Opinion

After the judicial recognition for Ishi-Agu, By Chido Nwakanma

Access Bank
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has paid a back-handed compliment with a judicial recognition of Ishi-Agu. Ishi-agu is national attire with an Igbo ethnic trademark. So, when are you wearing yours and stocking up on the national dress? I wore mine again on Sunday, 20 February 2022. I need to add varieties of the design.
The honourable Justice Binta Nyako and the Department of State Security paid the Isi Agu dress a compliment as President Muhammadu Buhari did with his dot in the circle statement. Ndi Dot took up the lemons and made lemonade. It lost its sting.

President Buhari adorning Ishiagu
The background is that the DSS claimed in Justice Binta Nyako’s court that they had not allowed Mazi Nnamdi Kanu a dress change since they renditioned him from Kenya for one reason. He appears in court in the same dress as his first appearance. Asked why the DSS claimed Kanu insisted on wearing an Ishi Agu. DSS said the Isi Agu dress motif did not go down well with them.

The Igbo response
How should the Igbo respond to the back-handed judicial recognition of Isi Agu?

Ndigbo should look to their philosophy and sociology. The Igbo philosophical worldview is Egbe bere ma ugo bere, nke si ibeya eberela nku kwaaya. Let the kite perch and the eagle perch; let the wing of whoever says the other should not perch break.

With such a philosophy, the Igbo believe in striving to be the best they can be in any setting, living, and letting others live. Ndigbo should continue to seek harmonious relationships with all the people in the Nigerian space despite apparent provocations. We do not know that any court has made a similar pronouncement on any fashion item of another ethnicity in Nigeria.

The upside of the DSS and Court pronouncement is to draw attention to Isi Agu. It will promote it. Here is a call to fashion designers, from Aba to Abuja: do exciting things with Isi Agu so we can wear it even more often.

The first thing is to repay the compliment to Justice Binta Nyako. People should wear Isi Agu in various designs to attend the case’s next hearing and others in her court. It will be a deserved fashion statement of appreciation to the Justice.

Enemies hiding in plain site
No one should engage in the Lamentations of Ndigbo over this judicial pronouncement. Instead, concerned parties should celebrate it and the judge who mustered the courage to express hidden thoughts. Blessed are those whose enemies hide in plain sight and express their dislike openly.

Secondly, note that the attack on the Isi Agu directly impugns the culture of its wearers. It says that those vilifying it consider the dress and its wearers unacceptable. Please note the apologia by some folks to state that the DSS only meant their disapproval regarding Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. That may be so, but the statement resonates beyond the courtroom.

The vilification of Isi Agu attacks the cultural essence of the people. The Nigerian state furthers the cause of Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB with such inexplicable statements and actions.

Why do officials do such dumb things?

The Igbo today live amidst paradoxes. Here are people worried that their travelling tribe readily acculturate and bring home languages, fashion and sundry mannerisms so much that they fear a decline of the Igbo language and customs. Amidst that, Igbo hymns and songs appeal across the oceans. Then comes a priest in the Christian denomination foremost in Igboland so vexed by Igbo songs he changes faith to declare a fatwa against them.

The undisguised hatred creates conflicts for the middle class and educated elite who do not buy into the need to renew the Biafra movement at this time. Rather than handle the matter with decency and circumspection, the Nigerian state at every step confirms the bulk of the assertions and allegations of Mazi Kanu.

A pivotal moment
What next after this judicial recognition of ishi-agu? Once again, the Igbo stand at a pivotal moment. Snide remarks and attacks come simultaneously as the people are making significant progress across the globe. Igbo music attracts followers across genres, from the religious where their American relative Don Moen lustily sings in Igbo to culture matters with Theresa Onuoha and her egedege music. Music from Igboland is part of the narrative of the Nigerian explosion on the global stage. Ndigbo rejoices with all persons of every ethnicity, winning awards on the international stage. Why should some single our music out for accusations of domination? Some groups pretend not to recognise the imperative of a candidate from the South-East becoming president.

What should the Igbo do? Refer to your philosophy—Egbe bere. Remain humble, cautious, and persistent in pursuing the good of all the peoples and communities of Nigeria.

Remember that Ndigbo are the dot people of many dimensions. You are circumpunct: obere ntupo nwere ebube.

Before the trumpet sounds
Circumpunct is the other word for a circled dot, a circle with a point at its centre. The circumpunct applies in several areas, from the solar system to mathematics, geometry, physics and more. Among other groups and representations, Freemasons regard it “as a symbol of the phallus or nature’s generative principle” while it represents the city centre in European road signs.

For the Igbo, hear the words of the prophet Bob Marley, “There is a natural mystic blowing through the air. If you listen carefully now, you will hear. This could be the first trumpet, might as well be the last.”

Tread carefully along the lines of another pillar of Igbo philosophy being udo na ifunanya: peace and love. There are more pressing existential concerns for the Igbo concerning the security of lives and property in Ala Igbo. Our land suffers from both the Army and the IPOB-imposed security force. The guidance in Igboland now is ama ndi ana eze. Our people are between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Let peace reign as you wear your Isi Agu.
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