Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Tragedy of the Igbo Intellectual (2): Igbo Guardian, Ambrose Ehirim & Critics

Let me first thank you for taking the time and making the effort to query the palpable lethargy or disarray which has preoccupied and apparently neutralized the intellectual firepower of contemporary Igbo elite. My reaction to your submission shall be limited, for now, since the essay is still a work in progress. As provocative as what you have written thus far may sound, I still look forward to a conclusion of your current trend of thought.

The much I can say, for now, is that the emphasis on generational divide in the task before our folks, by your repeated mention of the old versus young intellectuals, could engender unnecessary misgivings even though such an outcome may not have been your intent. The Ikemba’s quote contained in your piece is quite clear in the invitation to the young in our midst to muster the gumption to step up to the plate and assume the lead to make up the deficiencies of the older ones. It is, therefore, confusing to try to explain the inability of the young Igbo intellectual elite like you to rise up to the challenge of this era by providing a long list of old intellectuals who may have not met your expectations of them for a variety of reasons.

Since you made a special mention of me, I feel compelled to let you understand that, based on my limited means, I have always endeavored to make my own input into our collective struggle as a people in as many ways as I could and as I speak, I am still in the trenches trying my utmost daily to open up new vistas of hope for the future of our people. I have written sundry articles on Biafra and also have been instrumental in proposing the systematic implementation of the Biafra Memorial Project (BMP) to which the Osondu Foundation has always been committed. The Osondu Newsletter, which later metamorphosed into the online outlet, Osondu website debuted here in the Washington, DC metro in the 1990s. If you get the chance to browse the site, especially the first three volumes of the Osondu Newsletter, you can still appreciate the seriousness of the effort made at the time to portray the injustices meted to our folks in Nigeria as well as the determination to restore our dignity and cultural pride through the pursuit of Igbo Renaissance. May I also refer you to the effort being made through the World Igbo Environmental Foundation (WIEF) to seek a real-time revitalization of the Igbo spirit by restoration of the sanctity and integrity of the Igbo ancestral home base which is currently being overwhelmed by neglect and widespread decay and degradation. To facilitate quicker actualization of WIEF’s mission at ground zero, the four cardinal ideological tenets of the Green Movement has been proposed and elucidated for easy universal application by groups and individuals as they deem suitable to their own circumstances.

I have written no books thus far, but I believe that I have generated and compiled enough material over the years to write more than a few. I also know that there are alternative effective means of harnessing and deploying the power of the written word beyond just publication of books. If you however, know of parties interested in partnering with me in book-publishing, endeavor, I shall definitely like to explore that.

Okenwa Nwosu, MD
Founder, Physicians Omni Health Group
Maryland, USA

…Congratulations on this excellent essay. This is a major intervention that our people will come to recognize as a turning point in probing the seemingly inexplicable inaction of our intellectuals to confront the Igbo genocide and its aftermath. The essay surely ends this very depressing lethargy. The Igbo nation will triumph. Let no one ever doubt this outcome. All we need is to be unwavering and eternally focused.

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe
Leading Scholar, Igbo Genocide 1966-1970

This is a subject I have been thinking quite a lot about lately. I wasn’t born during the war or the events that preceded it and my understanding of these things were largely shaped by the “victors history” fed to me in school. My parents and older relations didn’t speak in too much detail about it; they seemed to want to shield us from the horrors they witnessed.

In the past few years, though, I’ve suddenly found that I really need to develop a more accurate picture of this period in our history. In many ways I’m similar to someone like Ike Ude (whose work I admire) – culturally transcendent, largely apolitical, committed to aesthetics and style – but I feel the need to say something more, more culturally and historically specific. So thanks on the reference to the writers who are expressing insightful views on the subject… I will definitely be looking them up.

One thing, though a subject that I have encountered a lot lately is the effective use of propaganda to solicit sympathy and support for the Igbo cause… Many critics view the use of words like “pogrom” and “genocide” as being slightly overstating the situation…

Uchenna Ikonne
Performing Arts and Music Analyst
Comb & Razor Blog

In order that the events in Biafra in the 1960s become no more than a fading memory, essays such as this, should remind us of what did happen and what was learned as a result. It is important to draw upon the experience of past conflicts as a means of assessing lessons learned. And having done some research myself, I found Ambrose Ehirim’s analysis to be completely accurate. He has written a very impressive and thoughtful article. While one does not have to agree entirely with each and every statement, my overall impression is very positive. Mr. Ehirim has obviously done a lot of reading, perhaps more than have many of those he rebukes. The issues he raises are troubling, and alas, very real.

Jonathan A. Goetz
Hermosa Beach, California

Ambrose Ehirim’s article “The Tragedy of the Igbo Intellectual” sets out to rescue, seeking to justify the young Igbo intellectual elite for inaction and blaming the old intellectual elite for lack of profound leadership. His discussion of a “notable few” who wrote “extensively and exhaustively” is plausible and informative, but sheds little light on who needs to be writing more on the course of events in Biafra. However, I admire his energy and courage in his work, so far. I have no reason to question Ehirim’s conclusion that the lack of profound leadership is a tragedy or the fact that nothing much should be expected of the young Igbo intellectual. (Nor is it startling to learn that many books have been written on internal strife, wars, genocide and “pogrom” to make a case of crimes committed against humanity; it hardly seems necessary for Ehirim to demonstrate that every Igbo should write a book about the “pogrom” and Biafra.) I do think, however, that Ehirim dodged the issue of including himself as part of the Igbo problem, thus declining to take up the mantle of Igbo leadership with reference to Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s quote.

Ardis Hamilton
The Hamilton Group
Real Estate Investors
Los Angeles, California

There were many omissions in Ambrose Ehirim’s article. First, I share Ehirim’s concern for his people. Their energy and talents, however, do not lead me to ignore the needs and rights of the minorities. The Efiks, Ijaws, Ibibios, Annangs, Kalabaris, Ogojas and others have been taken advantage of by their Igbo neighbors for decades. These minority tribes had asked repeatedly for independence from the Igbos since the 1950s.

The minority people within the East preferred to be free of Igbo domination by having states of their own as promised by the Federal government. But the Biafran leadership denied them the same right it claimed for itself vis-à-vis the rest of Nigeria, the right of self determination and protection from victimization.

Within the Eastern region and prior to secession and afterwards, there was no free expression of opinion by the minority groups, and Biafra was created without any democratic consultation of the minorities. Hand-picked representatives voted for secession or were locked up in Enugu. After the Biafran army had taken hundreds of hostages to its shrinking enclave it dared to call for a plebiscite in the victimized areas. Reports of Biafran terror and intimidation to ensure support from non-Igbo areas never reached the American public because of the press’s quick identification of the Biafrans as the underdog. I have reports of burnings of villages, mass graves, and massacre of non-Igbo civilians by Biafran forces. But these things made the Biafrans look more like Nazis than Jews and conflicted with our preconceptions about the situation. They were therefore given no publicity.

For Igbo secession to succeed, it needed to annex the territory of neighboring tribes and in particular to have the oil resources and facilities of Port Harcourt in Ijaw territory.

Gerald F. Obozome
Claremont, California

Everything in my professional life began when I came to Los Angeles from Israel and enrolled at Los Angeles College of Fashion Design where I learned about scholarship, determination and the wisdom of patience. Over the years I made friends through Ambrose and Ambrose has always made me feel a valued, competent, independent woman. All the friends I met through Ambrose, each in their way, gave me their support and helped me to find the freedom I needed to think and do the things I love doing best: acting and fashion design. Ambrose, you are a rare gem and your writing speaks a lot about the person that you are and with this stimulating and important essay, I am moved.

Ruth Uloma Ehirim
Uloma Fashion Designers
Hollywood, California

Ambrose Ehirim Replies:

My thanks to Okenwa Nwosu for his generous response and above all for the links he provided for my access perhaps before the completion of this article in which he “still look forward to a conclusion of” my “current trend of thought.” In addition to being a leading figure in Igbo Diaspora, a regular contributor to Igbo-related forums with great ideas and quite a critic of a retarded World Igbo Congress that has nothing to show for being Igbo umbrella other than keeping records of funny books, Nwosu is also a practicing medical doctor in the state of Maryland. Given his formidable credentials, his response deserves to be taken seriously with his reputation of intelligence and integrity.

One assertion by Nwosu I have no intention of attempting to rebut is that “based on my limited means, I have always endeavored to make my own input into our collective struggle as a people in as many ways as I could and as I speak, I am still in the trenches trying my utmost daily to open up new vistas of hope for the future of our people.”

Indeed, his own serious commitment to the Igbo cause is very important because after browsing the Osondu website and the links to World Igbo Environmental Foundation, it took me aback to Igbo Forum a couple of years ago where he posted images of a decaying and abandoned Onitsha, the hub of African marketplace in the continent. To judge by those images and video shots, apart from what I believe was an intended pleasure trip back home, and if the purpose was making the environment better and safer healthwise, the goal has not been met yet, with the agenda seemingly abandoned, and in that regard, one would be compelled to ask why the drive was stopped midway by someone of Nwosu’s magnitude.

Dr. Nwosu’s response was based entirely upon the premise that the old intellectuals should be wholly blamed for the problems grand and small that have engulfed the Igbo people – home and abroad – pointing fingers at me in particular and I will be coming to that part in a minute. At the same time, to repeat what I wrote in the first part of this essay, I made it patently clear talking about we, and that we, is a collective of Igbo Diaspora which may include the writer with regards to the American social system in which much advantage should have been taken, for onward objectivity by Igbo Diaspora, just like our other immigrant counterparts.

I had implied the need of the intellectuals as a machinery in any organized society which is much expected of the Igbo Diaspora intellectuals to use in effecting change within a sound framework of the Igbo nation, and by doing that, the confusion and chaos that seemed to have drowned us wouldn’t have arrived had the intellectuals not been forced to go with any flow on the basis of their weakness. And I do not see any disability in Nwosu, who has, in my assessment, the ability to subdue and deal with the fools and ruffians that are destroying Igbo land by way of political thuggery.

As it also happened, I did try to get in touch with Dr Chima J. Korieh at the Department of History, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who in partnership with Dr. Ifeanyi Ezeonu at the Department of Sociology, Brock University, St Catherine, Ontario, Canada, regarding the call for papers on the pogrom in which the premier issue is now in print,to be published sometime this year in Mbari – The International Journal of Igbo Studies, and scholars and authors have until March 09, 2009 to submit their papers for review for the special issue which goes in print in April. I understand the quarterly will be gracing libraries of many institutions here in the United States and Canada.

Speaking with Korieh and laying much emphasis on the pogrom and why it is important we should never stop keeping records and embarking on research projects to eke out a complete analysis of this horrible event –the Igbo genocide – he told me he had been attending a lot of meetings and seminars, and the Igbo Studies Association, which I’m already aware of, normally holds seminars on the pogrom the first week of April, hosted at Howard University, Washington, DC.

There are many reasons why Ezeonu and his colleague Korieh at Marquette University are desperately calling for papers on the Biafran genocide. And one of them, as I suggested while we spoke on the phone, is: the intent to preserve materials (testimonies, documentaries on tapes and perhaps currently plans to digitize testimonies and eye witness accounts, and even duplicating the tapes into Motion JPEG files, as well as other formats for computer and television viewing) about the pogrom and catastrophic Civil War to the future generations. These are worthy projects I believe if every Igbo-related organization, foundations or trusts should embark on and for mankind to be alert, the pogrom and the lessons learned would not be in vain. With that practically put into perspective, the pains, the feelings, the emotion of the events and the separation from families; the stories will be told until eternity. And most importantly, the time is now because aging survivors of the pogrom may not be around upon commencement of conduction of interviews even if it has to be done by a generation yet unknown, thus the importance of keeping records.

Just like the story of the Igbo man who survived the pogrom from the hands of hoodlums and Nigerian vandals lying in circumstances which are of an exclusive economic nature. For nearly twenty-something years before the pogrom Igbos gradually managed to capture not only commerce and industry but they also succeeded in acquiring, by means of purchase and lease, a huge amount of landed property in Kano, Jos, Lagos and all the big cities including Port Harcourt where Igbos owned almost every landed property stretching from the Ogbunabali area on the outskirts of Trans Amadi Industrial Layout to Diobu (Mile 1 through Mile 3).

Or the story of Egbebelu Ugobelu who was in combat during the war and almost starved to death because of Awolowo’s initiated economic blockade that denied food and medicine to the shores of Biafra and as a result, women, infants and children were desperately starved to death. Even before the Civil War erupted on failures from the federal Nigeria side to respect the Aburi Accord, huge numbers of Igbo men and women including infants and children had already been murdered or displaced with parents taken away. Yes, Gowon’s-led genocidal campaign against the Igbo nation by not upholding the decisions at Aburi was a moral abomination. Obafemi Awolowo, who had conspired with his colleagues in Action Group to overthrow the government of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and sentenced to ten years in prison by Justice George Sodeinde Sowemimo later to be released by Ojukwu in anticipation of either staying neutral or declaring Oduduwa Republic, all of a sudden, made a 180-degrees turn telling the world that starvation was a war strategy, that their enemies should not be fed fatter in order to fight them harder. But what he seems to have forgotten, or more likely remembered, but would not say, was that Ojukwu could have left him locked up until the war was over, or possibly eliminated him as a “strategy of war.” In a desperate search for food, and according to Ugobelu, a whole lot happened:

“…Before long we were eating rats, lizards, grasshoppers and frogs. Snakes and tortoise were known to be eaten by some towns... The first time I tasted a snake, it was just the juice…We would be searching for food at times and encounter some civilians who braved it and came to search for food also, I mean within a mile to the forward location. Often they came to see if there were some ripe palm fruits to cut down or some fairly ripe bananas and plantains to cut down…When someone discovered a bunch of bananas somewhere, he kept checking and praying that someone else didn’t see it; sometimes he covered it up. The idea was to allow it to be fairly ripe. Nine times out of ten, he lost because maybe ten or more others had indeed seen it and were also waiting and praying….Besides, I was looking for a family member principally for the purpose of knowing his or her address in order to fill out an allotment form so that he or she would be drawing my allotment, and in the event of my death, if it so happened…”

These and hundreds of thousands of testimonies are the kind of stories that need to be told for a broader reach and for generations to come. These are stories that require funding; that research centers have to be built and stories that needs a museum for posterity. These are stories foundations, trusts and organizations need to be collecting data on.

I must honestly thank scholar Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe whose response first popped up in my mail box, and who is unquestionably impeccable recognizing the fact that I am a scholar of his devoted works on Igbo genocide 1966-1970, and as part of awareness that “never again” which sends a message that Igbos are alert and there shouldn’t be any illusions about demolishing the Igbo nation, any further. The Igbo nation must rise to the occasion and it’s just a matter of time.

For Uchenna, the African classical music analyst at the Comb & Razor Blog with whom I have quite often exchanged ideas on musicology dating back to the days of Action, Doves, Apostles, even E.T. Mensah and Funkees, and a brief response to the first part of this essay, I salute you, and let me add this to your curious mind about shielding the truth. Like the Holocaust which is taught in many universities, social-cultural institutions, colleges and community colleges; even secondary schools and intermediate schools throughout the United States and Europe, the crippled Igbo intellectual is one of several reasons why the pogrom is not taught in Igbo-related schools and higher institutions because he lacks the courage and political power to initiate that. In most of these institutions in the United States and Europe, the Holocaust is taught with an endowed chair and all sorts of funding inspired and drawn from a wide range of collective Jewish organizations. The Holocaust is taught with fear and trembling, with reverence for the subject and respect for its victims almost everywhere.

But the disturbances and the Igbo genocide of 1966-1970 and why it is not taught in schools in “Nigeria” or elsewhere today is (are) another issue to ponder and clearly a tragedy on the side of the Igbo intellectual.

And the question here is how could this be done? Well, the fact is there will not be much worthwhile teaching and scholarship – and in the long run not much vital memory of the Igbo genocide – unless schools, colleges, universities, endowed chairs, research centers, museums, publishers, and other educational institutions provide encouragement and support for the important work that lies ahead.

And how could this be established? A do-nothing World Igbo Congress, the so-called “Igbo Umbrella” could be used here as an example. Since the WIC was founded about sixteen years ago with the idea of being Igbo umbrella what would one say WIC has achieved all these years save for invite its adversaries to expose its dirty laundry and when a collective, confused bunch of Igbo Diaspora efulefu, a worthless bunch dismisses, their guests will be scratching their heads wondering about how messy such an elite body just could not get things done.

I must also thank my learned friend Jonathan Goetz for his contribution and observations in what is looking more like disappearing from the face of this planet and who for some reason has developed a great deal of interest studying the Igbo genocide. For now, the Igbo hagglers are bent on what is in there for them in terms of loot sharing. But nevertheless, time will tell. In addition to that, I thank Ardis Hamilton, as well, for his unbiased contribution.

For Gerald Obozome, let me set the following record straight before addressing your point of view; and maybe, you do not know what you are talking about, and I can sense you belong to the Port Harcourt mainland stock of Omoku/Ikwerre/Etche; and by confiscating Igbo assets and belongings earned through hard work declaring them abandoned property without reparations despite all the injuries that occurred, that’s OK in your mind and I hope your conscience is very clear – though it is a mystery to me how someone who thinks he is level headed could so misconstrue the straightforward meaning of what I wrote.

But whoever could have imagined that Ken Saro-Wiwa who fought on the Nigerian side in order to coerce and steal Igbo properties would end up being a victim by the people he aligned himself with in plundering and demolishing the Igbo nation? Whoever could have imagined that the same Britain that supplied arms to the Nigerian vandals in its genocidal campaign against the Igbo nation would today be intervening through military support for the federal government in the Niger Delta? Whoever could have imagined that Roland Ekperi, the President of the Ijaw People’s Association, (IPA), and his followers in London will today be waving their placards singing solidarity songs in the quest to free its detainees and liberate Niger Delta? Whoever could have imagined that Shell Petroleum Development Company, Chevron Nigeria Limited, Nigeria Agip Oil Company Limited, Mobil Producing Nigeria Limited, Pan Ocean Oil Corporation and Elf Petroleum Company Limited would be the firms to destroy the lands of Niger Delta polluting its environment and would not give back anything in appreciation for tapping the “oil rich region’s” natural resources? And whoever could have imagined that Igbo would have no hands in such a mess as the Ijaw nation and other ethnic minorities had thought in the past?

As a little kid, growing up in Accra, Ghana, I witnessed when much was discussed about “Nigeria’s” problems huge and tiny through the pre and post Civil War eras. I also read thoroughly an emerging continent going through the pains of colonialism coupled with the scramble that left the entire continent in the hands of its captors by way of its resource control and how it should be put into place in terms of power and delegated ruling elites.

Britain, in particular, succeeded in determining how power should be brokered in every of its enclave it colonized along the West African Coast. They had succeeded because they had been able to come in between a people that had no idea what was about to happen when the rush and quest for sovereignty heated up within the regions it fabricated and joined up even though the people in question had nothing in common from the kind of food they ate, their custom and way of life; and how they conducted business in general.

Britain did not envision a one Nigeria which was their own doing as a result of the settings which brought about a hindsight that a divided Nigeria was not going to be in their own interest. But that hunch somehow provided an avenue of loopholes from around which a Northern Nigeria influence became the ruling elites from an inflated proportion that gave the North the edge, thus coming up with a questionable political party that had no basis winning by a so-called “majority” as suggested by majority rule in any democracy.

However, the problem, henceforth, would surface and a fabricated nation as ordained by the imperialists would never be the same again. During the constitutional conferences and the debates that followed which would lead to independence, the late Chief Awolowo had foreseen the irrelevance of a Nigerian state, sophistically analyzing that there’s no such thing as Nigeria, that it was only a “geographical expression” which suggested a one united Nigeria was just a mirage. Awolowo was right and we are now living witnesses. And had it been at the time of these constitutional conferences and “logical debates” the founders of a fabricated state had societal vision like Awolowo did, perhaps the irrelevance of a one united Nigeria would have arise, and perhaps different nationalities would have emerged as it eventually happened in the Balkans.

But the discovery of oil had persuaded the imperialists not to give up the idea of a fabricated state with the northern ruling elites as its machinery to keep these fabricated states viable and in tact through majority rule which would ultimately lead to a bastardized corrupt administration within few years of the nation’s sovereignty.

I have held numerous debates while exchanging greetings with my comrades and these interesting and intellectual discourses have been most of the time, if not all, situations regarding a troubled nation like a fabricated Nigeria ignoring the classic case of the Balkanization theory.

Nevertheless, the setting up of the Willink Commission to study the agitation of ethnic minorities to carve out autonomy based on resource control and self determination engineered more interesting scenarios. After all said and done, the Mid-West was created to pacify the ethnic minorities which actually was not enough to address the principles of resource control considering the fact that the Ijaw nation was all over including the riverine areas.

Mid-West was a hotbed of every major ethnic group in that fabricated state. There was the Hausa speaking Mid-West, the Igbo speaking Mid-West and a Yoruba speaking Mid-West spreading from Auchi, Asaba and Benin, joined by other ethnic minorities – the Itsekiris, the Isokos, the Esans, the Urhobos, and the rest of which culture was very much varied.

On the other hand, along the Bight of Biafra, there were other ethnic minorities, too, on the deltas of Opobo, Brass, Bonny, Calabar and Oron whose agitation for self determination erupted when a young and energetic lad by the name of Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro began a movement to sort out the problems of a fabricated state and wanted out to determine that a bunch had been amiss when watering down the mess of oil revenue and the abandonment of the creeks where oil flowed in abundance to sustain a fabricated state.

If you Google Boro’s name it takes exactly 0.20 seconds to discover that he worked briefly as a teacher, then joined the police force and was stationed in Port Harcourt. It takes no longer than it is taking you to read this sentence to find out that Boro had gone AWOL for a job as an instructor at the Man O’War Bay Character and Leadership Center in Western Cameroon. You will also find out Boro spent two years at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka studying chemistry. Also, you will find out the Ijaw nation has a date that observes Isaac Boro’s Day as a national holiday. If you have more time to browse Google image on Boro, you will find pictures of Boro including the ones he had on a military fatigue, English suit and his boyish days.

Boro started a movement that was ill-timed, not even necessary, and provocative at a time when the imperialists had set up a tone detrimental to his “oil rich region” when a one Nigeria had been the round table conference requiring effectiveness of dialogue and diplomacy to sort things out without bloodshed and perhaps to a fabricated nation that may somehow break up, one day.

Boro started the Niger-Delta militancy group fighting against an establishment put together by the imperialists. Boro sold out. He made his mistakes and the genesis of the ongoing conflicts in the Niger-Delta areas was his own making and he paid dearly for it. And something that must be borne in mind is that Nd’Igbo had nothing to do with issues of concern to Niger-Delta when Boro and his youngish colleagues fought against a Nigeria set up established by the imperialists regarding resource control and self determination with the flowing Niger-Delta oil being the center of attraction in what would be the mother of all conflicts.

Was oil really the issue in building a profound national state despite the minorities that encompassed the Easter Region when Nd’Igbo who came up with the practical idea there’s no substitute for hard work; building bridges, dwelling comfortably among their other ethnic neighbors and providing goods and services which became a trademark for the Igbo nation knowing for the fact that Igbo people were industrious and prospered wherever they dwelled? Nd’Igbo made Port Harcourt what it is today. They built homes, established series of businesses and ran the city effectively.

But the problem of the ethnic minorities was that either they had been brainwashed to have been insane on the ground that Igbo people would run them over in the event an Igbo-related sovereignty emerges through some kind of dialogue based on regionalization, or they were just ignorant. Though Boro had nothing against Nd’Igbo when he started his movement in the company of his colleagues to liberate Niger-Delta from “bondage” and the inexplicable events that would follow in his quest for self determination for the Ijaw nation, there was no such thing as Biafra being “created without any democratic consultation of the minorities” claimed by Obozome or force-fed him in the nihilist Nigeria of his youth.

And I would assume Obozome likes reading jargon because he had no explanation to where more than 400 Igbo men and women “waiting for evacuation at Kano International Airport” were murdered in the most horrible way by armed Northern nihilists; in Lafenwa, near Abeokuta where hundreds of railway workers, all of Igbo origin, were rounded up and murdered by Northern Nigerian soldiers from the Abeokuta Garrison; in Awka, where civilians were forced to drink urine by the Nigerian vandals; in Okigwe where hundreds of innocent people were lined up and shot execution style; in Afor Umuohiagu near Owerri where more than 300 civilians were killed, most of them women and children; inside the Ikeja barracks on the orders of Lieutenant Nuhu to the mutineers to execute all officers of Eastern Nigeria origin; mass arrests and execution of officers of Eastern Nigeria origin, most of them, if not all, Igbo officers in Apapa, Yaba and Surulere; in Asaba, the “male death march and drowning,” and the list of these atrocities by the Nigerian vandals goes on and on, and on.

Irrespective of what happened, after the pogrom and Civil War, the intellectual community came to appreciate, and admire the courage of the Igbo people – for having a choice and refusing to be enslaved. The same sense of estrangement and rootlessness that is going on now in the Niger-Delta by the Niger-Delta insurgents against a federal government they once sided with during the Biafran conflict shows how deeply troubled a fabricated state has been since its independence. But Biafra did have a choice when they were being persecuted from place to place in a country supposedly to be free and just, and belonging to all of us, which is why in the Ahiara document, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu declared:

“Fellow countrymen and women, You, the people of Eastern Nigeria: Conscious of the supreme authority of Almighty God over all mankind, of your duty to yourselves and posterity; aware that you can no longer be protected in your lives and in your property by any government based outside Eastern Nigeria; believing that you are born free and have certain inalienable rights which can best be preserved by yourselves; unwilling to be unfree partners in any association of a political or economic nature; rejecting the authority of person or persons other than the military government of Eastern Nigeria to make any imposition of whatever kind or nature upon you; determined to dissolve all political and other ties between you and the former federal republic of Nigeria; prepared to enter into such association, treaty or alliance with any sovereign state within the former federal republic of Nigeria and elsewhere on such terms and conditions as best to subserve your common good…”

It should be borne in mind that the Ahiara Declaration was made after a joint session of the “Consultative Assembly and the Advisory Committee of Chiefs and Elders” which adequately was represented from every province in the region and passed a resolution authorizing Ojukwu “to declare at the earliest practicable date Eastern Nigeria, a free, sovereign and independent state by the name and title of Republic of Biafra.” And Igbo people had no problem with resource control and wherever creek oil flowed from to keep a fabricated nation afloat. In that regard, pointing it out clearly on plebiscite, Odumegwu Ojukwu, again:

“At the present moment, the Nigerian army has occupied some non-Igbo areas of Biafra. But this cannot be regarded as a settlement of the ‘minority question.’ This is why we have suggested a plebiscite. Under adequate international supervision, the people of these areas should be given the chance to choose whether they want to belong to Nigeria or to Biafra. Plebiscites have been used… to determine what grouping is most acceptable to the people of disputed areas. If Nigeria believes that she is really defending the true wishes of the minorities, she should accept our proposal for a plebiscite in the disputed areas of Nigeria and Biafra.”

Boro’s call sheet – Samuel Owonam and Nothingham Dick – had put together a plan recruiting men within the creeks to help fight for their cause; the liberation of Niger-Delta from the hands of a fabricated national state called “Nigeria.” Boro and his men created the Niger-Delta Volunteer Force, battle ready and blowing up oil pipelines engaging law enforcement officers in an all out war declaring the Niger-Delta as a sovereign nation. Boro was fighting Nigeria and not the Igbo nation when all the mess he created became an act of war. So Obozome’s exclamations are swollen tabloid rumors and had no basis; it is misinformation and lunatic.

Yakubu Gowon’s-led federal Nigeria’s decision to guarantee the ethnic minorities’ security by the creation of more states within the Eastern region ranks among the more fateful of many fateful steps taken in the fear-filled year of 1967. In retrospect, and with full knowledge of its consequences, was it wise for the “Niger Deltas?” And who is now bearing the consequences in its aftermath? Are the “Niger Deltas” better off today after all these years of formal ceasefire in a war that consumed about 3 million souls? Or could it really have been that, at the moment when Igbos were investing their money building homes and setting up businesses in the Port Harcourt metropolis that the Ijaws, the Ogonis, the Kalabaris and their other delta co-dwellers were just envy for Igbos persistent hard work that paid off which had their minds poisoned with bigotry and hatred? And where did Igbo people go wrong in what had been ignited by Gowon for firing the first shot in a war that shouldn’t have erupted in the first place had the Aburi accord been respected, and would drag on for more than 30 months?

Ruth, I do not have words to express my gratitude but to say thank you very much for the kind words and, I am glad you have maintained your composure all these years.

In light of what has been revealed on “The Tragedy of the Igbo Intellectual” and crimes committed against mankind by the Nigerian vandals in the course of this controversy, I am, needless to say, that a whole lot has been learned which would help the next generation pick up interest with regards to facts and logics about the pogrom and Biafra-Nigeria War.

I thank everyone who has written, but especially Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Okenwa Nwosu, Ardis Hamilton, Uchenna of Comb & Razor Blog, and Gerald Obozome for stretching my thoughts and Jonathan Goetz.

Guardian of Nd’Igbo

At the beginning of this decade, around March 2000, to be precise, a heated debate erupted on Igbo Charter and Australian-based Frances Elekwachi was among many others who championed its cause to be drawn on the board for deliberations and adoptions. I, for one, engaged in some of the debates with my colleagues at Biafra Nigeria World, (BNW) and Biafra Liberation Movement. Also, I had written in detail a platform proposing the best possible way of dealing with the subject matter in question, all reflecting on the status quo – how things use to be and how better off we were back in the day of our forebears. But knowing Igbo Diaspora for who they are, that proposal was killed instantly by a gang that had problems digesting the contents of the project. Thus while every state bears the same obligation to care for all who are in its charge, like a national state, sovereignty means independence not only with respect to national custom, but also with respect to the deeper questions of national constitution and purpose which was the whole idea of Igbo Charter.

Almost ten years has gone by and Igbos still don’t have a charter with its mission statement as guardian of the physical well-being of Igbo people all around the world. That vigorous debate in 2000, had it gone through and been effected and envisioned as a polity that would among other things permit the establishment of an independent Igbo national culture based on the unique perspective of Nd’Igbo; and also assist Igbos in developing a character suitable for a life of self-reliance and independence. By the time Elekwachi brought out his document, he saw clearly what the circumstances of statelessness had brought Nd’Igbo, especially Igbo Diaspora to the brink of collapse. It was in this fashion Igbos lost everything because they did not have the political power even up until today as I pen this piece.

Yet beyond the prospects for creating a charter or constitution for the Igbo nation, the document also would have achieved something important for “Nigeria’s” Igbo identity. By deliberately forging an internal Igbo document, the forum (then at Igbo Forum) would have introduced the idea that Igbo is not merely another democratic fabric on the shores of the West African coast, but a project of Igbo people seeking to chart its own course among the nations. I would assume Igbo Charter died a natural death since no Igbo Diaspora intellectual wants to talk about it ever since or maybe some of these intellectuals have compromised with the new breeds who lost every sense of purpose for they seem to be living a better life than their forebears which probably could have been the root of all the mess as survey after survey shows how the new breeds do not care and just do not get it. It is a tragedy.

To be sure, the newer generation who seem to be talking tough on the grounds of better life and better living environment slamming our forebears as not having the opportunity that they, the newer generation has today, and that if they (our forebears) had lived in today’s world, that they (our forebears) wouldn’t have been able to do “jack,” because of the fierce competitiveness and the bore, nuclear family mold they (newer generation) had to deal with. But all the rhetoric about a better privileged, nuclear family mold has been exposed as a mere rhetorical balderdash, and no way close or parallel to the days of our forebears when a brother gets his brother covered and a sister plays her dual feminine role – mother and nurse, no matter the circumstances; and building of community steadfast.

Nowadays, in the explosive, nuclear family mold as adopted upon exploring the shores of America, brothers can no longer dwell together or eat from the same dish; families and communities becomes impotent and fast disappearing as authorities preside over family matters; women abandon domestic work for 24/7 working days thus elevated to head of household; men lose their jobs, socio-economic status and becomes arm chair quarter backs in their living rooms with a new title of house husband; parents no longer spend quality time with their children for they have been trapped living above their means and caught up with all sorts of bills that can never be consolidated until God knows when; praying together which helped keep family values intact disappears from the family’s timetable and families and communities at a time more pacific becomes jumbled and bellicose.

It was during the days of the Igbo Union back in the day that we had character and values even though our forebears had limited resources and in many instances did not have the kind of education and exposure that we possess today, yet they prevailed in organizing themselves and getting things done. It was during the Igbo Union era that the display of character was measured by the way Igbo men and women were raised and were able to point out failings, not only with regard to this or that person, but also with regard to the entire people. Like character which embodied our forebears, they were able to form associations in which individuals work together over a period of many years, even a lifetime to achieve a common purpose. In Igbo vernacular, like the boy-boy, that is, the apprentice who learns a trade form his nnaukwu, that is, his master (Big Daddy) who in most cases is a relative or a townsfolk, and after some time he is allowed to start up his own business independently which tells a man of character because over the years of apprenticeship his spirit was not bent out of shape by adversity or duress, defeat or victory, and the chain of reaction goes on and on as the pillar of that very branch of trade eventually becomes an institution of its own where townsfolk learn to trade.

And on this note, I put the effective role of the intellectuals into perspective. Without the proper guidance of the intellectual by way of character and examples, the boy-boy probably would leave prematurely on many grounds; for example, say his nnaukwu never treated him well compared to other apprentice from around the block where they trade on the same merchandise. On the other hand, without a proper training by the intellectual, the nnaukwu might have his shop fold up through careless business decisions. This is why it is important to be thorough in every trade which brings about the effectiveness of the intellectual and these instances relies on how we handle ourselves as intellectuals on any given day under any circumstances.

Take for instance, a state governor or commissioner from any Igbo-related state visiting the shores of this land probably on a goodwill message tour to update the Diaspora on the affairs of state from the native land which comes as usual by a group of organizing committees who coordinates between the governor/commissioner and his or her host of dignitaries. Remember the governor’s visit was meant to update Diaspora on the affairs of state and he or she is running the state on transparency and accountability. But the truth of the matter is that when this said governor arrive the United States he or she is not prepared by the organizers to update his kinsfolk on the goings on, rather he or she is whisked away, sometimes hidden with nobody knowing his whereabouts until the behind closed doors meeting with apologetic lobbyists for “high ranking” positions back home, local businessmen and some prestigious integrationists that has nothing to do with the governors visit is over.

And it is at this point that I come to the fore to question the role of the intellectuals who supposedly should be giving form and content to mass liberation movements that changes society. So who should be blamed right here, the governor or the intellectual who organized the august visit?

Nevertheless, the truth is that Igbo homeland desperately need Igbo Diaspora, it is their anchor in reality; just as Igbo Diaspora needs Igbo homeland of which in combination makes them think politically which harnesses a lot of stuff from education to infrastructures. Such work is very difficult, but it must be done if both homeland and Diaspora are to survive. Like the controversial “medical mission” errands which I will be writing about in a different article, those of us here in Diaspora (anywhere within the Western Hemisphere) should think about political and cultural utopianism, for our destinies are fused, because neither of our communities can survive without the development of a sound Igbo political tradition, which will teach us to think realistically about our natural being, our politics, our economics, our culture and our foreign relations.


1). The Tragedy of the Igbo Intellectual (Ambrose Ehirim, The Ambrose Ehirim Files)

2). Sam Amadi, Colonial Legacy, Elite Dissension and the making of Genocide: The Story of Biafra

3). Agwuncha Arthur Nwankwo and Samuel U. Ifejika, Biafra: The Making of a Nation

4). Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Biafra: Selected Speeches and Random Thoughts

5). Dan Jacobs, The Brutality of Nations

6). Egbebelu Ugobelu, Biafra War Revisited, A Concise and Accurate Account of Events That Led To the Nigerian Civil War

7). Patrick A. Anwunah, The Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970): My Memoirs

8). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun

9). Max Siollun (Essay on Isaac Boro) at Max Siollun Website

Monday, January 12, 2009

Q & A Interview With Zambia's Mutinta Suuya

Who knows how these things happen? The best African minds are beginning to emerge in Diaspora and, with a remarkable African cultural events taking place all around the world, it is now clear the world has changed a whole lot. From M-Net's Face Of Africa to Miss Africa Canada coupled with related African cultural events in Sweden, Finland, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Australia, and several others spread out all over the Universe, the one that is for sure fascinating is the electric atmosphere of Miss Africa USA which kicked off four years ago in Jonesboro, Georgia.

And on Saturday, November 1, 2008, the beautiful African minds gathered at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center in Jonesboro, Georgia, for the 4th Annual Miss Africa USA contest and the elegant 18-year-old Mutinta Suuya was one of them; representing her country, Zambia. Born in Lusaka, Zambia and now a sophomore aspiring to be an economist and a lawyer by the time she's done with academics. Mutinta told me a whole lot and what the future holds for her. No doubt, at 18, she's almost there and it is quite amazing how her passion is driving her to the success lane.

She is too much for her age and with her volunteer work in progress her inspiration will definitely help change the African cultural landscape and, people around her develop a deeper understanding of Africa today. She is practically everything, an essayist and you name it.

Tell me about yourself

I am an 18 year old College Sophomore currently majoring in Economics in the State of Illinois, and I intend to go to Law School upon completing my Bachelors in Economics. I began attending High School when I was 10 years old and completed at 15. I have managed to maintain a 4.0 G.P.A throughout my college enrollment. In addition, I am an Honors student currently enrolled in the school's Honors program.

Besides being a Lawyer and Economist, I intend to continue modeling and become a Biographer. Writing Biographies is something I would love to do on a professional level because I am fascinated by different people's life stories. It is so interesting to realize that every individual on this planet has a unique story to tell even if they don't realize it.

On the other hand, I enjoy modeling because I have always been interested in fashion and photography. In my college enrollment so far I have received the following awards:
Outstanding Student of the year in 2007-2008 awards due to maintaining a 4.0 G.P.A, Who's Who amongst students in American Colleges and Universities and Lutrell Endowment Foundation Scholarship. I have also been recently nominated for the prestigious Lincoln Academy of Illinois Student laureate Award. It is statewide award in which only one student per school can be nominated for it.
I am member of the following organizations: Phi Theta Kappa Honors society, Student Activity Board, Student writer for School newspaper called NavigatorIn Addition. I am a part time Audio Visual Technician in the Audio Visual Technology department of the school. I was a finalist for the Miss Africa USA 2008 Scholarship and Beauty Pageant, and currently hold the title of Miss Zambia USA 2008. In 2008, I was the School's representative at the Honors Annual Spring Student Research Conference of the Honors Council of the Illinois Region (HCIR) at Western Illinois University in Moline, IL . At this conference I made an oral presentation on a project entitled "Are Biofuels the next best Alternative energy resource?" Not forgetting, I am a featured author in a publication by Elder and Leemuar Publishers called Challenge the Experts.

When you arrived on the shores of the United States, what was the difference between growing up in Lusaka, Zambia and settling in America?

The differences between growing up in Lusaka and settling in America have been interesting learning expiriences. I am very grateful to having been brought up in Lusaka because I learnt so much about the importance of appreciating culture, morals and family life. It has also made me a down to earth person who will always remember where I came from. Settling in America has been a lovely learning experience and opportunity as well. I love the diversity in culture and race found in America. Not forgetting I admire and respect the hardworking ethic and determination instilled in the people that live here.

Let's talk about the beauty contest, the Miss Africa USA recently held in Jonesboro, Georgia. How did you hear about the contest and what motivated you to enter your bid?

I saw and read about the contest online. I decided to enter the contest because I loved the fact that it was celebrating African culture and was acknowledging all the beautiful and talented women found in its continent.

What was the experience like; I mean the fanfare, the contestants, the audience, the panel of judges and organizers that Saturday night you stepped on stage for a shot to the crown?

It was such an amazing experience. In one weekend, I learnt so much about other cultures and greatly enhanced my modeling skills. The audience and judges were awesome. They did an amazing job to help bring the contest to life.

In your leisure time what keeps you busy?

In my leisure time I love reading Biographies, travelling and seeing different historical sites and museums, writing different thoughts on paper, watching movies and documentaries, and most of all listening and watching CNN.

Who is your favorite author?

I actually have two favorite authors, Eric Blair also known as the great George Orwell and Sidney Sheldon. I love George Orwell's works because he was such an intelligent and controversial writer. I admire and respect the fact that he did not think that it was important to go with the mainstream opinion even when it was wrong. He wrote books that were not favored in his time but have become master pieces today. Orwell was generally a powerful writer whose works will continue to endure the test of time.

Sidney Sheldon is a brilliant author who is so entertaining. One thing I noticed about his books is that although Sidney Sheldon was a male author, he usually gave power to the women in them. In almost every book I have read by him, a woman is the main character. Additionally, he was such a great story teller and a legend in his own right.

What's your favorite dish?

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Who is your favorite musician?

Mariah Carey, her voice and lyrics are just amazing. There is something so sincere in the way she sings and delivers her music.

In fashion, who is your favorite designer?

Coco Chanel is my favorite designer. She greatly influenced the fashion industry by her classy yet sophisticated designs. Today, her design label has grown greatly and is worn by so many people across the globe.

what's your wish for Africa since you will be fully engaged in volunteer work?

My wish for Africa is to see it become an economically independent continent. Despite Africa gaining political independence from its colonial masters, it is yet to gain Economical Independence. I believe that Africa is indeed "diamond in Ruff"; it has the potential to become a powerful independent continent both politically and economically.

What area of politics is your interest?

Honestly, I am interested in so many different areas of politics. However, Global Politics is my main interest because I strongly believe that each day the world is becoming more and more connected. We witnessed that with the collapse of the US economy, the Global economy was crumbling too. This simply showed that the political and economical instability of one nation will have an impact on other nations too. In addition, I think it is important for us as Humankind to not only consider ourselves as citizens of a country but of the globe. Thus, this is why global politics my main are of interest.

CARTOON: A Real State Of Hopelessness

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Nigerian gangsters get a foothold in a violent Italian landscape

As the African gangs gain clout, conflict with the Neapolitan mafia known as the Camorra intensifies, made brutally clear by an attempted hit that left six Ghanaians dead.

By Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Castel Volturno, Italy -- Soaring on cocaine, guns smoking, the Camorra hit squad sped down the Via Domitiana, the road built along the Bay of Naples during the Roman Empire.The gangsters had just killed an arcade owner. Now they were hunting an African drug dealer.

Bulky in bulletproof vests, they scanned the dim main drag of this no man's land by the sea, a 16-mile strip of a town where Naples blends with Nigeria. They saw African prostitutes wearing miniskirts and multicolored braids, a wild night parade of silhouettes posing, strutting, staggering in search of a few euros. The sedan passed storefront churches, neon motel signs and garbage-strewn lots. It stopped at a low white structure housing Ob-Ob Exotic Fashions.The drug dealer wasn't there. But the gunmen opened up anyway, strafing a group of Ghanaians at the store with an AK-47 assault rifle and semiautomatic pistols. Then they fled to a squalid hide-out and celebrated with lobster and champagne, leaving behind six people dead, one wounded and an uproar that spread across Italy.The killings in September, recounted in interviews by senior antimafia officials, were gory evidence of conflict between the Neapolitan mafia, known as the Camorra, and Nigerian gangsters who play a growing role in Italy's drug and prostitution rackets.

This landscape of change and fear has been shaped by a singular juxtaposition: One of Europe's biggest concentrations of African immigrants has risen in the heart of Camorra turf."After the shooting, my wife said: 'Let's pack and leave this place,' " said Nsangu "Sammi" Kagutta, a Tanzanian father of three who owns a nearby Internet center. "They were just poor people trying to get their daily bread. If it was about drugs, they shot the wrong people."Most of the victims were illegal immigrant laborers, though one or two may have been low-level drug pushers, investigators say. The fusillade of 130 bullets was apparently an indiscriminate message from a Camorra clan aimed at terrifying its junior partners into obedience."It was not about racism at all," said Jean-Rene Bilongo, a community mediator from Cameroon who speaks French, English and Italian with the broad Neapolitan accent. "It was about business."Nigerian gangsters have made Castel Volturno a European headquarters. In the 1990s, demand boomed here for African prostitutes -- prosecutors call it "the Naomi Campbell phenomenon." Camorra clans "rented" turf to Nigerian pimps, a line of work that Neapolitan gangsters disdain.And as cocaine flows increasingly to Europe through West Africa, Nigerians have graduated from their previous role as smuggling "mules" and pay the Camorra for a cut of street trafficking action."The Camorra worked well with the Nigerians at first," said Antonio Laudati, a top Justice Ministry official who led a major prosecution of the Nigerian mafia last year. "They were low-cost labor. They were well-received because they were cheap and very loyal. But then the Nigerians started to rise to a new level."That coincided with the disarray of the region's dominant clan from the nearby town of Casal di Principe. As older Casalesi bosses went to prison, a new generation of swaggering, hard-partying gunslingers stepped up. During the last year, they embarked on a punitive campaign against Italian turncoats and foreign rivals, killing nine people.Those deaths were in addition to the violence on Sept. 18, which came about because the Casalesi gunmen were looking for an African drug dealer who had crossed them, said a senior antimafia official who requested anonymity for security reasons. They gunned down a mob-connected Italian they suspected of protecting the African, then attacked the clothing shop in a drug-fueled frenzy, officials say."Behind the massacre is a question of territory," Laudati said.

"They were killed in a symbolic manner. It was an ethnic warning to rebellious Africans. This is a new reality, a work in progress, and we are trying to figure it out."Since the killings, the government in Rome has cracked down, arresting suspects and deploying 500 soldiers in the region. Local leaders want Italians and immigrants to work together against an entrenched outlaw culture.In Castel Volturno and elsewhere in southern Europe where crime, immigration and economic crisis converge, an uncertain future is under construction."We need to deal with the social problems, and not just using the police," said Mayor Francesco Nuzzo, who estimates there are 15,000 undocumented immigrants here.

"This is a world. There are 50 different ethnicities in Castel Volturno."The faded stucco motels on the Via Domitiana are relics from 30 years ago, when the town aspired to become a tourism capital. Instead, the pollution and helter-skelter architecture attest to neglect and rapacity. Camorra clans got rich off the unlicensed construction of vacation complexes, concrete monstrosities that served as refuge for victims of the Naples earthquake in 1980, then an influx of immigrants.Africans first came to work in tomato fields made bountiful by the climate of the Caserta region and subsidies from the European Union. In recent years, many arrived on a new flow of ragged smuggling flotillas from Libya to Sicily.

Like the fugitive local gangsters who dodge police for years in the mob-dominated towns north of Naples, newcomers find this a good place to lie low."It attracts illegal immigrants because there is a generalized culture of lawlessness," the senior antimafia official said. "People don't pay taxes, they build illegally, they dump garbage illegally, they buy contraband, they work off the books. People in this part of Italy have a problem with rules."

But jobs are scarce. Employers prefer Eastern Europeans to work in hotels and South Asians to clean up after the herds of buffalo whose milk is used to produce the region's acclaimed mozzarella.Hard times may have aggravated the extraordinary reaction the day after the killings. A march by Africans erupted into a riot on the Via Domitiana. They vandalized cars and shops and scuffled with police. In response, there was an anti-immigrant demonstration that Mayor Nuzzo blames partly on manipulation by the Camorra.More trauma came in early November. Local governments invited Miriam Makeba, a beloved South African singer, to a benefit concert here. The idea was to defy the Camorra and promote tolerance. The 76-year-old performed, but suffered a heart attack and died backstage.

"It was very sad," said Kagutta, the Tanzanian businessman, who met Makeba before the concert. "She seemed a little frail, not healthy. But she talked and sang normally. She was dancing on stage. What a very bad day."In an immigrant community bereft of leaders, the quiet Kagutta, 42, has made a mark. Dressed casually but carefully, he talks over an espresso in a glass-walled office at the back of his Internet shop. The place seems an oasis: well-kept, rows of modern computers, signs announcing DHL delivery service and computer repairs.On the night of the killings, Kagutta rushed to the area with other Africans. He saw the dead, some of them men he knew, sprawled in the store and a bullet-shredded Alfa Romeo.Fear spread. Several African businesses shut their doors. Nonetheless, Kagutta said, the quick response of Italian law enforcement reassured him. He said he also had good experiences since he arrived here in his late 20s, a laborer with dreams of opening a business."There are people who give you a hand," he said. "I have an Italian friend who is my brother. He says that and he means it, with no self-interest."The nationwide attention to Castel Volturno could have a positive result, he said."I think right now there is more understanding," he said. "The door of integration will be more open."The door closed forever, though, for six Ghanaians on Sept. 18. It took more than two months for authorities to identify them and complete the procedures to send the bodies, traveling this time with papers, back to their homeland.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The problem with cheap oil

Prices that low -- and their equivalents at the gas pump -- will no doubt be viewed as a godsend by many hard-hit American consumers, even if they ensure severe economic hardship in oil-producing countries like Nigeria, Russia, Iran, Kuwait, and Venezuela that depend on energy exports for a large share of their national income. Here, however, is a simple but crucial reality to keep in mind: No matter how much it costs, whether it's rising or falling, oil has a profound impact on the world we inhabit -- and this will be no less true in 2009 than in 2008. READ MORE>>>

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Tragedy of the Igbo Intellectual

Wake up everybody
No more sleeping in bed
No more backward thinking
Time for thinking ahead
The world’s change so very much
For what it use to be
There is so much hatred
War and poverty

----Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

If you fast-forward the Kenneth Gamble-Leon Huff production on The Sound of Philadelphia Records label released by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes with that powerful voice of Theodore Pendergrass way back in 1973 now, there will be a whole lot to tell the world has not gotten any better based on if one should ask me coming that afar thirty-something years ago when technology had just begun in making life better from every aspect of society.

We haven’t seen much change over the years because the entire world is still compounded by the same old problems; problems now worse than ever seen before. Thirty-something years ago when the Blue Notes envisioned a fragile world if I still remember, was after the pogrom in a fast pace took place in Nigeria when pregnant women were eviscerated and disemboweled and the world looking the other way as if nothing happened which is reason enough the Igbo intellectual is seen as lacking a sense of belonging in taking the lead putting into perspective all that happened during the pogrom and the ominous consequences that followed. On the other hand, it had been presumed what happened over forty years ago should be forgotten by moving on and I will be coming to that in a minute.

Perhaps I may not have a problem with such gruesome acts of unnatural taste committed against humankind for the fact Igbo people as one observer noted are just “stupid” because if you walk into any bookstore today some Armenian who wasn’t born during the Armenian genocide of 1915 has written a book provoking greater popular outrage around the globe; one Jew born about twenty-seven years ago and has learned from the Synagogue that to forget is to proclaim Hitler innocent has compiled a book on a witness to the truth – the Holocaust; a South African who found his way escaping Apartheid to the woods around Mississippi has jotted down his experience of injustice; a teenager somewhere in the Lebanese community in Michigan is writing about the Beirut massacre of 1982; a Brit having no clue of 17th Century England has written a detailed account on the Gunpowder Plot orchestrated to bring the British empire to its knees during the Elizabethan era; a Chinese immigrant whose forebears were demolished and plundered writes about the Naijing massacre; a Cambodian puts into perspective the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s; a Balkan writes about the Bosnian massacres of the 1990s; a then seven-year-old is reflecting and piecing together the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and a curious minded being documents on the death of Anne Frank and the Concentrations Camps, and construction of the Holocaust museums as the list goes on and on.

But nowadays, encounter an Igbo anywhere especially at a beer parlor, isi-ewu joints and places like that, the theme of such forums would sound much normal as in any regular bar – hanging out in those Armani suits and spewing out nonsense on the grounds of alcohol and loose women being involved. The irony though is that none comes out with something of substance, some kind of brilliant and meaningful stuff even though altered minds in an environment alcohol and women are involved can still have decent debates and argue intellectually.

My point here is precisely about we who have embedded ourselves into the American social system which is unlike any other in the world, a nation that has emerged from nations all over the world, and a nation pragmatically created, never seen before to have not taken advantage like other immigrants in building community and being concretely part of a system where collectivity ultimately leads to utopia.

My attempt here is a studied survey based on different accounts regarding the Igbo guardian, the so-called “intellectual” and how it is today a tragedy.

Is there an instance where some thought has been put in place how we explored the shores of America over forty years ago like our other immigrant counterparts and yet have nothing, absolutely nothing to show for it? Has anyone thought about what would be the position of our children fifteen years from now in a faster changing environment resourced through community, put it this way, a historic problem that absorbed so much effort to resolve and finally brought about change by electing a second generation immigrant Barack Obama president of the United States? And did anyone think about how we could have established ourselves here in Diaspora as a powerhouse in every aspect, in such a way we could influence the “power brokers” in our native land permanently putting to a stop riff raffs running the show? Has anyone reflected, studied and investigated the most blood soaked event in its era where our women were raped by Islamic hoodlums who were also nihilists, killed en-masse infants and children; and then murdered our men in the most brutal of circumstances in an attempt to wipe out a specific ethnic group which amounts to genocide by any accepted definition?

Besides a very notable few like scholar Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe whose extensive and exhaustive writings on the pogrom and Biafra is out there; Oguchi Nkwocha as a vivid witness who consistently maintained his ground on the status quo in evaluating and studying the ominous consequences of the pogrom; Emeka Amanze whose movement is quite revealing on a sorry state of the Igbo nation and lessons learned during the pogrom; M. O. Ene’s unrelenting effort and the book Jaundiced Justice, and most recently an inspiring novel Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who wasn’t yet born during the said conflict, no Diaspora Igbo has emerged to author an analysis regarding the atrocious nature of what the Islamic Jihadists deliberately did to the Igbo people in a “premeditated and diabolical act” programmed to wipe out the Igbo nation from the face of this planet.

The Diaspora Igbo intellectual’s inability to deal solidly with home-abroad realities is characteristic of the peculiar failure of the Igbo intellectual and so also is a failed leadership back home resulting to being compelled to give up and quieted in exchange for cash and other treasures by gangsters who overnight hijacked and destroyed every aspect of Igbo ideals. Since the Igbo intellectual has been flattened and cannot deal adequately with a hijack of Igbo ideals on moral grounds by a group of imbeciles and thuggish elements who are now thriving on a confused and chaotic Igbo nation, the option left for the Igbo intellectual becomes obvious which is ultimately succumbing on the basis of being vulnerable and gullible.

A situation like that is a dangerous one especially in a society that is still on its path for a structure required to make the availability of social programs a basic as in all civil and organized societies. It is only in banana republics checks and balances are negated to track the records of public office holders; and the trouble of the Igbo intellectual, in this case, is abandonment of responsibilities because the Igbo intellectual is no longer interested on the welfare of the people supposedly to be guided, thus relying heavily on individualism and bent on a selfish gain based on what his surroundings are feeding him.

The following statements are typical confessions one hears constantly from supposedly Diaspora Igbo intellectual: “Look, our mates are now running the show in Igbo land and they are chopping. I have no choice than to join the bandwagon.” “Did you hear he has been appointed as assistant to the local government chairman? I just spoke to him on the phone not too long ago and he was full of life because he is now chopping, talking big and things like that.” Or “I have been dreading in this country for too long with nothing to show for it but bills and all kinds of troubles including my marriage which seemingly is heading to Splitville. This country has been a nightmare. I have to go so I can join the chopping class… Naija money still dey nyafunyafu… make I go join them before the scramble and grab is over. Make you dey there now.” Even, “In Nigeria you are served like a king with the women kowtowing and you can have as many women as you wish, and as long as your pocket is loaded you’ve got it all, and that’s the way it goes.” And listen to this, “I am building a castle.”

Yes, of course, the castles on dusty alleys with no street numberings, serfdom, servitude, coercion and prostitution and all that amoral in this modernity for a people who once were top notch in utopia and republican ideals in an about face paved way for ndi gburu ozu, the money bags who destroyed every aspect of Igbo values and cultural relativism. It is hard to believe running into an Igbo intellectual is like meeting a generation of airheads who have no clue the importance of determining their contribution to creation and why they are in this universe, in the first place. It is also disturbing that the Igbo intellectual from every scope rejected Igbo values for materials not necessary in establishing a profound leadership based on the concept of how it all began when our forebears had the vision of what the Igbo should be in today’s society.

The pragmatic and egalitarian Igbo envisioned by Michael I. Opara, Mazi Mbonu Ojike, Francis Akanu Ibiam and other great Igbo visionaries of the time which was drawn from the Igbo guardian and the days of the Igbo Union, and its principles of making the Igbo nation the best it could be to parallel the Western Hemisphere in all standards of social programs and infrastructures distressingly vanished overnight because the Igbo intellectual succumbed to the ways and means of Omemgbeoji 1 of Igbo land, the societal nouveau riche whose elevation to prominence is questionable and whose socio-economic status shouldn’t have arrived had the Igbo intellectual been firm keeping his composure and principles been respected for the fact the social programs are all out there for all and sundry to see as evidence of good leadership; and as beneficiaries of a sound socio-cultural and political order, no question, the sudden eruption of empire and an ensuing anarchy wouldn’t have also arrived.

Under normal circumstances, such titles as Eze Igbo Gburugburu should be done by merit based on community service – building of schools, offering free education, equipping the libraries, providing basic amenities (water and light), providing healthcare by way of dispensary facilities, abundant food by helping farmers through some kind of subsidies and creating many other provisional social programs including parks and recreation. And as a result of failed leadership, the young intellectuals have been asked to take over the mantle of Igbo leadership. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu at the 2000 World Igbo Congress Convention held in Dallas, Texas, speaks:

I am now an old man. I have done mine. I have not seen who will take that baton from me. I was 33 years when I did it. That the old did not agree to hand over power is not true. Come and take the baton. If we refuse to give it to you, grab it by force. You Igbos abroad are the window of the world to us. Don't turn your back on anything Igbo. Come and join. Our time is gone... My people, I will not lie to you. We came from home, we laugh and embrace, but I can tell you that big rain is falling. Our land is not good. Our condition is like a war. Nobody loves Igbos. The person who is scared of you will not love you. But we are not loved is Nigeria's problem not ours. If they love you, it is good. But the greatest is to be feared. We want to be feared.

But what can be expected of the young intellectuals when the old intellectuals such as Okenwa Nwosu who runs the Physician Omni Health Group in Maryland write articles that do not reveal the issues of their own political and cultural history? What can be expected of the young intellectuals when Kevin Osondu, the first black man, I repeat, first black man to earn a PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo way back and nobody knows much about him? What can be expected of the young intellectuals when the old ones have lost every sense of purpose in keeping the Igbo ideal intact for generations to come? What really can be expected of the young intellectuals when a confused bunch of old intellectuals parleys with demonic gangsters in the likes of Orji Uzor Kalu who in broad day light took Igbo assets hostage and courageously on the humbleness of a paralyzed Igbo intellectual, got away with it? And what can be expected of the young Igbo intellectual when the old Igbo intellectual has shown nothing other than have outsiders in the likes of Nowamgbe Omoigui write its history while Appalachian State University political science professor Emmanuel Ike Udogu is writing on Nigeria fiscal economy and political compromise in Nigeria in the Twenty-First Century: Strategies for Political Stability and Peaceful Coexistence and photo journalist Ike Ude writes on Style File: The World’s Most Elegantly Dressed?

For some reason, while combing through Ude’s new book, I decided to give him a call to find out what drove him into writing a book on style and furthermore to find out a little bit about him. Ude was born in Okigwe and grew up in several Northern cities before the Civil War. After the war his parents relocated to Enugu where his father worked for the Nigeria Railway Corporation. He sojourned to the shores of America in the 70s and began what would be a long journey. In Style File: The World’s Most Elegantly Dressed, Ude, without a doubt, displayed a symbol of excellence on style of which he eloquently illustrated the fifty-five people in this world he mostly admired and considers to be stylists in their respective rights. Ude’s work, an impressive list which includes a handful of designers like Oscar de la Renta, Christian Louboulin, Carolina Herrera, John Galliano, Barnaba Fornasetti; journalists in the likes of Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley and Hamish Bowles; and photographers such as Coreen Simpson, Francesco Scavullo and a touch to the Motown look. Ude’s work also includes celebrities and the creative types ranging from perfumer Frederic Malle and actress Isabella Ferrari to burtesque dancer Dita von Teese. Malian-born photographer during the colonial era, Seydou Keita, made the list, too. Sculptor Andrea Logan, vintage couture dealer Didier Lindot, and London-based fashion designer Amechi Ihenacho whose 18th Century outfit graced the pages with biographical datas.

In all the occasions I spoke with Ude and in my attempt to pick up some understanding regarding his awareness toward a failed Igbo leadership, his interest in anything Igbo seemed to have waned and for the record he never talked back to me in Igbo despite my approach in many instances where I spoke Igbo fluently. As the case has been, Ude’s taste for style and perhaps neglect of his cultural heritage may be two different things and as a matter of choice, but a society whose cultural background is lost definitely has no place in history.

In any society and as in the case of Diaspora, it is the intellectuals who come to the fore as the molders and shapers of what is now vital and relevant in terms of social, cultural and political opinion. It is the intellectuals who give form and content to mass liberation movements that change society. It is the intellectuals who, because of their déclassé position, can see objectivity and clearly which way class forces are actually moving or aspiring to move, and which classes are advancing or retarding that advance. It is the intellectuals who detect and resolve conflicts in its community by recommending patterns from around which such problems would not be repeated again.

To be Continued.