Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ralph Uwazuruike, A Metaphor Of Ndigbo Predicament In 47 Year-Old Nigeria

by Uche Chukwumerije

IN response to the traditional anniversary inquiries from some newspapers, my progress report on 47 years of Nigeria’s growth is the political message of the fate of Chief Ralph Uwazuruike and other MASSOB leaders incarcerated. The continued detention of Chief Ralph Uwazuruike and some of his comrades is an arrow at the conscience of this nation. A nation destined to endure (as I believe Nigeria is) must invite all its citizens to a level playing ground. They must all be equal players. A nation in which a component is treated as war-vanquished pariah – who must endure a penance of the status of glorified indentured labour for an indefinite time before re-admission into full citizenship – faces the prospects of self-dehydration.

Chief Uwazuruike is a metaphor of the structured castration of Ndigbo ethnic nationality in a Federation founded on and valiantly articulating the ethos of justice and equity. His continued detention is a statement on the glaring inequality and discrimination on which the edifice of the dispensation of democracy, rule of law and equity of access to equity rests. The fate of Chief Ralph Uwazuruike must therefore be seen as an insightful comment on the pace and direction of our evolution towards nationhood in 47 years of existence. It is the intention of this brief plea to examine the political nature of Chief Ralph Uwazuruike’s ordeal, the link between the ordeal and the disposition of his constituent ethnic nationality, the impact of this link on the quality of our democratic dispensation, and the type of verdict which this gives on 47 years of Nigeria’s growth.

The court as arbiter: It is an evident fact that the Nigerian State suspects Chief Ralph Uwazuruike and co as offenders, that they are arraigned before a court of competent jurisdiction, that the independence of the judiciary decrees that the law must take its full course, and that any contrary action may be construed as interference with the process. We respect the hallowed independence of the judiciary, a major pillar of our constitutional democracy.

So far for the legal position. But it is also a political truth that the court is basically an arbitrator in a dispute. It takes two to make a dispute. If one side withdraws from a dispute or modifies his/her stand, the role of the umpire automatically readjusts to the new reality - still in strict compliance with the rules of the game. This case is a dispute between two parties - Uwazuruike and co versus state of Nigeria represented by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The court is the arbiter, weighing the claims of each side. If either side modifies his/her stand, the court has to abide by the new reality.

The political truths: The political character of Uwazuruike’s travails cannot be detached from the legalese of the situation. Let’s briefly understand the political environment. Uwazuruike is of Igbo ethnic stock. An Igbo proverb says that it is only when a madman - who has been vegetating, naked and apparently abandoned, in the village marketplace - comes to harm that the whole village is compelled by the reactions of his family to know that he has relatives.

Uwazuruike’s agitations are basically a cry for equity and justice, a desire which all Igbos share even if many may disagree with him on ways of achieving it. The fate of Uwazuruike is bound to be of concern to Ndigbo. Situated in its Federal context, the political message of Uwazuruike’s fate to Ndigbo acquires a new meaning as a flash of self-discovery. The average Igbo man compares the treatment of Uwazuruike and his MASSOB with the treatment given to his compatriots in other ethnic/regional groups and continues to ask: why are Uwazuruike and Massob treated differently? Ignorant of the legal technicalities of court process, the generality of Igbo people are not able to understand what they see as discriminatory treatment. It is not helpful to blame their perception on ignorance of the law because popular impression is more potent than facts of a given situation in information management.

The question agitating Ndigbo arises from their belief that in objectives, pronouncements and operations, Uwazuruike’s Massob shares similarities with Gani Adams/Faseun’s OPC and Asari-Dokubo’s NDPVF. The leaders of the two other groups have been released, but not Uwazuruike. More on this later. For now, it must be emphasized that in our plural multi-ethnic federation, in which ethnicity stubbornly clings to its prime place as a major vehicle of aggregating interests and the index of corporate identity of groups, ethnic-based youth rebellion has emerged as a symbol of visibility and even virility of an ethnic group. This may be a passing phase in the political evolution of the Federation, if the zoning fad and some elements of our constitution do not unwittingly endow the primordial phenomenon with self-perpetuating strength. For now, ethnic-based power blocs are a reality. For now, youth restiveness represents in a way the arrow head of the continual competition of the silent majorities of ethnic groups for their share of the scarce resources of the federal commonwealth.

All indications point to this link - the sulking silence of the majority of the Yoruba’s over the harsh treatment meted out to OPC leaders, the shock of the Ijaws at the brutal sack of Odi, the resentment of people of Zaki Biam and environs of the military invasion of their communities, and the increasing disquiet of Ndigbo over the discriminatory treatment of Uwazuruike and Massob leaders. Therefore, commonsense suggests that while rule of law follows its sovereign course, the political option of mediation and reconciliation offers a ready expedient short cut to peace.

Negative consequences: In Uwazuruike’s case, failure to pursue this course has produced two negative consequences. The first is the slow but sure alienation of Ndigbo. The generality of Ndigbo are not able to understand the differences in Nigerian state’s responses to what they see as similar offences of three youth organizations, Gani Adams’s OPC, Asari Dokubo’s NDPVF, and Uwazurike’s MASSOB. In similarity, they are militant youth bodies, articulating and championing the causes of their ethnic/regional constituencies - in language always in rhetoric of incitement and overstatement of separatism, in activities often overflowing into youth exuberance, in temperament rarely inclined to democratic accommodation.

But it is the differences in state’s responses to these youth groups that appall Ndigbo. Ndigbo are tuned to the grapevine in times like these. They hear and read that the leaders of these two other youth groups who did carry arms and engaged themselves in violent armed confrontation with the Nigerian state were charged with either illegal possession of arms or treasonable felony, relatively minor offences that carry prison sentences, but that Ralph Uwazuruike and his nine Massob colleagues, who never levied war against the state and who have never been found with arms, were charged with treason, a capital offence, and have consistently been refused bail, on the ground that they have an armory of arms.

Denial of bail

So, for two years the state has been searching everywhere for Massob fictional stockpile of arms. So, for two years, Uwazuruike and his colleagues were denied bail. Ndigbo see this game as another case of a George Bush inventing the fiction of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and searching for the imaginary dumps in an obvious ploy to hang a bad name on a hated dog. The average Igbo man has therefore come to the conclusion that the Nigerian State is yet to come to terms with the Igbo ethnic nationality, forty years after the civil war and 47 years after independence. They believe that the discriminatory treatment being meted out to Uwazuruike is a deliberate overkill calculated to intimidate and humiliate Ndigbo.

They believe that the continued detention of Uwazuruike is a part of post-civil war attrition which reached its full circle in Obasanjo regime which engineered the final fall of Ndigbo, one of Nigeria’s three major tribes, into a political minority and into the sixth rung of the nation’s power ladder. Ndigbo have never been deceived by the tokenism of Obasanjo’s occasional recognition of individual talents: a dog owner will surely select his most fearless Doberman for the most dangerous thankless jobs.

Ndigbo never saw their future in Obasanjo’s Nigeria - a personification of the post-civil-war dispensation of victors which hit its climax in the emergence of the all conquering President/General who leaves Ndigbo in no doubt that the only Igbo-speaking citizens whom he trusts are the genuflecting subdued subalterns who at the sight of the General would in keeping with the tradition of ancient Rome, instinctively bow their heads in awe and murmur “Te morituri salutamus (We about to die salute you)”

The continued detention of Uwazuruike is a continual reminder to Ndigbo that their position today is one of structured castration. It confirms their worst fears that Obasanjo’s Nigeria has become the permanent parameters of their gilded prison.

Ndigbo’s attitude of mind is a mood which the state cannot afford to foster. The future of Nigeria must erase a situation in which the Nigerian state is alienated against parts of the Nigerian community. The second consequence is the drawback which Uwazuruike’s case inflicts on the development of rule of law. A major catalyst has been injected into the growth of constitutional democracy and rule of law by the Yar’Adua regime’s insistence on strict compliance with rule of law by all, big or small. The continued detention of Massob leaders detracts from the integrity of this revolution in two ways. The first is the continuing spectre of selective justice.

The discriminatory responses of the state to the three youth leaders negate the principle of equality of access of all citizens to equity. The second is the continuing specter of non-compliance with rule of law. Long before his arrest in 2005, the Imo State High Court has given an order specifically restraining SSS from arresting Uwazuruike. The order still subsists.

Yet SSS arrested Uwazuruike and the State has arraigned him in a Court. Rule of law is a major pillar in the bedrock of every enduring democracy. The stunted growth of Nigeria’s 47 years existence attests to this. If the revolution, begun by Yar’Adua on rule of law, takes root, the country will at last find a stable anchor as she confronts the turbulence of delayed maturity.

A superior option: The decline of tension in Niger Delta area and Western states after the release of Asari Dokubo, Gani Adams and Dr. Fasehun clearly demonstrates the superiority of the political option especially in conflicts which have unmistakable political character. The state will reap the same harvest if it releases Chief Uwazuruike and his fellow Massob leaders today. Conversely, the futility of the sledge-hammer approach is amply illustrated by the miserable failure of Obasanjo’s military approach to youth and other social conflicts.

For Ndigbo, the sledge-hammer approach may be provocative and counter-productive. It is like flogging a child a second time to silence his cry after making him in the first instance to start crying with your earlier flogging. An Igbo proverb says that you cannot beat a child and at the same time prevent him from crying. The activities of Uwazuruike, Massob and other Igbo youth bodies are the cries of Igbos for justice and fair play. To silence the youth leaders through sledge hammer devices while the basic causes of the rebellion are not addressed is like beating a child and at the same time preventing the child from crying out.

As Ojo Maduekwe once observed, Ndigbo are one of the few ethnic nationalities who have consistently voted for Nigeria’s national unity with their hands and feet. They live and work and develop everywhere. They are paying their dues for the transformation of the Nigerian state into a federal political community. The discriminatory treatment of Ralph Uwazuruike and Co gives Ndigbo the shock of a child rejected from a home which he considers his own. To thrive, Nigeria has only one way to go - evolve into a political community. A political community must remain an integrated whole. This is the minimum phase of development which a state must attain in order to thrive as a stable nation - an interdependence of autonomous and equal parts operating in a synergy.

Nigeria may be moving in this direction, but she is far from there. She is not yet a political community. She is at best a collection of social classes living in a Hobbesian state or at worst a mixed multitude of victors and vanquished, free men and indentured labour. The continued detention of Uwazuruike provokes a fundamental question. The threat to Nigeria’s future is not Uwazuruike or youth rebellion but the insensitivity of the state to the imperatives of equality and to the varied yearnings of a fledgling political community.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Again, The National Question

by Obi Nwakanma

LOOKING at the list of directors and managers of the Nigerian national oil interests, just recently published following the so-called restructuring and redeployments taking place in that sector, one senses the deep meaning of the absence of the Igbo and much of the groups of the old Eastern Nigeria in Nigeria’s formal sector. It is not accidental, we have always said. There are usually symbolic gestures at representing a handful of individuals from the Southern minority ethnic groups, but such symbolic presences do not obscure the fact, that to all intents and purposes, Nigeria’s most strategic national industry is now absolutely under the control of the North.

Individuals who basically, primarily identify as Northerners, now man all the strategic positions in the industry. Now, let me step back a bit, and say, I am personally not distressed by this development, in so far as those individuals manning these sensitive positions earned their places by merit, and are competent managers, and are psychologically and intellectually equipped to play in the very complex and intriguing field of the international oil business and its politics.

Every individual, in other words, deserves his place earned through hard work, dedication, and honesty. I am happy that we have now basically abandoned the debilitating aspects of the quota system, by the look of the profiles of individuals in at least the oil industry, and increasingly in the federal government.

The quota programme no longer holds. That is a fine development. But there is only one troubling aspect of that development: it is that we have not established the grounds to offer a level playing arena for those Nigerians who feel qualified and who may wish to compete for these positions. No vacancies are published; no interviews conducted; no guarantees provided that those who often see themselves as coming now from the wrong side of town can have equal access to the opportunities of the work place and the opportunities of their rights as Nigerians.

This inability makes for some other considerations: it asks us to question the composition of the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the various sub-corps that make up its vast chain and networks.

Are we to suppose that there are no competent Igbo, Efik, Ibibio, Ogoni, Ijaw, and so on, who may have applied for jobs in the oil industry, and who may have been qualified and deserving of the positions in this industry? So why is the character of the Nigerian National Oil management today unipolar? Let me establish the implications: Although we very often consider oil as a national resource, that question of to whom it really belongs has not been fully settled. There are those who know and who insist that the last civil war was fought over oil.

The upshot is what is now very clear: that the laws that
appropriated those oil fields in 1968, and legally placed it in the hands of the federal government, gave its eternal control to those whoever will control the central government. By various means, the north of Nigeria has placed itself in that position.

The alliance that prosecuted the civil war have had their various turns, and the effect is the devastation of the entire Niger delta, consisting of what was formerly known as the old Eastern and Midwestern region, and the stupendous enrichment of people, mostly from the old Northern and Western region, and a handful of their subaltern allies among the minorities.

The environmental catastrophe that faces the oil producing areas and the increasing poverty of their immediate neighbourhood has instigated the current rebellion in the Niger delta, which is spreading rapidly into a state of lawlessness, as militias, private armies, and mercenary soldiers mutate. I do not think that Nigerians completely comprehend the scenario: although these events are currently taking place, and seem at this moment isolated to the Niger delta, the situation may inexorably spread into an urban warfare, a Somalia like situation, in which once-stable societies implode, and ethnic and sectarian militias, run by war lords, map out territories, and isolate a meaningless government at the center to which none pays allegiance because of its loss of both legitimacy and the capacity to effect national oversight.

That is the emerging scenario which Nigeria’s national security analysts do not seem willing to put in the mix. It would not be impossible for instance, for some one to take over say Surulere, Lagos or Bompai, in Kano or the Fegge area of Onitsha, and establish territorial rights, establish their own laws, collect protection tax, and pay off privateers. This would indeed be, the real meaning of privatization: the privatization of war and of government.

Its stimulant would be, principally the breakdown of families and communities as a result of poverty, displacements, and increasing alienation. It would be stoked by the sense of injustice that comes with a people who feel isolated by the policies of state, and by the lack of opportunities as a result of their presumed location within the meaning of the nation.

At the moment this scenario seems far off: but any close observer of trends within the nation; anybody who has taken note of the pattern of the crime index, and the evolution of values that have shaped the current generation, will notice a fundamental lack of emotion that connects the new Nigerian with the idea of Nigeria. Indeed, from my private studies, while we in the media still put microphones in the mouths of “eminent Nigerians” and “elders,” this young men and women do not care a whit what these guys say, what they represent, or what they care about.

For instance, while a man say like Edwin Clark may go about claiming to be “Ijaw leader” or the plutocrats at Ohaneze ndi Igbo claim to be speaking for “Ndigbo,” the truth is that vast segments of these communities – the younger folk especially - do not feel themselves represented, nor do they care for these individuals; and do not see them as role models; do not respect their views or positions; do not view them as their leaders; they care for only one thing: the opportunity to belong to something that guarantees them livelihood and security, and a different kind of identity.

Many have given up on Nigeria and live here merely as aliens. An Igbo or Efik or Igbira young man or woman who feels segregated and discriminated against, will seek the community of the segregated and discriminated, and establish a common cause and a common front. It would be a matter of time, but they would ultimately challenge their situation.


We are seeing the first signs of that challenge in the rupture of the Niger delta. It is borne primarily from a sense of injustice. But in the appointments that Mr. Yar’Adua has made and approved, reflecting potentially his sense of history as a Northerner, and a potential sense of northern entitlement, he has proved insensitive to the very intricate balances in the federation.

Indeed, the injustice in the structure of the federation, in which Kano State alone receives nearly as much money in federal grants than the entire South-East of Nigeria, is one of those factors that may instigate the incipient rebellion.

The problem is quite stark: the Igbo currently feel isolated, insulted, humiliated, and denied just opportunities as free citizens of Nigeria. At every front: with the use of official population policies, the selection processes, the use of federal control of the national purse string; the use of the force of the state police; the Igbo feel an increasing sense of siege and absence: they are certainly not alone in these feelings: most Nigerians feel that the current state of Nigeria is an impediment to their hopes of a decent life. We should either break it up or make it work. This advice is free.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Odenigbo: A church’s celebration of Igbo culture

Anthony ObinnaJoe Nwachukwu, in this piece, examines the relevance of the Owerri Catholic Archdiocese annual Odenigbo lecture series to Igbo culture and chronicles the event’s history.

Odenigbo is an annual celebration initiated and organised by the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri, Imo State, during which a lecture is delivered in Igbo language by a prominent indigene.


As explained by the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, His Grace, Most Reverend Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna, the Odenigbo celebration is aimed at promoting Igbo language, custom and culture with religious connotation.


Precisely on August 27, a week before the commencement of Odenigbo celebration, Archbishop Obinna, while briefing the press, said the 2007 outing would be the 12th celebration of the Owerri Archdiocesan Odenigbo Day, which started in September 1996. The event, he explained, had attracted citizens of Igboland beyond Africa. He added that it had been enriched by “the spiritual grace of good news, lovely aspects of the Igbo culture and challenging lectures of Igbo scholars who speak on various important topics in the Igbo language.”


According to him, through the Owerri Archdiocesan Odenigbo celebration, the church recalled the elevation of the diocese to the apex church position of Archdiocese in Igboland and renewed its commitment to proclaiming the good news of salvation to Ndigbo, the entire land and humanity at large. This, according to the archbishop, had entailed the glorification of God and the rededication of Ndigbo to the one true God through the Lord Jesus Christ in worship and thanksgiving.


He stated that it had involved the promotion of authentic human and Igbo values, including the Igbo language, through recreation, entertainment and life reformation lectures.


“The aim of the Owerri Archdiocesan Odenigbo celebration is to glorify God for all His gifts to humanity, to rejoice in our restored dignity as fellow humans in Christ and in ‘Igboness,’ to refresh and refine our spirits and bodies with elevating entertainment and direct our minds, hearts and fellowship towards ennobling aspirations and actions.


“This year, a distinguished daughter of Igboland, the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Dora Akunyili, is the active human and cultural ingredient helping to attract Umu Igbo and others to the celebration. “She will speak on a topic very relevant to the health and integrity of humans, particularly Ndigbo, namely Effective Drugs: the Genuine Art and Science and Its Fake,” he said.


Answering reporters’ questions, Archbishop Obinna said this celebration had already acquired a respect place in the heart of Ndigbo at home and abroad, adding that while helping to purify and dignify Ndigbo locally, it had helped to honour them nationally and internationally.


“It has stimulated interest on the internet. It is not a money making venture, it is a human development and enhancement project. Nevertheless, it requires financial support to sustain it into the future. I appeal to the Igbo public and lovers of goodness to show their solidarity in this regard,” he said. The first day of the Archdiocesan Odenigbo celebration usually involves a variety of cultural entertainment which includes dances of Igbo culture, wrestling contests and drama.


The second day begins with a thanksgiving Holy Mass. This is followed by fund raising activities for the projects of the Archdiocese. Some light refreshment is then offered for the relaxation of the people and to prepare the audience for the final stage of the Odenigbo lecture.


The first celebration of Owerri Archdiocesan day took place on September 6 and 7, I996. The topic of the maiden lecture in the Odenigbo series was Olumefula-Asusu Igbo na Ndu Ndigbo and it was delivered by Professor Emmanuel Nolue Emenajo, the Director National Institute for Nigerian Languages, Aba, Abia State.


The second Archdiocesan day celebration was held between September 5 and 6, 1997. The Odenigbo lecture for that year had as its theme: Chibundu-Ofufe Chukwun’s Etit Nd’Igbo. The lecturer was Reverend Father (Dr.) Theophilus Ibegbulem Okere of Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri. The topic of the lecture in 1998 was Onyegbule-Ndigbo na Nsopuru Ndu. The lecturer was the late Reverend Father (Professor) Edmund Emefie Ikenga-Metuh, who happened to be a victim of the Kenyan plane crash at Ivory Coast in 2000.


Reverend Father Metuh was a priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha in Anambra State and a professor of African Religion. He was a lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State.


In 1999, the Odengibo lecture took place on August 17. The topic was Echi di Ime: taa Bu Gboo. It was delivered by a most illustrious son of the land, the internationally celebrated novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe. The lecture generated so much controversies ranging from political to social and religious viewpoints at both local and international levels.


The topic for the Odenigbo lecture in 2000 was Ujunwa: Anuri uwa Niile. The lecture was delivered by the founder of the Odenigbo lecture series, Most Reverend (Dr.) Anthony John Valentine Obinna, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri. The 2001 lecture topic was Uwa Ohuu Akamgbachere Igbo. The lecturer was Professor John Egbulefua of the Pontifical Urban University, Rome, Italy.


In 2002, the Odenigbo lecture’s topic was Agbwa Bu mma Nzuzi Na Nzujo Unnuigbo to which justice was done by a seasoned Igbo daughter and scholar, Dr. (Mrs.) Gabriella Ihuarugo Nwaozuzu. The 2003 Archdiocesan day celebration was held between September 12 and 13. The topic of the lecture was Odozi Obodo Ochichi Maka Ezi Oganihu Ala Igbo, a lecture delivered by a renowned professor and priest at the Urban University, Rome, Reverend Father (Dr.) Godfrey Onah.


The topic of the lecture in 2004 was Ahuike Ike Ogwu Na Ike Ekpere. It was delivered by Dr. Barnabas Anelechi Chukwuezi, a seasoned medical practitioner. In 2005, the lecture’s topic was Akobundu: Amamihe Na Ebute Oganihu. It was delivered by Dr. Victor Irokanulo Okereke, an associate professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the University of New York, Morishivile, United States.


The 2006 Archdiocesan day celebration was held between September 2 and 3. The topic was Ijeoma Ofo Ndigbo Na-Ago. The lecture was delivered by the Provincial Co-ordinator of the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), Owerri Province, Reverend Father (Dr.) Maduakolam I. Osuagwu.


This year’s Archdiocesan Day celebration was held on August 31 and September 1. The topic for the Odenigbo lecture was Ogwu dire Ezi Nka Nruruaka and as Most Reverend Obinna had said, it was delivered by Professor Akunyili.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ikejiani: Remembering his tribute to Zik II

by P. Chudi Uwazuruike

Continued from last week

He comforted me and replaced the counterfeit money. He proceeded to make all the arrangements for all of us. True enough, came December 1938, the eight of us left Apapa and sailed for the United States of America to embark on further studies. It was a very historic event in Nigeria with throngs of people coming to see us off at the wharf.

Zik assisted dozens of Africans to go on to the United States for university education. In assisting and helping us and those that had gone before us, like late Kwame Nkrumah just about a year after he has returned to Nigeria from Ghana was a great way of showing the light. K.O. Mbadiwe, A.A. Nwafor Orizu, and others like Jones-Quartey, Karimu Disu, Kalu Ezera, etc., all travelled under his aegis.

I met Zik again in August 1948 when I returned from the United States of America and Canada , after many years of sojourn there. It happened that my wife was a white lady, nee Marjorie Carter. Rumour had reached the Igbo State Union that I was returning with wife. The Igbo Union executives met with Zik and informed him about what they had heard. They said that because of that, they would not give me the reception they were planning for me. He asked them whether I wrote to them that I was returning and they should accord me a reception. They said no. He thereupon told that he did not think that I would be expecting their reception. Zik added that he was going to Apapa to meet me and my wife and that we were going to be his host as long as we stayed in Lagos . That shocked them and completely cured them of the race hatred which they harboured. That notwithstanding, I was given receptions galore on our return wherever we went throughout Igboland.

From the moment of my return in 1948, a deep and abiding friendship developed between Zik and I. This friendship grew by leaps and bounds over the years - and I came to learn a lot about him. From that incident in 1948, I realized that this man called Zik was not prejudiced against white people. As an Igbo, like him, raised in the same environment that influenced his basic character, I communicated with him in the same language and understood the riddles and real meanings behind his remarks, statements and messages. Our friendship throughout the years until his death, was based on mutual trust and respect. As one brought up in the tradition of Igbo custom, Zik was my elder in age and indeed in everything else. Igbo society believes that although no condition is permanent, still no human society can achieve absolute equality for its citizens as there are distinctions of age, sex and wealth. Yet the dignity of every man was absolute. For instance, I am self-assertive as an Igbo, and Zik respected and valued it; as an Igbo also, I am not subservient, nor do I pay unquestionable obedience to everything Zik said. Zik admired and respected that also.

Zik had great faith in the immense ability of the peasantry to understand, and believed that they were just waiting to be enlightened. ..The editorials in the newspapers, especially those of the West African Pilot, were complemented by the humour, intelligence and acerbic satires of the various columnists. Among the best known columns were "Inside Stuff," written by Zik himself; "As I see it" by O.A Alakija; "A New Education for a New Africa" by Professor Eyo Ita; among others. The writers were all nationalists, and their essays were not only nationalistic but also educational. They showed black Africans and Nigerians the light. Many became prodigious readers, enabling them to acquire the dramatic force of conviction that propelled them to dare. Those columns became a form of literature for every school boy and girl, every worker, every one who could read and write. Certainly there began in Nigeria and all black Africa , a period of enlightenment, and the flowering of a new set of ideas about colonial rule and freedom from it.

As an instrument of propagating nationalism, equality of mankind and self-pride, their anti-colonial and nationalistic effect on the generation, our generation, and the era between 1937 and 1960 was unparalleled. No other previous or contemporary anti-colonial newspaper in Nigeria or elsewhere in black Africa had produced anything comparable in their influence towards a national spirit and towards Nigerian oneness.

In attacking imperialism and educating Nigerians, Zik’s writings were designed to appeal to every class - the common people, the youth, the intellectual, the rural as well as the city workers, and in a language which suited their emotion and which they understood. … He was a marvelous mob orator especially when he spoke concerned with the genuine hatred of imperialism and racial discrimination. His speeches always overwhelmed his audience, always moved them to immense enthusiasm, to a magnificent understanding of the evils of imperialism…

It is true that Zik’s age also had other politicians who emerged to join with him in the fight for independence, men no less sincere and probably no less devoted. But no one so vigorously, so single handedly or so successfully tried, as he did, in making every word and every act of his life a means towards a single objective, freedom from Britain as a SINGLE UNIFIED NIGERIAN NATION. As James Coleman testified, "During the fifteen year period (1939-1945) Nnamdi Azikiwe was undoubtedly the most celebrated nationalist leader on the West Coast of Africa, if not, in all tropical Africa", and that he was "the most single precipitator of the Nigerian awakening."

Certainly in 1930s and 1950s, Zik was the sole national leader, the sole nationalist inspirer, the sole intellectual, moral and political dictator in Nigeria against imperialism. He created an irresistible nationalist movement willing to overthrow colonial rule by peaceful means. He was an indomitable Moses preparing to lead his people out of Egypt . And he did. The emergence of Zik and his newspapers gave a new eloquence and ardor, a richer, more meaningful and emotionally charged anti-colonial message which profoundly effected more black Africans and Nigerians than ever before. No other black African or Nigerian before him or after, could claim to have aroused so many people across all the tribes, with direct and powerful nationalist political influence, as he did. Certainly, he exercised an intellectual and nationalist influence over many black Africans and Nigerians the strength of which was unique. He was the child of Africa and Nigeria and of Africa and Nigeria ‘s twentieth century prophetically calling for the end of colonialism and without violence. The verdict of history will record that this man Zik, had he done nothing else, that alone would have been sufficient to have assured him a lasting fame.

In conclusion, what Ikejiani said in closing the Foreword in the tribute to his friend, could very well he said of him by many who came to know him closely: He was indeed a great man. His life all reminds us about Longfellow’s Psalm of Life: Lives of great men all remind us; We can make our lives sublime, and in departing leave behind us foot prints in the sands of time."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ikejiani: Remembering His Tribute To Zik

Ikejiani: Remembering his tribute to Zik

News of the passing of one of the titans of modern Nigeria, Okechukwu Ikejiani, MD brought back memories of our first meeting over 12 years ago. That had been at the Lincoln University in Pennsylvania , as preparation for the return of the Great Zik, then almost 90 years old, to his alma mater, got under way. The late Vice Chancellor Prof. Chimere Ikoku called me from Enugu to know if I knew who Ikejiani was and whether I could reach him to start getting ready because for sure, Zik was coming, and after the US, he would be visiting with him in Nova Scotia.

That had been late in February or so. The Owelle, frankly, was far more concerned with seeing his two youngest sons graduate from Lincoln But word got out and the rest, as they say, was destined to become but history. As he had known all his life since his thirties, he was always one to attract more than a passing attention. Once Dr. Niara Sudarkasa, the president, secured commitment that the old legend was willing to travel, she could not believe the signals that went all over the world, commencing a series of activities that would occupy the small but historic campus for three long years. I know, because on recommendation as a past Nsukka alumnus and current university teacher with media and literary interests, I could be of help.

Indeed it was quite something to see the stirrings coming in from all quarters â€" the American government, Black American sororities who hadn’t seen ‘brother Zeek’ in ages, the Abacha government that was seeking its own legitimacy in the wake of its draconian hangman policies (having executed Ken Saro-Wiwa, chased 1993 election winner Moshood K.O. Abiola into exile, imprisoned Olusegun Obasanjo, clamped down on Shehu Yar’Adua and set up a murderous task force under one Major Mustafa);. There were the jostling Nigerian groups of all persuasions; the US media getting wind that one of the last of the great pan-Africanists was still alive and headed across the Atlantic , began making frantic inquiries. From the academic world came strong interests from US, British and Canadian scholars usually grouped around the African Studies Association. Same with Nigerian academics all over North America .

Trust Nigerian politicians and heavyweights anyone who could find a way to glimpse what was afoot, made an effort to what was really a small private visit with a reception being planned. Vice President Alex Ekwueme, Vice Chancellor Chimere Ikoku, Chief Sunny Odogwu, Princess Alakijia, Ambassador M. Kazaure, Chief Opral Shobowale Benson, Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari, Ambassador George Obiozor, by the scores they arrived. Even Chief MKO Abiola, then in exile from Abacha’s clutches, showed up unannounced and I was dispatched to interrogate his intentions along with Zik’s private secretary Okolo. Leading scholars like Ali Mazrui, Chinua Achebe, Michael Echeruo, Emmanuel Obiechina, leading American academics such as Harvard’s Martin Kilson, Richard Sklar of UCLA and many others

Crowds galore, the conference of reminiscences that I co-chaired (more like emceed really) with Sudarkasa, was a raucous one with the hall being rent with chants of Zeek! Zeeek!

In all that convivial atmosphere of reunion, pan-Africanist reminiscences and the high-politics of US-Nigeria relations then at their lowest ebbs, one man stood out above everyone else as the Owelle’s personal associate, friend and boon companion the dapper elderly gentleman in thick glasses, a nice suit with a cut that bespoke 1950s elegance, and a quiet sense of confidence that this was a historic enough of an occasion to warrant a break from his solitude. They pointed out the legendary Dr. Okechukwu Ikejiani to me, one of those stand-outs from the 1959s and 1960s whose name I believe I first heard from Ikenna Nzimiro as we once browsed the books in his extensive library of which he had been so proud. It was only later that I came to know that the future minister, Prof. Miriam Ikejiani-Clark (Miriam Okadigbo in those days and wife of the flamboyant former adviser to President Shagari, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo), was his daughter.

Zik would be back again the next year to see his last boy get his laurels before heading to law school, at a quieter gathering, but Ikejiani would also come along with his friend, as would Ekpechi. That was in 1995. Zik died in 1996. In 1997, Lincoln would again host the world to a final assessment of the author of ˜Renascent African, the man whom everyone from J.S. Tarka would call the single most important man in Nigerian history and T.O.S. Benson would in his recent biography, recall as the tallest tree in the Nigerian political jungle. And that would witness an even bigger parade of dignitaries from far and wide Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Shehu Shagari of Nigeria, former Petroleum minister Shettima Ali Munguno, Prof. Adebayo Adedeji, the Oni of Ife, Benson himself, the Emir of Kano Ado Bayero, ambassadors from East and West Africa, scores of academics, politicians, African American pan-Africanists, some of whom had been to the famed Manchester pan-African congress of 1945 and were very much aware of Zik’s grand influence.

Ikejiani was not able to attend that final conference, being sick already 80 at the time, the frequent flyer lifestyle was one he needed to put in check. But he had been with us in 1996 when I brought him over to be keynote speaker at the memorial the Nigerian community held for Zik at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine at Columbia University . Then he had spent the weekend with crowds cramming my sitting room as he reflected on an age that was already becoming mythical a mere half century later.

It was in that spirit that I had convinced him to write the Foreword to my book on Zik, The Man Called Zik of New Africa: A Portrait of Nigeria’s Pan-Africanist Statesman (the title was modified for the second edition). I recall the foregoing piece of history because of its relationship to Ikejiani who should be remembered, not just for his many other sterling attainments as medical director at Glace Bay Hospital, Canada; as a former Pro-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, as author, Education in Nigeria, as chairman of the Nigerian railways when it actually worked, and as a humanist whose training in medicine belied a larger intellectual capability. I recall also a man of culture, dignity and sense of history. A man of character, too. His account of Zik’s generosity in opening the doors to higher education and sponsoring as many as he could for the trans-Atlantic quest for the Golden Fleece as they called it in those days, speaks to a side of the Owelle that few biographers have dwelt on. It also shows Ikejiani as a man able to appreciate a good turn in life and speak to its lasting value. Here is an excerpt from the Foreword.

The first time I saw the late Right Honorable Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was at Onitsha on November 17, 1934 at the Native Court hall, at a reception given in his honor by the community. I was just completing my first year of high school at the Dennis Memorial Grammar School , Onitsha . I went along with some students to the lecture. The hall was full and packed and we were not able to gain entrance to the hall. We listened to his lecture standing outside the building. The late Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe spoke of what a new African could equally do. He told us that Nigeria must be free from colonialism to achieve such equality. For the first time my life, I began to understand what colonialism meant and to question it. I discarded the idea previously held by us that we were inferior to white people.

Between 1935 and 1936, The African Morning Post, the newspaper which Azikiwe published and edited in Accra , Gold Coast - now known as Ghana - reached us on a regular basis. We read and crammed most of its editorials and leading columns, and for the first time, we began to believe that this man Zik was God-sent to Africa .

The first time I met Zik in person was not until 1937, when he had returned from Accra , Ghana , to Onitsha . I was a third year student in secondary school. On a Sunday morning, as was usual practice, as we marched in groups to Christ Church located near the River Niger water-side, four of us left our group and made our way to the house where Zik was staying along the New Market Road , almost opposite Venn Road . When we said to the people there that we wanted to see Zik, a tall man standing in front of the house said to us, "I am Zik. What can I do for you?" I replied on behalf of all of us with great trepidation, "Sir, we want to go to America ." He replied and told us that if our parents or guardians could provide fifty pounds a year each for us, he could help us to go to America . We all ran away back to the dormitory informing those who would listen that Zik would help us go to America .

I met Zik again in Lagos on December 1938. I was one of the eight young men who met him at his West Africa Pilot office, Market Street , Lagos , when he again asked us, "What can I do for you?" We replied that he told us that he would help us to go to America if our parents or guardians could afford to support us with fifty pounds a year. "Do you have the fifty pounds and the transportation money?" he asked us, and we replied in unison, "Yes, Sir." He counted the money we brought, which was in shillings and pennies.

My money contained one pound and ten shillings counterfeit! I was distraught and began to cry. He comforted me and replaced the counterfeit money. He proceeded to make all the arrangements for all of us. True enough, came December 1938, the eight of us left Apapa and sailed for the United States of America to embark on further studies. It was a very historic event in Nigeria with throngs of people coming to see us off at the wharf.

Zik assisted dozens of Africans to go on to the United States for university education. In assisting and helping us and those that had gone before us, like late Kwame Nkrumah just about a year after he has returned to Nigeria from Ghana was a great way of showing the light. K.O. Mbadiwe, A.A. Nwafor Orizu, and others like Jones-Quartey, Karimu Disu, Kalu Ezera, etc., all travelled under his aegis.

I met Zik again in August 1948 when I returned from the United States of America and Canada , after many years of sojourn there. It happened that my wife was a white lady, nee Marjorie Carter. Rumor had reached the Igbo State Union that I was returning with wife. The Igbo Union executives met with Zik and informed him about what they had heard. They said that because of that, they would not give me the reception they were planning for me. He asked them whether I wrote to them that I was returning and they should accord me a reception. They said no. He thereupon told that he did not think that I would be expecting their reception. Zik added that he was going to Apapa to meet me and my wife and that we were going to be his host as long as we stayed in Lagos . That shocked them and completely cured them of the race hatred which they harbored. That notwithstanding, I was given receptions galore on our return wherever we went throughout Igboland.


From the moment of my return in 1948, a deep and abiding friendship developed between Zik and I. This friendship grew by leaps and bounds over the years - and I came to learn a lot about him. From that incident in 1948, I realized that this man called Zik was not prejudiced against white people. As an Igbo, like him, raised in the same environment that influenced his basic character, I communicated with him in the same language and understood the riddles and real meanings behind his remarks, statements and messages. Our friendship throughout the years until his death, was based on mutual trust and respect. As one brought up in the tradition of Igbo custom, Zik was my elder in age and indeed in everything else. Igbo society believes that although no condition is permanent, still no human society can achieve absolute equality for its citizens as there are distinctions of age, sex and wealth. Yet the dignity of every man was absolute. For instance, I am self-assertive as an Igbo, and Zik respected and valued it; as an Igbo also, I am not subservient, nor do I pay unquestionable obedience to everything Zik said. Zik admired and respected that also.

Zik had great faith in the immense ability of the peasantry to understand, and believed that they were just waiting to be enlightened. ..The editorials in the newspapers, especially those of the West African Pilot, were complemented by the humor, intelligence and acerbic satires of the various columnists. Among the best known columns were "Inside Stuff," written by Zik himself; "As I see it" by O.A Alakija; "A New Education for a New Africa" by Professor Eyo Ita; among others. The writers were all nationalists, and their essays were not only nationalistic but also educational. They showed black Africans and Nigerians the light. Many became prodigious readers, enabling them to acquire the dramatic force of conviction that propelled them to dare. Those columns became a form of literature for every school boy and girl, every worker, every one who could read and write. Certainly there began in Nigeria and all black Africa , a period of enlightenment, and the flowering of a new set of ideas about colonial rule and freedom from it.

As an instrument of propagating nationalism, equality of mankind and self-pride, their anti-colonial and nationalistic effect on the generation, our generation, and the era between 1937 and 1960 was unparalleled. No other previous or contemporary anti-colonial newspaper in Nigeria or elsewhere in black Africa had produced anything comparable in their influence towards a national spirit and towards Nigerian oneness.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

An Outsider's Guide to Igbo Psychology

by Obi Nwakanma

FOR a professor of law, I plead to say, Akin Oyebode’s thinking presents itself as significantly as a surprise. I refer particularly to an interview in which he responded to questions by journalists from the Punch newspaper, published last Sunday. “The Igbo” the Law professor and former university chancellor said, “are their own worst enemy. They couldn’t get their acts together.

Two Igbo will give you three opinions.” Excuse me! I did not know that a variety of distinct opinions is a cardinal sin in a democracy. But one of course, understands from where Oyebode is coming. In the usual discourse of Nigeria, everyone tends to think in terms of what symbolic office goes to whom and where. The same old bread and butter politics of sharing the national cake, as we have learnt to call it.

From that logic, the Nigerian estate belongs to those who can “get their acts together.” But not the Igbo. They couldn’t be president in 2007 because they are their own worst enemy. But even then, the Igbo want something visible, Oyebode says, and have to be taken care of. Such presumption! I will not even bother to rehash all the conditions that led to the April farce that has been called elections; the demographic gerrymandering that is aimed at the Igbo, or all the battles the Igbo are fighting for an equitable federation, at the minimum. But I should just say that the Igbo do not want to be taken care of.

The Igbo want equity and justice for every Nigerian and for themselves as formidable participants in the affairs of the nation. The opposite of justice is injustice, and it is not an alternative, and it carries consequences that will emerge soon enough. The Igbo are no longer in the mood to beg anybody for their entitlements as Nigerians.

The Igbo are not looking for handouts. As events begin to shape, Oyebode and those like him who think that the Igbo have been worsted will only wake to realize that the Igbo are not, given the reality of their history and their location in the Nigerian commonwealth, in any weak or desperate position at all, and can assert their will as a people when the occasion demands, and when they are ready.

The Igbo have a right to the Nigerian commonwealth as much as other Nigerians, and consider Nigeria their inheritance, having been at the forefront of its nationalist liberation struggle from colonial oppression, and having shed an excess of blood in the war fought for its soul between 1967 and 1970; will no longer be driven out of Nigeria except on their own terms, and will not tolerate any more role as the whipping post of the Nigerian plantation. The fight for a new Nigeria is for individual rights and economic justice – not about some organized political Mafiosi distributing pork to themselves. That is what the Igbo say.

That is the mood of the new generation of the Igbo, scattered everywhere in the world as scientists, bankers, lawyers, professors, doctors, administrators, traders, nurses, thieves, scam artists, mercenary or buffalo soldiers, and so on. In the last forty years, the Igbo have mostly stood apart and minded their own businesses, while those who thought they conquered Nigeria have run it more like a pirate ship, than a nation, and into the ground.

Running a country like Nigeria is far more complicated than the talent for organizing coups and counter coups, massacres, pogroms, loots and other political and economic conspiracies. Without doubt, there are many other Nigerians with talents, but the state of Nigeria today is a reflection, forty years after the war, of the absence of significant Igbo talent for organization in the Nigerian public space. Professor Oyebode should speak to that, because he ought to know the truth.

But Professor Oyebode is not alone. Today, everybody is an expert on Igbo affairs. Perhaps its time to organize a national conference on “the fools guide to Igbo psychology,” and that should settle much of the prattle. A few weeks ago, David Mark, the current Senate president took his own turn to berate the Igbo for “pulling down” their prominent sons. Many of us chose to ignore the senator from Oturkpo. But perhaps its time to tell senator Mark that it is not within his mandate to tell the Igbo what to do with or to their leaders.

He should mind his own business. In any case, his grouse was on account of the controversial Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani’s personal decision to excuse himself from the mutual admiration carnival in Enugu tagged a reception for senator Ike Ekweremadu, whom David Mark has most cynically described as the current leader of the Igbo, who occupies “the highest public position” available to the Igbo in the country today. But excuse me, that description is way off mark (excuse the pun). Mr. Ekweremadu is no leader of the Igbo.

He is a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and its current deputy president. He represents a political constituency and answers to a political party, and not to any Igbo consensus. He is a leader in the Nigerian senate, and that does not make him a leader of the Igbo. And when it comes absolutely to a matter of definition, the position he occupies is a bag of wind, and does not have the authority even of a local government chairman in Igbo land or elsewhere.

It’s a jolly ride position, for himself, his family, and some of his friends. It’s not for the Igbo. Besides, Senator Ekweremadu himself will tell you that he does not consider himself a leader of the Igbo; his constituency is national and universal. He has never spoken for the Igbo in the senate. The Igbo know their spokesmen.

Meanwhile, it is not up to David Mark to advice the Igbo on unity. As the Igbo themselves are too well aware: when they act in “unity” they threaten many entrenched interests, and are accused of “clannishness,” and are slaughtered for it; and when they act, as they frequently do, from their highly democratic impulse, they are described as fractious and disunited- “their on worst enemy.”

The Igbo do not need anybody to tell them when to be united, or when to disagree and pursue individual perspectives. They rise to the occasion. A disunited people could not muster the will to stay at home when a political movement called MASSOB asked them. That was no sign of disunity. The Igbo also know their leaders: they are simple, ordinary, flawed folk. Not living deities or those who so presume. The Igbo also have a tradition of vertical and horizontal leadership. They keep their real leaders behind the scene, and send out the Egwugwu for the public act. It is all part of the Igbo idea: “ebe ihe kwu, ihe ozo akwudebe ya.” Where one thing stands, another stands next to it.

So you have the NCNC and Zik, and you have the Igbo state Union with ZC Obi, doing the groundwork. In times of crisis, the Igbo push out a section of their men and women as Greek gifts, to be “warrant chiefs” and be their ears and eyes. Anybody who imagines that what they see publicly at work is Igbo leadership either does not understand the Igbo, or deliberately misreads them. That’s also alright. But the plain fact is less ambiguous: the Igbo do not have a leader, and have no need for one.

They have leaders. Individuals from parts of Nigeria with a culture of feudalism and the monarchy, often see the Igbo from the prism of their own world. They want one central perspective; one organizing figure to associate with the Igbo. But that’s not the way the Igbo people do things.

The Igbo remain ahead of many Nigerian cultures in their highly developed democratic norms. Igbo norms of dissent often seem to those who do not understand it, to be fractious. But out of Igbo dissent comes toleration; comes a multiplicity of views that allows Igbo creative spirit to thrive, see alternatives, escape from the herdline, and engage the world without fear or ambiguity.

It is important to outline these habits of the culture, particularly for a younger generation who may be tempted to see in Igbo value for democracy and the sanctity of difference, something to be ashamed or afraid of.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Good Month for Nigerian (Igbo) Writers

Two Nigerian writers have garnered major prizes in literature within the past week.

Renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe won the 2007 Man Booker International Prize for fiction, which is awarded biannually for a body of work. If you are not familiar with his work here is a little summary from the AP article announcing the prize:

The author began work with the Nigerian Broadcasting Co. in Lagos in 1954 and studied broadcasting at the British Broadcasting Corp. in London.

During Nigeria’s 1967-1970 civil war, Achebe’s Ibo people of the eastern region tried to establish an independent Republic of Biafra, and Achebe tried publicize the plight of his people.

Achebe is currently professor of languages and literature at Bard College, New York, and has lectured in universities around the world.

In 2004, he refused to accept Nigeria’s second highest honor, the Commander of the Federal Republic, to protest the state of affairs in his native country. Nigeria held a presidential election in April that marked the first time one elected leader handed over power to another in a country plagued by military rule and dictators since gaining independence from Britain in 1960.

Achebe, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a 1990 car accident, is married with four children.

“Things Fall Apart” has sold more than 10 million copies around the world and has been translated into 50 languages, making Achebe the most translated African writer of all time.
Achebe was not the only Nigeria write to make news in recent weeks. A writer, much his junior, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won the Organe Prize, which is given annually for the best full-length novel by a woman author written in English and published in the UK. Here’s a excerpt from a interview with Adichie:

Adichie resists stereotypical views of Africa. “We have a long history of Africa being seen in ways that are not very complimentary, and in America [where she has been studying for the past 10 years] being seen as an African writer comes with baggage that we don’t necessarily care for. Americans think African writers will write about the exotic, about wildlife, poverty, maybe Aids. They come to Africa and African books with certain expectations. I was told by a professor at Johns Hopkins University that he didn’t believe my first book [Purple Hibiscus, published in 2003] because it was too familiar to him. In other words, I was writing about middle-class Africans who had cars and who weren’t starving to death, and therefore to him it wasn’t authentically African.”
Adichie makes several other important points in the interview about race, media coverage of Africa, collective memory, and the middle class in African countries. It’s well worth the read.

I also found it particularly interesting this has been framed as a great success for “African” writers, and it is. But is shouldn’t be lost on people that both writers are Nigerian; they are both from the same ethnic group–Igbos, and they both have similar subject matter in their work.

If anyone has read the works of either of these authors and would like to add any reviews or discussion of the works in the comments section, feel free.



This entry was posted by Rachel S. and is filed under Popular (and unpopular) culture, Race, racism and related issues, Media criticism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

16 Responses to “A Good Month for Nigerian (Igbo) Writers”
Rachel S. Writes:

June 13th, 2007 at 7:25 pm
I knew nobody would comment on this. I get exasperated sometimes.

This comment was written by Rachel S..
Report this comment to the moderators


Sally Writes:

June 13th, 2007 at 8:04 pm
Well, I read Things Fall Apart in high school, and I’m not sure that I have anything very exciting to say about it. It’s been a long time, and I was not that sophisticated a reader in high school! And I’ve got Purple Hibiscus sitting on my shelf at home, but I haven’t read it yet. I’m not reading much that isn’t work-related or total trash right now.

It’s interesting that both Achebe and Adichie live in the U.S. and are affiliated with American universities. Are there any writers living and working in Africa who are well-known in the U.S.? I can think of a couple of South Africans, but nobody else. I wonder what to make of that.

This comment was written by Sally.
Report this comment to the moderators


Laura Writes:

June 13th, 2007 at 8:36 pm
I actually just read Purple Hibiscus for a literature class–that’s great that Adichie won the award.

This comment was written by Laura.
Report this comment to the moderators


Kelly Writes:

June 13th, 2007 at 9:30 pm
I too read Things Fall Apart in high school. I absolutely loved the book but hadn’t really thought much about it until now. I do agree with those who thought it worth pointing out that both writers honored were Igbo or South American; we need to hear from more writers from Africa.

This comment was written by Kelly.
Report this comment to the moderators


Rachel S. Writes:

June 13th, 2007 at 9:35 pm
They are both Nigerian in their origins…I think South American is a typo.

This comment was written by Rachel S..
Report this comment to the moderators


Sewere Writes:

June 14th, 2007 at 1:23 pm
Rachel said,

I knew nobody would comment on this. I get exasperated sometimes.
My sista, make you no worry, you know say I get you back. You for put am on for your side make we yarn for there. :)

Achebe has always been a hero of mine simply because of his take on the Nigeria’s Civil War (aka Biafra War) doesn’t tow the party/dominant line of historical revisionism (Although I haven’t read her work yet, I believe Adichie shares the same perspective). The thing is that for most folks who are not Igbo or from the South Eastern part of Nigeria, the war does not register as a historical event and part of their personal history.

I remember a friend in secondary school telling me how his father and uncle, had to cook food in hiding so that planes wouldn’t hone in on the fire from the wood burning. A bunch of my uncle’s colleaguesm (most of whom were Igbo) who moved to the US as refugees recounted how many of their families were on the verge of starving to death when the Nigerian military prevented aid and support to civilians. How can anyone ever forget that? There are still folks who have pictures of Odumegwu Ojukwu in uniform on their walls (even though I think of him as a spoilt brat, but that’s another story for another day).

The other aspect of Achebe’s (and from what I can tell from the excerpt, Adichie’s) writing is that they write from a comprehensive view of post-colonial Nigeria (and in a few cases, other Sub-Saharan African countries) i.e. national identity, racialized/ethnicized/classist structures, the experiences of folks from his (my parent’s) generation who went to parochial/colonial schools in Nigeria and/or England (racism, classism, sexism etc) as well as theirs and our experiences of being of trying to juggle multiple identities as citizens of two or more countries.

This comment was written by Sewere.
Report this comment to the moderators


Rachel S. Writes:

June 14th, 2007 at 2:19 pm
Thanks for commenting folks. I really debated about the title of this post. I was going to put “black authors” and considered “African authors,” because I thought more people would read the post. But they are Nigerian and Igbo, and that is central to their body of work. To characterize them as African or Black would be accurate, but it misses the centrality of thei nationality and ethnicity in their work.

I don’t know what the deal with Igbo writers is, but Uzodinma Iweala is another person getting a lot of attention.

The younger writers are transnational folks, but the writing is about west Africa. I’m waiting for the story that is written about the transnational experience.

This comment was written by Rachel S..
Report this comment to the moderators


Rachel S. Writes:

June 14th, 2007 at 2:31 pm
I haven’t even read the books myself just reviews. I have to read Things Fall Apart because that’s really part of the contemporary canon of English literature, but what I find fascinating is how these writers discuss their identities.

Sewere said, “The thing is that for most folks who are not Igbo or from the South Eastern part of Nigeria, the war does not register as a historical event and part of their personal history….I remember a friend in secondary school telling me how his father and uncle, had to cook food in hiding so that planes wouldn’t hone in on the fire from the wood burning. A bunch of my uncle’s colleaguesm (most of whom were Igbo) who moved to the US as refugees recounted how many of their families were on the verge of starving to death when the Nigerian military prevented aid and support to civilians. How can anyone ever forget that?”

There is definitely a historical element to these stories. For Achebe, who is probably the most famous Nigerian outside of Nigeria, it is about his generation. For the younger writers, it may be paying homage to their parents and grandparents, many of whom didn’t survive. I’m curious how these younger writers will describe their generations experiences in their writing.

Sewere said, “…the experiences of folks from his (my parent’s) generation who went to parochial/colonial schools in Nigeria and/or England (racism, classism, sexism etc) as well as theirs and our experiences of being of trying to juggle
multiple identities as citizens of two or more countries.”

Yeah that is complicated.

I think there are many Igbo kids growing up in the US who are going to have really interesting stories to tell. For them the added layer of identity–being American and African American could make for some really interesting analysis. (I don’t know many Nigerian Americans who are not Igbos; I guess the refugee factor could play into that.)

I knew you would come out of the wood work to comment. :)

This comment was written by Rachel S..
Report this comment to the moderators


Richard Jeffrey Newman Writes:

June 14th, 2007 at 6:14 pm
Another Nigerian writer worth reading, though I don’t know his native language, is Chris Abani. I have his first book of poems–the title escapes me now–written after his imprisonment and torture. It is a remarkable book in its (in my opinion not always successful) attempt to render the realities of torture, a true literature of witness.

This comment was written by Richard Jeffrey Newman.
Report this comment to the moderators


debbie Writes:

June 14th, 2007 at 6:53 pm
Both books are fantastic, and I’m glad these authors are getting the recognition they deserve.

This comment was written by debbie.
Report this comment to the moderators


Rich B. Writes:

June 15th, 2007 at 7:50 am
“Things Fall Apart” ruined my life.

There. I admitted it.

Maybe I can move on now.

When I was a kid, I was an unthinking Conservative, because that’s what everyone around me was. When I went to college, I became an unthinking liberal, because that’s what everyone around me was, except for the Young Republicans, who were all losers.

Then, after college, I picked up “Things Fall Apart,” for no good reason that I can think of now. I think I was just looking for a good book, and started on the first shelf at Borders, and “Achebe” is on the first shelf alphabetically.

And I started reading about how the Christian missionaries imposed themselves on the natives (”Boo!! Imperialists!!”) And the got a foothold by bringing in people from the lower castes and treating them as equals (”Yey!! Equality!!”) and then taking over and prohibiting things like leaving baby twins out in the woods to die (”Yey!! Forced imposition of Western values that I agree with!!”) and then they started taking other powers away from the native rulers (”Boo!! Abuse of power!!”) and the book was over and I sat there and though, “Who were the good guys?” “Who were the bad guys?” “Was this a ‘liberal’ book or a ‘conservative’ book?” Well, it was ‘just’ a book about stuff the way the author saw it.

And, well, ever since then I have been unable to NOT see both sides of the situation. I became interested in politics, but never really had a favorite candidate because I saw the arguments for and against everyone’s positions. Then, I started reading blogs, and felt forced to comment when people were all saying the same thing without considering the other side. So, then, pretty soon, I had a whole list of liberal blogs where I had been called a right-wing-fascist troll, and a whole list of conservative blogs where I had been call a loony-leftist-liberal troll, and I ended up with no internet friends, forcing me to only deal with “real” people, with whom I try hard not to discuss politics, because I am sure I would disagree with everything they said, not because they were wrong, but because they believed it too strongly and without qualification.

And, yes, I blame it all on “Things Fall Apart.”

This comment was written by Rich B..
Report this comment to the moderators


Sewere Writes:

June 15th, 2007 at 3:24 pm
Rachel said,

For Achebe, who is probably the most famous Nigerian outside of Nigeria, it is about his generation.
Make you no say am like that o. Yoruba people go claim say Wole Soyinka pass Chinay Achebe because him get Nobel Prize…. :-0

This comment was written by Sewere.
Report this comment to the moderators


Rachel S. Writes:

June 15th, 2007 at 5:11 pm
LOL!! I guess we’ll have to do surveys to see.

I have a little Igbo bias since I’m married to one :)….Nobel Prize is big, but it doesn’t necessarily make a person a household name.

This comment was written by Rachel S..
Report this comment to the moderators


lurker Writes:

June 15th, 2007 at 9:31 pm
“Nobel Prize is big, but it doesn’t necessarily make a person a household name.”

Not to mention all the back-of-scene politics,

This comment was written by lurker.
Report this comment to the moderators


Anu Writes:

June 18th, 2007 at 12:10 am
lol being Yoruba I have to say I’m partial to Wole Soyinka as well.

This comment was written by Anu.
Report this comment to the moderators


Remy Ilona Writes:

June 28th, 2007 at 6:17 am
It suffixes, and important to note that both writers are ‘Igbo’. Anything beyond that is misleading.
I consider Achebe an inspiring figure, and the Igbos sharpest mind today.

This comment was written by Remy Ilona.
Report this comment to the moderators


Leave a Reply
If you have questions about the moderation policies here, please read this post. Short version: treat other posters with respect.

(Need to know how to create blockquotes and links, i.e., linked text?)

If your submitted comment fails to appear, without even an error or "waiting for moderation" message, then our spam-blocking program may have blocked your comment by mistake. When this happens, please contact the moderators right away so we can rescue your comment!

BOOK REVIEW: Broken Lives and Other Stories

By Anthonia C. Kalu (2003)

"Storytelling at its best, full of subtlety and a nuanced exploration of the core issues of the Biafran tragedy."

Emmanuel Obiechina — Visiting Lecturer of Afro-American Studies, Harvard University
In her startling collection of short stories, Broken Lives and Other Stories, Anthonia C. Kalu creates a series of memorable characters who struggle to hold displaced but dynamic communities together in a country that is at war with itself.

Broken Lives and Other Stories presents a portrait of the ordinary women, children, and men whose lives have been battered by war in their homeland. Written in response to the Nigerian Civil War, known on the Igbo side as Ogu Biafra--the Biafran War--this collection focuses on the everyday conditions of the local people and how their personal situations became entangled in national crises. The stories capture a diversity of issues, from the implications of self-rule and the presence of soldiers among civilians, to masquerades, air raids, and rape.

Through her riveting narratives, Kalu draws the reader into the depths of some of Africa's most troubling issues, such as the concern for safety during the frequent outbreaks of hostilities, which can range from civil unrest to armed combat. How do young people, women, and the elderly cope during those crises? Are the struggles for national political power greater than the everyday struggle for decent living by the person on the street?

While conveying the vitality and joy of Africa's women and youth, Broken Lives and Other Stories also examines the impact of the brain drain caused by wars and instability within the continent itself. Both the war against women and women¿s constant war to survive in contemporary Africa are brought into sharp focus throughout these stories.

For readers interested in the last thirty-five years of unrest across Africa, this collection is essential reading.
Chris Abani's Virgin of Flames

by Obi Nwakanma

CHRIS Abani writes with blinding power. His first novel, Graceland (Alfred Knopf, 2003) established his bona fides as an important voice of contemporary fiction, and his latest offering, The Virgin of the Flames (Penguin 2007) confirms without doubt that his talent is no fluke; it is the work of considerable imaginative authority. The Virgin of the Flames takes us between Afikpo and East Los Angeles, and beyond to the territories of the imagination, where dark and unbound emotions collide and re-ignite, and create shimmering shards of meaning.

We arrive at the end of the story breathless. The subject of Abani’s new novel is identity - the ambiguities that frame the subject of individual location and translocation, and the subtle varieties inherent in the various bis: bi-raciality, bi-culturality, bi-genderity, bi-nativism, bi-nationalism, bi-sexuality - and we sense that there is no resolution to the question about this apparent struggle for fixity; to become and be wholly something; easily, discernibly, essentially, something. Black, bi-racial child of an Igbo NASA scientist father and a Salvadorian mother, tries to obscure what fundamentally is the central dilemma of the novel - his movement towards self realization.

He conceives of himself fundamentally as a mesh of identities, a texture of “silence, sound, color and image” - an embodiment of the multiplicity or the diversity of East LA. He belongs, not to a single identity, he claims, even though he remembers his father, the Igbo scientist saying to him in their last time together before he ships off to war, “echefulam” - never forget me - remember who you are. But Black had grown to see himself as belonging to shifting or transmuting identities with no particular or specific ethnic or national affiliation - just like his graffiti. Bomboy the Rwandan butcher however demands and sees a neat and pure category, and says to him, “Your father was an African, so therefore you are African.” A thorough postmodern conundrum - this struggle between bare essentialism and complex identities. It is impossible indeed to be one thing any more, Abani suggests, because we have consistently and radically moved the questions beyond their fixed places to the idea of the human subject morphing through encounters, absorbing every encounter, possessing it, and encrypting into these encounters, the formalities of our many lives as we shift and dismantle various meanings or ideas of the self and the boundaries that once enclosed the self.

But it is also possible to see in Abani’s story, the pathology of the restless ambiguous subject or self; the quest to fully identify and locate himself within a stable sense of place and time, in spite of the difficulty, given his own personal history, to fully, in the end, enclose himself into a single clean idea of the clan. He embodies that sense of the crossroads and its tense and potent neutrality: son of the marriage of two cultures - African and European - Abani’s Edda, Igbo father met his English mother as a student in Oxford in the 1950s, at the height of the transformations in the relationship between the empire and its margin. Chris Abani grew up in both worlds, first in Nigeria, his parents marriage having survived the civil war.

He attended schools in Nigeria, and went to the Imo State University, where he read English, wrote a juvenilia, and dabbled into theatre under the playwright Tess Onwueme, and then forced by circumstance to relocate to England, and subsequently to the United States, where he currently teaches Creative Writing, at the University of California, Riverside. He comes to us, thus representing the multiple stories he too embodies in his various locations and dislocations, and in the end, he expresses through a powerfully searing look at his contemporary world, the difficulties present in that question that Chinua Achebe himself once proposed, about whether the writer and his audience still live in the same place.

Chris Abani’s style is cosmopolitan: he engages cultures and absorbs elements from various encounters with his metropolitan gaze; he writes principally about the marginalized - those who are outsiders to society: thieves, murderers, and trans-sexuals - the damned - but he asks us to look beyond the categories we impose on them and see their human struggles and dilemmas behind the pale veil of the tattoo artist Iggy, the figure of Cassandra, and the courtesan of the Hollywood elite, and the mask of Sweet girl, the Mexican trans-sexual striper, the snide, laconic ironies of Bomboy Dickens, the Rwandan butcher, with a murderous past, with blood in his hands but who had learned possibly from his genocidal experience, to carve cadavers neatly, without blood in his hands, nor should we see only the habits of living above the “Ugly Store.” Such characters populate Abani’s novel.

The Virgin of the Flames is a story about intersections: the setting is in East LA but it moves back and forth, and we glimpse its center: that decadent beauty of a crumbling landscape, its stone towers in ruins marking the ruins of a city in which lives mesh and fragment; the collision is often like a lunatic high; a kinetic force of creation, of transgressive moments and conversations; of resplendent visual renditions of the human drama; brush strokes of lives of lives existing in the intersection of marginal cultures with all the tension of outsiderhood.

The intersection of East and West, of African-American and Latino lives, and the ocular festivals of their conflicts, in that place “iridescent in its concrete sleeve.” All these provide the imaginative canvas for the complicated mural artist, Black, whose true muse is the virgin, mother of God, reified into the living embodiment of that duality, Sweet Girl, the transgendered dancer, who becomes his nemesis. The virgin mother is everywhere - and one may even put it down to Abani’s obsessive Catholicism, having grown up a Catholic, an altar boy, a n ex-seminarian.

But the flaming virgin of the novel is also a mystic force of apocalyptic proportions: Black’s vision of her, floating in the wind and the curtain, reminds us of the passion of a suffering, on whom ritual pain is inflicted by the visions of the female force -
represented in the mother. The virgin figure is such a power that can make an immigration lawyer to become less sanguine, and accept fees in kind, “even goats, chickens and fish;” identities collapse and can be bought with hard cash in the Passport market, much like the one in Lagos. These transformations of identities at the core of the novel, makes The Virgin of the Flames continuously slippery, and so much more.

It is the story about race and segregation in American cities, about smoking mirrors of the self, about immigration and assimilation, about devotion and piety, the sort that deals with faith irreverently. And we can see this in the description of the figure of Jesus with an erect phallus, a sense of both the comic and the outrageous.

The Virgin of the Flames is a violent story with scenes of rape and torture, and the perverse; but they are scenes finely and forcefully wrought. They remain memorable and almost indelible. It is the story of ghosts, for as Iggy puts it, “ghosts are the things…we make with memory.” The Virgin of the Flames is therefore an incomparable act to compose a novel of pure quixotic elegance, a mysterious excursus into the depths of the human psyche, for Abani’s story is layered with too many meanings: what you read is often not what you see; you are forced to look deeper, and deeper still. It is an unforgettable imaginative performance. A great contribution to the emerging canon of new world literature generally, and Nigerian fiction specifically.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Cooking the old-fashion way

Free Ralph Uwazuruike

by Obi Nwaknma

THIS week, on July 6, it would be exactly forty years since the Federal forces launched a two-pronged military attack on the peoples of the old Eastern Nigeria, from Nsukka and Garkem, which effectively began the civil war in 1967.

The Eastern Region had seceded from the old federation of Nigeria, and declared itself a new country, the Peoples Republic of Biafra. This was a remarkable development, especially for a people, who had led the anti-colonial nationalist liberation movement, invested much of their energy to create a united Nigeria, and a modern nation state, basically coined the term, “unity in diversity” as the guiding principle of their Nigerian vision, and made remarkable political and economic compromises to ensure the emergence of a free, liberated, Nigerian state.

But the tide had turned from the January 15 putsch led by Emmanuel Ifeajuna, and mostly Igbo officers, like Chukwuma Nzeogwu operating from the Kaduna end, and the northern counter-coup of July 29, led by Murtala Muhammed and officers like T.Y. Danjuma. The death toll from January to September 1966 was horrendous. But its most remarkable outcome was the character of what has been described as the northern “revenge coup.”

It not only initiated a massacre of southern Nigerians, particularly Igbo officers and men, in the barracks, but the killing spilled into the streets, and into the private homes of easterners, living across the North, and parts of western Nigeria. The organized killings of easterners in relentless waves of the pogrom from May 1966 to September 1966, has been fully documented, and presented, first at the Onyuike Atrocities Commission in Enugu in 1967, and years later at the Justice Oputa Commission in Abuja in 2002.

It was in the backdrop of these waves of killings and great waves of return to the East, that it became quite clear to the Igbo particularly, that the very concept of Nigeria needs to be fundamentally renegotiated. But while Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and other leaders of the East were examining their alternatives in 1966, positions were equally hardening in Lagos, then the epicentre of Nigeria’s political power. But a slight possibility of reconciliation occurred when the Ghanaian General Akufo brokered a meeting in Aburi, which brought together, the key players, and the various factions in the Nigerian crisis early in January 1967.

The Aburi conference paved way to a number of keystone resolutions, the agreements upon which was framed, a sense of the new national realities, and the spirit of which still haunts Nigeria, for the Aburi accord truly still holds the true future and survival of Nigeria as both a federation and a country. The current clamour for constitutional review, and of restructuring, stems from the fall outs and distortions occasioned by the illegalities of 1966/67, that subverted the foundational frameworks of the Independence constitution of 1960, and the Republican charter of 1963, upon which a free Nigeria was founded and consecrated.

The Eastern Regional authorities went home from Aburi, and prepared for operationalizing the Aburi agreements, but what was seen to amount to a perfidious repudiation of the key elements of the agreement kicked the can down the road of an epic conflict. In the event, seeing that the leadership of the eastern region had dug in on its position, the Nigerian end peremptorily announced the creation of twelve states without consultation or plebiscitory authority, thus setting the tone for Odumegwu-Ojukwu, having been thus mandated by the Eastern Consultative
Assembly, declared the Eastern Region, the Republic of Biafra, with its sign of the Rising Sun.

The grim battles were fought, and the end came in 1970, and the peace settled on a “No Victor, No Vanquished” resolution. This in sum is the story of the most emblematic moment of Nigeria’s postcolonial history, and the event that continues to reproduce and haunt its meaning of nation, because the ghosts are not yet buried.

The Igbo, and much of the minority peoples of Eastern Nigeria, and the old Midwest, have since complained, and have variously, frequently raised objection to a sense of their lands as still occupied territories, where oil production activities have made many wealthy Nigerians, but left those on whose lands the resource is found, mostly impoverished.

It is quite remarkable that most of these areas in the former Eastern and Midwestern regions, which were the theatres of the last civil war, remain the most economically and infrastructurally underdeveloped areas in contemporary Nigeria, and mostly by deliberate federal government policy since the end of the war in 1970. As for the Igbo, much ink has been expended on their sense of oppression and deliberate alienation from the Nigerian polity, and the official methods that have been perfected to reduce Igbo significance and contribution, and the benefits of citizenship in the Nigeria to which they returned freely in 1970.

This sense of alienation was precisely what has inspired the agitations in the Niger Delta, and in the Igbo areas, where pro-Biafra sentiments have recently arisen, and whose more public face is a lawyer called Ralph Uwazurike, who has led the group called MASSOB.

The unique thing about MASSOB is its methods of non-violence, a means by which it has conducted, and indeed organized Igbo public opinion, to register their desire for either equality or justice in Nigeria, or peaceful separation. In my view, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the MASSOB position. It is a legitimate and democratic stance, and it is within the rights fundamentally enshrined in the UN charter in 1945.

The demonization of MASSOB cannot obscure this very fact, because, frankly, there is nothing absolutely sacrosanct about Nigeria. The only thing that is sacrosanct is the life in it, and the dignity accorded to that life. As part of its sweeping operations against various radical nationalist movements within Nigeria, the Obasanjo government arrested and detained Uwazurike, and Dr. Fasehun, Gani Adams, and Asari Dokubo, leaders of the Yoruba OPC movement and the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, respectively. The last two are not pacifist movements. The Obasanjo government nevertheless, released the OPC leaders, and only recently, as part of his gestures to the Niger Delta, the Yar Ardua government released Asari Dokubo.

One commends all that. But the question is: what about Ralph Uwazurike? Last week Senator Uche Chukwumerije introduced the question of his release to the Senate, and it was shot down. Ralph Uwazurike’s case again re-emphasizes the case that the Igbo make about discrimination. The Nigerian authorities often act, it seems, with deliberate intentions to insult the Igbo, although many well-meaning Igbo have never failed to point out that the silence of the Igbo people is not from an inability to act with ferocity.

It is that most Igbo are willing to thread the path of peace and reason, until it becomes clear that such options are exhausted. But the Ralph Uwazurike case, his continued detention is unacceptable in the light of the federal government’s general gestures.

He not only has a right to his beliefs, and to his freedoms, but given the non-violent nature of his movement, he cannot be said to advocate violence against the authorities. But it seems that Uwazurike is wrong, only in the sense that the federal government hearkens first to those who present their arms with their colours, against those who merely use their mouths and their wit in political agitation. All well meaning Nigerians must demand the release of Ralph Uwazurike, because it is right and proper that he returns home to his family and people.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

SOME OF IHIAGWA'S CUISINE & RECIPES

The people of Ihiagwa as earlier said are part of the Igbo speaking ethnic group in Nigeria and as such our recipes and cuisine are also those eaten among the Igbo's of Nigeria. Ihiagwa is not complete without some of her special cuisines, some of which are mentioned below.

OFE - OWERRI SOUP

OFE - OWERRI SOUP serve 4-6
This is classic Ihiagwa and Owerri soup flavoured with aromatic Uzouza leaves, Ugwu (fresh Pumpkin leaves) and Okazie leaves and lightly thickened with Cocoyam, really captures the scent of Ihiagwa town and Igbo land.
lkg / 2Ib assorted meats (Beef Oxtail, Tripe, Bokoto & Bushmeat), Ponmo,
450g / lib stockfish (washed & flaked )
1 medium dry fish (washed & flaked)
225g / 8oz ground chilies
225g / 8oz ground crayfish
225g/8oz Uzouza leaves, shredded
450g/lib cocoyam boiled and pounded
1lt / 2 pint stock or water
salt to taste

Wash the meat thoroughly and place in a large pot. Season with salt and ground chilies add some stock and cook for 45 minutes. Cook the stockfish separately for 1 hour or pre-soaked. Meanwhile, wash and peel the cocoyam, cook until soft and pound. Add the washed smoked fish and stock to the pot of boiling meats and cook for I0 minutes. Add the stock and bring to boil. Mould the pounded cocoyam into small balls and add to soup, stir in the crayfish, shredded Uzouza leaves and oil. Adjust seasoning and simmer for 15 minutes until slightly thick. Serve hot with Pounded yam, Garri (roast cassava grains) or akpu.

EGUSI SOUP
EGUSI SOUP serves 4-6
This humble melon seed soup is quite popular in Ihiagwa and all over Nigeria. Although cooking techniques and the kind of vegetables used might differ from region to region it is still absolutely delicious when properly cooked.
250g 8oz fresh beef chucks
500g / llb bushmeat
500g / lib stockfish (pre-soaked)
500g / lib smoked dry fish
250g / 8oz oxtail
250g / 8oz cleaned tripe
2pt stock or water
300g /100z ground egusi
500g lib fresh tomatoes
250g / 8oz fresh peppers
2 large onion
teaspoons iru
4 tablespoon ground crayfish
500g.llb fresh bitter leaf (washed to remove excessive bitterness)
salt to taste

Wash thoroughly the beef oxtail bushmeat and tripe. Place a large pot with sliced onions season with salt add a drop of water or stock and cook for 30 minutes or until tender.

Add the washed dry fish and stockfish and cook for another 10 minutes. When cooked mm into a large clean bowl. Wipe out the pot and place back on heat. Pour the oil into the pot when hot add the ground tomatoes onions and peppers and fry for 10 minutes. Add the ground egusi and iru stirring thoroughly and cook for 5 minutes. Finally add cooked meats washed bitter leaf Crayfish and the stock. Allow to boil then simmer for 15 minutes. Serve hot with any of the stiff puddings; Pounded yam, Garri (roast cassava grains)/eba or Akpu.


VARIATIONS
Others green leaf vegetables such as fresh waterleaf Soko Tete. Igbo ugwu and Uzouza leaves can also be used on their own or as a combination m the above recipe using the same methods.
.

OGBONO SOUP
OGBONO SOUP
Just like the egusi, ogbono soup is thoroughly enjoyed by all Nigerians. It is a particular favourite amongst the lbos in the east to whom this superb soup is deemed incomplete without the addition stockfish.

lkg/ 21b assorted meats (oxtail, tripe, ponmo & bushmeat)
450g/llb stock fish(pre-soaked)
450g / llb dried fish (washed)
225g / 8oz whole dry prawns (cleaned)
225g / 8oz ground ogbono seeds
225g/8oz ground crayfish
25g / 8oz ground pepper
25g / loz iru
I medium onion
290ml / lOfl ozpalmoil
3pt stock or water
salt to taste

Washed the assorted meats thoroughly and place in a pot. Add the sliced onions, ground chillies and some stock or water. Cooked for 30 minutes. Add the washed smoked fish and stockfish, cook for a further 10-15 minutes adding a drop of water or stock as needed to stop it from burning. In another pot, heat the oil and fry the ground seeds for 3 minutes to bring out the nutty flavour.

Gradually add the stock and whisk until it draws and bubbles. Add the cooked meats peppers and crayfish.
Dissolve the locust bean in a little stock and add to the soup. Allow to simmer for another 10 minutes, check seasoning and serve hot with Pounded yam, Garri (roast cassava grains)/Eba or Akpu.

VARIATIONS
OGBONO SOUP WITH BITTER LEAF
225g / 8oz washed bitter leaf added to main recipe
OGBONO SOUP WITH UGWU
500g / llb shredded ugwu leaves added to main recipe.
OGBONO SOUP WITH IGBO
225g/8oz washed igbo leaves added to main recipe
OGBONO SOUP WITH WATERLEAF
500g/llb washed watterleaf added to main recipe.


GARRI
PREPARATION OF GARI (roast cassava grains)
Although gari can be purchased readily it can also be pre pared at home particularly is a special quality if desired. The cassava roots are dug up and peeled. They are then washed and soaked in water for 2 hours. The roots are then grated and placed in tightly woven but porous bags; weights are placed on the bags for three days to eliminate much of the water. The contents of the bag is spread out to dry in the sun for several hours. When dry the grated cassava is then sifted and dry roasted a little at a time in a large pot over a fierce fire. A few drops of palm-oil may be added for colour and flavour.



OGI
PREPARATION OF OGI (fermented corn starch) aka Akamu, pap
Wash and soak the corn kernels in water overnight or for 24 hours to ferment. Drain the corn and grind into a smooth paste. Mix the grotmd corn with cold water and sieve using a fine sieve to separate the husks from the starch. Allow the starch to settle in the water overnight. Drain and store the fermented corn starch in the refrigerator. Use as required; ogi is usually prepared for breakfast and served with Akara.



ISI-EWU ( spiced goat head)
Isi-Ewu ( spiced goat head)serve 6

Cooked and served in a thick spicy sauce, this is an authentic Eastern Nigeria dish (Igbo). A real favourite amongst Nigerians and certainty not for the faint-hearted as the heat from the large amount of chilies used is enough to take your palate off. I have reduced the amount of chilli used in this recipe, but it can be increased to suit one's taste. A superb dish to be enjoyed on its own.

INGREDIENT :
1goat (head and legs only)
3 fresh chilli pepper
8 fresh tomatoes
2 onions
1 clove garlic
I teaspoon pepper soup seasoning
3tbs. lemon juice
4tbs. tomato puree
200ml/7floz palm-oil
1lt/2pints stock or water
I onion (sliced)
chopped wild mini
salt to taste


Singe the hairs off the head and legs of goat, scrape and singe alternatively until all the hairs are off. Burn the hoofs and horns, peel them off with the point of a heavy knife. Wash the head and legs thoroughly with soap and a rough sponge or brush. Chop into small pieces with a sharp cleaver and rinse thoroughly, discarding the brains. Pour over the lemon juice and mix in. Leave to rest for 15 minutes. Grind together the onions, garlic, chilies and tomatoes. Place meat in a large pot, add the sliced onions, chilies, stock and seasonings. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. Check and stir frequently. Finally add the grind chilies, tomatoes, onions, palm-oil and wild mint. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes until meat is tender. Adjust seasoning and serve in traditional earthenware dishes garnish with chopped mint.



OKRO AND BITTERLEAF SOUP
Okro and Bitterleaf Soup
500g/llb assorted parts of meat (washed)
I medium smoked fish (washed)
225g / 8oz stockfish (pre- soaked)
22 5g / 8oz bushmeat (washed)
500g/ llb fresh okro
225g / 8oz bitter leaf (washed)
150ml / 5/7 oz palm-oil
3pt stock or water
I 00g / 4oz ground crayfish
25g / loz iru (locust bean)
I 00g / 4oz ground pepper


Place the washed meats in a large pot, add a drop of water or stock, season with salt and ground pepper and boil for 30 minutes or until tender. Add the smoked fish and stock fish, cook for another 10 minutes. Add the rest of the stock. Prepare the okro by washing thoroughly in cold water. Divide into two, finely chop one half and cut the rest into small rounds. Add the prepared okro together with the washed bitter-leaf to the boiling soup and stir. Add the palm-oil and iru, allow to bubble and simmer for 5 minutes, sprinkle in ground crayfish and stir. Simmer for another 10minutes. Check seasoning and serve hot with pounded yam or akpu

VARIATIONS
Fresh Pumpkin leaves (Ugwu), waterleaf or uzoza leaves can be substituted for bitterleaf in this recipe. It can also be cooked plain without using any of the vegetables. This is better known as lla Alasepo.



AKARA (Bean balls)


Akara (Bean balls) makes 8
500g/llb beans
1 onion
3 fresh pepper
warm water for mixing
oil for frying
salt to taste

Soak beans for 5 minutes and wash thoroughly to remove skin. Grind or liquidize until smooth. Place in a large bowl season with salt and beat in the warm water a little at a time to make it light. Fold in the slices onions and mix with a metal spoon to avoid letting out the air which has been beaten in to the mixture. Heat the oil until a blue faint smoke appears, spoon the mixture into the oil to forn balls and fry until golden brown. Drain on absorbent kitchen paper. Serve hot with chilli sauce and ogi.



CHICKEN STEW
CHICKEN STEW serves 6
This tasty and aromatic stew is everyone's favourite in Ihiagwa and in Nigeria From the road side hawkers to the tables of the elite it is a welcome accompaniment to compliment any meal or festive spread. It is the aromatic spices added that makes this wonderful dish so mouthwatering and delicious.

1 large chicken
225g / 8oz fresh chilies
1 kg / 2Ib fresh tomatoes
2 large onions
2 clove garlic
1 small tin tomatoes puree
I teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoon chopped partminger leaves
2 onions (sliced)
1 teaspoon curry
5 7Oral / l pint groundnut-oil
salt to taste

Wash and disjoint the chicken cut into 10-12 pieces. Season with salt add the sliced onions thyme curry and cook for 30-40 minutes until tender. Heat up half of the oil in a pan and fry the cooked chicken until brown but not too dry. In another~ pot heat up the rest of the oil and fry the ground onions chilies and tomatoes for 20minutes until fairly dry. Add the tomato puree and some stock if required. Stir thoroughly and add the fried chicken pieces. Cook and simmer gently for another 10 minutes stirring frequently until well blended. Drain off excessive oil that rises to the top and finally stir in the chopped part minger leaves. Removes from fire and serve with Boiled rice and fried plantain

VARIATIONS

GOATMEAT STEW
Replace chicken with lkg / 2Ib fried goatmeat

GUINEA FOWL STEW
Replace chicken with fried pieces of guinea fowl

TURKEY STEW
Replace chicken with pieces of fried turkey

MIXED MEAT STEW
Replace chicken with lkg / 2 Ibs fried assorted parts of beef.
( Tripe Bokoto Kidney Liver etc. )


PEPPER SOUP
SPICED CHICKEN PEPPERSOUP serve 6-8

Guinea Fowl or Turkey can also be used.
1.5kg/3Ib chicken (cut into pieces)

2 litres / 4pints water or stock

50g / 2oz chopped chillies

100g / 4oz pepper soup seasoning

50g / 2oz ground crayfish

50g / 2oz chopped mint

1 onion

1 clove garlic (crushed)

Wash the chicken pieces and place in a pot with some water chopped onions chillies and crushed garlic. Season with salt and boil for 30 minutes. Add the peppersoup seasoning and the rest of the stock and continue cooking for another 30 minutes until chicken is tender. Stir in the crayfish and mint leaves stir and simmer for 10minutes. Season to taste and serve hot in soup bowls.

PEPPERSOUP SEASONINGS

This is made up of a mixture of local herbs and spices which are not readily available in most supermarkets except in stores specialising in African Foods but similar herbs which can be easily obtained could be used to achieve almost the same effect.

SUBSTITUTE

50g / 2oz aniseed

50g / 2oz aniseed pepper

25g / loz cloves

50g / 2oz coriander seeds

50g / 2oz cumin seeds

50g / 2oz allspice

50g / 2oz dried ginger

50g / 2oz tamarind pods

50g / 2oz fennel seeds

TRADITIONAL

50g / 2oz atariko

50g / 2oz uda

50g / 2oz gbafilo

50g / 2oz ginger (dried)

50g / 2oz rigije

50g / 2oz uyayak

Combine all the ingredients and grind in a clean coffee grinder to a smooth powder. Store in an airtight jar and use as required. Would store indefinitely

FRESH FISH PEPERSOUP serve 4


2 medium size fish (tilapia catfish or bream)

I lemon or lime

50g / 2oz peppersoup seasoning

50g / 2oz chopped chillies

100g / 4oz fresh prawns

I litre / 2pints water or stock

25g / l oz chopped mint leaves

Have the fishmonger clean the fish and slice into 8 pieces. Wash the fish thoroughly with lime or lemon to remove any slime season with salt cover and leave in a cool place until required. Pour the stock into
a clean Pot and add chopped onions chillies and peppersoup seasoning. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 15 minutes to blend together the flavours. Add the seasoned fish and peeled fresh prawns and simmer gently for 20minutes. Check seasoning and serve garnished with chopped mint leaves
SPICED GOATMEAT PEPPERSOUP serves 4

This soup called Nwo-nwo isa particular favourite of beer and palm wine
drinkers and it is the

most popular of all the peppersoups.

l kg / 2Ib goatmeat or mutton (with bone)

l litre /2 pints water or stock

1 onion

75g / 3oz pepper soup seasoning

50g / 2oz ground chilies

50g / 2oz ground crayfish

25g / loz chopped wild mint

25g / 1 oz chopped utazi leaves

salt to taste

Wash and cut the meat into small pieces put into a deep pan add some water chopped onions and ground chilies. Season with salt and cook for 30-45minutes until meat is almost tender. Add the pepper soup seasoning and the rest of the stock and cook for another 10-15minutes until meat
is soft and tender. Sprinkle in the crayfish chopped mint and utazi leaves stir and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Serve hot in traditional earthenware soup pots or bowls.

SPICY MIXED MEAT PEPPERSOUP serve 6-8

500g / lib beef or mutton

225g / 8oz cleaned tripe

500g / lib cow foot (cut into small pieces)

225g / 8oz kidneys

100g / 4oz pepper soup seasoning

50g / 2oz ground chilies

50g / 2oz ground crayfish

2 litres / 3pints stock or water

50g / 2oz chopped mint

50g / 2oz chopped utazi leaves

1 medium onion

salt to taste

Wash and cut the kidneys into small cubes leave to soak in salted water for 1 hour. Wash and place the diced beef tripe and cow's foot into a deep pot. Add the chopped onions and chilies. Season with salt add some water or stock and cook for 45 minutes to an hour until almost tender. Drain the water from kidneys and cook separately for 5 minutes rinse and add to the pot of cooked meats. Add pepper soup seasoning and stock bring to the boil and cook for 15 more minutes. Stir in the crayfish
and utazi leaves and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and serve in earthenware soup bowls garnished with chopped mint.

OXTAIL PEPPERSOUP serve 4
Ikg / 2Ib oxtail (cut into small chunks)

I litre / 2 pint stock or water

1 onion (chopped)

50g / 2oz peppersoup seasoning

50g / 2oz ground chillies

50g / 2oz ground crayfish

25g / l oz chopped utazi leaves

25g / l oz chopped mint

salt to taste

Have the butcher trim off the excess fat from the oxtail and cut into small chunks. Wash and place in a deep pot add the chopped onions and chilies. Season with salt and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour adding more water as required until quite tender. Add the pepper soup seasoning and the rest of the stock bring to boil and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the crayfish and utazi leaves simmer for 10 minutes. Check seasoning and serve in soup bowls garnished with chopped mint.