The National Publicity Secretary of the apex socio-cultural igbo group in Nigeria, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia on Tuesday, 16th of November delivered a speech at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.
The speech which was delivered under the auspices of Igbo Nsukka United Front in honour of The Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe for Ohanaeze Ndigbo commended the Igbo Nsukka United Front for organizing the 2nd Igbo Nsukka Zik Annual Merit Award 2021 with the theme ‘Preserving Zik’s Legacies for National Unity’.
Addressing all present in a speech which he titled ‘IF ZIK WERE ALIVE’, Ogbonnia said, “We commend the organizers for many obvious reasons. In the first place, The Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, PC, GCFR (Zik of Africa) born on November 16, 1904, remains the greatest Nigerian with national appeal that has ever lived.
“The above assertion is not because Azikiwe served Nigeria in various capacities: as a radical and plaintive journalist, nationalist, party leader, legislator, minister, premier, senate president, governor –general, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, etc. The greatness of Zik derives from how he deployed his intellect and knowledge to redirect the thought process and orientation of not only the people of Nigeria but the entire African continent.
“When most of our grand-fathers were still very close to nature, Zik in 1924, stowed away to the United States of America (USA) for further studies. He passed through the Storer College, in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; Howard University, Washington DC; and Lincoln University, Pennsylvania all in the USA. He earned Degrees in the areas of history, anthropology, religion, philosophy, journalism and political science.
“Upon his return to Nigeria in 1937, Zik resolved to change the society from how he met it. This is the kernel of Zik’s legacy. To transform the society, Zik used a set of ideas, or an ideology to re-orientate the masses”, he said.
Speaking about Azikiwe’s book, he said, “In his book: Ideology for Nigeria: Capitalism, Socialism or Welfarism?, Azikiwe revealed that he adopted the Fabian Socialism as an enduring approach to solve the complex nature of the problems that confronted the African society. Fabianism is an offshoot of socialism which is a fascinating political ideology that was popularised by Karl Marx (1818-1883).
“The major assumptions of Fabianism are that the material conditions of man can be changed through a skillful patient masterly process. Azikiwe used the War between Rome and Carthage to illustrate the ideology of Fabianism: Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, (alias Conctator, the Delayer) was a Roman General. He led the Roman Army, while General Hannibal led the Carthaginian Army.
“Azikiwe explained that Fabius was one of the most accomplished, but most misunderstood and most misrepresented, military strategists and tacticians. Fabius was nicknamed Cuncator (the delayer) because of his cautious tactics in the second Punic War between Rome and Carthage. His Strategy was based on masterly inactivity’. With his infantry, he maneuvered among the hills, where the Carthaginian cavalry was useless.
“Then he taunted his arch rival to come out and fight! But, Fabius would stay put.
Azikiwe narrated that this great leader’s patience, caution and tact were so exasperating that Marcus Minucius, one of his generals, disobeyed his orders not to fight the enemy until Fabius had given the green light. Minucius because of impatience and youthful impetuosity charged his soldiers to fight. The fight turned out to be so costly to Rome but on realizing that his subalterns had committed a blunder, Fabius intervened and saved the Roman Army from a major catastrophe”, Ogbonnia said.
Adding that Azikiwe was not an ideological bigot, he said, “according to him, his Fabian Socialism was modified to a large extent by contemporary social forces, and thus was “animated by pragmatism of an eclectic nature”
“Third, as a change agent, Azikiwe in his book-The Renascent Africa stressed that the African must attain a certain level of mental emancipation, spiritual balance, economic determinism, political resurgence and social regeneration. These are the principles of self-actualization which were facilitated through the establishment of several schools; including the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in 1955 and opened in 1960 with the motto: To Restore the Dignity of Man”, he said.
Enumerating deductions that were discernible from Azikiwe’s philosophical expositions, Ogbonnia added that; “Zik was intellectually equipped to emancipate Nigeria and Africa from the doldrums, Zik was what Plato called a Philosopher King, The Zik’s Fabius philosophy of cautious tactics and masterly inactivity attracted him some attacks from various inexperienced quarters.
“Zik would freely offer his advice based on knowledge and experience; but like in the case of Fabius and Minucius, would not hesitate to come to the rescue, if out of youthful impetuosity, the advice was ignored. Zik was not a rigid leader; he was large hearted and liberal, yet philosophical.
“A close study of the Zik philosophy will reveal the role he played in the Nigerian Biafran war. His advice fell on deaf ears but when it became exceedingly necessary, his intervention gave birth to the win-win refrain of “No Victor No Vanquished” with the yet to be implemented three Rs. Those who had abused Zik during the Nigerian Biafran civil war turned round to shower him with praises: ‘Unus homos nobis conctactor restituit rem’.
“Zik’s relationship with the members of Zikist movement suffered the bane of youthful impetuosity. The group led by Mokwugo Okoye, Osita Agwuna, Anthony Enahoro, Fred Anyiam, Raji Abdallah, Smart Ebbi, Nduka Eze, Oged Macaulay, etc in February 1946 formed the Zikist Movement. Later, the youthful Zikists scorned Zik for delays, cautious tactics and masterly inactivity.
“The good people of Nsukka or Enugu North Senatorial District shall remain eternally indebted to The Rt Hon.Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe for siting the University of Nigeria at Nsukka. As at today, there are over 130 registered Professors from Enugu North Senatorial District, excluding other highly educated professionals in various areas of human endeavour. Unlike what obtains now, Zik was not a parochial leader.
“Zik applied the Marx doctrine of dialectical materialism in the enviable governance of the Eastern Nigeria. In collaboration with the Premier of Eastern Region, Dr. M I Okpara, they used the concept of pragmatic communalism to provide a welfarist government that promoted scholarships both at home and in the Diaspora, community-driven social infrastructure, farming, small scale industry, quality schools, churches, recreation centres, libraries, etc in the 12 provinces of the Eastern Region. Ultimately, the Eastern Nigeria under Dr. M I Okpara was the fastest growing economy in Africa.
“Zik contended that ‘in the practice of capitalism or socialism or welfarism, it is my honest conviction that a Nigerian ideology, based on the eclecticism now universally appreciated as the welfare state, is the right incentive to inspire the genius that is latent in us to build an affluent society where there will be full employment for healthy, well-educated and prosperous citizens, who should be loyal and patriotic to their country’.
“Zik warned the Nigerian politicians of the adverse consequences awaiting the massive electoral malpractices in 1964 and 1965 general elections. Also, for the 1983 general election, in his treatise, ‘History Will Vindicate the Just’, Zik admonished those he called the “unpatriotic Lucifers in human form” who were determined to destabilise Nigerian democracy. In both instances, the military struck in 1966 and in 1984 respectively; and as they say, the rest is history.
“Several writers and political commentators often lament the absence of the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alh. Ahmadu Bello, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, Mallam Aminu Kano, Alh. Maitama Sule, etc. This lamentation is for several reasons, but the most disturbing is the unbridled competition in corruption among the elected and appointed political adventurers in Nigeria; that is who will steal more.
“Another devastating social malaise in Nigeria today is the recrudescence of ethnic jingoism or ethnocentrism. On the other hand, the loyalty to ethnic group is by far greater than the loyalty to the country. All these and more have given rise to various forms of ethnic agitations and separatist movements in Nigeria. This is very unhealthy for Nigeria.
“The unconscionable ethnic chauvinisms, exacerbated by rising unemployment and poverty have given rise to various forms of security challenges posed by the Boko Haram insurgency, kidnappings, banditry, herdsmen and farmers clashes, unknown gun men, unknown government, separatist agitations, etc”, he said.
Speaking on the challenges facing Igbo at the moment, he said, “The most intricate and complex challenge to the Igbo at present is the case of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. Kanu is a persuasive visionary charismatic leader whose followership is catholic. Like most visionaries, Kanu has identified the various ills in the Nigerian society and how the Igbo are victimized in the process.
“He has raised the awareness and consciousness of the Igbo youth that anybody against Kanu is considered either an oppressor or an agent of the oppressors. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has also created a vision with a strongly held assurance of how the new Biafra will look like; an Eldorado of abundance, affluence, communalism, love, joy and happiness.
“And as in Christian or Islamic religion, the adherents are prepared to deprive themselves the enjoyment the contemporary world provides in an anticipation of the fullness of joy in the life hereafter. As in religion, martyrdom becomes a stronger visa for the benefits thereafter. Therefore, Biafra has inadvertently become the opium of the Igbo masses. It must therefore be appreciated that Nnamdi Kanu has become a phenomenon.
“The above indicators signal a downward spiral for Nigeria. If Zik were alive, he would have convinced President Muhammadu Buhari to view the South East through the same lens as those that voted for him enmasse during the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
“If Zik were alive, he would have impressed it on Mr. President that the case of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has far gone beyond the Judiciary and that political solution is the most realistic potent option for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. If Zik were alive, he would have invited all the serving governors, senators, national assembly members, ministers, the clergy, the business moguls, youth leaders, women groups and other social movements in the South East with a view to addressing the Igbo needs in Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, the political leaders have for long delinked themselves from the masses thereby creating enormous legitimacy crises in the South East. For instance, the observance of Sit at Home in the South East is to the defiance of the relevat States and local governments. Obviously, a Zik is needed to fill the gap and to reinstate the confidence of the masses in government.
“If Zik were alive, he would have enlightened the Igbo that the diverse skills, adventurism, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and irrepressible inventiveness inherent in the Igbo are better realized in a diverse multiethnic Nigeria.
“If Zik were alive, he would have stood by the motion he moved on March 4. 1948 in the Legislative Council of Nigeria, to the effect that what Nigeria needed uppermost was national unity. On that occasion, he ended his opening debate with these words: ‘It is essential that ill-will be not created in order to encourage a sort of Pakistan in this country. The North and the South are one, whether we wish it or not. The forces of history have made it so. We have a common destiny; so too, the East and the West.
“If Zik were alive, he would have convened a meeting comprising Muhammadu Buhari, Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Ernest Shonekan, Abdulsalam Abubakar, Goodluck Jonathan, Ebitu Ukiwe, Atiku Abubakar, Namadi Sambo and Yemi Osinbanjo with a view to conscientise the past and present Nigerian leaders to adopt the principles of equity, justice and fairness in the governance of Nigeria; and that the president of Nigeria in 2023 should come from the South East of Nigeria.
“Finally, once more, I wish to congratulate the organisers of this event. In fact, any honour to The Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe is in the right direction. Azikiwe represents several qualities in one: a scholar, visionary, author, publisher, charismatic leader, orator, emancipator, nationalist, pan-Africanist, educationist, trail blazer, sportsman, democrat, philosopher and a sagacious politician”, Ogbonnia said concluding.