The card game introduced an ethnic dimension, the Igbo tribal card, when the card players described Innoson’s arrest as an attack against the Igbo nation . . .
A playing card refers to each of a set of rectangular pieces of cardboard with identical pattern on one side and different numbers, symbols and distinguishing motifs on the other, used to play card games, some involving gambling. Playing cards were first invented in China during the Tang dynasty around 9th century AD. The Igbo tribal deck of cards was placed on the table with the arrest of the Chairman of Innoson Group, Chief Innocent Chukwuma on Tuesday December 19, 2017 by EFCC agents in Enugu.
Summary listing of Innoson/GTBank legal tango in no particular order reveals a GTBank suit against Innoson at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi; Innoson suits against GTBank at the Federal High Court, Awka and Abuja, and Federal High Court, Awka against IGP and Police seeking declaratory and injunctive reliefs, including orders restraining the Police from commencing criminal proceedings against Chief Innoson/Innoson Group. Innoson suit against Nigerian Customs at Federal High Court, Ibadan. GTBank appealed Ibadan Judgement and also appealed to the Supreme Court. Innoson has won two High Court cases and two Appeal Court cases with Judgement debts above ₦10billion with 22% interest rate against GTBank. These humongous Judgement debts and interest rate in favor of Innoson may have pushed GTBank to engage EFCC to arrest Innoson. EFCC denied it.
Innoson supporters took to social media with sponsored campaigns against GTBank: #BewareOfGTBank and #WhatIsWrongWithGTBank. EFCC later released Innoson on bail. With Innoson’s release, the card players gathered to start the game and shuffled the deck of cards. The card game began with identical pattern on one side of the cards and different numbers, symbols and distinguishing motifs on the other cards showing the Innoson/GTBank/EFCC saga. The card game introduced an ethnic dimension when the card players described Innoson’s arrest as an attack against the Igbo nation. It coalesced into an Igbo tribal card played by gamblers. Anti-Igbo machination was attributed to the arrest of a billionaire business mogul of Igbo extraction.
Ṇ́dị́ Ìgbò suddenly went into denial and immediately “recognised” a continuation of the Nigeria-Biafra War by other means. “Endless humiliation of a conquered people”, a prominent Igboman vociferated. Another said: “The greatest employer of labour in Igboland and a genius who has transformed the economic landscape of this clime, in the area of automobile manufacturing, is abducted. . .This is a loud message to the people of Eastern Nigeria of our status in Nigeria”.
Part of Innoson’s success manifested in his arrest being promoted as an ethnically biased move as well as one to hamper a hardworking local Igbo industrialist. Social media platforms started trending with this Igbo marginalization narrative, with many online users threatening to close their accounts with GTBank. GTBank, Innoson’s supporters argued, is out to do Chief Innocent Chukwuma and Innoson Motors in because of his ethnicity.
Yet, another Igboman made it clear that “Everybody knows, Aliko Dangote cannot be abducted that way over issues with a commercial bank. The owners of Nigeria keep reminding the people of Eastern region, that, they are not wanted in Nigeria. An emergency meeting of Eastern consultative Assembly holds this week to deliberate on this humiliation on a leading light in our land. Those who believe you can treat Ṇ́dị́ Ìgbò anyhow and nothing will happen are wrong. Not anymore.”
The Igbo tribal card was given “official seal” as the Senate announced its intention to probe the EFCC arrest of Innoson. The Senate mandated the committee on anti-corruption and financial crimes to investigate circumstances surrounding the arrest of Innoson and report back. The red chamber urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call the EFCC acting chairman to order.
Senate President Bukola Saraki said: “. . .I have not seen the FBI intervene between people involved in a transaction. We are just making a mockery of the institution.” Suffice it to say that Saraki’s FBI reference is inaccurate information. The FBI intervenes in financial crime cases with Mens rea (“guilty mind”) and Actus reus (“guilty act”) similar to the GTBank/Innoson criminal case at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi. FBI classifies it as White-Collar Crime. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu propounded that the arrest was a national disgrace and an “. . .abuse of fundamental human rights. . .” I wondered how he arrived at that legal summation.
Meanwhile, the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council (OYC) and Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA) condemned the arrest in separate statements in Enugu, with OYC threatening to withdraw its investments in GTBank. “If Innoson Motors was owned by an Hausa Fulani man, he would have been revered and idolised to high heavens. But because it is a business owned and run by a Biafran, and equally sited in Biafra land, it must be destroyed” said IPOB. The final straw was this statement: Ṇ́dị́ Ìgbò remain endangered species in Nigeria. For Ṇ́dị́ Ìgbò to be described as endangered species (a biological term), which means taxonomic living organisms seriously at risk of extinction, shows the dangerous nature of this card game. Did GTBank’s desperation to avoid bankruptcy after debilitating Judgement debts in favour of Innoson jolt the bank to engage the services of EFCC to avoid payment? Again, EFCC denied it.
The scenario turned into a gambling card game after a seemingly routine police arrest of a businessman quickly metamorphosed into a tribal card game played on social media, mainstream media and on the floor of the senate. Igbo senators in cahoots with their senate leadership united against their “common enemy” – the EFCC. In unison, they played the “Innoson card” displaying hyperbolic Igbo irredentism, with irredentists seeking a way out of their mundane, humdrum Biafra existence. I was aghast as I ruminated on the Igbo penchant for political naiveté. As 2019 looms, I wonder how Ṇ́dị́ Ìgbò will play their political card. It shows how Ṇ́dị́ Ìgbò may have evolved from one of the major political blocs in Nigeria (the toast of Nigerian politics, 1930s-1960s) to a tribal community playing the Igbo tribal card.