Building consensus on Biafra and lessons for IPOB

Publisher OGBUAGU ANIKWE discusses the matter of building a consensus on the issue of Biafra and a crucial missing link. This article was first published in The Sun newspaper as Thoughts Let’s Biafra 2.1 (4).

Let’s discuss the matter of building a consensus on this issue of Biafra. At the core of separatist agitation for Biafra is the fundamental question of how Ndigbo are treated in Nigeria.

There are two questions that every concerned Igbo has asked themselves. Do the Igbo believe that they can use their education, industry and political gamesmanship to survive and thrive in Nigeria? Are the Igbo better off being a separate republic? These questions follow from aggressive human actions wielded like clubs to pummel them at work, in trade and in school?

In Ojukwu’s Biafra 1.0, as approved by regional leaders, these questions were not considered mutually exclusive. We shall see in a moment. In Nnamdi Kanu’s Biafra 2.1, however, they became mutually exclusive. Today, the doors of informed dissent are firmly shut against proponents of the first question. Everyone must either rise to rouse bottled-up emotions and resentments among the youth or keep quiet under pains of punishment. Most of us consequently kept fearful silence as emotions gradually solidified. And hardened among a captive audience that now swears by the second question.

To backtrack a bit, two things are wuite obvious to concerned Igbo that have ruminated on these questions. The first is that they reflect the perception, right or wrong, that Nigeria treats the Igbo unfairly. The second is that, at its base, these are political questions that must ultimately be resolved at a conference table. This reality will not change, even when we end up in formal war to try to force the second option. It is because this is a political question that we can locate its genesis to the July 1966 coup d’état.

What forced the second question was when fellow Nigerians descended on innocent civilians living in the Northern Region and murdered them. Tens of thousands died. The Northern Region may argue that the question arose in January 1966 when a group of army officers targeted and killed politicians predominantly from the North. They could be right to think so. History also records that people of the North were the first to briefly toy with the idea of separation from Nigeria. The point is that 1966 marked a watershed in the political ferment of Nigeria. It was the first time that the mood of the country was insurrectionary.

The anger and violence that overtook the nation began their journey from the Western Region, culminating in the Wetie! – an incendiary baptism of political opponents. In what became a tragedy of errors, an army coup to restore order was botched and ultimately perceived as an attempt by the Igbo to take over power. This interpretation has persisted to this day, even when it was a purely military affair. Politically savvy Nigerians hold this against the Igbo as a group. No one, however holds anything against the north whose military officers have carried out countless others.

This perception provoked its own error of gigantic proportions. The January 1966 botched military takeover riled the Northern Region. Beginning with cries of Araba (let’s separate), emotions gradually rose against innocent civilians of the Eastern Region who were set upon and massacred in their tens of thousands.

Expectedly, this misdirected aggression triggered outrage and emotions in the Eastern Region and ultimately led to cries of “give us Biafra.” Only the Midwestern Region was relatively unaffected, until the resulting conflicts offered them to the gods of war as collateral sacrifice. Thus, every region harvested death as the Grim Reaper agitated men’s souls. To be sure, before this era of political madness, there were other instances where faith fundamentalists set upon southerners living in the North. Those skirmishes were, however, predominantly fuelled by religion. On the other hand, the killing spree of 1966 pulled and tore the political strings that Britain used to tie the Nigerian nation together.

Out of the ashes of that Nigerian tragedy, there are important lessons we must learn. The must significant is that, as long as one is engaged in a political battle, there are safe and terrible tools that one must deploy to win the battle. The first order of business in a political battle is to mobilise the opinion leadership and get the crucial buy-in that accelerates seamless recruitment of diverse talent for the battle ahead. Genetal Odumegwu-Ojukwu, being a student of history, understood this. Which is why he first gathered and posed the two questions to the opinion leaders of Eastern Nigeria.

These leaders left to consult and then returned to Enugu on May 27, 1967, to let him know that they preferred the second option. They handed over a written mandate that said the Eastern Region was better off being a separate republic, given the policy and aggressive human actions that were being wielded like clubs to pummel them where they work, trade and school outside the region.

This was how Biafra and the War of Attrition was born.
Ojukwu, on the strength of this mandate, announced that the Igbo would secede and on May 30 declared Biafran independence, citing extensive massacre of easterners in the North.

For our dear brothers who have taken it upon themselves to fight for the liberation of Ndigbo, here are five fundamental issues that need to be urgently addressed, if we must halt the ongoing, needless and avoidable deaths of Igbo youths.

The first is to recognize that Ojukwu’s Biafra 1.0 was preceded by a prior conversation about what Ndigbo and other ethnic nationalities in the region wanted. Because you are nwafo, consider the wise sayings of our elders. The first is anyi ga akpa ya akpa, maka na akpa akpa, alaru n’uté. This is the Igbo insistence on prior consultation by anyone who wants to fight for them. The second is: Uka akalu aka n’eji isi ekweyaa (when we discuss and agree on your plan for us, we’ll nod yes to actions that follow). Let’s abbreviate both concepts as ag’akpaya and uka’kalu.

Ag’akpaya was what propelled Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to undertake a national tour to sensitise and mobilise the Igbo on the benefits of education, community development and a sense of community, even before he joined the nationalist struggle for independence. He went on this tour immediately he returned from his studies in the United States.

Zik’s discussions and lectures energised and transformed the Igbo into a united front. They aggressively pursued education, pursued better collaborations in trade and commerce, and community development. Ultimately, these mobilisation efforts led to the creation of the powerful Igbo State Union to which Zik was elected the first president. Above all, Zik’s mobilisation and sensitisation efforts ensured that the Igbo were not placed at a disadvantage when the colonial masters left.

Ag’akpaya and Uka’akalu were what Gen. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu used to rouse, mobilise and galvanize an ill-prepared people to square up with Nigeria. He did not use radio propaganda alone to do it. He initiated meetings and placed the responsibility of making a decision on what to do in the laps of ndinweobodo.

This point needs to be emphasized. There must be a prior conversation about where Ndigbo are being taken to. And it is dangerous to exclude the political, cultural, economic and intellectual elite in such a conversation. The Ikemba, in spite of being a military person himself nevertheless went through this process. He neither used radio propaganda nor bullying to accomplish it. Rather, he presented the situation to the people who would be impacted by it and got their buy-in to declare Biafra.

The second is that, without collaboration between the current Biafran visionaries and opinion leaders on the ground, not much progress can be made. The history of Biafra 1.0 teaches us that everything went downhill when impetuosity and arrogance crept in and people with a different opinion were tagged with pejorative terms such as “saboteurs” and “Fulani slaves.” Some were tied to the stakes and shot. Ojukwu consewuently lost the crucial support of both the political class and of his perceptive military colleagues.

The third is that how the Igbo are treated in Nigeria is a political question that confronts most ethnic groups as well. Prior to now, every sub-nationality in our multi-ethnic society either plays this game to win, and to settle for or force a win-win. Nigeria’s grandmasters of the game understood this, which is why they kept their support base intact and used their electoral successes for horse-trading as every new government was formed. Igbo leaders used to be masters of this game. Thus, if separatists truly want to help the Igbo, they need to get into the game by attempting, for instance, to take over political power in the East. Nigeria will pay attention to IPOB quicker if this happens.

The fourth is that, deriving from the recognition that this is a political game and not a military war, it is a dangerous gamble to continue to ignore or denigrate members of the Igbo political class. Recent history bears this out. Mazi Nnamdi kanu was released from jail the first time through the intervention of the authentic political elite class whose members continue to be firmly entrenched in the Nigerian political space. We still have them in the likes of Senators Ike Ekweremadu and Enyinnaya Abaribe, Ministers Chris Ngige and Chibuike Amaechi, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, and reliable outsiders such as Pius Anyim, Peter Obi, and Peter Odili. There are others. Their connections, wealth of experience and commitment to a selfless cause are invaluable assets that any wise person should tap into.

The fifth and final point is that both violent and non-violent resort to redressing grievances or injustices is a long-distance race. It is not often that those who started one lived long enough to see it come to fruition. The only guarantee of its sustainability is when it is secured by planting the seeds of aga’akpa and uka’kara. Without digging deep to plant these seeds, the revolution runs the risk of failing to germinate and grow into a mighty oak, able to withstand harsh conditions that elements which direct the weather advantages unleash.

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Abdulaziz Ude was a father-figure, and I’m in pains!

Abdulaziz Ude wasa father-figure and I’m in pains is a tribute by controversial Harvard-trained lawyer, EMEKA UGWUONYE. His testimony fills the gaps in our knowledge of this Enugu-born enigmatic billionaire.

Abdulaziz Ude was my father-figure, by Emeka Ugwuonye

I just lost a father, who has been there for me for the past 30 years. It is a big blow that I did not foresee. I mistakenly thought he would live forever. And now, he is gone, suddenly, but with much dignity as he lived.

When I was leaving the University of Benin for the Nigerian Law School in 1991, I had performed well in Uniben. I was popular among the wise and the prudent. Many wished me well. Two professors from Enugu – Professor Ene, the Acting Vice-Chancellor, from Udi, and Professor Amechi Onyia, of the College of Medicine, also from Udi – took active interest in me and they all wanted me to go far further in my development.

As I was heading to Lagos for the Nigerian Law School, Professor Amechi Onyia gave me a letter, which he asked me to deliver to one wealthy philanthropist from our state. The philanthropist was Chief Alhaji Abdulaziz Ude, also from Abor, Udi. (All these men were from the same local government area of Enugu State). The letter Professor Onyia gave me to deliver to Chief Abdulaziz Ude was sealed. I had no idea what he wrote in that letter. But the address where I was to deliver it was very clear – 59 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.

I got to Lagos, and while completing the registration procedure for Law School, I decided to use the opportunity to deliver Professor Onyia’s letter. I came to the office of Chief Abdulaziz Ude. But he was not there. (In fact, he was such a big man that I did not really expect to meet him personally. I just wanted to deliver the letter and disappear in the direction I came from). I met with Chief Ude’s manager. I handed over the letter to him and turned and left.

I was almost about to jump into a bus when I heard someone calling me. I turned back. It was someone on the balcony of Chief Ude’s office beckoning me back to the building. The manager handed me back the letter I had delivered. He said to me: “Because of the nature of the content of this letter, I advise you to deliver this letter personally to Chief Ude. And for that purpose, you should go to his residence in Mekuien Road, Ikoyi”. That was how the letter I had delivered was rejected and I was redirected.

As I was in the bus heading back to where I was staying, pending the opening of the Nigerian Law School students hostel, I became so curious about the content of the letter that caused it to be returned to me. Obviously, the letter has been opened by the manager. So, it won’t be an offence if I peeped inside it. I gently opened the letter. In it, Professor Onyia wrote:

“Dear Oduneje Ogu I” (one of the chieftaincy titles of Chief Ude), “This young man is from our place. He is leaving Uniben one of the best ever. He is someone I think you should watch”.

That was it. At that point, I did not really know Chief Ude beyond the various newspaper articles I read that depicted him as very wealthy and that he was from Enugu State. I didn’t know much else about him. So, I didn’t know what else to make out of this letter and the need to deliver it to him. However, I was pleased to know what Professor Onyia thought about me. The idea of me being watched was a bit scary, though. Was I so dangerous that I needed to be watched by a very rich and powerful man? I wasn’t sure really what to make out of that. But I set my mind to meeting Chief Ude.

First encounter with Chief Ude

The day came, a few weeks later. I was already in the student’s hostel of the law school. I took a bus to Falomo bus-stop in Ikoyi, and trekked from there to Chief Ude’s house (about a mile from the bus-stop). His staff I met at the gate took the letter from me and went in with it. Because of my previous experience, I did not leave. I stayed to know what would happen after he would have seen the letter.

The staff came right back and told me to follow him. He led me into his living room where Chief Ude was waiting for me, with Professor Onyia’s was waiting. (I was later to learn that Chief Ude and Professor Onyia had been close friends since their days as students of Columbia University in New York. Hence, the letter was well-received).

I found myself in one of the most stupendously rich and affluent living rooms I was ever to see in real life then. The living room was like a hall and attendants and personal staff were everywhere. I was led straight to a calm man with much aura around him. As I stood in front of him, I could see the letter in his hand.

He didn’t waste time at all. Powerful and intelligent men don’t waste time because time is precious to them. He said to me: “You are now at the law school here?” I said yes. He said: “I have heard what Amechi said about you. I want you to come back next week. Bring with you the list of all you need for the Nigeria law school”.

I thanked him and left. It all lasted less than five minutes.

When I returned to the law school hostel, I calculated all I needed for the entire year at the Nigerian law school – school fee, feeding, books, etc., and it came to N29,000 and change. I wanted to take the list to Chief Ude. But I reasoned thus: “I have already paid my school fees at the law school.

Another Benefactor of mine, who paid for my education in Uniben, Engr. Clement Aningo and his wife, Rita Aningo, from Oghe, had already paid everything I needed at the Law School. To now collect N29,0000 from Chief Ude would be a double portion, an unneeded excess, which I might just waste. Also, this Chief Ude is a very wealthy man. Why exhaust his generosity on Nigerian Law School fees which I didn’t need? Why not reserve it for Harvard Law School, which I plan to attend in two years’ time?” With this thought on my mind, I did not go back to Chief Ude as he asked me to.

I felt sure he would forget me. But I did not forget him.

Abdulaziz Ude was my father-figure, by Emeka Ugwuonye

Harvard Law: a Dream Comes True

Two years later, I got admission to study at Harvard Law School. The school fees at Harvard Law School then was $53,000.

I was working at Chevron as an entry level baby lawyer. There was no way I could afford Harvard school fees unless I was helped. I went to my boss then, Mr. Godfrey Etikerentse, the General Counsel of Chevron, to ask for help from Chevron. He was happy for me to study at Harvard, but there was no clear channel for Chevron to give scholarship to a baby lawyer who hadn’t even been with them for up to 12 months. So, his initial response was lukewarm.

The only other person that crossed my mind was Chief Ude. I decided to go back to him two years after I met him that once.

It was a hot May whether. It was night, around 7pm. I showed up at the home of Chief Ude, armed with nothing other than the letter of admission from Harvard. The atmosphere was light and friendly at the gate and the gatemen let me in. They didn’t know me. I was just a young man (23-year old) that wanted to see Chief Ude. I was actually surprised that they would let me in without rigorous questioning. But they only let me into the compound. It was still a huddle to get to see Chief Ude.

When I finally made it into the living room, I saw a lot of people all dressed like Alhajis waiting for him. His living room was like a conference of many Alhajis. As I stepped into the living room, I saw a pair of legs descending from a spiral stairway in the middle of the living room. The legs soon turned into a body with a head. And guess who came down the stairs. It was Professor Amechi Onyia, he had come to visit his friend just that evening. We had not seen again since I left Uniben. Then, there was no cell phone or internet or text messaging – so, no contact with Professor Onyia since I left Uniben two years earlier.

He was surprised to see me. The first thing he said to me was: “Chief Ude said you never came back”. I said: “Yes, sir: the work at the law school was so rigorous and I could not come back. But I am here now. And I have a message for the Chief”.

I handed him the letter of admission from Harvard Law School. He looked at it and was excited. He told me to stand at that spot and wait. He disappeared up the same spiral stairway he came down from two minutes ago. I stood there like a pillar of salt.

Less than five minutes later, I saw Professor Onyia’s legs coming down the stairs again. But this time, he did not come all the way down. He only got to the point where I could see his face. He motioned for me to follow him up the stairs. I did. As I walked into another hall, I saw a group of men sitting and one man was behind the desk and obviously the leader. That was Chief Ude. He was holding the letter of admission in his hand. Apparently, Professor Onyia had explained everything to him, including why I did not come back as he directed me two years earlier.

As I stood in front of him, Chief Ude said in our dialect: “My friend, what else did they say you passed?” (Asi no gini ka I passikwalu ozo?). As he asked, he was looking at my admission letter. He continued: “To get admission to Harvard Law School, you must be a truly brilliant young man”. Then as if he forgot that I was still standing, he said, again with a proverb: “Dia anyi nolo ana tupu ibutalu m obia”, which meant simply that I should be seated. I sat down.

The Letter to Harvard

Without saying anything else to me, Chief Ude called his secretary, Mr. Paul Ugwu, who was there. He said to Mr. Ugwu: “Please take a dictation for a letter to Harvard Law School”. The next thing I noticed was Chief Ude dictating a letter to be sent by fax to Harvard.

He started: “Dear Sir: Your letter to Candidate Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye dated ——- apropos. I hereby give myself the privilege of contributing modestly to this young man’s brilliant academic career by undertaking to pay his school fees at Harvard Law School. Please contact me for all that is required”.

He handed the letter of Admission to Mr. Ugwu so he would know how to address the letter he just dictated.

I was shocked. I was confused. How could this be possible? I came to him hoping he would give me about $10,000 and I would go elsewhere for the rest. But look at this!

I didn’t believe it. I looked around the room again to see if these men had been drinking. But there was no trace of alcohol anywhere around. I was still confused when Mr. Ugwu returned with the letter for signature. The Chief signed the letter on the spot and five minutes after, Mr. Ugwu returned to inform him that the letter has been faxed to Harvard. I remember Chief Ude saying to Mr. Ugwu: “Harvard will contact us soon. So, be ready for that”.

Then addressing both Mr. Ugwu and I, he said: “Get together, get his international passport and you get ready to travel.”

As I left the house of Chief Ude that night, I could not feel my feet touching the ground. It was as if I was floating in the air. I remembered the stories my grandmother had told me, of spirits that floated in the air and I wondered if I had become one. I really could not believe all that happened. I thought I was dreaming.

Chevron sows a doubt

The next day, in the office, Mr. Etikerentse called me to ask about my plans for Harvard. I did not know that Mr. Etikerentse had been working behind the scene to get Chevron to offer me a scholarship. But that would be on the condition that I would return back to Lagos to continue working for Chevron.

I told Mr. Etikerentse my encounter with Chief Ude the night before. He did not believe it. He said to me:

“Please don’t take such promise seriously. Do you realize how expensive it is to attend Harvard University? Only your blood father can spend that amount on your education. Don’t accept the offer from any individual. It is a 419-promise. He will disappoint you down the line”.

With this from Mr. Etikerentse, a boss I respected so much, my doubts about Chief Ude’s offer increased. I began to think over it. My mind went to a particular phrase in Chief Ude’s letter to Harvard “…to contribute modestly to this young man’s brilliant academic career.” I concluded that Ude did not mean to bear the entire school fees, that he only intended to contribute a part of it.

The question then was how much would he be contributing?

Few days later, I had an opportunity to know exactly how much Chief Ude wanted to contribute and to confirm if Mr. Etikerentse was right that nobody would pay all that money for a person that is not his biological son. That opportunity arose when Harvard Law School sent straight to Chief Ude’s office a form known as sponsor’s declaration and proof of funds. They wanted him to state exactly how much he was willing to commit and the proof of availability of funds.

Mr. Ugwu sent for me. I rushed to his office. He told me that he just got the form for Chief Ude to sign but that Chief Ude had left to the airport on his way to China, and that he was trying to see if we could still meet him at the airport before his flight would take off.

So, Mr. Ugwu scrambled one of the Chief Ude’s cars and drivers, and we headed to Murtala Mohammed airport. I wasn’t very familiar with the airport then. The only time I had ever flown was when Chevron sent me to their base at Escravos near Warri and when they sent me to Port Harcourt on errand.

Encounter on a Private Jet

When we got to the airport, we were allowed to drive close to the plane. Airport security as we know it now did not exist; the idea that terrorists could bomb a plane was still very remote and fictional. So, we drove to where the plane was parked. That was the first time I was to see a private jet in real life or to enter into one.

As we ascended the plane from the rear door, I saw what I did not expect of an airplane. First, we crossed an area described as the bedroom and walked up toward the front where there was the living room and office setting. We met the crew and the pilot. They knew Mr. Ugwu, but did not know me. They were expecting us.

They asked us to sit down, that Chief Ude was having his shower and would soon join us. He was having his shower in the private jet? Jesus! I thought about it.

Shortly after, the Chief came out and said to me: “I understand there is something I have to sign”. I said: “Yes, sir”. He took the form from Mr. Ugwu. He glanced at it and signed it where there was space for signature.

He did not try to fill the form. He did not try to put a figure in the space where the sponsor was to state exactly how much he was paying. That was what I was expecting to see – how much exactly Chief Ude wanted to “contribute” to my education at Harvard.

When he gave back the form to Mr. Ugwu with his signature but without any amount stated, I was forced to say something.

“Sir, you did not state the amount you would be paying for me”.

“But you should know the amount they require?”

“Yes, sir, it is $53,000”.

“Then write it there. Don’t worry, Paul will fill the spaces. Just give him any information he needs. Better still, he should get the information from Harvard”.

As we left the plane, I was even more confused. I still did not believe that Chief Ude would pay 100% of the fees required by Harvard.

To make sure there was no confusion over this, I used the opportunity of this meeting to inform Chief Ude that Chevron was considering giving me a scholarship. But, he waived it off.

“That is going to tie you down after your leave Harvard. You need to be free. So, don’t accept Chevron’s offer”.

All this was playing in my head. I felt that if Ude felt he might disappoint me down the line, he would not encourage me to turn down Chevron’s alternative offer. I went home unable to sleep.

The Prince of London

Let’s fast forward.

Two months later, everything was set for me to leave Nigeria. Chief Ude arranged for me to come to London, UK, to spend some time before continuing to Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Everything was arranged. My paperwork and travel document were ready and Harvard was expecting me. I already had host parents in Cambridge (Mead and Susan Wymans) expecting me.

I left Lagos for London in July. When I arrived in London, I was shocked to see a white man carrying a placard with my name written on it. Can you imagine? A white man was there waiting for this village boy from Enugu. I went to him and introduced myself. He greeted me.

“Good morning, Sir. Welcome to London. Chief Abdulaziz Ude sent us”.

He had another man standing next to him, whom I later learned to be Mr. Sule, the Egyptian who was Chief Ude’s personal driver in London. The two men took by suitcase and led me to a Mercedes Benz. They took me to the Royal Garden Hotel near Hyde Park.

When we got to the hotel, I could overhear the men speaking to the hotel manager. They told him I was Chief Ude’s guest and I was to stay at the hotel for four weeks at the rate of 150 pounds a night.

I was checked into my room on the 4th floor. From the window, I could see the heart of London and the streets below. This village boy from Enugu State is now in London.

My brains were undergoing rapid transformation. I immediately began to drop the past life and to assume the new one. Everything inside me instantly began to change. I was thinking about all this when I fell asleep.

It was a very long sleep. I arrived London by 5:30am with an overnight flight from Lagos. I checked into the hotel around 7:30am. I had my first ever English breakfast around 8:30am. I tried to pretend I was used to everything around me, even though I was seeing most of my surrounding for the first time. I slept off around 10am.

The next thing I heard was my hotel room phone ringing. I picked it. The voice was from the reception: “Mr. Ugwuonye, you have a guest. Please hold on for him”. I could remember the voice of Sule. He said in perfect English accent: “Mr. Ugwuonye, the Chief wonders if you would be available to have dinner with him tonight”. Before he could finish, I think I shouted “yes” more than three times. Then I thought: “Wow! These people really know how to say the opposite of what they mean to say. How can be wondering if I would be available for him, when he owns all my time”.

I dressed up quickly and came down to the lobby and Sule pulled up the car, a different Mercedes Benz from the one they came to pick me up at the Airport. I got in and I was taken to a mansion in Central London, which I learnt was Chief Ude’s residence in London. He had set up a dinner and invited a few British friends of his. And his wife, Philomena, a medical doctor, who had been his childhood sweetheart, was there.

While seated there, I saw the visitors eating some fruits that looked round in shape, bigger than peas in size but very much smaller than apples. Those fruits were in three different colors – dark red, black and green. I had never seen or eaten that stuff, but since everybody was eating it, I did not want to advertise my village background by not joining them. That was how I tasted grapes for the first time in my life. I told you everything was changing in my life very fast. In 24 hours, so much change had occurred already.

A crash course in upper class manners

It was then it dawned on me why Chief Ude wanted me to spend weeks in London before going to Harvard. He knew that I would meet the children of Presidents and Prime Ministers from all over the world in Harvard. He wanted me to blend better by giving me a crash-orientation on how to look urbane and aristocratic among my classmates at Harvard. It was to push out of me much of the village and replace it with the urbane cultured disposition of the suave of the elite by the time my classmates would meet me.

For the two weeks I was in London, it was one day for a tour of London, guided by various professional tour guides, and the next day a dinner with Chief Ude and his British friends. Because I quickly understood the plan, I made effort to learn and soak up things like a sponge does to water.

After four weeks, I made a remarkable improvement. I began to look debonair. I learned to smile, walk and speak in a sophisticated manner characteristic of a well-groomed man of the world. I learned the names of wines and food, and the gestures of a British elite. I even began to speak like them and make my facial expressions like them.

I also learnt things about Chief Ude that I had not known all this while. He was a highly sophisticated and well-trained man with vast knowledge of the world. He schooled in Oxford University where he got his BSc Degree and Columbia University in New York where he got his Masters Degree in Economics. He was too well educated.

The then President of Guinea, Seko Toure, took him as his son and made him his Special Adviser. It was through the influence and his relationship with President Seko Toure that Chief Ude converted to Islam and became ultimately Chief Alhaji Abdulaziz Ude. It is important to note that Ude’s conversion to Islam, to which he remained faithful till death, had no Nigerian influence.

Then came the day in August when I was to fly from London to Boston. School would resume officially on August 24th, I was to arrive Boston on August 23, the same day I was to leave London.

During our dinner on August 22nd, Chief Ude instructed Sule to bring me early on 23rd so that he would personally escort me to the airport. But Sule suggested that there was no need for him to come to the airport in person, that he could take me to the airport. But Chief Ude said no, that he would like to see me off to the airport personally.

On 23rd I was brought to Chief Ude’s residence around 11am. I had checked out of the hotel by 10:30am. My flight was to take off by 5pm from Heathrow International Airport, London, to Logan International Airport, Boston. Chief Ude and I had lunch together by 12noon.

After lunch we returned to our seats in the living room. We were just talking and he was telling me things. He was particularly nice. In the past one month that I had been in London, even though he travelled out of London twice during that time, he spent time with him, and he allowed me to sit in during his social meetings with people and he always introduced me and he told his guests that I was very bright and that I was going to Harvard Law School. So, I had gotten used to his presence and I could see that this man had taken me like his own child.

Nobody seeing us in London would know that he and I met not long ago.

By 1pm, Chief Ude said to me:

“We need to get going. Go over there and count out 50 of those” (pointing me to a table at the end of the hall).

When I got to the table, I saw 100-dollars bills in pile of currency. I was momentarily shocked at the heap of currency. My mind quickly rushed to what Mr. Etikerentse had told me, that this whole thing I was doing with Chief Ude sounded like a 419-thing. Despite that what I now knew about Ude had disabused my mind of any such notion, I was still stunned by the large amount of money.

I carefully counted out 50 of the notes. I came back to Chief Ude and said:

“Sir, here it is”, showing him the bundle of $5,000 in my hand.

“That is what you should spend from until you are able to cash this”, he said and he handed a cheque of $55,000 to me.

I was staring in confusion. We then took pictures and got into the car to the airport. He rode with me in the back of one of his Mercedes cars to the Airport. We hugged and he said goodbye to me.

I felt tears in my eyes. My biological father was long dead. The only parent I had at that time was my mother. And this man just adopted me as his son.

I was quite emotional.

As I walked through the light airport security. That time, there was no such airport security as we know it today. You can even get to the entrance of the plane without anybody asking for your ID card.

Coming to America

As I walked into the airport, I touched my pocket to see if the dollars were still there. They were there. I then said: Okay, let me confirm that the dollars were real money. Human mind can play all sorts of tricks on us. Though at this point I had no reason to doubt Chief Ude, my mind still urged me to confirm that the money was real.

So, I stopped by a store at the airport to try to buy something. I grabbed a pair of socks and gave the seller one of the dollar bills. He took it and gave me change without questions asked. There was no doubt, the money was real.

That evening when I landed at Logan, I was looking in all directions, as a new comer, and a young custom officer asked me if I had money on me. I said yes. He asked me how much. I asked him if cheques could be included and he said yes. I told him that I had $60,000 on me.

He was shocked. He took me to their office and said to a more senior custom officer that “this kid has $60,000 on him”.

The senior officer asked me to show him. I brought out the almost $5000 cash and $55,000 cheque.

He asked me what was all the money for. I told him it was my school fees at Harvard. He already saw that Harvard University was stamped on my visa. I saw the man shake his head and say to his colleagues:

“They tell us that Africans are poor, and an African kid just walks in with two times my annual salary in his pocket”.

He shrugged his shoulders and gave me back my money, and stamped my passport and allowed me through.

A father figure to the end

The Chief Ude that I am talking about is dead! I just got the news. He died at nearly age 81. So, he lived long enough ordinarily. I did not realize I would miss him so much. But now, I realize with so much pain how much that man loved me. He cared for me. He cared about my children. In fact, I named my only biological son, Ude, after Chief Ude.

When I heard of his death, I thought I could accept it as the fact of life. After all, we all shall die. But, no, I can’t just accept it. My body doesn’t accept it. I am gutted. I am totally torn to pieces right now.

It was not just that he paid my school fees at Harvard, Chief Ude remained a father figure to me throughout. He was so agonized over my fights with the Nigerian government. He felt it was not necessary. He felt I had everything it took for me to avoid the fights, even if it meant staying safely away from Nigeria for the time being. He knew that I have had close friendship with many influential Nigerians including past Heads of State of Nigeria. He once wondered why I could not use my friendship to block off some of the needless and highly destructive clashes I have been involved in.

My only guilt today is the feeling that the disruptive encounters I have had with the Nigeria Government took away much of the time I needed to have spent with Chief Ude in his last days on earth. If anybody told me last week that I would not see Chief Ude today, I would not believe it.

At a different occasion, I will share with the world, the details of my continued relationship with Chief Ude. We remained so close after I left Harvard. He once took me on a tour to three African countries just to introduce me to his friends in Guinea, Algeria and Morocco. He spoke perfect French.

To see how close we were, I will tell you this story. In 2006, after my divorce, I started a relationship with another lady (a Nigerian lady). I came to introduce the lady to Chief Ude. He already heard that I was going out with the lady and he was concerned about the possibility of us getting married. But he said nothing to me.

However, the day I came to introduce the lady to him, he refused to see me. He sent a message that he was too tired from playing golf. I left without seeing him.

On a second occasion, I came to see him with the lady, with intention to introduce her. Again, he refused to see us. Apparently, he knew more about the lady than I did. (The lady is a politician and well-known. She was older than I by many years, but age was not the issue). So, she was a well-known person in Nigeria. Again, the Chief could not see us. Instead, he sent for me to meet him somewhere else in his vast compound.

When I stepped in, I met him visibly upset with me. For the first time, I saw him upset with me. He screamed at me: “Che che la feme! Che che la femme!” in French.

“What the hell are you doing with that lady?”.

He was really upset with me. He scolded me.

He said: “The story of Sampson and Delilah is not just a story in the Bible. It is a story of life. It doesn’t matter how successful a man may be, if he makes a mistake in his choice of woman, she will bring the whole roof down on his head”. He spoke to me as a father and I got the message.

As if he knew that I was a stubborn man, the following month, Chief Ude sent Alex Akporji, his confidant, to travel from Nigeria to meet me in Washington to deliver the same advice.

The summary of it is that Chief Ude cared so much for me that he was concerned that I was going to make a mistake in a choice of a wife. That is the fear of every true father.

A man blessed in his children

Chief Ude has grown biological children, who are so well established and we’re trained in schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and University of Pennsylvania. They are lawyers and doctors, etc.

He also trained countless people all over the world.

We all owe so much to him. His life was of great benefit to many. And his death is the greatest tragedy I have encountered in recent time. He left a legacy that must live forever.

Abdulaziz Ude was my father-figure, by Emeka Ugwuonye

Buhari and Ugwuanyi mourn Abdulaziz Ude

President Muhammadu Buhari and Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State mourn the passing of Abdulaziz Ude at the weekend.

President Muhammadu Buhari and Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi have both expressed shock at the death of Alhaji Abdulaziz Ude.

Presidential spokesperson, Malam Garba Shehu, said in a statement that the President received the news with shock and grief.

Buhari described Ude as “a foremost Igbo leader and philanthropist” who lived an exemplary life.

Ude, he said, was “one of the most unostentatious philanthropists in the country who worked for humanity without making any noise about it.

“Doing goodness without bragging about it is one of the greatest virtues and the late Abdulaziz Udeh had passed such a test of humility with distinction.”

“Apart from his philanthropic activities, the late Alhaji Udeh was also an advocate of religious tolerance who didn’t discriminate against anyone because of religious differences.”

He also commended his significant contributions to the creation of Anambra, Ebonyi and Delta States.”

Similarly, Gov. Ugwuanyi said news of Ude’s death came to him as a “rude shock and with deep sadness.”

The Governor praised Ude as “one of our most illustrious sons” and a philanthropist of note.

“The state government is very proud of Alhaji Ude’s immeasurable contributions to his faith, community, state, Igboland and the country.

“Although gravely pained by this death, we are consoled by the fact that Alhaji Ude lived a very worthy life,”

Ugwuanyi condoled with the family and prayed for his soul, in the statement released by Information Commissioner, Mr. Chidi Aroh.

Buhari and Ugwuanyi mourn Abdulaziz Ude

Arts community mourns Abdulaziz Ude

The social media lit up at the weekend with testimonies of how late Abdulaziz Ude promoted scholarship and the arts.

Novelist and literary critic, Okey Ndibe, took to Facebook to mourn a friend and a benefactor.

“In my debut novel, Arrows of Rain, I acknowledged Abdulaziz Chivuzor Ude as a benefactor.

“Abdulaziz … was an uncommonly generous man… He paid my fees through graduate school in the US—as he did for scores of others.

“What’s more, he was always a quiet, self-effacing man. Twice, when he attended my book events in Nigeria, he tried—unsuccessfully, I’m glad to say—to hush me from telling the audience about his kindness to me and others.

“May the soul of this rare, remarkable man find eternal peace,” he said in a tribute that has received thousands of likes.

Another author and journalist, Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, also spoke about how Ude sponsored an important biography.

“Chief Abdulaziz Chivuzo Ude provided financial assistance for the publication of Ironside, my 1999 biography of General Aguiyi-Ironsi.”

From newspaper Publisher, Prince Emeka Obasi, came this:

“He was the greatest of men; my mentor, inspirational and protector. I will miss his counsel dearly.

“The world should pause, because a true legend has passed on… . Indeed, I am broken!”

Buhari and Ugwuanyi mourn Abdulaziz Ude

Is a biography of Ude in the offing?

Most Nigerians received news of the quiet but extensive philanthropy of Alhaji Abdulaziz Ude with utmost surprise and shock.

Some others took the literary giants he lifted up with his philanthropy to task for not writing a book on the man.

Although no one has publicly taken up the challenge so far, a noted arts scholar offered to kick the ball rolling.

Painter, art critic, ethno-aesthetician and cultural entrepreneur, Chuu Xrydz Ikwuemesi, pledged to edit a book of tributes in Ude’s honour.

Consequently, he is inviting “tributes of not more than 400 words each as well as useful images” to be compiled into a book

Prof Ikwuemesi heads the fine and applied arts department of the University of Nigeria. He revealed a major reason why Ude, a famous art collector and patron, maintained a low profile unto death.

“Many years ago, some of us wanted to do his biography under the title Modern Medici in light of his contributions to arts and humanity.

“He advised that it was premature,” Ikwuemesi said.

Editors Note
If you would like to contribute to the book of tributes, you can email Ikwuemesi here.

Anambra State Govt mourns Abdulaziz Ude

The Government of Anambra State mourns Chief Abdulaziz Ude in this tribute released by his friend, Information & Public Enlightenment Commissioner, C. DON ADINUBA

The people and Government of Anambra State have received with sadness the news of the death two days ago of Chief Abdulaziz Chivuzor Ude, the internationally renowned publisher, intellectual, art lover, pan Africanist, entrepreneur and philanthropist from Abor, Udi Local Government Area of Enugu State who played a significant part in modern Igbo history. He died in Lagos in his late 80s, and was buried in his hometown in the afternoon yesterday in line with the Islamic injunction.

He was Christened Bertrand at an early age and became the first senior prefect of the College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu, Ude attended Oxford University where he read philosophy, economics and politics before proceeding to Columbia University in New York where he took a master’s degree in international relations.

He caught public attention when, while working as an editor at Random House in New York, the world’s biggest book publishing firm, he published Chinua Achebe’s classic, Things Fall Apart, in the United States during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70. He was to strike a lifelong relationship with Achebe, and made handsome contributions to Achebe’s Okike: A Journal of New African Writing, established in 1971 at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Ude also struck a lifelong relationship in the late 1960s with such Anambra indigenes as Dr Chuba Okadigbo, then an academic in Washington, DC. He worked closely with Dr Okadigbo when the latter was appointed the Special Political Adviser to President Shehu Shagari from 1979 to 1983. When Okadigbo founded Platform, an analytical news magazine, based in Lagos, Chief Ude stood with him all the way, making critical financial interventions.

There were many persons of Anambra State origin in top management of his enterprises like Gordon and Georgi Umunna who worked on Financial Post. His friendship with the hugely popular musician, Chief Oliver Akanite from Nnewi South Local Government Area popularly known as Oliver de Coque, was such that the entertainer waxed an album dedicated to Chief Ude which turned out to be a national bestseller.

Unknown to most people because of his self-effacing nature, Chief Ude contributed significantly to the creation of Anambra, Enugu, Delta and Ebonyi states. Apart from being one of the signatories to the petition for the creation of these states to the Ibrahim Babangida military regime, he donated not just cash but also his private jet to transport the Igbo patriots like Dr Alex Ekwueme, Chike Edozie, Dr Akanu Ibiam, Chief CC Onoh and Dr Okadigbo to different cities who signed the petition.

He also donated part of his building at 59 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, to coordinate the campaign for the creation of Igbo states and paid the staff. The then traditional ruler of Enugwu Ukwu, Igwe Osita Agwuna, one of Nigeria’s foremost nationalists, was to confer a high title on him for services to the Igbo world.

Ude’s Nok book publishing firm in Enugu, New York, London and Lagos, published such outstanding works as Chinweizu’s The West and the Rest of Us and Romanus Egudu’s Study of Four West Africans. Ude, in addition, financed Eddie Iroh’s Chic, the London-based colourful social magazine. He was, indeed, a pan Africanist of the finest hue.

An active member of The African Business Round Table for several years, Ude awarded scholarships to hundreds of people to study in top universities in the world and assisted many others in different fields quietly. For example, he was a major promoter of the exhibitions of Aka: The Circle of Exhibiting Artists like Professor Obiora Udechukwu, Professor Chike Aniakor, Tayo Adenaike, Dr Obiora Anidi, Nsikak Essien, Chris Afuba, Bona Ezeudu and Boniface Okafor.

Ever humble, he practised egalitarianism in truth and spirit. He never discriminated against the less privileged or those who did not share his religious views. Even after converting to Islam, a result of his deep friendship with founding Guinean President Sekou Toure, a pan Africanist in his own right, Ude remained a big contributor to the welfare of priests and the church in his community.

The Government and people of Anambra State truly mourn the transition of this great Igboman, pan Africanist, publisher and intellectual. We mourn with the Ude family of Abor and the people and government of Enugu State.

May Abdulaziz Ude’s noble soul find rest in paradise.

Anambra State Govt mourns Abdulazeez Ude

Frightening humility of a mentor, Abdulazeez Ude

In the Frightening Humility of a Mentor, Poet UZOR MAXIM UZOATU paid tribute to an icon of philanthropy, Abdulazeez Chivuzo Ude, when he turned 80 in 2020.

Always understated in his undertakings, preferring to operate from the background, it always needs painstaking inquiry to learn that he’s the brain and the war chest behind many ventures that do not bear his name in any way.

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

It was impossible believing what my eyes were seeing.
I did a double take because it’s not every day one sees a great masquerade walking alone, without attendants or courtiers or whatever. The scene manifesting before my very eyes in the open courtyard at Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos during the Lagos Book & Art Festival (LABAF) was too surreal to be grasped immediately.

I waited for moments on end until a measure of certitude crept into my consciousness. Then I made my move. It was Alhaji Abdulazeez Ude walking away all by himself after having just gone to see the art exhibition entitled “And The Centre Refuses To Hold” curated by Krydz Ikwuemesi that paid homage to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart at 60. Before I could even say a word, Alhaji Ude beamed with a beatific smile and asked for my phone number. I called out the number and he duly stored it. Much later, when I had all but forgotten everything about the encounter with the great man, I brought out my phone and saw I missed call. I called the number. It was Alhaji Abdulazeez Ude at the other end. A quintessential icon of culture, Alhaji Ude is the most personable man of means known to me.

He was the financier of a newspaper, Financial Post , I once worked for. Alhaji Ude paid the bills but the publisher of the title was the maverick “Motor-Park Economist” Ashikiwe Adione-Egom. How can one ever forget the lofty end-of-year parties Alhaji Ude used to host for the staff in his Mekuwen home, off Queens Drive, Ikoyi. I once told him he was making me live above my means as a poor poet, and he jovially directed me to the publisher Ashikiwe so that I would ask him to increase my salary! When one took ill with ordinary malaria, there was the benefit of comprehensive medical care in his wife’s hospital.
It was indeed a family of remarkable camaraderie.

His office on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi always teemed with all kinds of people asking for assistance as per business failure, paying school fees, helping accommodation and paying rents. He was a rendering father figure in overdrive. I used to wonder how he coped with all the demands put on is calm visage.

His funds were always available for intellectual concerns. He was the financial chest behind the classy Chic Magazine published by Eddie Iroh out of London, England. He was a director of Newswatch magazine and many other publications besides.

Frightening humility of a mentor, Abdulazeez Ude

Born September 30, 1940, Abdulazeez Ude is a distinguished alumnus of the esteemed College of Immaculate Conception (CIC), Enugu.A man of impeccable bonafides, he was educated at Oxford in England and Columbia in the United States. He was a top editor with the renowned American book publishing company Doubleday, publishers of Anchor Books. He rubbed shoulders with Toni Morrison as book editor before she branched out to write novels such as Song of Solomon, Beloved etc and winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Abdulazeez Ude founded Nok Publishers in the United States and Nigeria, undertaking to see radical books from Africa and the Global South in print. The West and the Rest of Us by Chinweizu is a landmark title. Married with children, Abdulazeez Ude enjoys tennis, meditation, reading and walking.

His support for popular culture is remarkable, and the celebrated highlife musician Oliver de Coque waxed lyrical in song in praise of the many achievements of Abdulazeez Ude, translated from Igbo thusly: “When the big masquerade appears in the square, the non-initiates run away” as the praise-singer lauds the radiance of the king. Alhaji Abdulazeez Chivuzo Ude is a mighty masquerade.”

As the brain behind companies like Tanhigh Holdings Ltd, Tanhigh Finance Ltd, 150 Estates Nigeria Ltd, Trans-Sahel Airlines Ltd etc, Alhaji Ude led from the frontline.

He played a founding role in the African Business Roundtable and the African Development Bank. Always understated in his undertakings, preferring to operate from the background, it always needs painstaking inquiry to learn that he’s the brain and the war chest behind many ventures that do not bear his name in any way. His association with excellence is nonpareil.

As I took leave of him at Freedom Park, Lagos, on that sedate evening, I could not but marvel at the frightening humility of Alhaji Abdulazeez Chivuzo Ude

Frightening humility of a mentor, Abdulazeez Ude

Abdulaziz Ude is dead, aged 81

Renowned Nigerian publisher, businessman and philanthropist, Chief Abdulaziz Chivuzor Ude, is dead.

He would have celebrated his 81st birthday on 30 September, only two weeks away.

Enugu Metro learnt that he died in Lagos but was brought back to his village yesterday for a Muslim-style burial.

As with everything else that he did in life, he was quietly buried this evening at his hometown, Abor, in Udi LGA, Enugu State.

Ude’s modesty belied the leadership roles and first class education he received.

He had his formative education in Enugu, right up to high school at the famous College of Immaculate Conception (CIC).

Ude obtained a bachelors degree at Oxford University in the UK and a masters from Columbia University in the US.

He went on from Columbia to work for Doubleday Books in New York as senior editor overseeing the African Section.

Alhaji Abdulazeez Ude, as he later came to be known in Nigeria, had a keen eye for business and publishing.

He left Doubleday to set up NOK Publishers to deliver important world books especially from the Southern hemisphere.

Among the notable outputs from the NOK stable is Chinweizu’s “The West and the Rest of Us (1975).

In Nigeria, he was a pioneer founder and director of Newswatch magazine with Dele Giwa and his quartet of professionals who took Nigeria magazine journalism by storm.

He also wholly sponsored the pathbreaking Financial Post, managed by the late Ashikiwe Adione-Egom. Ude was also the sponsor of another magazine published by novelist Eddie Iroh from London.

‘A rendering father figure in overdrive’

However, it was his philanthropic acts that set him apart and endeared him to many in Nigeria.

READ: The Frightening Humility of Abdulazeez Ude

Poet Uzor Maxim Uzoatu said this of him last year on his 80th birthday anniversary:

“His office on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi always teemed with all kinds of people asking for assistance as per business failure, paying school fees, helping accommodation and paying rents.

“He was a rendering father figure in overdrive.

“I used to wonder how he coped with all the demands put on is calm visage.

I lost a life-long pal, says Uzodinma Nwala

Prof. T. Uzodimma Nwala mourned the loss last night while recalling his heroic efforts to publish important books from Africa.

Nwala recalled that Ude was editor of African Section at Doubleday when they first met in New York, United States.

“We were indeed great pals in New York in the 1970’s. He was then Mr Chivuzo Ude, Editor in Double Day.

“Chivuzo was indeed a great historical figure who interacted and mingled with Africa’s great leaders including Sokou Ture, Gadaffi and co.”

“I wish him safe journey and eternal rest in God’s Divine Kingdom!”

Raid on Rangers’ Coach fails as Kano Pillars give up

Raid on Rangers’ Coach fails

The desire of Kano Pillars to snatch the Coach of Rangers International FC, Salisu Yusuf, has suffered a setback.

Speculations were intense in the media suggesting that Pillars planned to raid the Enugu Club for the main coach.

Also, management of the Kano Club reportedly said it welcomed the idea of Coachi Salisu heading northwest to join Pillars.

There were also media speculations suggesting that Coach Salisu was planning a defection to Kano Pillars FC.

Rangers Management issued a warning yesterday in a bid to fend off potential recruiters of the Coach.

Rangers said it was not happy with the speculations that Coach Salisu Yusuf is planning to join another league side.

In the statement, Rangers clarified that Salisu signed a two-season contract and had only completed one season.

It therefore asked those interested in the coach to follow the rules.

“Any club that wishes to engage the services of Coach Salisu Yusuf as a matter of need, sentiment or commitment is advised to professionally do the needful according to LMC rules and best practices across the globe,” the Club said in the statement.

Chairman of Kano Pillars FC, Alhaji Surajo Shaaibu Yahaya Jambul admitted an interest but regretted that they couldn’t hire Salisu.

“No doubt both Pillars FC and Coach Salisu Yusuf indicated interest to work together but Man proposed God disposed.

The God’s one is the best,” he said in resignation while promising to continue the hunt for his Club.

Rangers missed out on the lucrative continental championships in the current season.

The indomitable Enugu Rangers is unfortunately excluded based on poor performance that placed it behind six other teams.

Six teams did better than Rangers, among them Rivers United(63), Kano Pillars(64), Nassarawa United(65), Kwara United(65), Enyimba(66), and the league Champions Akwa United(71 points).

Interestingly, Kano Pillars placed 6th on the League table, against Rangers’ seventh place finishing.

Despite a last-match landslide victory against Plateau United, Rangers finished seventh best in just ended 2020-2021 Professional League.

Raid on Rangers’ Coach fails as Kano Pillars give up

Boko Harming self in Alaigbo; the new phase of Igbo Wars

Boko Harming self inChido Nwakanma

CHIDO NWAKANMA joins the moral outrage against IPOB’s excesses and predicts that people’s losses from shutdowns will undo the organisation’s objective good.

Boko Haram has taken residence in the South-East. They did so without firing any guns or deploying the subterfuge of bandits and herdsmen. They stepped in on the invitation of a proclaimed sworn enemy who pledged to stop them, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

IPOB has effectively turned the South-East into the land of Boko Haram. IPOB is against students in South-East Nigeria taking secondary school qualifying examinations. They turn them back, and even burn schools.

Here is a report on 13 September 2021: “Unknown gunmen have attacked the Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume in Njaba Local Government Area of Imo State following the declaration of sit-at-home order by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB. The armed men reportedly invaded the school premises when some students were participating in the ongoing 2021 West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) and stopped the exercise”. Boko Haram would applaud!

IPOB is harming the economy of Alaigbo. Reports estimate the loss in six weeks of one-day shutdowns to above N50bilion. Every Monday IPOB prevents the industrious people of the South-East from engaging in any economic, social, political, or other activity. They close the space to demand the release by the Abuja-based Federal Government of their detained leader Mr Nnamdi Kanu.

Anambra State Governor Chief Willie Obiano mustered courage same Monday 13 September and mobilised citizens of Anambra State against the shut-down of the state by a non-state actor. He went to Eke Awka Market and urged the traders to come out to do their business. He also threatened to close for one week in the first instance banks, markets, and other business premises guilty of obeying the orders of IPOB rather than the constituted authority of the state. His mobilisation and physical demonstration worked.

The Abia State Government same as Imo State issued statements against the sit-at-home order. John Okiyi Kalu, Abia State Commissioner for Information, stated that the Abia State Government no longer found the IPOB order funny and declared that it was more than enough so far. “We wish to state categorically that it is unacceptable to allow any individual or group to instil fear in our people to the extent of negatively impacting the education of our innocent school children”, Okiyi Kalu stated.

The Abia State Commissioner added: “Our people are wise and historically known to exercise wisdom in handling issues no matter the provocation. It is unthinkable that any Igbo man will want to cut his nose to spite his face especially in these circumstances that may adversely affect the future of our innocent children. We must rise collectively to do the needful: protect our children’s education.

“We must ensure that those who may wish us evil as a people do not succeed in provoking us to destroy our means of livelihood… As a responsible government, we will continue to explore all avenues to ensure peaceful resolution of the issues that have led to the agitations by the concerned non-state actors.

“But we will not shirk our responsibility to the majority of our people who are also suffering silently out of no fault of theirs.”

Injustice is at the root

The IPOB sit-at-home in the South-East is the latest phase of the Igbo Wars that this column has chronicled since 2018. On 17 January 2019, I noted the outbreak of a full-scale non-shooting war in the South-East ahead of the 2019 election.

The Igbo Wars concern politics and culture. They are about direction, strategy, tactics, and the socio-cultural underpinnings of politics. Confusion reigns in Igboland over these matters.

Injustice lies behind the unease in Igboland. Citizens share with IPOB the feeling that the centre or the federal government oppresses the region. They consider their representatives in the State and Local Governments as well as the legislature ineffectual.

The situation in the region aligns with studies on the subject. Sociologist Barrington Moore Jr explored the phenomenon in Injustice: The Social Bases of Obedience and Revolt (1978). The book examined “why people so often put up with being the victims of their societies and why at other times they become very angry and try with passion and forcefulness to do something about their situation.”

Barrington Moore, Jr searched for general elements behind the acceptance of injustice or revolt against it in cases such as the Untouchables of India, Nazi concentration camps, and the Milgram experiments on obedience to authority.

The irony is that the same sense of injustice that propelled acceptance of the IPOB cause may be its undoing. IPOB has directly or indirectly contributed to turning the South-East into a theatre of violence, physical and psychological, against the people in whose interest it ought to be working. The moral outrage against the excesses and loses the people incur from its ceaseless shutdowns may just be the undoing of whatever good it seeks.

Boko harming self in Alaigbo by Chido Nwakanma