Saturday, the 5th of November 2016 was and will remain memorable to Egbu people of Imo State who played host to one of young and finest administrators, public servant per excellence and orator of uncommon wisdom, Chief Osita Chidoka OFR, Ike Obosi, as a Guest Lecturer during the third session of the Seventh Synod held at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Diocese of Egbu.
His deep and sound Anglican background came to fore when he regaled the distinguished audience with brief but rich Anglican history.
In his opening remarks, prior to the lecture proper, the former Aviation Minister expressed enthusiasm on the honor and privilege offered him to speak on a topic he long cherished and still holds very dear to his heart which he said, will be localized to Ndi Igbo which he termed “Uche, Uchu na Egwu Chukwu” Restoring & promoting the values for the twenty first century – the role of the church”.
According to him, the choice of his message (lecture) stems from the fact that lots must have been said of Politics, the condition of the country, the promises, the gap between the promises and performance of Nigeria.
In his well delivered message, Chidoka dissected the topic to the utmost understanding of even a child. His core message was encapsulated on restoration of values of Ndi Igbo. He reiterated the fact that the Igbos are reputed for common sense, wisdom, discretion, intellect, knowledge & of course, innovation (Uche), doggedness (uchu) and respect for life & fear of God (egwu Chukwu).
Chidoka noted that today’s world is a world that has changed so much. He said during one of his discussions with his father who turns 90 years on the 12thNovember he told him that from when he was born in 1926 up till 1940s the difference in time and scope was very little, but as from 1970 to 2016 “the world seem to have changed in quantum leaps.”
“Things that were unimaginable have happened, things you couldn’t think about or conceptualize in your brain now come to pass. And that is the spirit of the twenty first century. We have seen the world move in great strides. We have seen the world change so much that technology has made things we considered inconceivable now present with us.” He said.
Chidoka said: “But in all of these changes something has remained very significant, there are timeless unchanging values that support these changes we are seeing. That is why when the Igbos gather and complain about marginalization, deprivation, bad state of roads, I say to them, it is because we as a people have somehow departed from the values that made us who we are”. “I say before we think about external issues affecting us, we have to come back to the issues that are within us and the ones that are within our control”.
He tasked Ndi Igbo to imbibe those values that made it possible for Nnamdi Azikiwe to go to America, come back from America with nobody to work with, he sent a group of eight (8) young Igbo people abroad, waited for them to return and by the time they came back, it took Igbos twenty years to cover the gap between them and the Yorubas in Engineering, law, public service & other professions. He noted that in the 1960s, the South East region was the fastest growing regions in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. The South East of Nnamdi Azikiwe which he handed over to Michael Okpara was the South East which was reputed to have built universities, built palm plantations from palm kernel. The major export then was palm kernel. This was possible because the Igbo’s of then relied on Uche, Uchu & Egwu Chukwu,” he said.
The deep soul searching message came with intermittent references to some events from the book, Arrow of God written by Chinua Achebe. While buttressing the point on “Uche”, he made particular reference to why Ezeulu in Arrow of God sent one of his sons to school to learn the white man’s language sensing that the white men may be in their town for a long period of time. Ezeulu by sending his son to learn the white man’s language wanted to make sure his family was not cheated or schemed out on any privilege from the white men by the few who understood the white man’s language.
Chief Osita Chidoka went on to state that ‘uche’ common sense has been the major driver of technology, growth and innovation.
Continuing he said: “Igbos were very skillful that when they got to some part of America they were the ones that were able to plant and tend tobacco because they came with skills of yam planting”. Igbos are reputed for hard work ‘Uchu’.
The former Minister noted that the Igbos are not known for violence, he said: “In Igbo land it’s an abomination to spill blood, it’s equally an abomination to steal yam in most parts of Igbo land. The Igbos hold sacred so many principles, we have natural fear and respect for the unknown such that when Christianity came it was easy for us to accept it because Christianity reaffirmed our love and respect for human life, it reaffirmed our respect for that which is unseen, it reaffirmed our respect for fellow human beings. And that is the fear of God, which was why the Igbos didn’t know the word corruption and till now there is no Igbo word for corruption simply because it is alien to us, the Igbos”. He said.
Chidoka maintained that the church has a critical role to playin restoring the true Igbo values, pointing out that “our true value of ‘uche’ (common sense) has been replaced today with respect for ‘ndi nnukwu nmanwu’ (the wealthy).” “We have stopped respecting the hard work of our hands and now respect riches/fame, irrespective of the means such sudden wealth was acquired.”
The former Minister in his lecture made references to the songs of both Late Chief Osita Osadebe and Oliver De Coque. “Osadebe in the 1970s released an album titled ‘Peoples Club of Nigeria’, in the album Osadebe likened members of peoples club to men with good and exemplary characters in Nigeria, he never mentioned that they were rich men.” He said.
“All the businessmen Osadebe mentioned in that album were men with credible source of livelihood. It was until Oliver De Coque came that the praise of people with dubious and suspicious characters took over with his album ‘enwere nnukwu nmanwu new otinkpu, nnukwu nmanwu puta obodo enwelu oso, otinkpu anaeti gidigi bu ugwueze’ then he will start naming all the 419ners and calling them ‘obu nnukwu nmanwu’. So the ‘nnukwu nmanwu’ phenomenon came into Igbo land, then we saw 419 people become House of Assembly members, we saw them become Sirs and Knights in churches, we saw them become example of what the Igbos are not, we saw them detract from the principles that propelled us.” So the church has serious responsibility to restoring the good values of Igbos.” He added.
“Look at governance in the South East, the southeast has no business waiting for federal allocation every month to run the south east. Before the civil war, eastern region as the fastest growing economy was paying the salary of his workers, was building roads.” “When Ukpabi Asika came back in 1970 after the war and set up the government, he was running it from the resources of the east central state then as it was and with little help from the rehabilitation efforts. It was the federal government’s appropriation of the mineral resources of the country that led to this new federal allocation syndrome.”
Chidoka said those in Igbo land who feel that Nigeria has not treated them well should hold their leaders accountable. He said: “instead of us turning the monthly allocations to a capital for developing the state, we turned it into a consumption capital, security vote, build bridges to nowhere and to load their pockets with that which has been received as the seed capital.” “When a farmer receives yam seedlings and ends up eating the head of the yam, he will definitely not have yam to plant during the next farming season”.
“So we were eating the capital and we are thinking how the south east can develop. There is no reason why the south east regional zone should not be the first to build an internal rail system to be moving our people and their goods around. There is no reason why the south eastern region would not be the first to ask the federal government to hands-off the federal roads in the south east and allow us to build our roads for the survival of our own people, I’m saying this because at the end of the day our value system is one that promotes merit, equity and growth.”
In conclusion Chief Chidoka who graced the occasion as a guest lecturer to the synod with his wife Iyom Chidinma said: “What we need in Igbo land today is not the ‘nnukwu nmanwu’ syndrome but the ‘ndi eziomume’ syndrome. He however called on the church to take up the responsibility as the prophet of the Old Testament in vision.