed to serve” others because “wisdom is superior to intelligence”.
- And to confirm Omokri is neither wise nor intelligent, he rounds off his fourth “reason” by claiming Igbos value wealth over wisdom”
Omokri concluded by jumping on his high horse to lecture the Igbos that if only they “can learn humility and practice diplomacy and discipline themselves to have one leader… their marginalization will end and their dominance will begin”.
It is amazing that someone like Omokri, who has lived in the US for sometime, is not quite switched on enough to witness the soft bigotry in his stereotyping and sweeping generalisations about Igbo people. It appears, as they would say in Nigeria, that he left the village but the village never left him. One Igbo person, who doesn’t fit in with any of his dumb “reasons”, and is as different from Omokri intellectually as night is from day, is author Chimamanda Adichie. She once said: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story”.
Closet bigots like Omokri, have chosen the most negative story about Igbos and made it the only story about them, ignoring any evidence that challenges his one-eyed look at an ethnic group of millions of people. “Institutional racism” was described by William MacPherson in the 1999 Stephen Lawrence report in the UK as “can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people”.
An ignorant person like Omokri, with his thoughtlessness, is bound to see all Igbos as he described, and not bother to consider the simple fact that individuals are different for a variety of reasons.
I have tended to ignore the guy’s rants as he is clearly an intellectual and physical pygmy. But he has unwittingly strayed into dangerous territory. No other ethnic group in Nigeria has suffered more than Igbos due to thoughtless stereotyping and collective condemnation. The pogroms of 50 years ago that preceded the civil war were fuelled by similar poisonous thoughts as Omokri’s against Igbos, making them collectively responsible for the actions of a few army officers, majority of whom were Igbo.
It is laughably ironic that someone armed and dangerous with ignorance like Omokri has the misplaced sense of superiority to imagine he should be teaching Igbos how to escape their alleged marginalisation. It is clear he has marginalised the part of his brain meant for critical thought. He is the one in desperate need for education about his fellow Nigerians. I suggest he gets out a bit more and gets acquainted to a diverse sample of Igbos from various walks of life. Perhaps he could even try and spend some valuable time in a majority Igbo city or town. This may be obvious to most sensible Nigerians, but it would come as a shock to Omokri to find out that people are the same wherever you go. There are good, bad, ugly and even Igbos just as ignorant as he is.