By McPhilips Nwachukwu & Chidi Nkwopara
When in 1979, Elder Statesman and first civilian Governor of Old Imo State, late Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, inaugurated the annual intellectual meeting popularly known as Ahiajoku lecture, little did he know that, that experimental cultural assembly, which he had invited seminal scholar and academic, Prof MJC Echeruo to declare open, would establish the highest form of Igbo General Assembly through which the Igbo would gather annually to deliberate on issues concerning them.
At conceptualising this intelle- cultural meeting, the Obowo, Imo State-born Governor looked back at the Igbo world and searched cautiously for an aspect of Igbo cultural life that would give a stamp of authority to the whole exercise. And interestingly, he came up with the idea of Ahiajoku, which as a festival in many areas of Igbo land, is celebrated annually in honour of the yam god, Ahiajoku or Ifejioku as the dialect may go.
Over the years, notable Igbo scholars at home and in the Diaspora had been invited to the esteemed Igbo Assembly to discuss any aspect of the race that would help to improve the Igbo world and help also to build a greater Nigeria.
After Echeruo kick started the lecture series with his ground breaking title; Ahamefula: A Matter of Identity in 1979, he was immediately followed by Prof Bede Okigbo in 1980, who spoke on Plants and Food in Igbo Culture. Prof. Adiele Afigbo in 1981, who spoke on The Age of Innocence: The Igbo and their Neigbours in Pre- colonial times.
Other scholars and eminent Igbo sons that have preached at the Igbo Ahiajoku shrine include: late Prof. Donatus Nwoga, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, Dr PNC Okigbo, M.A. Onwuejiogwu, Emmanuel Obiechina, Prof. Chinua Achebe and V.C. Uchendu among others.
And 31 years down the line, the excitement and expectations of Ahajoku Lecture series have not ceased to infect and attract the support of successive Governors of the present Igbo land especially, Imo State.
Last week, the administration of Governor Ikedi Ohakim rolled out the ikoro (big drum) for the Igbo to gather again to renew their faith and see if they could identify when “the rain began to beat them” in the political project called Nigeria.
At the occasion, the crowd was unprecedented. People from all works of life thronged the New Government House Complex premises, where another Igbo son, immediate past Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Prof. Chinedu Ositadinma Nebo delivered the 2010, Ahiajoku lecture at the Multipurpose Hall Owerri. He hinged his lecture on “Nigerian Sectoral Underdevelopment and Leadership Challenges: The Igbo Perspective.”
The 38-page lecture was segmented into several sub_titles, including Nigerian leadership challenges in the 21st Century, the tragedy of imposed leadership, the challenges of maintaining our statehood and unity, the challenge of reviving the collapsing education system, the challenge of re_engineering the nation’s wobbly economy, the challenge of robust infrastructure and the challenge of reversing de_industrialization.
He also addressed the challenge of good governance and accountable leadership, the challenge of security_personal and communal safety, the challenge of corruption, the challenge of meeting the millennium development goals, the challenge of servant leadership, the Igbo perspective and towards a new Nigeria, where Igbo and all are free.
He was also of the opinion that after taking a critical view of the nation’s resources in virtually every area of life, a careful analyst will be shocked to find that the poverty and high level of unemployment in Nigeria “are all artificially induced scourges” on the people.
As he pondered over the subject of leadership in Nigeria, he came to the painful realization that the real problem in Nigeria is with the kind of governments we run and the people who run them. He was also irked that most of the ills that have bedeviled the citizenry since the advent of the oil boom had been inflicted on them by the government.
“Under our God’s provisions for this land, there is no reason for such misery. The level of widespread poverty, unemployment, high incidence of corruption and insecurity of life and property in Nigeria exist because our leaders, both at the federal, state and local government levels, either do not know what to do or are profiting from the poverty and misery of the people and so are reluctant to do anything”, Nebo said.
He tongue_lashed politicians and their military counterparts, who were living big on petro_dollars from the Niger Delta Region and awarding juicy oil blocks to themselves, while the goose that lays the golden eggs lay in squalor. He equally recalled that it took armed struggle and pressure from the United States of America to get the Nigerian government to lend an ear to the bitter tears of the down trodden people of the Niger Delta.
While calling for true federalism as opposed to the seemingly unitary government the nation is operating now, Nebo also reasoned that the bastardization of the Nigerian Constitution by the military regimes should not be seen as an irreversible failure. He opined that there is need now to restructure the polity and ensure that each geo_political zone was equipped to thrive.
The Ahiajoku Lecturer, after a critical analysis of the education sector said: “That Nigeria is operating a failed education system is not in question; that successive governments at the centre have failed to address the collapsing education system holistically is not in doubt. The rot in the education sector is better imagined than described”.
He went on to say that policy makers appear to be rudderless, blowing about all manner of ideas in the susceptible marketplace, gathering dusts of confusion in the process, and the outputs of the nation’s education system are as lamentable as they are pervasive.
Addressing the audience also, Imo State Governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, suggested that federal allocation should be now shared among the six geo_political zones, since Nigerians have remained unwilling or reluctant to create more states and local government in the South East geo_political zone.
Chief Ohakim, who lamented that we have not really sat down to demand proper restructuring of the country, also reasoned that the South East is grossly cheated by the present style of sharing the federal allocation, adding that Nigerians from other areas will not say they do not know about this lapse.
“How do we share the revenue of this country? Revenue is distributed to the local governments. How many local governments do we have in the whole South East? The local governments in old Kano State alone is more than all the local governments in the South East of Nigeria”, Ohakim fumed.
“Over 500 of our oil wells have been distributed to other states. I have been in court up to the Supreme Court level, with the Federal Government over the issue till date. The problem is not government. The problem is ourselves”, Ohakim said.
Continuing, the Governor said it was most distressing that no single business establishment in Imo is owned by any Hausa, Yoruba or any other ethnic group in Nigeria, stressing that Ndigbo have this zeal to develop other lands to the detriment of their place of origin.
He advised Ndigbo to eschew the pull-him-down syndrome prevalent in the area, adding that it had done more harm than good in Igboland.