Wednesday, 29 July 2015

FWD: Einstein on African Americans, 1946

Albert Einstein, “A Message to My Adopted Country”, written in 1946 by the physicist – from “Dead Sea Scrolls of physics”, The Digital Einstein Papers (The Collected papers of Albert Einstein), December 2014:

I am writing as one who has lived among you in America only a little more than ten years. And I am writing seriously and warningly. Many readers may ask:
“What right has he to speak about things which concern us alone, and which no newcomer should touch?”
I do not think such a standpoint is justified. One who has grown up in an environment takes much for granted. On the other hand, one who has come to this country as a mature person may have a keen eye for everything peculiar and characteristic. I believe he should speak out freely on what he sees and feels, for by so doing he may perhaps prove himself useful.
What soon makes the new arrival devoted to this country is the democratic trait among the people. I am not thinking here so much of the democratic political constitution of this country, however highly it must be praised. I am thinking of the relationship between individual people and of the attitude they maintain toward one another.
In the United States everyone feels assured of his worth as an individual. No one humbles himself before another person or class. Even the great difference in wealth, the superior power of a few, cannot undermine this healthy self-confidence and natural respect for the dignity of one’s fellow-man.
There is, however, a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the “Whites” toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.
Many a sincere person will answer: “Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability.”
I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception. Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.
The ancient Greeks also had slaves. They were not Negroes but white men who had been taken captive in war. There could be no talk of racial differences. And yet Aristotle, one of the great Greek philosophers, declared slaves inferior beings who were justly subdued and deprived of their liberty. It is clear that he was enmeshed in a traditional prejudice from which, despite his extraordinary intellect, he could not free himself.
A large part of our attitude toward things is conditioned by opinions and emotions which we unconsciously absorb as children from our environment. In other words, it is tradition—besides inherited aptitudes and qualities—which makes us what we are. We but rarely reflect how relatively small as compared with the powerful influence of tradition is the influence of our conscious thought upon our conduct and convictions.
It would be foolish to despise tradition. But with our growing self-consciousness and increasing intelligence we must begin to control tradition and assume a critical attitude toward it, if human relations are ever to change for the better. We must try to recognize what in our accepted tradition is damaging to our fate and dignity—and shape our lives accordingly.
I believe that whoever tries to think things through honestly will soon recognize how unworthy and even fatal is the traditional bias against Negroes.
What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias.
I do not believe there is a way in which this deeply entrenched evil can be quickly healed.
But until this goal is reached there is no greater satisfaction for a just and well-meaning person than the knowledge that he has devoted his best energies to the service of the good cause.

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe 

Africa, Africa, Africa

African human and non-human resources have, in the past 500 years, transformed this planet earth worldwide but Africa exponentially and uninterruptedly. So, when will Africa begin to focus on itself – on its own terms?

(John Coltrane Quartet – and orchestra, “Africa” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Booker Little, trumpet; Carl Bowman, euphonium; Bob Northern, French horn; Julius Watkins, French horn; Donald Corrodo, French horn; Robert Swisshelm, French horn; Bill Barber, tuba; Britt Woodman, trombone; Gavin Bushell, piccolo; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; McCoy Tyner, piano; Art Davis, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; orchestrated by Eric Dolphy and McCoy Tyner; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Us, 7 June 1961])

Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Monday, 27 July 2015

Genocide in Africa – 1878-2015 timeline

(1)  1878-1908: King Leopold II-led Belgian monarchy/state-organised genocide of constituent peoples in the Congo basin of central Africa (2,442,240 sq km landmass, 80 times the size of Belgium) – 13 million African constituent peoples murdered (see, especially, multiple research by historian and linguist Isidore Ndaywel  è Nziem – particularly his Histoire générale du Congo: De l'héritage ancien à la République Démocratique [Paris: Duculot, 1998], p. 344)

(2)  1904-1907: German state-organised genocide of Herero people in Namibia – 65,000 out of 80,000 Herero murdered or 80 per cent of the total Herero population wiped out

(3)  1904-1907: German state-organised genocide of Nama people in Namibia – 10,000 Nama were murdered or 50 per cent of the Nama population destroyed

(4)  29 May 1966-12 January 1970 (phases I-III): Nigeria state-organised genocide of Igbo people, foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa, supported, centrally, by Britain (diplomatically, politically, militarily) – 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of this nation’s population murdered, representing highest number of genocide fatality of any single constituent nation or people in Africa during these past 137 years

(5)  13 January 1970-Present Day (phase-IV)Nigeria state-organised genocide of Igbo people – tens of thousands of Igbo murdered

(6)  1994Rwanda state-organised genocide of Tutsi people – 800,000 Tutsi murdered

(7)  Since mid-1990sDemocratic Republic of the Congo/contiguous states/proxy states-facilitated/organised genocide of African constituent peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – 5 million constituent African peoples murdered

(8)  2003-2oo6: The Sudan state-organised genocide of Darfuri people – 300,000 Darfuri murdered

(9)  Since 2006: The Sudan state-organised genocide of African constituent peoples in the south of the country (Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan, Blue Nile) – tens of thousands of African constituent peoples murdered

(John Coltrane Quartet, “Alabama” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; recorded: live, Jazz Casual Productions {host: Ralph Gleason}, 7 December 1963])
Twitter @HerbertEkweEkwe

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Question: Did Igbo people “lose a war”?

No, Igbo did not “lose a war”. The Igbo did not “lose a war” between 29 May 1966-12 January 1970. No such “war”, nor indeed its specious “civil” variant (, accessed 25 July 2015), was waged in Igboland during this period. And this is not a case of semantics. On the contrary, what went on during those 44 months was a campaign of genocide against Igbo people by Nigeria and its allies, particularly Britain. 3.1 million Igbo, a quarter of this nation’s population, were murdered. This figure is about the total fatality of the Vietnam War (both sides – including all civilians, US combat troops, the Vietcong, North Vietnam troops, South Vietnam troops) between 1959 and 1975. 

The clearly stated goal of the Nigeria campaign is (note tense of operative verb) to annihilate the Igbo, as a people: see anthem of the campaign in Hausa, broadcast throughout the duration of the slaughter on Kaduna radio (shortwave) and television (, accessed 20 July 2015); see also key statements made on radio and/or tv broadcasts, interviews/press conference, essays, memoirs, etc., etc, by leading figures involved in the campaign – Awolowo, Harold Wilson, Gowon, Danjuma, Useni, Muhammed, Adekunle, Rotimi, Katsina, Obasanjo, Haruna, Taiwo... 

To embark on a research of this genocide, it is staggering to discover what a treasure trove for the researcher just watching or reading a clipping of statements/commentaries/policies on this heinous crime against humanity by an Obasanjo or an Adekunle or an Useni or an Awolowo or a Wilson or a Haruna or a Buhari or a Rotimi… The genocide is ongoing. Those who carried out the genocide do not, at all, deny their involvement in the crime... It is astonishing.


The Igbo survived the genocide. At the apogee of the genocide, 1968/69, few expected the Igbo to survive. Igbo survival is one of the most extraordinary human developments of recent history. Some people don’t often appreciate the resilient spirit and drive that ensured this survival outcome. This capacity cannot be exaggerated. Provided they survive, no peoples targeted for genocide lose except, of course, they are obliterated. Tu fia kwa

Those who survive genocide such as the Herero or  Nama or Berg Damara or Armenians or  Jews or Igbo or Tutsi or Darfuri, for instance, are indeed victors – because they survived. I am pleased to share the following link where I elaborate on this subject in a presentation at the historic Harvard University international conference on Christopher Okigbo, Africa’s leading and most celebrated poet:

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Age of freedom or post-“Berlin-state” Africa*****

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

IN 2064, fifty years away, Igbo people and the rest of the world will be making final preparations to commemorate a century of the Igbo genocide. This will take place on 29 May 2066. It should be recalled that on that dreadful mid-morning of Sunday 29 May 1966 and through the course of 44 subsequent months of indescribable barbarity and carnage not seen in Africa since the German-perpetration of the genocide against the Herero, Nama and Berg Damara peoples of Namibia in the early 1900s, the composite institutions of the Nigeria state, civilian and military, embarked on the murder of Igbo people. 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of this nation’s population were murdered during the genocide.

The Igbo genocide is the foundational genocide of post-(European)conquest Africa. It inaugurated Africa’s current age of pestilence. Singularly and quite dramatically, the genocide shattered the capacity of this post-conquest state to capitalise on the vast invaluable resources of multinationality and multiculturality emplaced at such a critical phase to engineer a determined reconstructionary and redevelopment programme of the country after the devastation of 75 years of the British occupation. 

TO UNDERSTAND the politics of the Igbo genocide and the politics of the “post”-Igbo genocide is to have an invaluable insight into the salient features and constitutive indices of politics across Africa in the past 50 years. Africans elsewhere remained largely silent on the gruesome events in Nigeria but did not foresee the grave consequences of such indifference as subsequent genocides in Rwanda, Darfur, Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan (latter three in the Sudan) and Zaïre/Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in other wars and conflicts in every geographical region of Africa during the period have demonstrated catastrophically: Liberia, Mali, Libya, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Algeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, southern Guinea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Central African Republic, Nigeria (Boko Haram insurgency in north, northcentral regions). The haunting killing fields have indeed stretched, almost inexorably, from Igboland to the rest of Africa… 

Just as the Nigerian operatives of mass murder appeared to have got away without censure from the rest of Africa, other genocidal and brutal African regimes soon followed in Nigeria’s footpath, murdering a horrifically additional tally of 12 million people in their countries considered “undesirables” or “opponents” since the Igbo genocide in January 1970. These 12 million murdered in the latter bloodbaths would probably have been saved if Africans and the rest of the world had intervened, robustly, to stop the initial genocide against the Igbo people. Surely, the world could have stopped this genocide; the world should have stopped this genocide.

Bane of existence
FORTY-EIGHT years and 15 million murders on, Africans now realise, finally, that there cannot be any meaningful advancement in their fortunes without abandoning this post-(European)conquest state, this “Berlin-state”, essentially a genocide-state. This state is the bane of African existence and progress. Yet, thankfully, just as in Berlin, in 1884-1885, when conquering Europeans drafted their gruesome charter for the occupation of Africa, states are not a gift from the gods but relationships painstakingly formulated and constructed by a discernible group of human beings that inhabit an ascertainable geo-historical territorial expanse on earth to pursue worldviews and interests envisioned and articulated by these same human beings. The state, any state, therefore, is transient; in contrast, human beings, people(s) endure.

Aimé Césaire, the poet and philosopher,  once told interviewer Annick Thebia Melson (“The liberating power of words: An interview with Poet Aimé Césaire”, The Journal of Pan-African Studies, Vol. 2, No 4, June 2008, pp. 2-7) during one of those illuminating discourses of his on history: “History is always dangerous, the world of history is a risky world; but it is up to us at any given moment to establish and readjust the hierarchy of dangers” (2008: 7). 
It is indeed in the very course to disrupt and “readjust” this hierarchy in this age of pestilence in the”‘cursed” (to quote historian Basil Davidson) “Berlin-state” in favour of Africa and African peoples that the constituent Africa nation or people (Igbo, Darfuri, Gikuyu, Wolof, Ibibio, Bakongo, Jola, Mongo, Akan, Luba, Ndebele, Mende, Luo, Herero, Serer, Bamileke, etc., etc) – so long maligned, so long impoverished, so long brutalised, so long humiliated and dehistoricised with often unprintable epithets (t****, n****, n*****, n******, p********, b******, w**, sub-*******, sub-*****, e*****, c***, c******, m*****, d******, h*******, f******-b******, b****, m***, b********, c*******, b*********…), so long massacred, is recognised, at last, as the principal actor and agency of its being and geography.

So, for all African peoples or nations, the unambiguous message on the unfurled banner for their freedom march in this next one-half of a century couldn’t be more confident and focused: “We are because we are free; We are free because we are”. Abandon the “Berlin-state” now. Create your own state today, now. Now is the time! This nation, this people, can and should create its own state if it so desires. Freedom. 

IT IS its inalienable right (, accessed 25 July 2015). It does not therefore have to explain to anyone else why it has embarked on this track of freedom. It can now decide what precepts, what aspirations, what trajectory, what goals, it has set its new state to embark upon. As Césaire deftly puts it in the interview referred to, the challenges of the times become the “quest to reconquer something, our name (sic), our country … ourselves” (2008: 2). 

Let freedom ring!
THUS, the pressing point to reiterate here is that the immediate emergency that threatens the very survival of African peoples is the “Berlin-state” encased in African existence coupled with the pathetic bunch that masquerades here and there as African leaderships but whose mission is to oversee this enthralling edifice. African women and men will sooner, now, rather than later, abandon this fractured, fracturing, conflictive, alienating and terror contraption. Africans must now focus on real transformation – the revitalisation and consolidation of the institutions of Africa’s constituent nations and polities. In these institutions and spaces of African civilisation lie the organic framework to ensure transparency, probity, accountability, investment in people, humanised wealth creation, respect for human rights and civil liberties, and a true commitment to radically transform African existence.

The future for the constituent nations and peoples of Africa couldn’t be more reassuring on the morrow of that which, since 1 January 1956, has been classified as the post-(European)conquest “Berlin-state” or genocide-state of Africa. All successor states, organically constituted, really have their work cut out. Their mission is not to begin to construct states that are merely post-genocide or post post-conquest/post post-“colonial” states (cancelling out, in some mechanical venture, that which was “Berlin-state” Africa here and there!) but a realisation, a reclamation of that which makes us all human and part of humanity

The new states have an opportunity to begin to build a new civilisation where human life, fundamentally, is sacrosanct. This is an inclusive state where women and men live as co-operators and co-creators in fundamentally transforming their society. This is a state that accepts and accords full rights to all minority groups. This is a state where people enjoy the rights to differ and to dream dreams and dream different sets of dreams as they choose. This is a state dedicated to furthering and nurturing the resilience of its people and to enabling them pursue their highest creative endeavours. This state continuously strives to remove all limitations in the paths of its people and committed to making life better and better and better. This is a state that primes its people to flourish. 

FINALLY, the long drawn out nightmare of nearly 200 years, since November 1884- February 1885, is over and truly Africans do stand poised on the eve of a new beginning.
(Ornette Coleman Quartet, “Change of the century” [personnel: Coleman, alto saxophone; Don Cherry, pocket trumpet; Charlie Haden, bass; Billy Higgins, drums; recorded: Radio Recorders, Hollywood, California, US, 8 October 1959])
 *****(originally published in Pambazuka News: Pan African Voices for Freedom and Justice, Issue 680, 29 May 2014 as part of collection of essays focusing on “Africa in 50 years’ time – inventing a new Africa”)


109th birthday of Johnny Hodges

(Born 25 July 1906, Cambridge, Massachusetts, US)
Enduring lead alto saxophonist in the incomparable Duke Ellington Orchestra for nearly 40 years, beginning 1928
(Charlie Parker: Jam Sessions, “Funky blues” [personnel: Parker, alto saxophone; Charlie Shavers, trumpet; Johnny Hodges, alto saxophone; Benny Carter, alto saxophone; Ben Webster, tenor saxophone; Flip Phillips, tenor saxophone; Barney Kessel, guitar; Oscar Peterson, piano; Ray Brown, bass; JC Heard, drums; recorded: Radio Recorders, Hollywood, California, July 1952])

Friday, 24 July 2015

2nd anniversary of second deportation of Igbo people from Lagos, Nigeria

Date of deportation: 24 July 2013

On this day, 24 July 2013, Raji Fashola, head of the Lagos region regime in Nigeria, deports 72 Igbo, including several children and older people some of whom have disabilities, from Lagos to Onicha, the Igbo Oshimili delta city, 230 miles away  both this deportation and the earlier Igbo Lagos expulsion, carried out on 22 September 2012 by Fashola, constitute a dreadful precursor to the April 2015 royal edict by Rilwan Akiolu, the king or oba of Lagos, in which the monarch calls for the murder of Igbo people domiciled in this Lagos region (, accessed 23 July 2015).
(Raji Fashola)
The following link carries a commentary on this 24 July 2013 deportation:


213th birthday of Alexandre Dumas

(Born 24 July 1802, Villiers-Cotterêts, France)
One of the preeminent luminaries of French letters, prolific across genres – novels, drama, travel books, history, journalism – with classics which include The Three MusketeersThe Count of Monte CristoTwenty Years LaterThe Last CavalierGeorges


208th birthday of Ira Aldridge

(Born 24 July 1807, New York, US)
One of the leading Shakespearean actors of the 19th century, active on the London stage and principal theatres across Europe between the mid-1820s and 1867


Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God: A foretaste of Igbo intraethnic democracy in present day Nigerian geopolitical system

BY Kalu Ogbaa *****

Every society, whether ancient or modern, has an established system of governance through which it regulates the actions and lives of its inhabitants. Hence, when an individual or group in a given society attempts to impugn the authority of those in charge of the system, by threatening the security, harmony, and peaceful coexistence of its inhabitants, it becomes an unfailing duty of those in charge of its governance to take all necessary and adequate measures to prevent the threat and protect the people. In a literate society like the United States of America, the founding fathers established three branches of government and enshrined their respective roles in their Constitution to ensure that the people enjoy their freedoms, happiness, and security of lives and property in their homes and communities. It is a democratic system which guarantees that everyone, including the President, is ruled by the same laws of the land. On the other hand, in a non-literate, ancient African societies like those Chinua Achebe romanticized in his rural novels, Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God, readers can also find systems of governance established by Igbo religious, sociocultural, and political leaders which were based on their traditional religion, cultural norms, and ethos to regulate the actions and lives of their people. Although those societies had oral traditions, their governing authorities unquestionably had positive aspirations to produce good and effective governance like those found in literate societies. In other words, the ancient Igbo systems, however imperfect they may appear to modern readers, ostensibly worked well for the people until the arrival of the British in their land. Resultantly, the encounter between the two peoples contributed profoundly to things falling apart for the Igbo religiously, culturally, politically, and economically. Hence, for Achebe, a candid exploration of the colonial and postcolonial conflicts between the British colonial powers and the Igbo native authorities on one hand, and those between the native authorities themselves on the other, became an overarching theme of his rural novels.
Writing under the topic “The novelist as teacher,” Achebe explained why he was so driven to restoring, albeit fictionally, the sociocultural and political systems of his native Igbo when he said, “I would be quite satisfied if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past—with all its imperfections—was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them.”[1] Before that, however, while discussing “The role of the writer in a new nation,” Achebe said the following to his audience:
For me, at any rate there is a clear need to make a statement. This is my answer to those who say that the writer should be writing about contemporary issues—about politics in 1964, about city life, about the last coup d’état. Of course, these are legitimate themes for the writer but as far as I am concerned the fundamental theme must first be disposed of. This theme—put quite simply—is that African peoples did not hear of culture for the first time from Europeans; that their societies were not mindless but frequently had a philosophy of great depth and beauty, that they had poetry and, above all, they had dignity. It is this dignity that many African people all but lost during the colonial period and it is this that they must now regain.[2]
The systems of governance that brought the Igbo people together, of which Achebe spoke, derived from their cosmological beliefs and a worldview which began “in the distant past, when lizards were still few and far between, [when] the six villages—Umuachala, Umunneora, Umuagu, Umuezeani, Umuogwugwu and Umuisiuzo—lived as different peoples, and each worshipped its own deity” (AOG 14), which I characterized as Igbo folkways in one of my books.[3] Some of these ways are folktales, proverbs, proper names, rituals and festivals. Achebe beautifully expressed all of them poetically and metaphorically virtually in all of his five novels.

With the hindsight of over four decades of studying his novels, I must say that Achebe deserves all the acknowledgements and praises that literary critics from all over the world have been showering on him; for they attest to the tremendous impact of his arrival on the African literary landscape that began in 1958. Moreover, the crafting and publication of his first novel, Things Fall Apart, alongside his magnum corpus, Arrow of God, persuaded some renowned critics of the novels to proclaim him the founder of modern African novel, but that is not to say for sure that he is the founder of African literature as other critics have also dubbed him. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter which of the two proclamations of Achebe’s role as a literary ancestor a reader chooses to accept. What resonates to me, however, is that upon his graduation from the British University College at Ibadan, Nigeria, Achebe began his writing as a form of protest exercise which challenged what he read from British novels on Africa—the notion that Africans had no respectable cultures and civilizations—and eventuated in sustained, thorough, and careful literary criticisms of the prejudiced colonizers’ novels on Africa, such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Joyce Cary’s Mister Johnson. Blessed with a vivid imagination for creative writing and formal education in Western culture (especially comparative literature and religion), coupled with his informal education in Igbo story-telling habit that he received from his elder sister, Achebe positioned himself  firmly to play the role of the novelist as teacher—a self-imposed role that he distinctively played until his demise in 2013.  

Specifically in Arrow of God, the governing authorities in Umuaro clan are Ezeulu the Chief Priest of Ulu, who serves as the clan’s ritual and religious leader; the priests of deities of the six villages that constitute the clan; the clan’s titled and political elders (ndichie); and, the unseen but ubiquitous presence of the dead-living ancestors among the living people. Achebe succinctly delineates the political failures of the clan, tracing their roots to the power struggle and political maneuverings of the rulers, who are purportedly backed by their various deities, and sees them as the main source of the divisions in their once-united clan. In other words, the ruling elders’ impious and unethical struggle for power created hydra-headed conflicts in their society and, in the process, they committed nso ala, an abominable offense against Ala, also known as the Earth Goddess—an offense that necessitated a propitiatory sacrifice, albeit involuntarily, with the life of one of their own clansmen, Obika, the son of Ezeulu. Emmanuel Obiechina describes the complex conflicts in Umuaro as follows:

The conflicts in Arrow of God develop around the person of the Chief Priest of Ulu, who is the ritual and religious leader in Umuaro. On the one hand, there is conflict between the local British administration represented by the old-fashioned administrator, Winterbottom, and the native authority represented by the Chief Priest. On the other hand, there are the internal politics of Umuaro and the conflict between the supporters of the Chief Priest and those of his rival, Idemili. On yet another level belongs the conflict taking place within the Chief Priest himself, a conflict between personal power, the temptation to constitute himself into an “arrow” of God, and the exigencies of public responsibility. All these are handled in the main plot. A subsidiary plot deals with the domestic tensions and crises in Ezeulu’s own house, the tensions and stresses between the father and his grown-up sons and between the children of different mothers in his polygamous household.[4]

The Umuaro internal conflicts, in the form of sociocultural and political power struggle of the ruling elders, could not have come at a worse time when Igboland and adjacent West African territories had just been amalgamated, colonized, and named Nigeria by Great Britain at the turn of the 20th century. Ordinarily, one would expect such conflicts and power struggle in the novel between Umuaro clan elders to have been between Igbo political leaders and their counterparts from other Nigerian ethnic groups, or between Umuaro clan and other Igbo clans. Unfortunately, however, the conflicts between members of the same clan of six villages aptly exemplify the pan-Igbo apothegm, “When two brothers fight a stranger reaps the harvest” (AOG 131). Contextually, the immediate beneficiaries of the clan’s internal conflicts are the newly established European church and school, which the missionaries built under the leadership of Mr. Goodcountry, and the British political officials, who appointed Ezeulu a warrant chief that he nevertheless rebuffed, saying: “Tell the white man that Ezeulu will not be anybody’s chief, except Ulu” (174).

This article discusses how Chinua Achebe’s critical analysis of Igbo intraethnic conflicts between Umuaro elders in Arrow of God, which weakened their clan for easy colonization by the British, can be seen as a foretaste of Igbo people’s problems in postwar Nigerian geopolitical system. More specifically, it discusses the inability of the Igbo political elite to speak with one voice in matters affecting the Igbo nation as an ethnic group; the negative effects of some Igbo communities denying their prewar Igbo origin and identity because mainland Igbo people, who fought as leaders on the Biafran side of the Nigeria-Biafra War, were defeated; the unwholesome changes in Igbo value system and ethos since the end of that war; and, currently, the inherent lack of strong political will and leadership whenever Igbo political representatives engage in fights with other Nigerian ethnic groups for their fair share of “the national cake.”

Even though some individual Igbo persons have been appointed every now and then by non-Igbo political rulers to serve as leaders in various areas of Nigerian governance, we as an ethnic group seem to lack the prewar unity, courage, and strategies that should have enabled us to produce a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction as the other two dominant ethnic groups—the Hausa/Fulani and the Yoruba—have been doing since the end of the civil war. Instead, we keep lamenting our marginalization by other ethnic groups without doing much critical analysis of our plight which could enable us to realize how and where “the rain began to beat us” as a people. Hence, it is my hope that when we do sincere soul-searching with a view to correcting our sociopolitical blunders, then we can one day rise up to fight for our rightful position in this our country where other ethnic groups cannot continue to see us as postwar exiles or aliens. Instead, they would recognize us as the proud builders of Nigeria that we have always been.

In the novel, the narrator, who speaks on behalf of Achebe the Igbo author, on one hand describes what evil things happened to the ancient Igbo clan of six villages when they chose to live separately in disunity, and on the other the good things they experienced when they decided to unite and find positive ways of solving the problems their common enemy created for them:

[The] six villages of Umuachala, Umunneora, Umuagu, Umuezeani, Umuogwugwu and Umuisiuzo lived as different peoples, and each worshipped its own deity. Then the hired soldiers of Abam who used to strike in the dead of night, set fire to their houses and carry men, women and children into slavery. Things were so bad for the six villages that their leaders came together to save themselves. They hired a strong team of medicine-men to install a common deity for them. This deity which the fathers of the six villages made was called Ulu. Half of the medicine was buried at a place which became Nkwo market and the other half thrown into the stream which became Mili Ulu. The six villages then took the name of Umuaro, and the priest of Ulu became their Chief Priest. From that they were never again beaten by an enemy (14-15).

Anecdotally, Achebe drew inspiration for developing this part of the novel’s plot from an old Igbo adage, “Divided we fall but united we stand,” which should have inspired our present-day Igbo leaders in all walks of life to work for our ethnic unity in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. For adopting the adage in our daily lives would not only promote our collective progress, security, and development, but also our social, political, and economic survival and wellbeing in any community where we live as a people. Unfortunately, however, that unity has persistently eluded us since the end of the civil war, and it even appears unreachable to many people, partly because of the evil deeds fellow Nigerians from other ethnic extractions continually do to us, and partly because of those that we inflict upon ourselves as a people. Hence, any candid discussions of both obstacles in our way to regaining our collective prewar unity and political leadership, which made us an enviable ethnic people in Nigeria, should help us find our way out of our sociopolitical troubles quicker. When that happens, then no other ethnic groups can successfully thwart our unity, nor would that unity seem to us unachievable anymore.

The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-70), brought unimaginable destructions upon the once lush and exquisitely idyllic Igboland and on the psyche of its proud and prosperous inhabitants. The people generally contributed enviable high-level educated personnel to the Nigerian manpower pool, which comprised civil service technocrats, teachers and scientists, as well as millionaires, savvy politicians, and cultural icons. For that reason, Igbo talents were sought after like a beautiful bride by every administration of the federal government of Nigeria before the war. And because of their enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit, as well as their unflinching belief in Nigeria as one indivisible nation, the Igbo lived in all corners and crannies of the country, where they worked very hard to develop and live in peace with others as neighbors. And yet, despite the patriotic sacrifices they made to develop the country right from its creation by the British, the Igbo were brutally attacked and slaughtered like animals, raped and maimed like common criminals, and chased out of Northern Nigeria like aliens in their own country during the riots which followed Nigeria’s first bloody coup of January 15, 1966.

Most unfortunately, the Igbo erroneously thought that the barbaric acts meted out to them during those Northern riots, which forced them and other Easterners to return to their native Eastern Nigeria, were just temporary incidents. Shortly thereafter, the federal military government realized that it could not find people to take over the irreplaceable Igbo services in the North. So they asked the charismatic military governor of their native Eastern Nigeria, Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, for help in appealing to the Igbo civil servants to go back to their stations in the North. As a military officer, the governor promptly obeyed the orders and made the appeal. Some of the workers blindly trusted and obeyed him, even as they privately counted their human and material losses with fortitude and rectitude. The turn of events made Ojukwu to regret for the rest of his life making that deadly appeal to his people.

Furthermore, following the examples of the civil servants, the business class returned to the North, believing that the fractured nation could be healed soon. They also trusted that the federal military government’s avowed promise would promptly quell the riots and guarantee them protection while they lived and worked there. Unfortunately, it was not until the onslaught of the second, third, and fourth bloody coups of May 29, July 29, and September 29, 1966, in which they were systematically slaughtered further in cold blood in the North and in some parts of Western Nigeria, that the Igbo belatedly realized that they were no longer welcomed in those regions of the country they had assiduously worked to develop. Finally, their gory experiences forced them back as refugees to Eastern Nigeria, where they were eagerly accommodated by their kith and kin, and by an overwhelmed but empathetic, caring government that gave them both spiritual and material support. The Igbo adage, “Onye aghala nwanne ya”, “May no one leave their brother or sister behind,” worked magically to save the Igbo nation in a time of need.

In the end, when all entreaties from the then Eastern Nigerian Government to the Federal Military Government failed to bring the much desired peace and reconciliation between the two governments, the people of Eastern Nigeria were forced by the events of those cruel months to declare themselves a separate country, the Republic of Biafra, under Governor Ojukwu, who later was promoted the People’s General, as president. About a month after the declaration, Col. Yakubu Gowon, the then head of the federal military government, declared war on the young Republic in which, for thirty grueling months of warfare, millions of Igbo people were killed, their grown-up girls and women raped, the pregnant ones disemboweled, and their young children and babies starved to death. So, to prevent further torture, bloodsheds, and deaths of the Biafran people, General Ojukwu flew out of the country “in search of peace with Nigeria” through the help of some friendly African and European political leaders. In his absence, however, some representatives of his military cabinet and civil political leaders surrendered Biafra to Nigeria to prevent the imminent annihilation of the people and destruction of their territory—a  bold and courageous move that brought the war to an abrupt end on January 15, 1970. Although it was a relief to both sides of the war, it marked the beginning of more agony for the ex-Biafrans who lost the war and were forced back to a country which had attempted to annihilate them all.

Like Ezeulu’s polygamous family in Arrow of God, the Igbo ethnic group comprises men, women, and children who live in diverse clans and villages; they trace their origins to blood-related ancestors. Hence, their clan or village names begin with the prefix “Umu,” which means “children of-” as in the names of the six villages that comprise Umuaro clan. Therefore, it behooves every clansman, no matter his particular village, to work for the growth, progress, stability, peace, and unity of the clan. If there is failure in any aspect of the clan’s corporate life, all the clansmen are held responsible for the failure and condemned for bringing disappointment and shame to their dead-living ancestors—a failure that portends the metaphoric death of their proud nation. The same philosophical and ethical beliefs regulate the actions and behaviors of Igbo men in general, no matter where they live and have their being. As it was in precolonial era, gods, oracles, and divination continue to play the important role of maintaining order and balance in Igbo clans and villages. They promote and foster peace and unity among the people, even though many of them now live in towns, cities, and foreign lands. So, whenever and wherever the people gather for meetings and ceremonies, they first have to break kola nuts and pour libation to their dead-living ancestors as a way of inviting them from Ala mmuo (Spirit world) to accompany living human beings whose affairs they guide. After the kola-breaking and libation-pouring ritual, the oldest man calls the meeting to order by bellowing the phrase “Umuaro kwenu!” and the people answer “Hem!” in unison, which is the equivalent of “Amen” in Christianity or Judaism. For, it is a call-and-answer ritual that binds all those who utter it to the execution of whatever decisions they arrive at during their group deliberations. If after agreeing with others before men and the dead-living ancestors a person flouts the decisions made at the meeting, he is punished by the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient gods and goddesses for committing nso ala, an offense against the Earth Goddess Ala, who is in charge of the people’s morality and ethos, as well as human, animal, and plant fertility. That is why all Igbo customs derive from, or are anchored on, a worldview known as omenala: that which is rooted on the ground. Therefore, for the Igbo, the whole Earth or ground, not just a specific portion of it, is sacred. Hence, right from their infancy, Igbo people are taught not to misuse or abuse the earth or to take untrue oaths with sand or soil taken from the ground. Furthermore, they are not expected to tell the truth only when they are sworn to do so under oath, for they believe that the eyes of the dead-living ancestors are always upon them. Whenever they misbehave even in private, the gods and goddesses must surely punish them in public.

In Things Fall Apart whose events predated those of Arrow of God, the narrator laments the Igbo people’s loss of their primordial piety, patriotism, and ability to fight a common enemy in defense of their clan. They attribute the loss to the presence of the British colonial master in their midst who is ignorant of the Igbo customary laws on land use. That is why when Okonkwo, who still embodies all of those great Igbo attributes now moribund, asks his friend Obierika, “Does the white man understand our custom about land?”  Obierika replies in grief as follows:

How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad; and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart (TFA 176).

Some of the factors that held the ancient Igbo people together were their customs and worldview, as well as their traditional religion, called Igo mmuo, which the white missionaries saw as heathen and fetish, hence condemnable. For that reason, while some Igbo traditionalists held on to their traditional ways of life, the new Christian converts and Western educated Igbo were bent on bringing some changes into old Igbo ways of life, and the changes resulted in dangerous divisions in their communities.  And even though their ancestors fought hard to resist being colonized by the encroaching foreign powers, their colonizers ultimately succeeded in opening up the erstwhile closed Igbo societies to foreigners who brought in their religion, education, and employments to the native people. Consequently, such foreign elements became anathema to the internal weaknesses of ancient Igbo customary practices, such as the killing of twin babies and the banishment of their mothers to evil forests, as well as dedicating some free-people to serve as priests of the gods and goddesses and branding them as osu, the untouchable people.
Furthermore, despite some obvious benefits of the British colonial system in Nigeria, many Igbo people continued to lament what the new dispensation did to their societies: That colonialism seriously affected their ability to speak with one voice as they used to in precolonial eras, more so as it attempted to destroy all their traditional ways, including those that promoted peace and unity among the people. Nevertheless, although the Igbo culture was not built on granite, yet it was not so fragile that the British agents could destroy it completely. That is why, in contemporary Nigeria, the indigenous Igbo culture is able to coexist with the foreign ones, such as the British and the American.

The ability of the Igbo culture to coexist with other cultures was due to the Igbo stoic and resilient spirit. Once Great Britain found an irremovable foothold in Nigeria, the Igbo ethnic group quickly devised some clever ways to hold on to their customs and traditions in spite of the serious threats the colonial authorities posed. Politically, they exploited the British parliamentary system of governance in Nigeria which had three strong regional governments and a central government that was not so strong in Lagos, the then capital of Nigeria. For the British allowed each of the regional governments (with capitals in Enugu for Eastern Nigeria, Ibadan for Western Nigeria, and Kaduna for Northern Nigeria) to maintain their individual and unique paces of development. In their sociopolitical practices, the Igbo-dominated Eastern Region, in southern Nigeria, was a model region in terms of governance, education, and management of its natural and human resources; so was the Yoruba government of Western Region, also in southern Nigeria. But the Hausa/Fulani-dominated Northern Region, in northern Nigeria, was somehow behind those of the two southern regions. I believe that the disparity between the northern and southern regions, in terms of their internal developments, was largely due to the differences in their respective precolonial histories, including their divergent religious, educational, and cultural backgrounds, as well as their political viewpoints, all of which are discussed in detail in Obaro Ikime’s edited book, Groundwork of Nigerian History.[5]

At the end of the civil war, some Igbo communities outside the Igbo heartland were enticed to renounce their Igbo heritage for political and financial advantage. For example, the Igbo people who lived in Port Harcourt Province of Eastern Nigeria before the war became part of a new state, named Rivers State, which the Federal Military Government carved out of the erstwhile Eastern Nigeria on May 27, 1967. Thereafter, in the mid-1970s, the state government hired Kay Williamson, a British linguist who specialized in the study of African languages, to develop the linguistic studies of the languages of the Niger Delta, especially Ijaw, which she offered as a course at the University of Port Harcourt. While doing her studies, she changed the names of the Igbo communities in the state to sound Ijaw. For instance, the original Igbo community of Umumasi became Rumumasi, and Umuodumaya became Rumuodumaya. As a reaction to the changes, many  mainland Igbo scholars argued that the Igbo inhabitants of those areas supported the state government’s move to enable them dissociate themselves from the political “sins” that the “secessionist” Igbo people committed against Nigeria when they led the Biafran cause of the civil war. From then onwards, some of the politicians of Igbo descent in Rivers State changed their attitude toward mainland Igbo people to the extent that they even colluded with their government to confiscate Igbo landed properties whose owners left behind when they fled the state at the onset of the war.

However, the more devastating effect of the change in the attitudes of some Rivers State politicians is the disunity it brought into the global Igbo ethnic nation.  For example, the governor of that state, Chibuike Amaechi (2007-2015), who rode on the political coattails of another Rivers State governor of Igbo descent, Hon. Peter Odili, categorically disavowed his Igbo descent and heritage when he came to New Jersey to receive “The 2013 Quintessence Award” given by an Igbo book publisher, Dr. Ugorji O. Ugorji. In his acceptance remarks before some Nigerian Americans—I was one of them on the occasion—Governor Amaechi opined that unlike other ethnic groups (including his own Ikwerre group) the Igbo were naïve in the way they were playing politics in contemporary Nigeria. Like a drunken masquerade, he went around Nigeria fighting President Goodluck Jonathan, a fellow People’s Democratic Party (PDP) politician from the same South-South geopolitical zone. As he viciously attacked the president politically with reckless abandon, he fell out of favor with many of his political associates, including members of his cabinet like Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike who fought back and won the May 2015 gubernatorial election, and thus became governor of Rivers State on the platform of the PDP instead of that of All Progressives Congress (APC), Amaechi’s new political party.

Savvy Nigerian political observers and media gurus, who followed Amaechi’s political activities, opined that he not only decamped PDP, which made him a state governor, but also took with him many members of the party to the APC party so he could become a running mate to Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who quickly made him head of his presidential election campaign organization. And even though Amaechi acknowledged on several occasions that he was not Igbo, yet in the dying days of the campaigns he brought Buhari to the Igbo Enyimba City of Aba to campaign for him, hypocritically claiming there and then in public that he was after all an Igboman. He also thought that the Igbo people would easily forget his condemnation of President Jonathan for helping Igbo people develop some parts of the South East geopolitical zone. He urged other Nigerians not support the president’s bid for reelection because, according to him, the president’s development effort was tantamount to rehabilitation of the former Biafran enclave: “The Governor Amaechi in an interview with AIT television said that President Jonathan has developed Abia and Imo but he has refused to develop Rivers. Are we Biafrans?”
9/26/2014]. In the end, however, Governor Amaechi failed woefully in his attempt to become the Vice President of Nigeria; neither did he win his state’s electoral votes for the APC.

In contrast to Amaechi’s negative effort, all the five South East states voted for President Jonathan because of what he did politically for their development. Although he did not win the presidency, the Igbo grateful nation did not regret casting their votes for a man who helped to make their sociopolitical lives a little better than they were before his tenure. In essence, Amaechi’s political fights with President Jonathan and members of the PDP brought so much destruction to the human and natural resources of Rivers State that his political mentor, the former Governor Odili, publicly expressed his regret for having worked hard to make Amaechi his successor in office. Nevertheless, while the political struggle between Amaechi and Wike continues, politicians of non-Igbo descent in the state have been watching both of them in utter disdain and disbelief. Their fight once again reminds people of the Igbo adage, “When two brothers fight, a stranger reaps the benefits.” Every Igbo person is anxiously waiting for the time when the two Igbo political gladiators’ quarrels would end in Rivers State and its environs.

The devastating political wrangle and disunity that Nigerians are currently witnessing among politicians of Igbo descent in Rivers State are a child’s play when compared to what has been happening in all five mainland Igbo states since the end of military administrations in Nigeria. In Anambra State, for example, after Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju (May 29, 1999-May 29, 2003) finished his tenure in office under PDP, Chris Ngige of PDP and Peter Obi of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) competed to succeed him. Although Peter Obi won the election, Chris Ngige and his party rigged him out of victory; thus, Ngige became the governor from May 23, 2003 to March 17, 2006. However, through the concerted effort of APGA and the indefatigable General Ojukwu, Peter Obi regained the stolen mandate the people gave him through their ballots to govern them. That was after three years of brutal court battles. He became the state governor from March 17, 2006 through November 3, 2006; but the state legislature impeached him for an alleged gross misconduct. In his place, the deputy governor, Dame Virginia Etiaba, was appointed to serve as governor on November 3, 2006. Three months later, she transferred her powers back to Peter Obi on February 9, 2007. At the interim, a PDP candidate, Emmanuel Nnamdi Uba (Andy Uba), was elected and sworn in as governor of the state on May 27, 2007, but he was removed by a Supreme Court decision on June 18, 2007. That means he illegally governed the state for only twenty-two days. On the other hand, Governor Peter Obi served as the duly elected governor from February 9, 2007 to March 17, 2014. He was reportedly the first modern Nigerian governor to leave office with a surplus in the state’s coffers. Thereafter, he was succeeded in office by another APGA candidate, Willie Obiano, who won the election and began serving as governor of the state from March 17, 2014 up to date. He is said to have since completed most of the projects Governor Obi left uncompleted and then some. So far, most Anambra people love and respect him for the work he is doing in all parts of the state.

From the foregoing, one can see that there was a lot of political dysfunction in the state which produced six governors in eleven years—a period of time that should have been the constitutional tenure of only three governors. It was a period marked by political godfatherism, blatant rigging of elections by PDP, politically-motivated kidnappings of people, wanton destruction of people’s lives and property, as well as many incidents of arson. Regrettably, during the dark period, Anambra State, which had boasted politicians of “timber and caliber” such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Nwafor Orizu, Dr. Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, and General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, became the most politically violent state in post-era of military administrations in Nigeria. And there were no effective political interventions by some of its clear-headed sociopolitical and religious leaders.

As a politically conscious Igboman, what bothered me most about the situation is that a revered politician like Dr. Alex Ekwueme from Anambra State could not make the warring politicians in his home state see reason in what they were doing as he did whenever there was political turmoil at the national scene. He served meritoriously as vice-president of Nigeria during the postwar civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari (1979-1983), was a founding member of the PDP in 1998, introduced and canvassed the concept of geopolitical zones in the country, served as a PDP presidential candidate in 1999 and as chair of PDP Board of Trustees for a considerable period of time. In addition, in consideration of his negotiation skills, President Olusegun Obasanjo sent him all over the country to troubleshoot political problems in the PDP constituencies.  And he did so with great success that earned him the respect and admiration of the political class from all ethnic and political spectrums.  The question then arises, “Why didn’t he succeed in quelling the internal political quagmire in his native Anambra State?” Or, as the Igbo would ask proverbially, “How could an old man sit idly by and watch his tethered goat suffer the pains of parturition without giving her any assistance?” Although many political observers think that that was what he did, no one could tell with certainty the extent to which he tried privately to make peace among his people but in the end failed. The curious thing though is that although he was aware of the criticisms, as a very private person, Dr. Alex Ekwueme refused to stoop and quibble with his critics, whether informed or uninformed.
While the political dysfunction went on in Anambra State, another Igbo state, Abia State, seemed to enjoy initial stability in its governance under Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA). It is a mini party he formed for the South East geopolitical region to checkmate such other regional parties as All Peoples Party (APP)—primarily for Northerners, and Alliance for Democracy (AD)—primarily for the South West. Governor Kalu was so successful in controlling his government functionaries as the party’s leader that he completed two terms in office (May 29, 1999-May, 2007). Thereafter, he was also successful in handing over power to his chief of staff and protégé, Chief Theodore A. Orji, whom he helped to win the gubernatorial election on PPA platform from prison under some dubious circumstances. But while in office, Governor Orji defected to PDP and allegedly ruled the state like a tyrant for two terms (May 29, 2007-May 29, 2015). Ultimately, he and Governor Kalu clashed and became mortal enemies. Resultantly, Governor Kalu’s political appointees whom Governor Orji retained in his administration found themselves dispensable and ultimately relieved of their positions.

Furthermore, unlike Governor Kalu his political mentor and predecessor who brought some visible developments in the commercial city of Aba, rebuilt some state roads, and paid state workers’ salaries regularly most of the time, Governor Orji did more to help himself and members of his immediate family than he did for the people of the state. Many of them allege that he converted some public facilities into his personal businesses, especially those cited at Umuahia, the state capital and his birthplace. There were also some published and privately asserted incidents of the governor bulldozing the landed properties of his neighbors, especially those he disagreed with politically before and during his tenure as governor. Reportedly, his son, Chinedum Orji, fired at will some state commissioners he did not like and replaced them with those who were willing to become his stooges. His doting father accepted his recommendations enthusiastically. Also, Chinedum so intimidated many other state workers that they lost their freedom of speech for fear of being removed from office, physically manhandled, or even killed. Finally, on leaving office, Governor Orji created a strong niche for Chinedum in the Abia State House of Assembly where he now serves as a member.

But the most despicable political decision Governor Theodore A. Orji made, which momentarily brought a visible crack in the unity of the Igbo nation, was firing all workers from other Igbo states who had lived and worked in Abia State even long before he became the governor. And yet, Abia State indigenes working in other Igbo states were retained and treated as brothers by their respective governors. It took the effort of the apex Igbo sociocultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, to dissuade the governors from retaliating in the national interest of Igbo ethnic unity.

Against the backdrop of these allegations of corruption against the former governor, a voluntary association of concerned Abia citizens, “Save Abia Initiative for Change (SAIC)” has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) “detailing how the erstwhile governor, Chief Theodor Orji, his wife, Mercy Odochi, their son, Chinedum (a. k. a. Ikuku) and a few of their cronies allegedly squandered N474 billion of Abia State funds between 2011 and this year”

In contrast to the disappointing roles that some Igbo politicians in both Igbo mainland and outside of it played that brought disunity in the Igbo nation, other politicians of Igbo descent outside the mainland have played roles which demonstrate in practical terms the adage that where people have the will, there can be unity in spite of the great odds against them. For example, the Igbo sociopolitical leaders in the old Bendel State, now Delta State, have done things in present Nigerian geopolitics that have not only showcased their love of country, but also the love and defense of Igbo ethnic nationalism to the admiration of all fair-minded Igbo people both in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. This they did in spite of the slaughter of the Niger Igbo in Asaba during the war because they supported the Biafran cause of the mainland Igbo and other Eastern Nigerians who were being exterminated by the Nigerian armed forces. Anyone who reads their gory experience of the Niger Igbo from Emma Okocha’s book, Blood on the Niger,[6] cannot but marvel why their love of the Igbo nation is so great and unshakeable.

One of those Igbo personalities from Delta State who played great roles to foster Igbo ethnic unity and nationalism is Col. J. O. G. Achuzia. Those of us who were old enough to experience the Nigeria-Biafra War are familiar with the story of how he gallantly fought the war in defense of “Biafra as an experiment of the black man’s ability to survive in the face of impossible living history,” which earned him the monikers “Hannibal” and “Air Raid.” Although the physical Biafra collapsed, as a noble idealistic struggle it continued to exist in the hearts and souls of patriotic Igbo people now dubbed ex-Biafrans. Achuzia’s roles in that war and what Biafra meant—and continues to mean—to many an Igbo man is brilliantly discussed in his book, Requiem Biafra: The True Story of Nigeria’s Civil War.[7] Furthermore, since after the war, Achuzia has been fighting with the same soldierly zeal in the apex Igbo sociocultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, to ensure that the marginalization of the Igbo people in Nigerian nation state becomes a thing of the past. Hence, some Igbo people like me applaud him for his unalloyed Igbo ethnic patriotism and nationalism. May he live long for the benefit of our people!

Another great personality of Igbo descent from Delta State is Ralph Uwechue who was a former Nigerian career diplomat. In 1966, he opened Nigeria’s embassy in France. However, “strongly disagreeing with the federal government’s handling of the situation produced by the massacres of September 1966, he decided to quit the federal service to help present the case of the Ibos to the French world. This he did with remarkable effect in his capacity as Biafra’s representative.” But he resigned that appointment in December 1968 “in protest against the Biafran leadership’s attitude towards absolute sovereignty.” Most of his thoughts on the Nigerian civil war can be found in his book, Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War: Facing the Future.[8] Although many ex-Biafrans were disappointed in what he did then, they are currently happy with what he did since after the war: He became a great advocate for the unity and survival of the Igbo nation inside Nigeria and in the Diaspora. Specifically, he worked assiduously to unite the Igbo people in Rivers and Delta States. One easily admires how politically savvy and well-informed he was by reading his published analysis of the Igbo situation in present Nigerian geopolitics as revealed in the interview he granted to The Sun News Publishing, titled “How Zik Stopped Nigeria from Breaking up in 1957” [See The Sun News online, Wednesday, March 10, 2010].  He also served as one of the leadership cadre of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and later became its president before he died in 2014. His political sagacity is missed by patriotic Igbo persons today.

Among the people Ambassador Uwechue lionized in the interview is his fellow Delta Igbo, Prof. Patrick O. Utomi. Many Igbo people (especially me) consider him as their personal hero because he epitomizes all the attributes one finds in a phenomenal Igbo person: acquisition of higher education, professional excellence, civil rights advocacy and rule of law, uncommon political leadership, and endless committed service to one’s community. Professor Utomi is a native of Igbuzo in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State. After attending high school and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication, he came to the USA for graduate studies, where he earned his Ph. D, MPA, and MA at Bloomington. He also became a scholar-in-residence at Harvard Business School and the American University in Washington, D.C. Thus academically and professionally equipped, Utomi returned to Nigeria to serve both the Nigerian nation and his people, including his Igbuzo community and the Igbo people at home and in the Diaspora. He helped to reenergize Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and raised the political profile of the Igbo nation when he ran as a candidate for the office of the Nigerian presidency in 2007 and 2011. Although he did not win, he became a powerful force that no Nigerian politician or political party can ignore. Hence, he has served some Nigerian presidents, especially President Jonathan, as an official or private advisor. Furthermore, he successfully co-founded a political party ADC and some banks and businesses that have created numerous employment opportunities for many Nigerians. He is the author of several management and public policy books which professional organizations and universities have adopted in Nigeria and abroad. If I were to speculate this quintessential Igbo son’s greatest achievement, I would say it is his service to his people as the traditional ruler of Asaba, an ideal, if exemplary, Igbo community, and his indefatigable effort to restore the dignity of the postwar Igbo nation in Nigeria. I personally pray than he runs again for the Nigerian presidency in future.

Another major cause of Igbo marginalization in the present day Nigerian geopolitics is the unwholesome changes which have occurred in postwar Igbo value system and ethos. As an enterprising ethnic group, the Igbo people have always pursued every legal and ethical means of acquiring wealth for the common good of the community. For example, in the ancient clan of Arochukwu, the people’s entrepreneurial and frontier spirit drove them to various places in precolonial Eastern Nigeria where they founded plantations they called uno ubi—an act that earned them the moniker “Aro Okigbo,” which means “Aro the great Igbo people.” They live in present day Arochukwu Local Government Area in Abia State. In those primordial years, they developed their own peculiar governance, a code language, Insibiri, and commercial systems which the British missionaries and government functionaries waged battles to destroy. But their failure to win the cultural battles caused the British to respect and work with the Aro people—a bold act which elevated their status as a strong clan in Igboland and Nigeria as a whole.

In the same manner, the people of Abiriba developed commercial, trade, and blacksmithing businesses, collectively called ikpu ozu, which took them everywhere in Eastern Nigeria. In their trade and commercial industry, they specialized in smuggling illicit goods from foreign countries, especially fairly-used or second hand clothes, stock fish, tobacco, and hot drinks into Nigeria. Through such enterprises, the men and their young apprentices made a lot of money and became rich, not just for the benefit of their immediate families but also for the entire community. In fact, the Abiriba business class and artisans were so successful in what they did that they built secondary schools and hospitals for the clan without any government assistance that made Abiriba one of the most developed clans in Igboland. People in Old Bende used to refer to the clan as “Small London.” In addition, they gave massive university scholarship awards to their young men and women to study in local and foreign universities. And during the civil war, Abiriba businessmen and women purchased and smuggled food, medicine, and small arms into Biafra to feed and protect all the people in their clan and its environs, regardless of their socioeconomic classes and gender.

Some of these altruistic endeavors, enviable community development efforts, and time-tested commonweal aspirations found in Arochukwu and Abiriba clans could be found also in other Igbo communities though not in the same scope or amplitude. If you were a rich farmer, you could take titles involving the slaughter of cows to feast a whole village with yam foo-foo and drinks. That way, you became Ogbuefi—killer of cows. From time to time though, the villagers would offer free labor on your farms in appreciation of how well you have been supporting and caring for them as a rich brother. As a village elder, you would take care of orphans and widows and always find a way to make peace between warring neighbors without the involvement of police and the courts. Above all, the seasonal rituals and ceremonies were staged in the village to promote the unity and comradery of the people who are descendants of a common ancestor that should not wage wars against each other. For the security of the people, men sent their able-bodied sons to serve in the village vigilante outfit. And finally, because of the sense of unity inculcated in the people to defend all aspects of their communal life, there was peace in those rural communities most of the time. Nevertheless, all that could not happen if there were no established mechanisms to maintain law and order in the villages, which no villagers, however rich or powerful, could impugn without incurring severe sanctions and punishment from their gods and goddesses and human authorities.

Unfortunately, however, such neighborly attitudes of the villagers changed after the war. People began to pursue the acquisition of wealth for the benefits of their nuclear families only. The moral and ethical standards which used to guide their behavior drastically changed ostensibly because people now live outside their villages and clans most of the time. Anyone who is able to defraud or steal from other people and thereby become rich overnight is applauded by some fellow villagers without qualms. And for too long, the broad day thievery has been happening to the extent that the village, which used to be the conscience of the people, is now deserted by the thieves and criminals who now make the towns, cities, and foreign countries their permanent abode. In face of these reprehensible activities of some of our people, we the Igbo people need to go back to our spiritual past and pick up our abandoned prewar moral compass to enable us live morally and ethically better lives.

Before the war, those who gave the Igbo nation visibility and recognition in Nigeria and Africa were the political class because of their selfless contributions to the country and the continent. Who could ever forget some of such great nationalists as Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe the great Zik of Africa, Dr. Nwafor Orizu, Dr. Michael Okpara, Dr. Kingsley Mbadiwe, Dr. Francis Akanu Ibiam, Dr. Alvan Ikoku, Mazi Mbonu Ojike (of the “boycott the boycottable” fame), Chief Dennis Chukudebe Osadebey, Dr. Okechukwu Ikejiani, Chief Jaja Wachuku, Chief Nathan Ejiogu, Chief Raymond Amanze Njoku, Chief Sam Ikoku, Chief Sam Mbakwe, and Mrs. Margaret Ekpo?

How many mansions and edifices did they build for themselves except leading the war of independence against the British colonial powers that resulted in Nigeria attaining self-rule in 1957 and independence in 1960; building the first Nigerian indigenous bank, African Continental Bank, Enugu, in 1954; founding the first indigenous Nigerian university, The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1955; founding the first indigenous Nigerian college of education, Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, in 1974; and, founding the first indigenous Nigerian state university, The Imo State University, Etiti, in 1981 for other Nigerian states to emulate? As one can clearly see, the Igbo elder statesmen were concerned only with giving peace, unity, and progress to the Igbo nation in Nigerian and not about their personal wealth or fame. The heroes’ achievements speak eloquently for them after their deaths.

Now the question arises: “Can anyone of us favorably compare what our current Igbo political class or leaders are doing with what our renowned past leaders did as we have seen above? I personally do not think so. In fact, as a result of the creation of many states in Nigeria and the way the Federal Government has been sharing petro money to each state every month, many of the politicians—especially state governors, senators, and members of the House of Assembly and State Legislatures—have ample opportunities and the wherewithal to develop Igboland faster and better than their counterparts in the past and to promote peace, unity, and economic wellbeing for people in the South East geopolitical area if they if they wanted to. Unfortunately, however, because of their greediness, selfishness, mediocrity, political ineptitude, indiscipline, and what Achebe once called “crude showiness,”[9] the politicians are unable to forge any strong political bond and leadership as well as the will power that would enable them fight for an Igbo fair share of the metaphoric Nigerian national cake. No, they could not even unite to recommend one additional Igbo state when it was rumored that the Federal Government might create one additional state in the South East geopolitical zone to bring the number to six as it is in the five other geopolitical zones of the country. Instead, Ukwa and Ngwa clans in Abia State, Orlu and Uguta clans in Imo State, Nsukka and Awgu clans in Enugu State, and Afikpo and Edda clans in Ebonyi State each want the one additional state to be created in their backyard as it were. Thus, the other ethnic groups who have always been opposed to creating an additional state for the Igbo nation (for the sake of equity and balance) were happy about the Igbo political leaders’ disunity and disagreement on the issue. What a shame and ethnic disgrace!

Even when they are given the opportunity by politicians from other ethnic groups to serve, the Igbo leaders squander their political capitals very easily. We saw that happen during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s two-term administration: Senator  Evan Enwere was elected Senate President on June 3, 1999 but was sacked on November 18, 1999 following his impeachment; Senator (Dr.) Chuba Okadigbo served as Senate President from 1999 to 2000, and was also impeached; Senator Pius Anyim Pius served honorably as Senate President from 200 to 2003; Senator Adolphus Wabara served as Senate President from 2003 to 2005 and resigned because of charges of corruption; and Senator Ken Nnamani served as Senate President as well from 2005 to 2007. In other words, within a period of eight years five Igbo senators served as presidents of the red chamber. One can see how disappointing their collective service and reputation (even though not all of them were bad) can be viewed by other Nigerian ethnic peoples, especially when compared to the tenure of the immediate past Senate President, Senator (General) David Mark from Benue State, who served from 2007 to 2015, which is eight consecutive years. And they sarcastically ask, “If the Igbo senators could not complete their senate presidency tenures meritoriously, how could anybody trust that they could do so if they were elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?” What those Igbo senate presidents did can be seen proverbially as a case of one finger that collects dirty oil and smears other fingers with it. Hence, in our Igbo intraethnic democracy, all our smeared fingers must be washed clean.

Now that we have examined where the trouble with our Igbo ethnic people lies, the question becomes “What can we do to extricate ourselves from it?” First of all, we must decide that our collective problems are not unsurmountable, for other ethnic groups have had their own peculiar sociopolitical problems in the past and took care of them. The Yoruba and the Hausa/Fulani had their own share of problems in the 1960s, but after fighting each other for a while, they came together in unity and dealt with the problems.  Who could forget the Yoruba division between the Awolowo and Akintola factions that partially caused the Army to stage the first Nigerian bloody coup of January 15, 1966? For us Igbo people, our present task is to let the Igbo nation be Igbo again. Doing so involves harnessing our ethnic consciousness, all the brainpower, foresight, soul force, and determination which guided our past heroes to make the Igbo a great ethnic people in Nigeria. Even though this article’s analysis of our situation has been focused on the sociopolitical class in Nigeria, we must also emphasize what we the Igbo people in the Diaspora can do to help our people in Nigeria solve the Igbo problems at home, because we have the higher education, experience, and the wherewithal to deal with such problems without the fear of being thrown out of jobs or assassinated politically by the powers that be in Nigeria.

As a matter of fact, the rescue operation has already begun in Nigeria and in some foreign countries, including the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France.

For example, while Professor Austin S. O. Okwu and I were brooding over the situation of our Igbo people in current Nigerian geopolitics following the just concluded 2015 Nigerian national elections, an Igbo blues song came to my mind: “Where are the young suckers that would replace the old banana trees after they die? Both of us were saddened by the sorry situation of our people in general. Anybody who knows Professor Okwu would not be surprised that I had this type of conversation with him, for he has done a lot of things toward achieving the unity, survival, and progress of the Igbo more than most of the people I know about here in the USA. To know about this quintessential Igboman necessitates a review of some of his services to the Igbo nation in particular and Nigeria in general. As a diplomat, Okwu began his professional journey in the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Ministry from 1961 to 1967 during which period he served in Ghana, Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Britain, and the United States. In Tanganyika, Okwu negotiated with that government’s officials to fill vacant positions in their judiciary with Nigerian lawyers as magistrates and judges. In 1967, before the Nigeria-Biafra War broke out, Colonel Ojukwu sent Ambassador Okwu to go open the Biafran Foreign Office in London, from where he could plead the Biafran cause before the outside world. Later on, he was redeployed to serve as an ambassador to East Africa, where he won for Biafra the first two diplomatic recognitions from Tanzania and Zambia. The two other countries that recognized Biafra diplomatically, Gabon and the Ivory Coast, and then Haiti in the Western hemisphere, took their cues from those countries that Ambassador Okwu first persuaded to recognize Biafra as a country. He continued his ambassadorial services in East Africa up to the end of the civil war.

Thereafter, Ambassador Okwu and his family emigrated to the U.S. where he attended Columbia University, New York, and earned a Ph. D. in History. After that, he taught in some American colleges and also worked as a dean in some of them. What is most admirable in this great Igbo son is the life of service he has led up to his early 90s. He spearheaded the founding of an Igbo sociocultural organization, “Igbozue,” alongside his wife Dr. Beatrice Okwu, who herself spearheaded the founding of the “Igbo Women Association of Connecticut.” Both organizations in Connecticut State serve as platforms from where they taught Igbo people through personal experiences how to unite and uphold their cultural norms and traditions. Above all, since after his retirement, Professor Okwu has been busy visiting Igbo organizations in other states in the USA as well as in Nigeria to ensure that our culture never dies.

Acting as a bridge between the old generation of sociopolitical leaders (some of whom he worked with) and the new class of leaders (some of whom seem ignorant of what sincere public service means to our people), Professor Okwu has been making presentations in some Igbo academic institutions like Abia State University, Okigwe. In March 2014, he attended and contributed a paper to a conference, titled “The First International Colloquium on The Igbo Question in Nigeria: Before, During, and After Biafra,” which was organized by Alaigbo Development Foundation of which he is a founding member. The papers delivered at the colloquium eventuated in the publication of a monumental two-volume book, Igbo Nation: History & Challenges of Rebirth and Development,[10] whose contents teach and exemplify what the Igbo people must do to overcome their challenges in order to achieve rebirth, unity, and development which ameliorate their geopolitical situation in Nigeria. Most of these sociopolitical and ambassadorial roles that Ambassador (Professor) Augustine S. O. Okwu has played for more than five decades can be found in his memoir, In Truth for Justice and Honor: A Memoir of a Nigerian-Biafran Ambassador.[11]      

Another Igbo scholar who is working tirelessly to unite the Igbo in thought and reason in Nigeria and in the Diaspora is Professor Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, who currently lives in and writes from Brazil. His forward looking blog, Rethinking Africa, is dedicated to the exchange of innovative thinking on issues affecting the advancement of African peoples wherever they are. He provides rigorous and insightful analyses on the issues affecting Africans and their vision of the world
[See Accessed 
7/7/2015]. In 2014, I attended a conference in which I observed Ekwe-Ekwe make incisive, erudite, and thought-provoking arguments in defense of Africana cause in the world. Also, his book, The Biafra-Nigeria War and the Aftermath, is one of the best reads on the Nigerian civil war.[12] The more I read his blog entries, the better I appreciate the Igbo nation and the Black World. His article “Does Arrow of God Anticipate the Igbo Genocide?” contains a complex argument that the novel “presents a highly imaginative and anticipatory insight to the turbulent trajectory of post-(European) conquest African history and politics. This insight anticipates the catastrophe of the Igbo genocide”[13] Of course, the anticipated genocide in the novel Ekwe-Ekwe referring to in the article is the massacre of the Igbo that began during the I966 Northern riots and ended in the civil war, which we have earlier touched on in this article.

In the end, after this metaphoric sea journey through the Igbo geopolitical terrain in which we have seen some examples of the activities of our fellow Igbo people at home and abroad, what is there to be said about Igbo intraethnic democracy in present-day Nigerian geopolitics? Or what is it that this article has contributed, if any, to ameliorate the Igbo people’s plight in the scheme of things in Nigeria? One can say, for one thing—curiously—that issues have been raised and observations made on the performances of the Igbo sociopolitical class in Nigeria, which have not given us an ethnic nation the peace, unity, and development we deserve since after the civil war; and, also, that an attempt has been made to draw attention to how, when, and where the rain started to beat us as a people. Therefore, if we become more conscious of the causes of our downfall, even our marginalization and thereby decide to do something positively concrete about them as Umuaro clan did in Arrow of God, then we will have started to reenergize and reinvent ourselves to face the great odds that have bedeviled us as a people who fought and lost a secessionist war we were forced into fighting against Nigeria. And we can do that without lamenting the noble experimentation on the building of a new nation—Biafra, our New Jerusalem—which gave us the love and hope of surviving the brutality of three nations: Nigeria, Great Britain, and USSR. And if we realize that Nigeria is the only native country that our Igbo nation has in the world, then we must always fight with every means available to us without retreat to ensure our survival in it politically, socially, economically, and emotionally.

Igbo ndi oma, anyi ga adi ooo!

*****Kalu Ogbaa is a professor of English at Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven. He has published ten books and many book chapters, articles, and book reviews on Africana literary and cultural studies, including Gods, Oracles and Divination… (Africa World Press, 1992), The Gong and The Flute… (Greenwood Press, 1994), and Understanding Things Fall Apart… (Greenwood Press, 1999).

[1]Chinua Achebe, “The Novelist as Teacher” in Morning Yet on Creation Day (New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1976), 59.
[2]Chinua Achebe, “The Role of the Writer in a New Nation” in Nigeria Magazine, No. 81 (Lagos, Nigeria: Federal Ministry of Culture, 1964), 157-58.
[3]Kalu Ogbaa. Gods, Oracles, and Divination: Folkways in Chinua Achebe’s Novels. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1992.
[4]Emmanuel Obiechina, “The Human Dimension of History in Arrow of God” in Critical Perspectives on Chinua Achebe, edited by C. L. Innes and Bernth Lindfors. Washington, D. C.: Three Continents Press, 1978: 170.
[5]Obaro Ikime, ed. Groundwork of Nigerian History. Ibadan, Nigeria: Heinemann Educational Books (Nig.) Ltd, 1980.
[6]Emma Okocha. Blood on the Niger, First Black on Black Genocide: The Untold Story of the Asaba Massacre During the Nigeria-Biafra War. New York: Triatlantic Books, 2006.
[7]Joe O. G. Achuzia. Requiem Biafra: The True Story of Nigeria’s Civil War. Asaba, Nigeria: Steel Equip Nigeria Ltd., 2002.
[8]Ralph Uwechue. Reflections on the Nigerian Civil War: Facing the Future. Paris, France: Jeune Afrique Edition, 1970.
[9]Chinua Achebe. The Trouble with Nigeria. Enugu, Nigeria: Fourth Dimension Publishing Co. Ltd, 1983: 46.
[10]T. Uzodinma Nwala, Nath Aniekwu, and Chinyere Ohiri- Aniche, Eds. Igbo Nation: History & Challenges of Rebirth and Development, Vols. One and Two. Ibadan, Nigeria: Kraft Books Limited, 2015.
[11]Augusten S. O. Okwu. In Truth for Justice and Honor: A Memoir of a Nigerian-Biafran Ambassador. Princeton, NJ: Sungai Books, 2011.
[12]Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe. The Biafra-Nigeria War and the Aftermath. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen, 1990.
[13]Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, “Does ‘Arrow of God’ anticipate Igbo genocide?” in, 2014-10-16, Issue 698. Accessed 10/16/2014.