Professor Uzodimma Nwala, a renowned retired Professor of Philosophy, is among the very few Igbo elders, who command the respect of the people today. The President of Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF in this exclusive chat with The Nigerian Xpress speaks on marginalisation of the Igbo in Nigeria and the renewed quest for self determination.
Can you tell us briefly about the Alaigbo Development Foundation?
ADF was born in 2014, following an international colloquium organised by many Igbo scholars, statesmen, clergy, politicians, traditional rulers, businessmen. It was one of those momentous periods when the question of Ndigbo, where do we go from here, was very rife in the air.
There was need for a wakeup call to our people because we found out that we didn’t have a solid platform that can bring us together, that can monitor what’s going on around, organise the different doors, politically, media wise, and so on.
So, we organised that colloquium to x-ray different dimensions, the origin of this Igbo predicament in Nigeria. Of course, the title of that colloquium was ‘The Igbo question in Nigeria, before, during and after Biafra.’
Over 2500 Igbo all over the world were at that event and we looked at different dimensions of Igbo history, Igbo politics, Igbo economy, Igbo culture, geography and everything. At the end of the day, we decided it was necessary to bind ourselves together into a formidable organisation that can usher in a movement that can help to ferry our people across these turbulent periods.
We tried to borrow a leaf from what the Jews did in their time. They were hounded like us, from pillar to post. The advantage we have is that we have a homeland; they didn’t have a homeland at that time, but were able to get themselves together, everybody, their prophets, philosophers, clergy, various institutions, youths, scholars and so on came together and put together what is known as Jewish foundation. Today, the Jews have more or less become masters of their own. It’s impossible for you to do deal with any serious global challenge without taking into account what the Jews are saying or doing. In the area of science, they are now dominant, same in other areas, a small country, but they dominate the world. You can call them a super power today.
We believe we are capable of overcoming our challenge in that way. As history has it, the Igbo and the Jew have a lot in common. Incidentally, in a recent video the Ooni of Ife has come to underscore that similarity between the Igbo and the Jews. And contrary to what some people believe, that the Jews were prior in history, that Igbo came after the Jews or from the Jews, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
And for those of us who studied Philosophy and history of African world systems we do know for example that the father of the Jews is Abraham. We do know the story when Abraham visited Egypt with his wife, Sarah, Egypt was then the centre of world civilisation. And we know about the encounter between himself and Pharoah. Where was Christ taken to when there was a threat; it was Egypt. The Jews were also in Egypt before going back home. So, Egyptian civilisation of which the Igbo civilisation is part of was there from time immemorial.
So, the Alaigbo Development Foundation has done quite a lot in the past four years. We are playing the role of Oguguo Ndi Igbo and we want to assemble the best Igbo nation can command.
If one may ask, sir, what are these challenges that Igbo are facing?
The most central definition of that challenge is the challenge of survival; physical survival, economic survival, social and political survival. Take the ordinary one you call economic survival, can you see what is happening to Ibeto? What happened to Innoson before his recent court victory; what happened to Barth Nnaji; what happened to many others – Ifeanyi Ubah and others.
These are programmed attempts to destroy Igbo businesses. Can you see what is happening to our infrastructure, what is happening to the ports? That you have to go to Lagos to clear goods; as you are coming down they are harassing you. We have a case of people, who went all the way and got to Asaba and were turned back to Lagos.
Talk about economic challenges, what about roads, railways, that are functional up there. Let’s even take the political challenge, can you see we are completely eliminated from the Nigerian bureaucracy, from the management of the state, security and otherwise. You need to go to Abuja and interact with some of our people; they are like slaves, people are working like slaves. Even those who should hold senior positions, they have young Fulani/Hausa chaps, deciding what happens. We are like foreigners.
If you take security, I am sure you know that the security situation today is worse than it was during the war. They are all over our villages, armed trained young soldiers all over the place. It’s worse than during the war. You can see what they are doing with police and soldiers, harassing our people. You can also see what they are doing to our youths who are protesting; is it IPOB or so, you see what they are doing to harmless young chaps. Which area can you look at… There are so many areas, we seem to be an endangered specie. Unfortunately, our politicians are playing the typical Nigerian politics.
Our friend and master in those days called Ikenna Nzimiro used to define Nigerian political parties as trading companies and that’s what they are. Our people are in the trading company called APC, they can’t think outside what that company is, they think about their own share. So, the challenges are quite enormous.
To what extent would the role of the Igbo in the 2019 election help in solving some of these Igbo challenges?
When you talk of the role of the Igbo, either individual or so, there is one thing that is very common in history, people who have lost war suffer the pangs of it. It’s psychological, moral, economical, over a long period of time. That has been our predicament since the end of the war, and moreover, we are dealing with a people, we are dealing with forces, that have programmed so much including our own people, they have so psychologically battered our people to the extent we don’t think we can survive without them.
So there is a limit to which we can blame our people, but there are some of them we cannot excuse. There are some of them that blindly closed their eyes over the butchering taking place all over the whole place; closed their ears as if they don’t know about our marginalization in the security and other forces; closed their ears to what happened during the last election; the manipulation and all the processes that took place before the election.
Look at the case of the Chief Justice of the federation, who was removed, whatever may be his crime…but his crime was not the major objective, his removal was to make sure the judiciary was very much in their palms so that any challenge to the rigging of the election would not go through.
So our people who close their eyes to all these things and only think of themselves, their positions…now they are talking of Senate president, I only say sorry to these people…but the way things are going now, instead of the situation getting darker we are likely to see some silver lining in the horizon. Our people are gradually getting up; those who didn’t believe in self-determination yesterday, are now militant champions of self-determination.
We must be ourselves; we must control our destiny, we must control out judiciary, we must control our educational system, we must control our resources, we must control our land and so on. That determination is strongly growing, our youths are waking up. So, it’s only a minority of the so-called leaders…see what happened in the last election, the Igbo virtually voted for one party. It shows that they are aware that the other party represents the interest of their traducers and in their quest for freedom they voted for this other party, not necessarily because it contains angels, but they feel it will give them a leeway.
Some people believe, for example, that what happened to Innoson, Chikason, Ibeto would not happen under the watch of Atiku, as president. So, I think our people are awake; we are at the verge of breaking our yoke and the chains.
What are the chances of an Igbo president in 2023, considering their role in the just-concluded elections? Don’t you think the control of political power will help the Igbo achieve their goal?
The root of solving our problems does not lie via Nigerian Presidency because one fundamental question you are asking is how feasible is it for an Igbo man to be president under the present circumstances. The presidency is not dashed. I am one of the greater apostles of rotation of powers; I was in the 1994 national constitutional conference; I worked with Ekwueme. I was secretary of the Igbo delegates, secretary of the whole southern delegates, we championed what is now known as the six geo-political zones, rotation of power to move in a North, South alternation, but what has become of that?
Ekwueme would have been president but they said no, because the structure of the federation first as bequeathed by the Europeans and as perfected and deepened by the Northern military hegemony over years; that structure is a structure of slavery. It’s not easy for you to break through it, it’s not possible, it’s not easy. So, we should be thinking more of our own regional autonomy; how do we get together, build a solid political homefront that will deal with our problems systematically beginning with our economic disempowerment; empowering us.
We can do that ourselves. We don’t need them to do that. That’s why ADF has been championing the programme of Aku ruo ulo (think home) movement and our people are listening and what they are seeing now in Lagos and other places is enough lesson to drive home the message, that we should be coming back home with our investments