By Obi Nwakanma
It does seem clear to many of us who still have, and are guided by a sense of history that Nigeria derailed from its historical course, and drifts, when it abandoned Zikist ideology as its foundational myth. Much of Nigeria’s history, particularly since the civil war, has been shaped by a cynical disregard and disinterest in nation-building.
The rise and triumph of the ethnic and regionalist tendencies in Nigeria from 1967 has spiraled into its current headache, bred and led by her sons of Anarchy. But Zikism provides Nigeria an alternative to national miasma, and on the strength Azikiwe’s renascent and humanist philosophy many of us believe in the imperative of a Nigerian Risorgimento.
It is in Nigeria’s interest. Late Dr. Nnamdi-Azikiwe It is in the interest of the future generation.
It is in the highest interest of black people on this earth, that one of its potentially greatest nations with its agglomeration of peoples survive in strength to offer refuge to her children.
This was the crux of the statement by Pastor Ayo Oristejeafor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), who was this year’s guest lecturer at the Inaugural “Zik Lectures” Series organized by the Center for Igbo Studies, at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
First, let me commend the Director and Board of the Center For Igbo Studies and the administration of the University of Nigeria, for finally rising to the occasion of Instituting the “Zik Lectures” at Nsukka. It is about time.
I still think that the Institute of African Studies and the Leon Hansberry Center of the University of Nigeria should be the proper place to organize the “Zik Lectures,” to give it its proper international dimension.
This was the core of my discussion, I remember in 2000, when I met in his office at Nsukka, with the Nsukka Historian, P. Olisa Esedebe whose book on Pan Africanism, the subject of his doctoral thesis at Kings College of the University of London in 1968, is now considered a classic of that discourse. I was on a brief fellowship at the time at the Institute of African Studies at UNN on the invitation of the Director of the Institute then, the late Ossie Enekwe.
The University was in a dreadful torpor. But it seems that new things are happening, and I should say, perhaps it might not be a bad idea after all, to have a joint interdisciplinary Committee of the Center for Igbo Studies and the Institute of African Studies to organize and give fuller weight to the Nsukka “Zik Lectures” series.
It is imperative that Nigeria’s centers of knowledge rise to the plate and begin a public re-engagement with the nation as a renascent project. Let me also say that I do not always agree with Pastor Ayo Oristejeafor.
However, I do agree with Oristejafor on the occasion of his lecture at Nsukka, that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s nationalist humanism is the only means by which Nigeria can hope to regenerate itself.
Let me therefore restate and summarize the core principles of Zikism and his idea of a Risorgimento: All humans are born free and equal and deserve to enjoy equal benefits of freedom, liberty, and the good fare from the abundance which nature endows man. There is no human inferior or superior to the other, since all humans are endowed by their “Chi” uniquely.
To Zik – and to the likes of me – there is no fundamental difference therefore among Nigerians: Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Efik, Igbira, Fulani, Berom, Tiv, Ogoni, Nupe, Kanuri, and so on. Nigeria’s rich human tapestry is its greatest strength, and might also be its major downside, if improperly managed.
The Igbo themselves say, “:Umunna wu Ike; Umunna wu kwa Oria Ukwu!” A man’s kinsmen are as much his strength, as they are his waist pains. In the Zikist context, the Nigerian problem is a class question, rather than the problem of ethnic difference.
This was confirmed to me two weeks ago in Indianapolis, when I met a very remarkable Nigerian; Idris Abubakar, a young Hausa man who is currently in his doctoral program at Michigan State University, studying Education Administration. Idris was a former “Almajirin” – a street urchin, running around in the streets of Zaria.
One day, a Lecturer at the College of Education, Zaria, accosted him with his friends: “You live here in Zaria, with a University and a College of Education nearby, and you young folk are not curious about the great civilization inside those closed walls?”
The next time he came, he brought them forms to the College of Education, Zaria. Of all the people he spoke to, Idris was the only one who felt touched and curious. He took the form and later read English/Education at the College of Education, and later on at the Ahmadu Bello University.
In due course, he found his way by providence to Michigan, and long story short, he is today pursuing his doctorate, and committed and passionate about freeing the Almajirin.
That is a long way from the streets, for a former street boy, who came to know that he is more than a street urchin. He is a leader of men too, and his kingdom is on that very spot where he stands.
Zik taught that by harnessing the strength of the likes of Idris, everywhere in Nigeria, we could build a great, united, and prosperous nation. Azikiwe believed in a broadbased coalition of all Nigerian ethnicities united by common economic and political interests.
Nigeria drifts today from that vision of economic determinism, spiritual balance; social regeneration; mental emancipation; and Political resurgence. In its place has triumphed Ethnic particularism; religious fundamentalism; fascism, and dependency.
The future of Nigeria now depends on the rise of Zikist ideas to be led by a new generation who must be taught revolutionary Zikism: the idea that Nigeria as a nation is a radical imperative and that those who wish to dismantle it are the enemies of the people.
That Nigeria’s problem is not the problem of “tribalism” but of elite greed, because the challenges that face the workers and peasants of the North are the very same that face the workers and peasants of the South.
For these, the common enemy is political greed not geographic difference. Those who send the Almajirin to kill, Idris said, have all their children in London, Cairo, and Dubai. He knows now because he was shown the light and he found his way out of the darkness of fundamentalism. Indeed Zik did say: “Show the light and the people will find the way.” It is about time we showed more light.