Imo @ 40th Anniversary Lecture & Delivered at 70th birthday of Ojuwwu
Prof. Chidi G Osuagwu
Prof Chidi Osuagwu Delivering Lecture at Imo @ 40
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Greetings!
Mma,MmaNu o! Ndummiri, NduAzu!
This is the kind of occasion that can make a speaker end his speech at the very beginning. Speechless, they call it!
I do not know the oracle that divined for the planners of this occasion to invite an Osuagwu to speak.I know, though, that Agwu; as oracle, can play games in divination. But, \’let this cup, lord’ … flashed through my mind on receiving the invitation. But, No;not an Obowu man! I am glad to be here! I thank those that graced me with this invitation.
For a normal speaker, like myself, to speak at the birthday celebration of a celebrated orator might appear like an under-service to the celebrant.But, the ordinary provides the very important service of validating the extra-ordinary. I have to quickly add, though, \’makaumunnadi!’, that my Obowu people are possibly,the most egalitarian people on planet Earth.
I believe Dee Sam Mbakwe will testify to this observation.
ENTERPRISING ANAMBRA PEOPLE AND THEZUNGERU STRATEGY.
Anambra people can be quiteenterprising! No! No! Not buying enterprise, and selling, alone.
That is a malarial perception. Pure jaundice! Enterprising in the sense that before Dupe could buy mosquito net from Dugbe market, CableNewsNetwork (CNN) had declared an Anambra man, Chukwura Emeagwali, a father of the INTERNET. Clever people!They see far! That is how they saw the political implication of lgbo sons being born in Zungeru, provided it is in November. They saw it a long time before manifestation.
Mr. Azikiwe saw it first. He had his son Nnamdi born at Zungeru on 16 November 1904. Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu saw it next, and had his son, Chukwuemeka, born at Zungeruon 4 November 1933. They waited! Zik become Nigeria\’sHead-of-State. When Zik lost his job, Ojukwu took over as Head-of State of Biafra. They saw far! Enterprising people see far. The Anambraman, like all people,has his problem. Like their new vogue of trying to make enough money to own a government. But, they have not got to the level of acquiring the FederalGovernment of Nigeria, like some others.
Interestingly, both Zungeru boys grew up to become strugglers for a just world.
A world in which the African man would be man! Zik\’s struggles against British colonialism are easily understood as struggle for a just world, but Ojukwu and Biafra? A different ball game!
To start with, when young Ojukwu is said to have engaged histeacher, Mr.Sleigh,at Kings College, Lagos; in protest against British policy towards Africans, there was a legendary Biafra, but no Republic of Biafra. Biafra was in the history books and a Bight named for her in the Atlantic Ocean, and there were no wars over that. Secondly, events are better understood when they are put in better perspective. Perspectives condition the interpretation of events we all experience.
THE WORLD AND WORLDVIEWS.
Islamic civilization gets credit for creating the foundation for modern science. Apart from contributing Algebra (al jabr) and the Indo-Arabic numerals there is optics. The most important is Optics; the science of light. Arab-discovery of optics led to the invention of the telescope and modem physics and microscope and modem biology.All modem science revolves around optics.
What the discovery of optics did was to change the way man views the World. Optics changed man’s worldview, changed man\’s perspectives on the world and so the way he thinks and deals with the world. These instruments (microscope and telescope) made small things appear bigger, and distant things more visible. In either case they changed man\’s view of things. Telescope brought distant things near and more visible, microscopes made small things appear bigger and more visible. Any two people who do not share the same worldview think of and deal with the world differently.
This creates the potential for clash, and struggle to impose one’s view! Win or lose, different worldviews remain different! The loser can, like Galileo, say one thing and think another, until he can say \’no!\’
ONE MAN, ONE WORLDVIEW IN THE IGBO WORLD
PROF CHIDI OSUAGWU BEING DECORATED WITH A MEDAL OF HONOUR BY PROF BEB NWOKE
The ancient lgbo contemplated this phenomenon of worldview and concluded that there is no universal worldview. Uwaawughiotu! Different men, different worldviews! One man, one worldview! Those who claim to share God\’s view on the world would be considered mad and allowed to be by the ancient lgbo. The Igbo do not trust the individual mind,which they hold, is subject to illusion…\’agwootuonyehurun\’agho eke!\’ Any snake seen by one person, alone,is usually reported as python!Basedon this profound conclusion, ancient Igbo civilization had granted man such far-reaching fundamental freedoms that still appears strange or incredible to many other peoples. Freedom to be;Onyenankeya!
Freedom to a worldview;Onyenuwaya.
Freedom of religion; Onyenachiya!
Freedom of expression;Onyekwurucheya! Etc.
To appreciate, why the ancient lgbo granted man these far-reaching freedoms, one has to appreciate lgbo value forLife;Ndu, The Human being; Mma-ndu, and lgbo concept ofthe Self;Onwe.
To the lgbo life is the supreme value;Ndubuisi. A name of one of my daughters is Ginikandu? A rhetorical question, \’what is greater than life?\’ And the Igbo answer to this question is, simply, \”Nothing!\”
Within this life-valuing scheme, the Igbo assign man an apex position (note that the use of the term \’man\’ to represent all sexes of humans is a flaw in English language, not Igbo). Human-being is Mma-ndu—the crown of creation, the beauty-of-life, and the glory-of-creation. The human being is something precious, something great …Mmaduwuiheukwu! On the other hand, though, the Igbo emphasize that no human being is a god …Mmaduabuchi!
Conceiving man in this highly romanticized way, the Igbo granted him the greatest possible right to autonomous existence. Hence the Igbo concept of the self is Onwe, a contractionof twowords…\”Onyenwe\”… The (own) possessor …Own Lordship.The Igbo sees a given human being as \”Onweya\”… a lord unto oneself. To lose freedom; to the proper Igbo is, therefore, a logical equivalent of death.And he could prefer the death option, under situations of un-freedom, as history shows.
To understand the Igbo or the Igbo worldview is to empathize with these ideas. When the lgbo say that the kolanut cannot speak other than Igbo language,he means that some of these fundamental concepts are not easy to translate to other languages. To the Igbo Freedomis Life.To be enslaved; to be ownedby another,is to not be. To be enslaved is to become a living dead … Odinduonwukamma!A life worse than death!
A society in which individuals are granted such far-reaching freedoms would be chaotic,pure anarchy, unless there is a counter balancing force.This force is Truth-Justice. Truth is so vital!I recently showed in a paper, \’DynamicsofTruthWithinlgbo Cosmology\’ that the Igbo conceive of Truth as analogous to Order and falsehood as analogous toChaos. This conception,which marries the hearts of philosophy and modern science, allowed the lgbo to make an equation between truth and life… EziokwubuNdu! Because truth equals life, which is the supreme value, and because man is granted freedomsfor being the crown-of-creation, the ancient Igbo held the values of i. LIFE ii. TRUTH and iii. FREEDOMextremely dear and do not subject them to compromises.
Many things the Igbo do and did, historically,derive from the logics of these values and their relationships. The lgbo individual might deviate from them, but he cannot defend his action within an Igbo community or carry Igbo people along. That is why some Igbo \’leaders\’ are radio-leaders today. They cannot stand and talk in their village squares.
The Igbo, for instance,strives to be economically independent as the only guarantee of his freedom.He holds that \”Onyejiafommadujionuya!\”… Nobody can be economically dependent and be free! This is the foundation of his propensity to acquire wealth! But the culture would not accept achievements, including of wealth, except through the Ikenga-framework of upright achievement. This reconciles the need for material independence and sanctity of Truth.
That is why titled men in ancient Igbo land were righteous men. That is Igbo leaders were Eze/Nze (both from word root Ize; to avoid),meaning avoiders of evil. These are now mostly bastardized titles in Igbo land;signifying material wealth more than truth-justice. This is what led to the ancient paradisiacalIgbo society that Portuguese and Spanish explorersment on the Western Coast of Africa at the end of the 15thcentury. They were told this was the land of \”Biafara\”, and so named the waters off its coast as the \”Bright of Biafra\’,just as they called the area off the Bini empire as Bight of Benin. Biafra did not originate in Nigerian politics!
This land, which the Portuguese and Spanish slaver-traders later helped to destroy, could still be described 300 years later by OlaudahEquiano, himself an Igbo victim of slavery, as a humane land of free,hardworking and honest people. Below is my summary of Equiano\’s description of ancient, though slavery-embattled, Igbo society, inverse. \’Indigo blue\’ is the national colour of the Igbo people, accordingto Equiano, a keen observer:
EQUIANO\’S INDIGO IGBO WORLD!
Equiano was of ancient and indigo lgbo World.
Equiano saw Slavery-embattled living lgbo World:
A land ofTruth-loving and religious people;
A land of strong well-proportioned people;
A land of freemen and empowered women;
A land without unemployment;\’
A land without prostitution;
A land without drunkards;
A land without beggars;
A land of clean, happy Igbo!
Indigo has fled raped, unhappy, Igbo World.
Enslaved, we dream Equiano\’s happy Igbo World.
HON MERE, PROF CHIDI & DR EKENAZI ICONS OF INTEGRITY
The old Biafra is the Igbo idea of a just world.When Odumegwu Ojukwu talks ofBiafra of the mind, this is what he means. The dream for a just world is a universal human dream.But approach to its realization depends on worldview, which we have argued differs between individuals and peoples. Only people who share worldviews can share dreams! The Igbo mind dreams of a humane and pure society like ancient Biafra. A return to an ancestral dream society. The reason for such a dream is that the Igbo still live with the worldview and philosophical foundation of such a society.
That is why the name was adopted, 1967-70, to start with. And that is why ChimereIkoku could say in 1970, at the end of the war“If we cannot have Biafra, we must biafranize Nigeria!\’\’Biafranism is not simply a geographical expression, but an ideological conception of a just world, modeled on a legendary entity by that name. Model making is an attribute of man. The lgbo and all Eastern Nigerians, who indeed share the same cultural framework, do not want an unjust society. Whether it is called Biafra, Nigeria or \”British\” is not the issue. They just don\’t want an unjust society.
They do not subscribe to a society that subscribes to Joseph Stalin\’s dictum, \”It does not matter who votes, it does matter who counts the vote\”. Eastern Nigerians would want a society that ensures that the counter is not Mr. Tortoise. They just lack the skill in enduring injustice, as some others,because of their peculiar worldview and history. In any case they don\’t want injustice in a community of which they are part or which is part of their neighbourhood. Any community that plans to have them, as members, must be prepared to be just.
Luckily,all human shave the ability to access each other\’s world views by learning about it. This makes it possible for man to empathize and appreciate the dreams of others. All human societies also share the yearning for justice. Recently Gunnar Wiemann, First Secretary of theGerman mission to Nigeria, wrote an excellent article he presented at a conference on intercultural dialogue that held in Ghana. In the paper he said: \”Empathy is based on knowledge of the partners\’ worldview, of how they conceive this world and how they define their social relationships with in their own community and with those who do not belong to that community\”
A multicultural community that wants to endure must create the framework for its people to understand each other\’s worldviews. So that empathy can flow and ongoing reconciliation of actions effected. In a country, like Nigeria, where there is a cocktail of worldviews of indigenous and alien origins,a systematic approach to mutual understanding is imperative. Above all, agreements already arrived at should not be reneged on, as events following the Aburi accordadvise. Diplomacy might be considered a euphemism for an exercise in false hood by some people as a legitimate result of their cultural definition of truth.
WORLDVIEWS AND JUSTICE
In my investigations on the influence of world views on social justice,I made some telling findings. Using measures employed by the World Bank and other economic organizations, I recently isolated the three communities with the most equitable income distribution and the three with the most inequitable distributions to see where they came from in the world. The data was for between 1980 and 1990. The most equitable three were:Rural SouthKorea,Urban Chinaand the nationof Japan.The worst were:Botswana,Brazil and Guatemala.One would have expected the socialist countries to be one,two, and three.But,they were not!
My personal opinion is that Japan is the best major country in the world for her citizens,considered alongside other countries. What these best three countries have in common is Taoist worldview that emphasizes natural harmonies. What the worst three have in common is active collision of indigenous (African and Amerindian) and European worldviews, resulting in social chaos and manifest injustice.
Countries, like Nigeria,with a multiplicity of powerful worldviews should, therefore, be extra careful. They need thinking leaders! Certain worldviews are more tolerant of injustice than others.Some religious groups that believe in \”being chosen\”, automatically, structure injustice into their worldview and society. They might not be aware of or admit it, but they would, in practice, be Selective humanists. They would, in practice, be socially discriminatory against other humans.
Social Darwinists, who misinterpret the theory of evolution, use it to justify racism and genocide. Yet everybody claims from his worldview to be struggling for a just world. TheArab claim to struggle for a just world and the Americans claim to struggle for a justworld. The rest of the world is not clear on either\’s true intentions, but want a just world all the same. Clever world! OnyeobulajiOfo, ma ofomaraonyejiya! All claim commitment to Truth and Justice, but only Truth and Justice know who is committed to them.
History, though,is on the side of a more just world.More so,sincethe defeat of war as an effective instrument of political domination, in recent times. That is with the defeat of the communist Soviet Union in Afghanistan, after the defeat of the capitalist Americans in Vietnam in 1975. It is not easy to win wars anymore!
The lgbo have, for a thousand years,been struggling for a just world, but the world cannot understand! The Igbo believe in \”OGU\’; a concept that does not exist in the English language, but that can best be translated, very roughly, as \”Truth-Justice\”. It is, in fact, Ogu that is implied in the above quotation about \’Ofo\’,as Ofo is a symbol of a people\’s commitment to the universal force of Truth-Justice, Ogu.
The Igbo believe that this Force will ultimately win in the cosmic struggle between good and evil and are minded,therefore, towards alignment with a winningparty …the Universal Force for Good. It is the duty of all aligned with Ogu to fight for truth-justice, anywhere, whetherthe issue at stakedirectly concerns them or not. Thisis why the Igbo get involved in struggles for truth and justice, anywhere.
The Igbo, indeed, seethe struggle foruniversalTruth-Justice as a simpleissueof self- interest. This attitude is mostefficiently encapsulated in the popular proverb abouthowa hen shouldreactwhensheobserves a pheasant being quartered: \’Okukohuruebe a na-ayaokwa,yakpoisimbukwum;nihiihe a na-ayayabuotu\’. That says that a hen that observes a pheasant being quartered for food shouldshowserious concern, becauseof the logical implication oftheir anatomical similarity. Man should, universally, oppose oppression to avoid being personally oppressed!
It is of significant interest that hundreds of years of alienation from Igbolandand direct culture does not seem to erase this core value from the Igbo spirit.And that is why Ambassador Andrew Young could use theancestry ofhisfamily from Eastern Nigeria to explainhis reputed boldness and forthrightness. That was after heresigned as United States\’ambassador-to the UnitedNations, in the late 1970s, rather than actagainsthis conscience overPalestine. Young losthis top jobfor manifesting a key attribute of the Igbo genius: \’lack-of-diplomacy’ due to loveof Truth-justice. That is why, also, FrantzFanon, theoretician of third World liberation, frompredominantly IgboMartinique, would end up as a mastermind ofthe anti-colonial revolution in Algeria. World struggle for a just world!
IGBO STRUGGLE FORA JUST WORLD.
The celebrant at this occasion, General Ojukwu, is a historian (M. A, Oxon). So a sense of history is called for in this discussion. Sometimes, not long ago, the \”Resource Control\” controversy in Nigeria\’s Niger-Delta resulted in an intervention by the renowned academician, Bala Usman of the AhmaduBello University, Zaria. Professor Usman had in effect declared nearly all Nigerian ethnic groups as, otherwise, resident aliens, who the conquering British stabilized at their present locations. Implying some kind of revocable residence permit for the ethnic groups, at the grace of the British and successor governments. Academics exercise, ofcourse!
Some people are unaware of the imperialists\’ doctrine of \’right of conquest\’, and would not acknowledge it if they did.It simply makes no sense in their worldview. Some other academics reacted in equal measure to professor Usman’s thesis. But it is the reaction of Professor Peter Ekeh, an Urhobo intellectual that is relevant here. Ekeh protested the effort of Usman to declare nearly all Nigerian ethnic groupsas\”made in Britain\” nationalities. He thought he was unfairto all othergroups, exceptthe Igbo.
Well, I do right know the detailed working ofUsman\’s mind on the issue, but I think being a historian, History advised him to exercise some care.For what arecalled Igbonow aretold to us by historians, archeologists and linguists to be remnants of a wider spread of autochthonous people, by the same name, which become theraw materialsfor the empires of immigrant empire-builders since 800 AD. They tell us the Igbo have been around for tens of thousands of years.
And the Great-Yam-Experiment that established the Igbo as an Agricultural civilization is said to have occurred about 3000 BC. Parallel civilizations were developing in Africa\’s Niger-Congo and Nile Basins. The Igbo before 800AD, we can call ancient or paleo-lgbo for the purpose of this discussion. And that would include many people who are no longer called Igbo, like the Ekiti or ljesha of western Nigeria. And exclude some called lgbo now, who came to Igboland after 800AD.
A worldwide two-hundred-year drought between 800- 1000 AD, we are told, resulted in the collapse of empires, including the Mayan and peri-Saharan ones.And a flood of empire-builders, some with the cobra-clad headgear of the Egyptian pharaoh and obelisk, poured into the forest zones of Africa. Both the city-state of Kano, as kingdom, and Ile-Ife date from that period, for example.
THE THREE GREAT IGBO DISASTERS
Three major disasters have hit the Igbo in the last one thousand years.They are:
i.The great world drought of800 – 1000 AD.
ii.The trans-Atlantic slave trade.
iii.British Colonialism, culminating in the Biafra war.
The great world drought (800 – 1000 AD) resulted in furtherdesiccation and expansion of the Sahara Desert. Societies that were in former grasslands collapsed. Affected people poured into the forests seawards. These people were pressurized to hasten on by the blizzard of Islam and Arab expansionism that was blowing across North Africa and the Nile valley at that time. So came Eriand his people to the Anambra valley…Oduduwaand his people to Igbomokun (Ile-Ife), and Ogisoand his people to Iduu (Edo).
They came, like all myth-making empire-builders, with complicated stories, which the autochthonous lgbo concluded were fairy tales. Till today, therefore, the alternative lgbo terms for fairy tales, myths or fables are:
i.AkukoNd\’Eri – Eripeople’s tales
ii.AkukoIduuN\’Oba – Edoand Oba tales
iii.Akukolfe – Ifetales
iv.AkukoMbeN\’Agu – Tortoise and Leopard tales.
Why did the autochthonous lgbo disbelieve these peoples\’ tales? The apparent reason is that they brought a strange worldview with them. For in instance, all these groups claim to have fallen from the Sky. Among the autochthonous Igbo anyone that fell from the sky (Onyesin’eludaa!) is a nowhere person; a wanderer. Both Nri, Bini and Oduduwa\’s peoples accepted twins andsuch other things the autochthonous lgbo considered abominable (Thefundamental difference here is that the autochthonous people believed in naturalistic laws which are probabilistic;statistical-mechanical,while the immigrants believed indivinelyhanded-down, deterministic, laws).
A consequence of the probabilistic nature ofautochthonous laws was rejecting of less probable patterns in nature, including twin-births, dwarfs, albinos etc. This is a clear manifestation of fundamental differences in worldviews. They had \’man-god\’ kings,which the Igbo would consider ridiculous. They brought secret cults that contradicted the open (\’hoha!\’), populist;ohacentric,lgbo paradigm. This was in order to protect and project their fables and the political andeconomic powers inherent in them. Andthey brought the tribal mark, which implied hierarchy and discrimination, etc.
In the book \”IFE\”, edited by Professor I.A. Akinjogbin of theUniversity of Ife, a contributor BiodunAdediran, tells us what happened at Ile-lfe (then called Igbomokun):
\”…The lgbo faction of the aboriginal group, looking on those in the city who had succumbed tothe ideasperpetrated by the Oduduwa groups as traitors, continued their raids over the settlement\”.
We underline the reasonthe lgbo were fighting a thousandyears ago at lgbomokun (lle-lfe): Ideas. Unacceptable ideas! They were engaged in an ideological struggle against a perceived unjust and un-natural system based on the ideology of pharaonictortoiseanism, whose core elements are prevarication anddebauchery at the manifest expense of others. In the way of the pharaohs and the Tortoise! This contradicted the ancient lgboIkenga ethic of universal truth-justice and upright achievement. Struggle for a just world had started!
Writing in the same book, IsolaOlomola had recorded that \”InIfe tradition, also, reference is made to \’Kutukutu, Oba lgbo\’, that is,\’Early morning the king of Igbo\”.What this means is that the dawn assembly of thepeople ruled the Igbo (This is the Igbomokun proclamation: \’Igbo, assembled, rule the Igbo!\’… The people, assembled, rule the people!
Talk of \’lgboenweeze\’ debatea thousand years ago!) The people, assembled, is king of the people, which the Igbo held, would be contradicted by the ILE system introduced by theOduduwa group. What “Ile\” means is House/home/land(ulo inmodern Igbo). Same thing as Obi (Great Hall) or Igwe (Sky; Great Roof).
This is precisely what the Egyptian term\”Per aa\”, corrupted to Pharaoh, means:GreatHouse. That is why, we are told, inB. AAgiIi’s\”Early Oyo Empire Considered\”, quoting Samuel Ojo,that \”The palace of the Ooni oflfe is knownas lle-lgbo(Houseof theindigenous inhabitants oflfe, who were represented by the term “Igbo\”). The Igbo, a thousand years ago, struggledagainst a system of government where oneman\’shousewasthehouseof all. One man;whocontrolled the economy by monopolizing bead-making, and owing the market asOloja.
It is like one person today controlling the petroleum industryin Nigeria. The Igbo believedthousands of years ago, and today, that political power and the economy shouldbe controlled by \”all the people\”, to avoid injustice. No one man can be fatherofall …Otuonyeanaghiawunnamoha! It was and is a struggle for a just world, by the Igbo; a thousandyears ago and later. The idea of the people as king still exists in those parts oflgboland that did notcome under thedirect hegemony of Immigrant monarchists.
In my Obowu clan, the expression still is \”Ohanawueze!\”\’The people who are the king.Exactly the idea at Igbomokun a thousand years earlier!No wellgroomed Obowuperson fails to address thepeople assembled asOhanawueze, as preamble to a public speech.It should now be clear, to observers, thatcertainactions of Nigerian leaders,in recent years, would result to problems in a multi-ethnic State.This is not good for the health of the Nation. When, for instance, some recent Nigerian leaders call themselves Prince, Khalifa or allowthemselves or their wives take ethnic chieftaincy titles that give otherethnic groups signal of pharaonic expansion and consolidation at their expense or monopolize the national treasury and resources, things will notbeokay.For the health of Nigeria,leadersmustobeythe constitution and treat her as Federal Republic of Nigeria insteadof \’Feudalist \”Republic\” of Nigeria\’, whichhave only the initial, F.R.N, in common.
Nigeria is the biggest black nation on Earth. But it has only 120 million people. That is much less than white Federal Europe of half a billion or brown India of a billion, not to talk of yellow China of more than one billion.The United States is ethnically and racially much more complex than Nigeria. And the United States has than twice Nigeria’s population, yet the white leaders run their nation witha purpose.The reasonis that they obey their constitution. George Washington refused to be king, not to talk a Pharaoh, who would enslave others to build a vainglorious pyramid tomb, whilethe people starve. Pharaonic leaders are the problem ofNigeria, and not symptom groups like Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Odua People’s Congress (OPC), and Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), ArewaPeople’sCongress (APC),etc. Give Nigeria great leaders, and it shallbecomea great nation.She is aclevercountry!
Alltheprotestmovementswill evaporate,if Nigeriaever gets the right leader. Tragically, no modern African leader has run a modern nation-state with distinction. Instead they degrade the state they inheritedfrom European colonialists, becoming\’gutter-king\’ insteadofleader.They follow thepathof MansaMusa,of ancientMali,who carriedhis nation\’swealthanda village of slaves on a pilgrimageto Mecca,and therebyturnedWest Africa, first, to a gold-coast and latter slave-coast for Arab marauders. European marauders later joined the Arabs, who came across the seas of sand, from across the seas of water. One ancient African leader\’s vainglory facilitated the devastation and enslavement of Africa. The greater tragedy is that no lesson seemsto havebeen learnt fromthe Mansa Musa debacle.
The next major disasterthathasstrucktheIgboin thelast thousandyears is the trans-Atlantic Slave trade. It is to be noted that no institutionemerged fromwithinthe ancientIgbopeoplesto promote the slave trade.The autochthonous lgbo were, primarily, victimsand fighters againstenslavement. ItwaseithertheIjesha/Ekiti confederation of\’EkitiParapo\’ on the western branch, or the Isu alliance on the easternbranchof the ancientIgbo people that were fightingto fend off the slave-machines of immigrantelements. The Igbo hold that an oppressor cannot, himself,be free: Onyejimmadun\’ala, jionweya! He that holds another down cannot stand up! An oppressor cannot be free! The incentive to oppress or enslaveotherswas, simply, not there for a people who equate freedom and life.
It isimmigrant pharaonists, withcentralized command institutions, that promotedit, as they are still doing,with impunity,in Nigeria today. But the Igbo waged epic struggles againstthe evil trade. Strugglefora justWorld!Letus not gointomuchdetailaboutthe struggles in the homeland. Let us consider the better-known activities of the Diaspora Igbo. TaketheUnderground Railroad (a network for helping slaves escape from slavery)in theUnited States, or the roles oflgbo people like Bishop Turner or Edward Blyden in the founding ofLiberia.
The lgbo activities to free the African Slaves in the UnitedStatesmade AlabamaGovernor GeorgeWallaceaccuse them, in 1968, of causingthe America civil war. He, therefore, opposed any relief to embattled Biafra duringhis 1968presidential campaign. Thesewereremarkable feats. But, let us look at one actionof predominantly Igbo Haiti. This reveals the ideasbehind the actions.
What they did, after they won their freedomfrom slavery, by smashing Napoleon\’s best army, under the personalcommand of his brotherinlaw, GeneralLeclerc. Theydefeatedthatarmyat the greatbattleofVertier, on 18 November 1803. Napoleon\’s wife, Josephine had beenborn in Haiti. So, to recapture the place after its seizure by the rebelliousslaveswasanemotional issueforhim.Napoleonic Francegotthe greater part of their national revenue from Haiti, which was the most productive slave colony in the world at the time, as well as the sugar and coffeefortheirarmy.SotherecaptureofHaitifromtherebellious slaves was of strategic importance to Napoleon. He put in his best, but lost again, in a disastrous campaign that set him up for final destruction inEurope.WhattheBritishdefeatedatWaterloowastheghostof Napoleon. In panic, after his Vertier defeat, in the same November 1803Napoleon,in effect,sold the Frenchempireto the UnitedStatesfor fifteenmilliondollarsinthehistoric\’LouisianaPurchase\’.
The Haitiansset themselves the task, after freeingthemselves, of freeing the African slaves alloverthe world! They then set out implementing their resolve. First, they invaded what is now the Dominican Republic, defeated theSpanish slaversthere and freed the slaves. Then, theymade a deal with Simon Bolivar, called the liberator of Latin America.They rebuilt Bolivar\’s army that the Spanish had destroyed, gave him a printing press for propaganda, on condition that whereverhe freed, e wouldfreetheslaves.Thatsetthestageforthefreedom of Latin America and the slaves. The Chain-reaction of events ultimately freed African slaves worldwide, with OladudahEquiano co-coordinating in Europe.
The predominantlyIgbo ancestry and inspiration of the Haitians in their epic revolution is the justification for the recognition onof the Republic ofBiafra. This can be seen in the quoted letter, whichtheir president, FrancoisDuvalier, had written to then United NationsSecretary-General, U.Thant, in 1968, informing him that “It is my dutyto remindyouthat the Haitian Government cannot fail to express in all occasion its solidarity with the Biafrans whose ancestor’s played a capital role in the glorious epic of 1804\”. He was, according to him, opposed to the forces that \”threaten to destroy the glorious Igbo tribe’s descendants of those men who contributed to the founding of the Haitihomeland\”. World struggle for a just world!
\”To free the African from the bondage-of-ages\”, NnamdiAzikiwe observed years later, is \”Igbo manifest destiny.\”Equiano was the first man to articulate the concept of pan-Africanism. Edward Blyden, another man of Igbo extraction whose descendant became the first orator of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, is reputed to be the first man to use the term. TheIgbo created pan Africanism!
As the Kolanut ritual shows, the ERIMA social philosophy of the Igbo is Universalistic. It networks to integrate all and sundry. Is it not paradoxical that the creators and advocates of pan Africanism are now dressed in the toga of disintegrationists in a smaller political entity likeNigeria?OnlypoliticalPHARAONISM caneffectsuchamonumental transformation of a people! The fact is that Nigeria as presently constituted and run does violence to the very essence of the Igbo spirit. Nigeria is a mal-structured, malfunctioning nation-state run by pharaonists.
But one event at the end of the Biafra-Nigeria war shows that thepan-Africanist flame was not quenched in the lgbo soul by the war. The first hit songin EasternNigeriaat the end of the war is \’Nkosi,Nwam!\’…Nkosi, My Child!The song, by Sonny.Oti,was lamenting the relentless suffering of poor Africanchild, Nkosi,in apartheidSouthAfrica,whilehis Africankinsmenstoodby, doingnothing.Nobody would have thoughtthat any EasternNigerianwould contemplate a struggle at a timelike that,not to talk of a liberation struggle in farawaySouthAfrica.But, that was the hit song,\’NkosiNwa m!\’ The people approved of a struggle to free Nkosi,in spiteof theirowntribulations.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Sonny Otis’sArochukwutownsman,ProfessorChimereIkoku,becamethe chairmanofNigeria\’sNationalCommitteeAgainstApartheid(N.A.C.A P). The spirit that createdpan-Africanism, throughOlaudah Equianoand EdwardBlyden, andthroughtheDiaspora lgbo, Aime Cesarof Martinique, countryman of pan-African revolutionist Frantz Fanon, who initiated the African self-pride movement called Negritude, couldnotbequenchedbyasinglebattleofathousand-yearepicstruggle. World struggle for a just World!
Then came the third Igbo disaster; British colonialism, which culminated in the Biafra-war! British Imperialism is feudalism with a global reach.ItwaseasyfortheBritishtoidentifythe\”head\” of centralized feudalpowersin Nigeria.But,like the Oduduwa people, they couldnotunderstand \’Kutukutu, ObaIgbo!\’Theycouldnot see how the people,assembled, wouldrule the people.So they conqueredthe Obasto takeoverYorubaland;conquered theEmirsto take overNorthern Nigeria, and went to Arochukwu to conquerEze- Aro in the name of the Igbo. They conquered the Aro, alright,but not the lgbo! This, after the earlier challenge of the \’jaja ofOpobo\’, the Igbo ex-slave whofoundedthekingdomof Opobo,wasthebeginning of Britishantipathy towards the Igbo in colonial Nigeria.
The British did not know that the Igbo regardedthe Aro as partofthealienslave-dealing people.Samepartyas,theEuropeansthemselves. That white man\’s cocoyamand Aro cocoyamare the same cocoyam in Obowu, for example. While the baffled British were battlingwiththeirfrustrationovertheirdefeatof the Aro, and nonconquestof the Igbo, Eastern Nigerianwoman, in 1929, overthrew the whole colonial framework, with worldwide implications. The alarm atthe surprise action of the\”Aba Women\’s Revolt\” resulted in the commissioning of intelligence and anthropological studies on colonial peoples worldwide by European colonialists.
The results taught Europe that these colonialpeopleshad authentic nativecivilizations, contraryto the presumptions of imperialEuropeto be on a worldwide civilizing mission.The 1929 Women\’s Revolt in Eastern Nigeria, therefore, undermined the ideological basis of Europeancolonialism. and helpedset the stage for the independence of the world\’scolonialpeoples. World struggle for a just world!
The \’CASSAVA-FROND\’ was the symbol of the 1929 women\’s revolt. To understandthe symbolism of the cassava-frond amongthe Igbo is to fully understandthe women\’s grievance and charge against the British. Information about the revolt was spread from one community to the next, throughout the region,by the womenhanding cassava-fronds to theirneighbours at pointsfartheraway from the epicenterof the revolt, summoning them in the \’name-ofnwanyiriuwa\’.
NwanyiriuwaOjimofOloko was the arrowhead ofthe revolt. Among the Igbo there is a saying that justice is a cassava-stem, tobend it is to break it…\’ikpewuokporoakpu, anoghiaroziyaarozi!’ Whenever Igbo women carry the fronds of this women\’s crop, the cassava, it is understood that someone has wounded TruthJustice.The specificchargeagainstthe Britishby those womenin1929 was, therefore, the \’spread of a culture of injustice\’ as manifested in the appointment of exploitative charlatan collaborators as rulers in place of the traditional\’Nze\’,who was a knownrighteous man.Therevolt,as symbolized by thecassava-frond, wasa revoltagainst the injustice of colonialism and imperialism. A struggle against an unjust world order!
Then came Zik with his pan-Africanist flames!And the, militant,ZikistMovement. The Britishhad had it with the \’truculent\’ Igbo, who kept telling him that lies are best told in English …\”Ughakammanabekee!\”The rest is history!
The Britishcreateda politicalpowerconfiguration that would allow them \’leaveand-stay\’ in Nigeriaafter NigerianIndependence. Thisarrangementmadesensethroughsomeworldviewswithin Nigeriananddidnotmakesensethroughotherworldviews within Nigeria.Clashofworldviews! Thedutyofgreatleadershipisto synthesize a common worldview to reconcile the peopleswithinthe polity.
Nigeria did not have such leadership! And things fell apart! The Biafra-Nigeria war was the culmination of the struggleagainst Britishcolonialism in Nigeria. As Eastern Nigerians saw it Britain was, indeed, the primary enemy in the war!
EmekaOdumegwu-Ojukwubecame an actor in a drama many years older than himself. And to identify his comer of the stage, he borrowed the ancient and legendary name Biafra. That was the vogue inAfrica then. So came Ghana for Gold Coast.Mali from ancient Mali, etc., was revived from the names of expired African empires.
There were heroes and heroism, treacheries and villains, love and hatred, etc. in the struggle.But these were not the central issues. Dealing with the symptoms instead of the disease is the reason the Nigerianmalady has persisted. Tortoiseanpatriotism,of inviting other Nigerians to volunteer to suffer or die to facilitate the ethnic or family hegemony of a group cannot help Nigeria,at all!Truth, freedom and universal promotion oflife will.
Neither EmekaOdumegwuOjukwu, nor Yakubu Gowon went into the Nigerianarmy to rise to the rankof HeadofState. Their persons or roles were not the theme of the drama. The problem was and still is the unstable structure of the post-colonial Nigeria state, and the determination ofthefewwhobenefitfromtheinherentchaosto maintainitatallcostsattheexpenseofthemany.Playsare independent of the actors! Actors, although, can contribute differences in style,andso,influencedramaticoutcomes. Stillif theyarenot availableotherpeoplewill playthe rolebetteror worse.For many years now, Transparency International has rated Nigeria first or second mostcorruptnationin thewholeworld.
Formanyyears now, the combinationofwealthinfewerandfewerhandshasbeen accelerating in Nigeria. Income expenditure of thepoorest20%ofNigeriansin 1992was 5%, whilethe richest20%had 49% shares, accordingto World Bank report. By the year 2002, the shareof the poorest had droppedto 4% and that of the richest risen to 55%. Now, Africans are clamouring for a new world Socio-economic order. On what moral basis can Nigeria, as a leading African nation, champion such a campaign when all her statistics are pointingin the wrong direction? The struggle for a just world must be founded on the idea of universal justice! Nigeria has remained an unjust nation because unjustmen have led it. Leaders must take responsibility for the crisis Nigeria finds herself in.
The Igbo believethat a nationabandoned to evil men becomes an evil nation …\”a hapurundiaruobodoyaaghoobodondiaru\”. They would not want to be part of an evil nation. A righteous nationmustemerge to accommodate theirjustaspiration to achieve freedomin truth,and the welfare of all. Theworldstruggle for a justworldmustachieveasatisfactoryend:Ajustworld!(TO BE CONTD)
Nations are forming bigger communities to achieve socio-economic synergy. TheEuropean Unionis an example. Theworldis becoming aglobalvillage.Africa,whichneedssynergythemost, shouldbenoexception. TheAfricanUnionis a projectthatwould attractthenaturalsupportof theIgbo.Butit, too, cannotbe builton tortoisean foundation. Nigeriashouldformthe take-off pointforthe Africanrenaissance, but she mustwakeup first! The sleeping cannot leadtheawake!Incompetentleadershipsimulatingalibibythe invocation of phantom enemies of the Stateis no longeracceptable to Nigerians. Nigerians now know what the State is, and it is not a person. The Nigerian people are the Nigerian State!
TherehastobedialoguebetweentheNigerianpeoples, inputting their different worldviews and interests, on how best to move thenationforward andavoidthe existential frustrations thatthreaten the cohesion ofNigeria. Before the recent generalelections in Nigeria, a groupofIgboacademicstowhichIbelong,TheConference of Democratic Scholars, CODES, cametogether to articulate whatwe considered the major interests and concerns of the lgboin 2003 Nigeria.
Below is a listing: This list serves for a summary of the issues that made this paper necessary, thereby summarizing the paper.
The following issues are of primeconcern/ interestto the lgboin 2003 Nigeria:
1.Need for a six regionalfederation of self-reliant and respectable Nigeria.
2.Resolution of Nigeria\’s census distortionissues whichdisfavours areas with high populationdensity, like eastern Nigeria.
3.Final resolution of the resource-control/derivation crisis,which most hurts minority neighbours ofthe Igbo,perturbingour shared neighbourhood.
4.Reconciliation of negotiated penal code and full-blown Shariain northern Nigeria.
5.Physical security for Igbo all over Nigeria.
6.Right of an Igbo to become president ofNigeria since the end of the civil war.
7.Assurance of equalityof Nigeria\’s six zones in power/resourcesharing.
8.Practical implementation of 3Rs proclaimed at the end of the civil war.
9.End to outsider recruitment/ promotion of mediocre/charlatansas surrogate lgbo leaders since the end ofNigeria\’s civil war.
10.Transparent, just and zonalbalance in Nigeria\’s industrial privatization programme.
11.Poor quality and non-commitment to public good of many Igbo political office holders, who survive because of context ofNigerian politics that does not reflect Igbo ethical values.
12.DelinkingEastern Nigeriafromunreliable Oshogbo electricitydistribution system/rectification of power supplydeficitthat ispolitically configured against Eastern Nigeria.
13.Haltingmass emigration because ofdepressed economy of EasternNigeria,whichdisruptsthehumanbasis ofIgbo society.
14.Need for urgent action to end the catastrophic soil erosion in the lgbo homeland, which undermines a basicallyagricultural civilization denaturing the people to petty-traders.
15.An end to the surreptious,but systematic, attempt aterasure of the Igbo identity of Igbo natives oftheSouth-South zone ofNigeria.
16.Convocation of an independent national conference to renegotiate a balanced Nigerian federation.
We expect other zones and peoples ofNigeria to come up with their own progammes for the systematic restructuring of Nigeria.The Nigerian State as presentlyconfigured is an instrument for the subjugation and exploitation of the Nigerianpeople, as the British designed it, and much lessefficientlyrunthantheBritishintended.
Nigeriashouldnotbe decayingand disintegrating when the rest of the world are integrating and globalizing for synergyand mutualwelfare.The Nigerianpeople must,therefore,cometogethertodesignamodemAfricanState informedbytheAfricanArchetypeourancestorsleftforusas inheritance and benchmark. A just pan-africanist society where \’every blackman can stand proud\’as the\’AHIARA DECLARATION\’, in which GeneralOjukwuarticulated the principles to guide the BiafranRepublicindicated.
The Igbo have been ideologically consistent, as a peoplecenteredpoliticalcivilization, for a thousand years;fromtheIGBOMOKUN PROCLAMATIONto theAHIARADECLARATION. We prefer to remain so! Nothing less can satisfy the lgbo dream society, builton Truth-Justice andFreedomfor thePromotion of a dignified African Life. Just like the ancient indigo societythat OlaudahEquiano described! Then shall follow a libation of virgin palm wine to God and the ancestors, as OlaudahEquianoproposedtwo hundred years ago, to marka successful outcome to the thousand-year Igbo World struggle for a just World.
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