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As keen observers of contemporary Nigerian political philosophy applaud the receding majesty of Dr. Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo, there is no doubt that he has earned his place in the history books of activism and political theory.
As a left of center political actor, Ikeogu ndi Igbo, was indeed a power-house and strategist for an African renaissance. The Eastern Mandate Union which he founded as Chancellor in Enugu provided solace for the Igbo intelligentsia who were just coming out of the Nigeria-Biafra 1967-1970 war. Many of them were killed or completely disoriented by the experiences of that sad history. The chancery became an incubator for the articulation of political thoughts for a new direction by such great Igbo minds as Prof. Chinua Achebe, Dr. Pius Okigbo, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo and many others coming back to the distraught centre of learning at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Following the compendium of ideas incubated at the centre that needed to be properly documented but which many publishing houses refused to facilitate, Ikeogu proceeded to establish the Fourth Dimension Publishing House and the Outlook newspapers to assist in the publication of many great books that pushed forward the Igbo story on the war, and other issues.
The pan African vision of the publishing house ultimately attracted many other great Nigerian and African writers to tell their story from a completely African perspective. As they say, if you do not tell your story, others will tell it the way that suits them.
Dr. Arthur Nwankwo ensured that the Igbo version of the story was told by Igbos and published for posterity. Who knows, without him and his foresight and doggedness, the full and correct story of the events of the unfortunate past would have suffered a distortion due to a recession in human memory. He was a visionaire.
Long before “a handshake across the Niger” gained prominence and popularity in the political lexicon of contemporary Nigeria, Ikeogu had march across the iconic river to shake hands and engage like minded Nigerian patriots like Chief Ebenezer Babatope in the South West of Nigeria. He also forayed into the North to engage such other like minds as Alhaji Abubakar Rimi in Kano and Alhaji Bararabe Musa in Kaduna. The results of those embraces and engagements lowered the trust bar for the Igbo that had just finished fighting a war with their kits and kin from the other parts of Nigeria. When eventually political activities resumed in the country following the exit of the military, Dr. Arthur Nwankwo was the prominent Igbo face and voice on the side of “the masses” in such leftist parties as Alliance for Democracy operating mainly from the Yoruba South West and the People Redemption Party in the North. It was therefore no surprise that he was appointed Vice Chairman of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, a mainly South West organization founded to fight for the actualization of the annulled June 12 presidential election for Alhaji Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola in 1993. A very pan Nigerian politician who was driven more by a sense of properly documented history of its politics and the projection of people with the level of intellectual capacity to effect genuine change for the deprived and down trodden, he has helped in setting up other political groups to pursue this dream including contesting for the presidency of his country in a general election.
Many visionaires, in their strategic mindset, are rarely complimented with “boots on the ground” for effective tactical linkage and exploitation of ideas. Arthur was probably one of these whose ideologies and methodologies, transcend the ordinary in the simplistic and short term calculations of those around them. But years later, long after they are gone, regrets over the opportunity lost in the human short sightedness come flooding back.
As the erudite philosopher author and politician Dr. Arthur Nwankwo, sired from very humble origins in the rural pioneering community of Ajalli (Ujari) in Anambra State of Nigeria goes to join his creator, we his students of an Africa-centric political philosophy and economy are up in a standing ovation as we watch him depart the stage, complete with his hood and gown, like the rare comet receding with its blazing lights in a trail of glory.
Adieu, Ikeogu ndi Igbo!
- Onyeri, an experienced public sector and corporate executive in air safety, Risk Management and project management, is a professional Safety Engineer with the Nigerian Institution of Safety Engineers. He is a contributing analyst for USAfrica multimedia networks, headquartered in Houston, Texas.