Bronx, New York-During their July 15, 2017 visit, four delegates of the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) were swamped with questions.
Alaigbo development foundation is a major organization that leads the charge for economic and social justice on behalf of the Igbos, a major ethnic tribe in Nigeria.
Seated along one side of the table at the center of a large room, from right to left, were: Professor Nath Aniekwu, the Secretary of ADF; Professor TU Nwala, the President; Doctor D. Ikedife, Chairman of the Board of Trustees; and Mazi S. Ohuabunwa, Chairman of the Committee on Investment and Development.
The audience, who had gathered to familiarize themselves with the work the organization is doing were all Nigerians of Igbo descent, mainly middle-aged men, with a few in their early thirties and a couple of women too. The large room was filled and spilling over.
Before the event began, people held hands and together sang the most heartfelt song heard in recent years; then a prayer full of life was delivered by Reverend Joseph Nwachukwu.
'Can we quickly proceed with the kola nut protocol?' Dr. Dozie Ikedife called out. 'I am a surgeon, and we act fast!' People chewed on their kola nuts, smiled at one another and wondered what would happen next.
Everybody wanted to hear what the visitors had to say, their tone of voice, and their manner of engagement.
'Let's hear all the questions first, and then the delegates can answer them,' suggested an authoritative voice. Hundreds of hands went up.
Line by line, Professor Nath Aniekwu wrote down the questions, thirteen in all. They ranged from what the panel thought about ways to get the Igbos to love one another to their views on the agitation in Biafra, and the restructuring of Nigeria. People wanted to hear what they had to say on MASSOB, and IPOB, and the threat the Igbos face in Nigeria; what benchmark ADF set for themselves, what Igbos living in Northern Nigeria should do if they were threatened, and the panel's view on other Igbo organizations.
Below are a few of the issues and questions, and the author's interpretation of the answers. Though the answers given by the panel were very detailed and nuanced, the author has summarized them.
What was the purpose of your visit to the Bronx, and to the United States?
'Four reasons,' answered Mazi Ohuabunwa. He explained that it was to make the public aware of the threat that Igbos face, to build support for the Igbo struggle, to explain these issues directly to affiliate members of the ADF, and to elicit feedback from the general audience.
What support does ADF get from Igbos in Nigeria?
Plenty of support, said Professor Nwali, adding this came both from the community and from dignitaries. Looking at an impressive list of ADF supporters, it would take two pages to fit in every name. Within the list are royals, reverends, chiefs, governors and entrepreneurs. His Royal Majesty Lawrence Agubuzu is among them, and so is Nnaemeka Achebe, Obi of Onitsha. Reverends Maxwell Anikwenwa, Emmanuel Ude, and Emmanuel Chukwuma are also believers in ADF. Men like Professor Bath Nnaji, Mr. Frank Nneji, Mr. Cosmas Maduka and Professor Elo Amuchiazi are on the list, and His Excellency Peter Obi, Chief SIO Odogwu-Ide Asaba, Chief KUKalu, Dr. Uma Eleazu, and Captain Emma Iheanacho are fans of ADF.
What relationship does ADF have with other Igbo organizations?
ADF is not in competition with other Igbo groups, said Mazi Ohuabunwa; instead, ADF seeks to complement them. Ohanaze is still the number one Igbo organization today. Some ADF members belong to other Igbo organizations. Moreover, Akuruo-Ulo (Bring Your Wealth Home), a popular ADF program, has been adopted by many other Igbo organizations.
Can you talk about the Igbo situation of today?
The Igbo situation has not changed since after the civil war, Professor Nwala said. One has to understand Nigerian history and its Constitution, and the role played by the British, in order to comprehend what the Igbo man is up against.
'What would a man do if someone came to his house and attacked his wife and children? Would he not take a wooden stick and swing at the attacker? That is called self-defense. We are not going to provoke anyone, but we reserve the right to self-defense, 'he added.
How does the panel view MAASOB and IPOB?
Self-determination is the right of everyone. There is nothing improper about making a noise for self-determination, as long as one neither kills nor harms another person. Furthermore, a case can be made for the right of an individual to control their indigenous resources. A channel of relationship is necessary with these groups so that we can counsel and reprimand them when they go in the wrong direction.
Collaboration with neighbors and friends of the Igbos
ADF is mindful of other ethnic groups who are our neighbors, and who, because of their bond with ndigbo-people of Igbo descent -suffered a great deal during the civil war and continue to suffer even to this day. So there is an active effort by ADF to keep up good relationships with ethnic groups who are neighbors of the Igbo tribe.
Projects and committees
'We have committees dealing with various vexing issues facing the Igbos. Any social or economic concern you can imagine, we probably have it covered, 'said Professor Nath Aniekwu. This includes a 'Federal character committee,' responsible for the creation of job opportunities on behalf of the Igbos.
The ADF delegation not only proved to be mentally sharp, stylish and unafraid, but also humorous and well-informed.
Hearing how forceful the panel was in standing up for the Igbos in today's Nigeria allayed fear in the heart of so many listeners. On the other hand, facing up to the many discriminatory challenges confronting the igbos was crushing to some individuals. Nonetheless, with plenty of beer to drink, fried rice and chicken to eat, time raced quickly.
The Renaissance forum, TRF and Igbozue Connecticut USA, both, non-profit organizations that support Igbos living in Nigeria and the United States planned the event.