Dear Mrs Bianca Ojukwu,
I hope this letter meets you and your beautiful family in good health. Yes, I know that the patriarch of your family is right now battling for his life. And I pray that the good Lord grant him the strength to overcome this difficult time. I will use the above quoted Igbo proverbs to address my missive to you. â€œUkwu jie agu, mgbada a bia ya ugwoâ€ as you probably know, means that when a tiger is demobilized, the antelope becomes his creditor. Sadly, this can be said of the Ikemba of Nnewi in his present condition. The tiger is right now lying on a sick bed in a London hospital fighting for his life. And in his absence, many things that wouldnâ€™t have transpired in his home are commonplace. The most notable, and the one Iâ€™m concerned about, because itâ€™s public knowledge is your recent appointment as President Goodluck Jonathanâ€™s Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Affairs. Congratulations on your appointment, and I shall speak more of it later in this letter. The second proverb, â€œUfufe fee, a hu ike okuku,â€ means that when the wind blows, the chickenâ€™s rump is exposed. In case you didnâ€™t know, many people are wondering whether you married the Ikemba of Nnewi because you loved him or because of his ability to keep you at the corridors of power.
I write this letter with due respect for your person and I want to tell you how we met. It was in late 1988 and I was glued to my family black and white television watching the Most Beautiful Girl In Nigeria pageant. I didnâ€™t really care about who would be the winner because you ladies were all beautiful in your ways and hues, in my young opinion. You came out tops. I loved your gait and tried walking like you for a long time until I gave it up. You were you and I was I â€“ two people perfect the way we were created. I loved everything about you and read up every article in the newspapers and magazines about you. Yes, I read the gossip columns that chronicled the relationship between you and Dim Odumegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi. I loved the fact that you were defiant of their criticisms and stuck to your man. I read that you even defied your father, the late Governor Christian Onoh, because you loved Ojukwu. Apparently, you loved your man enough to stick with him through thick and thin. Eventually, I read that you married him and your father refused to attend your wedding. I saw pictures of your wedding. Your brother stood in for your father who vehemently opposed the marriage and allegedly disowned you. You were blessed with two lovely kids, a set of twins, a boy and a girl. Mother of fertility smiled on your union again and you had another child for the Ikemba. Something moved in your father and he later forgave you and gave his blessings for your union to the Ikemba a few years after your white wedding. Why am I saying all these things?
First, you are a public figure, and unfortunately, what that means is that your private affairs are often made public. And many people take interest in the lives of public figures. Magazines make fortunes from chronicling the lives and adventures of celebrities. So, please pardon the fact that this young woman is aware of the little details of your affair and life with the Ikemba. I am fully aware that you married a public figure. Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu is not only your husband he is also (at least thatâ€™s how many people view him) the leader of Ndigbo â€“ heâ€™s Ezeigbo Gburugburu. Hence, things that pertain to him can easily be replicated in other Igbo homes. That is the reason why as an Igbo woman, I chose to write you this open letter. I do so with the uttermost respect for your person. I pray that I donâ€™t sound condescending for that is the last thing on my mind for you. I admired you greatly as a young girl. I still admire your courage and fortitude in staying with your man through his travails. But the Ikemba is no longer whom he used to be. Heâ€™s human and itâ€™s the fate of all human beings, including you Bianca, to age and eventually die. But the Ikemba is not an ordinary man.
Heâ€™s a tiger and I bet you married him because of a profound love and respect for him. But recent events are making us Ndigbo and in fact well-meaning Nigerians to wonder whether you married him because you loved and cared about him or because you saw in him a ticket to continue to live out your quest for power. You are the daughter of a former governor of Anambra State. You know politics and you probably know what good can come from knowing influential people. Your Ikemba made a few failed attempts to becoming the president of Nigeria. Did you always see yourself as one day emerging a first lady of Nigeria? Were you willing to do anything to make this happen? Are you always ready to defy anyone (and this would now include your own father) to stay in the public arena? While I believe that you are very qualified, judging from your educational background and your personal achievements, to hold the post given to you, I donâ€™t think this is the best time for you to do this. Bianca, this is a wrong time to take up an appointment in Abuja when your husband is lying critically ill in a London hospital. But I am being practical here.
Does your family need the money from the potential salary you will earn? I mean your immediate family? Do you have enough financial support for your young children? And if not, is this position the only means of sustaining you and your family? While we canâ€™t speak for the sick, it is alleged that the Ikemba was against you accepting an earlier offer the President made to you. Are you now not defying your husband in accepting this offer now? Donâ€™t you even wonder about the integrity and wisdom of a man who would defy another manâ€™s wish just because heâ€™s ill? Chei! Ukwu ejiela agu, mgbada abiala ya ugwo!! Have you wondered what the Ikemba would say if he were healthy and strong? Do you think he would have allowed you to accept this offer? Are you abandoning him now because he canâ€™t help himself? Is your action not considerably opportunistic? Are you not acting like a gold digger? Does this not show that you possibly care more about power than the people in your life? Ufufe o feela a hu ike okuku? Bianca nwanne m nwaanyi, please donâ€™t shame Igbo women.
Umuada Igbo are ashamed of a woman who will abandon a sick husband for power. Personally, I could care less whether your husband was the Ikemba or not. While you are an adult who should continue with her life despite extenuating events, you are right now the wife of a very sick man. What are you coming to tell Nigerian women in Diaspora? In case you didnâ€™t know, our women in the Diaspora are notorious for having forgotten our â€œAfrican culture.â€ Now, tell me what you are coming to share with people in the Diaspora. Are you coming to embolden the women who would leave their husbands in the lurch just because they arenâ€™t rich, strong, and powerful as before? Please donâ€™t come to see us, because we will BOO on you. We donâ€™t want to completely forget who we are because we are in obodo oyibo. Please go and take care of your man. Stay with him and grant him the respect and dignity that he deserves in the last few months and years of his life. You have endured well all this time. Please endure well to the end. If itâ€™s Godâ€™s will, a better position will be waiting for you at the right time. Donâ€™t be in haste and spoil the respect we have for you. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We donâ€™t want history to remember you as the opportunistic wife of the Ikemba of Nnewi. You are a beautiful adaigbo.
But you have the choice to ignore all of us and tell us to mind our own business. In case, you didnâ€™t know itâ€™s women who abandon their husbands that Umuada or Umuokpu will discipline and even ostracize from the community. The fact that we are Nigerians doesnâ€™t take away our indigenous culture. Yes, I know itâ€™s Igbo culture for a woman to wait on her husband. I have a Bachelorâ€™s degree in Igbo, if that will at least help you understand where Iâ€™m coming from. I have a masterâ€™s degree in Dispute Resolution and currently pursuing further graduate education. But I know that as we say in Igboland, â€œUgwu nwanyi bu di ya,â€ and a doctorate degree wonâ€™t take the place of a happy home. No success outside compensates for failure at home. As a single woman in her early thirties, I am praying for someone worthy to call â€œdi m.â€ Itâ€™s a privilege to find a man who has accepted all your idiosyncrasies to call you â€œnwunye m,â€ â€œOmasiri m.â€ The Ikemba has adorned you with all he has please donâ€™t shame him now. I wouldnâ€™t know of any marital problems you had with him prior to his illness. But on behalf of Umuadaigbo, Iâ€™m pleading that you forgive him and allow him some dignity in distress. If you received permission to accept this and similar offers from the Ikemba before he became critically ill, please let us know. Otherwise, we will believe that you are defying the intention of an ill man, and that you are a very power-hungry woman. I am not preaching from a morality stool. Iâ€™m not perfect and make no such claims to it. Itâ€™s not just about morality, itâ€™s about African culture and common sense.
This isnâ€™t a question of you not having the right to do whatsoever you wish with your life. It is about doing the right thing. I have been called a feminist, but believe me feminism has nothing to do with this. Questions to be asked would include, â€œWhat if you were a man; would you have been asked to tend to a sick wife?â€ I will leave others to answer these questions. I am very happy for you and the position you were offered. I believe that you can perform optimally and serve the country in this and other capacities. But ask yourself, â€œHow would I feel if the coin were flipped?â€ Do you think the Ikemba would abandon you at your worst moment? I think not. You have done us proud in the past and we are counting on you being the Amazon that you have always been. You will be fine and blessed of the Lord. Jisie ike, nwanne m nwanyi. Tell the president, â€œThank you, but no thanks for now.â€ Itâ€™s not just about you. Itâ€™s about all of us. United we stand; divided we fall. Not just because we are Ndigbo, but we are human beings that have emotional intelligence to choose love and loyalty over expediency and politics. I wish you well. Thank you for reading this letter.
Ijeoma M Njoku
On behalf of Umuadaigbo and well-meaning Nigerians.