The Igbo Network
THE 2000 AHỊAJỌKỤ LECTURE
IGBO ENWE EZE: THE IGBO HAVE NO KINGS
PROFESSOR CYRIL AGODI ONWUMECHILI, B.Sc
Special (LONDON) PhD (LONDON); C. Phys (UK) Hon. D.Sc (IFE) Hon. D.Sc (ESUT)
BY SIR FESTUS CHUKWUEMEKA EZE, BA; MA; MNIM FIAMN, CDA, FIMC; KCSJ, KGS
FORMER REGISTRAR, ASUTECH/ENUGU STATE UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE
AND TECHNOLOGY. AND PRESENTLY HEAD OF MANAGEMENT STUDIES
EBONYI STATE UNIVERSITY ABAKALIKI.
Ndu isi ọchịchị e kenee mụ ụnụ
Ndu Eze ekene nụ
Ndu Nze na Ndu Ọzọ ekene nụ
Ọha na Eze e kenee mụ ụnụ
The legacies of the various cultures in a country tend to remain ingrained as they are transmitted from generation to generation. In spite of this, colonial and subsequent governments have grafted uniform governmental structures on the different ethnic communities in Nigeria. That has helped to legitimize the recognition of Ndu Eze even while discussing Igbo Enwe Eze (The Igbo have no kings). In fact, the saying “Igbo Enwe Eze" is a reference to the characteristic traits of the Igbo. It should not be taken literally as a total denial that any king ever existed anywhere in the entire Igboland.
There was at least one exception. The Nri people had pre-colonial kings. Nri is part of Northern Igbo, many of whom were believed to have immigrated from Benin or Igola, and kept their tradition of chiefs and kings. If this view is sustained, the very long eventful epic - Akụkọ Eze Dba na Iduu – some of my age mates or older learnt and recited as teenagers, may well have been the relics of their exodus or odyssey. Despite this, most Igbo communities had no kings.
The pre-colonial traditional government of the Igbo without kings imbued in them the characteristic traits that prompt the saying that “Igbo Enwe Eze”. It appears that in recent times the phrase is sometimes used in circumstances that suggest unwholesome connotation. Perhaps this is because the traditional governments of certain other influential ethnic communities in Nigeria had kings. Let us not disparage this legally without due consideration.
Our purpose here is to examine the legacies of Igbo Enwe Eze in the light of our times before pronouncing it a good or bad heritage of the Igbo. To provide a contrast, we briefly outline the traditional governments of certain Nigerian communities with kings and summarize their legacies. We then take a deeper look at the traditional government of the Igbo without kings: its structures and conduct, its religious and cultural setting, and its response to the external threat of colonization before summarizing its major legacies. The role of self-reliance in the fortunes of the Igbos is then examined because it appears to because it appears to be salient among specific local examples are given wherever possible. Finally, certain parallels are drawn between the legacies of Igbo Enwe Eze and scientific culture before reaching our conclusion.
2. SOME NIGERIAN TRADITIONAL GOVERNMENTS WITH KINGS
The Hausas had kings who were regarded as sacred. A king owed his rulership to his aristocratic descent. Members of the royal family assisted them in the affairs of the government. They appointed district and village heads to administer parts of their kingdoms. Loyalty was a major factor in the promotion of their appointees. Stride and Ifeka (1971 P. 109) stated:
"One reflection of the cultural unity of the Hausa peoples is the similarity of their systems of government. Early rulers were both political and religious heads of their people, their authority being enhanced by their sanctity, their key role in local religious ceremonies and their traditional descent from the founder of the state".
The Oba of Benin was a King very much revered by his people. But we learn from Elizabeth Isichei (1985 p. 91) that a certain class of chiefs from noble families known as the Uzama, represented the government of Benin before the foundation of the dynasty. Since the inception of the dynasty "successive Obas undermined their powers as time went on, and added the crown Prince, Edaiken, to their number." They eventually became of less political importance. “All free born Binis were theoretically the King's servants.”
The Oba appointed two classes of chiefs that formed the Council of State and advised the Oba. The palace chiefs undertook various duties in the court including responsibility for the guilds. They remained intensely subordinate to the king. The other class comprised the town chiefs who had no palace duties. The only chief that had right to argue with or even censure the Oba in public was a town chief, the Iyasere. But when the Iyasere died "his jawbone was sent to the Oba to show that the jaw which had disputed with the Oba in life became the Oba's in death." (Isichei 1985). Thus, it was affirmed that, the Iyasere not excepted, every Bini was the subject of the Oba.
The Yorubas had powerful kings. They lived in palaces in splendid ceremonials among their many wives, slaves; palace eunuchs, court officials, drummers, and praise singers. They were regarded as sacred and were deeply revered by their subjects (Isichei 1985 p.70). The ancestors of the very powerful Obas were believed to be descendants of Oduduwa, the progenitor of all Yorubas, and indeed of all human kind according to popular Yoruba legends. Such mighty Obas had the right to wear beaded crowns as the symbol of their authority.
A Yoruba king ruled with nobles. In all important matters, decisions rested in the hands of the king and a minority of nobles (Basil Davidson 1981 p. 123). This makes for quick decision and is supposed to foster unity. In this regard, Akinjogbin (1966 p. 451) opined "all these kingdoms believed in and practised the Ebi system of government. Under this system, a kingdom was regarded as a larger version of a family, and a country as a collection of kingdoms whose rulers look on one another as relations. Seniority was based on the believed ages of the various kingdoms."
But disagreeing to some extent, Basil Davidson (1981 p.123) states: "government by kings and nobles make it possible to unite the people of each main town firmly together, but difficult or impossible to unite the different towns. Each town's nobles tended to feel themselves in rivalry with those of neighboring towns, even though the ebi family system, as mentioned above, made all the towns part of the same big Yoruba family."
According to Davidson (1981 p.123), the Yoruba system of government mixed up politics with religion. Governance rested not only on the political power of the rulers appointed from the leading ruling families but also on their religious power. To illustrate, I was once told that ancient Ile-Ife had 201 gods. The 201st of these gods was the Oni of Ife, the King of Ife himself. If this is true, it must not be regarded as extraordinary. All the kings worldwide reported as sacred or divine were believed to be gods by their subjects. Outside Nigeria, some still exist in modern times. Indeed, it was an act of moderation and humility if the people of ancient Ife ranked their King last among their gods.
The following quotation from Professor Bolagi Idowu (1962) evinces the great impact the above governance model can have on the life of the Yoruba:
"The real keynote of the life of the Yoruba is neither in their noble ancestry nor in the past deeds of their heroes. The keynote of their life is in their religion: In all things they are religious…As far as they are concerned, the full responsibility of all the affairs of life belongs to the deity; their own part in the matter is to do as they are ordered through the priests or diviners whom they believe to be the interpreters of the will of the Deity..."
We may summarize the major attributes of traditional governments with kings as follows:
1. The king owes his enthronement to the accident of his birth in a royal family.
2. The king is regarded as a god by the citizens of his kingdom who are all his subjects. He is deeply revered by his subjects.
3. The king wields both political and religious power.
4. The king rules with an advisory council of state consisting of nobles who owe their positions to appointment by the king and/or to their ancestry. They remain loyal to the King in order to retain their positions.
3. IGBO TRADITIONAL GOVERNMENT WITHOUT KINGS
Most Igbo governed themselves without giving power to chiefs or kings. They organized themselves into many independent village governments. Village councils and assemblies met periodically, and could also be summoned as the need arose to discuss and take decisions on both internal and external affairs of the village. The councils might be limited to certain age grades but the assemblies were for all and sundry. Every man could and did have his say on all matters under discussion. Nobody had any special privilege because of ancestry.
There are however some social structures in the communities. The entire community is divided into age grades. Each grade has its recognized rights, duties and responsibilities for the good of all. The age grade of elders includes those that hold the Ọfọ stick. Each holder of the Ọfọ stick is regarded as the titular “father” of an extended family group that originally descended from the same ancestor or what may be called lineage. His privilege ends with the right to keep and administer the Ọfọ stick as the need arises according to tradition.
The Igbo have title societies open to all free borns of the community. There are however certain qualifications. Depending on the community, these may include: age, virtuous life style, contributions to development of the community, dedication to truth, peace and service, prowess in some human affairs, and of course sufficient wealth to pay the cost of investiture of the title. The title holders carry respect, honour and prestige. They have recognized rights, duties and responsibilities. Among the Southeastern Igbo in the Cross River areas, there is also the Ekpe political association.
Certain traditional duties and functions are reserved for elders and/or title holders. These include: conducting funeral rites, marriage ceremonies, libations, kola nut ceremonies; communing with ancestors, etc. The traditional government also delegates certain powers to the age grade of elders and/or title holders as appropriate. In such matters they function like standing committees of the village assembly. These include: determination of general policies, guidance and decisions on traditional issues, handling of extremely abhorrent acts known as abominations such as iru ala (defiling the earth); adjudication of cases involving traditional rights, sharing of inheritance, ownership of land and economic trees thereon, etc.; as well as settlement of difficult and prolonged disputes referred to them. Sometimes, if serious miscarriage of justice is feared their adjudication may be appealed to the village council. It is noted that title holders are also members of their appropriate age grades. But even within their age grades, they enjoy their respect, honour and prestige. In the above ways, the elders and title holders enjoyed greater participation in Igbo traditional government than others.
Igbo traditional government often consisted of two or more tiers. The lineages of all the people of a village are descendants of the same ancestor. There are ancestral ahiajoku and ndu ichie shrines, and a holder of the ancestral Ọfọ stick for the village. The village government comprises the first tier. Secondly, in most cases, the respective progenitors of a group of villages, in what we may call a town, are believed to be the descendants of a common ancestor, the founder of the town. The villages take their seniority from the seniority of their progenitors. There is an ahiajoku shrine and a holder of the Ọfọ stick for the town. In such a case there is a larger second tier of government, the town government, for the group of villages making up the town. There is a town council, a town assembly and all the structures described at the village level. The only difference is that villages send representatives to the town council except as may be otherwise stipulated. Quite often there is a third tier of government where the progenitors of a group of towns, in what may be called a clan, are believed to have a common ancestor. As in the second case above, there is a clan ahiajoku shrine, a holder of the Ọfọ stick for the clan, a clan council and a clan assembly. The towns elect representatives to the clan council. The seniority of the towns follows the believed seniority of their progenitors.
The kinship stories on the basis of which the larger group of villages or towns affiliates are often uncertain. They may appear purely legendary, lurid and tenuous. Sometimes, they appear like mere rationalizations of names and sayings. Because the events are supposed to have taken place at the inception of the communities in the great past, beyond the reach of living memory, they can hardly ever be verified. Nevertheless, they arouse strong emotions; they are passionately believed and their appeal is sufficiently strong to bind the affiliated communities together.
We may illustrate such kinship legends with our case at lnyi clan. Inyi is a clan of nine towns, namely: Umuome, Enugu, Obule, Amankwọ, Agbariji, Arum, Ụmụagụ, Akwụ, and Nkwere. The founder of the clan was Inyi Omire and his wife Ukagbantu. There are detailed lurid stories of where Inyi came from, his childhood under foster parents, the fortune teller's prophecy that this brave child had a great future, the two abominations associated with him, his banishments, his means of survival and how he got his five sons.
Following the history of Inyi I was taught in primary my own research about 1940, my own research about 1950 and the account given by Dr. Agwuna (1981), the first five towns listed above descended directly from the five sons of Inyi in that order of seniority. Because the ahiajoku shrine of Inyi clan is Enugu, some put Enugu first and explain that Enugu lost his birth right to Umuome by insisting on choosing the bigger part of the chicken which is not the part for the eldest son. It was believed that Arum descended from the daughter of Agbariji, that Umuagu was picked in the bush where he was abandoned because of some abomination as was the practice then; and that both Akwu and Nkwere were the descendants of groups that escaped from communal upheavals at the neighbouring towns of Akwu Achi and Nkwere Ubaha respectively.
Indeed, some such kinship legends might have originated because the Igbo knew the benefits of and desired large territorial governments, or at least cherished acting together on matters of common interest of all the components. But being essentially pacifists and lacking large armies, they rejected empire building by conquest and looked for other bases for common action. Indeed, there were other bases for further extensions for common action beyond the kinship of the clan. There is the concept of iji ala (having common grounds). On this principle, clans that may not necessarily have common boundaries cooperated with each other as if they were in a loose confederation. Iji ala is the concept that associates various clans that have common mores, regarded as the laws of the land.
Even beyond the concept of iji ala, the Igbo had sometimes sought for
wider bases for association. One such basis is the invocation of natural
boundaries from geographical features. Such groupings include: Ndu Ọhaozara
(peoples of scrubland), Ndu ala ike (peoples of stony land), Igbo Ufesi Odo (Igbos around
There should be no doubt that ultimately, all Igbo must have ancestral and sociological affinities. This is evidenced by their common language and the strong similarity of their mores. Sociological and anthropological researches have continued in their attempts to elucidate the origins and relationships of the various Igbo peoples. One of the most comprehensive attempts so far is the work of Oriji (1990). He has woven together the origins of practically all the Igbo groups.
"The early history of the Igbo people is yet to be systematically reconstructed. Archeology will play an important part in such a reconstruction.” (Alagoa 1985 p. 401). Indeed, Archeology is already illuminating the history of the Igbo and elucidating its interpretation. Excavations discovered at Ugwuele, near Okigwe, the stone axe factory site dated about 500,000 years ago which was described as one of the largest in the world. Exquisite 9th century bronze and clay artifacts were discovered at Igboukwu (Shaw 1970). They were older, distinctive in quality, style and material from the better-known bronzes of Ife and Benin, and therefore could not be related to Benin and Ife. Doubtful attempts were made to relate them to very far places like India, North Africa, and Middle East. But later archeological finds in Igboland and the anthropological researches of Onwuejeogwu (1972) appear to have now changed the interpretation of the Igboukwu artifacts.
It is now thought that the political organization responsible for the bronzes was born at a place near Aguleri under a founder known as Eri. Some of his descendants spread north into Igala, and some moved south and established at Nri. Alagoa (1985) argues that they could have got some of their materials from trade at the Niger Delta. The interesting accounts of the influence of Nri people over a large area of Igboland and their pacifism are relevant to our topic.
Onwuejeogwu (1972) described how the Nri People spread their religious and ritual power and authority over a large area of Igboland. The Nri were constant visitors to Inyi but they did not confer political, social ritual nor religious titles or authority to Inyi people as Onwuejeogwu (1972) suggested. They did not invest the Ọfọ stick nor the staff of office. They could remove abomination, but in Inyi, after the necessary propitiation this can be done by any man from any village outside those believed to have common mores (iji ala) with Inyi. However, Alozie and Uchendu (with fully tattooed faces signifying their title of ichi) regularly visited Inyi from Nri during the season of iru nkpu (which early Europeans called fattening). In addition to selling copper and bronze anklets (nja), and whistles, they tattooed a line of design (mbubu) from the neck, through the chest to the waist of rich and brave girls.
Meanwhile, we now turn to the influence or religion in Igbo traditional government and life. In the first place there is no equivalent of the king elsewhere who combined political and religious powers. "The village society had its social norms and a strict sense of what was lawful and just. Its members allowed their daily lives to be governed and guided by such norms and concepts. Above all, the strong belief of the Igbos in the Supreme deity they called Chukwu gave remarkable religious colour to the life and work of every Igbo. All this helped to create effective government at the village or local level which adequately met the day to day needs of Igbo people" (Osae and Odunsi 1973 p.97). In addition to the Supreme deity, Chukwu Okuke (God the creator), the Igbos had some spiritual forces to whom they also prayed. In Inyi clan, for example, Aja ala (earth force) was influential. An elderly man had a shrine for Ndu ichie (Spirits of ancestors) and a shrine for ahiajoku (Yam force). An elderly woman had a shrine for Chukwu Okuke, who gives children to mothers. The intercession with the minor spirits and forces is like Christians praying to angels and saints but there is no doubt in either belief system that these are inferior to the supreme deity. When a woman died, her father's relations who came to bury or permit her burial destroyed her Chukwu Okuke shrine after receiving the traditionally-codified accompaniments. When a man died, his male children maintained his shrines. As his descendants increased, they strove to maintain the shrines of their ancestor. Ultimately, the shrines of a lineage progenitor were maintained by the whole lineage.
The remarkable influence of Igbo oracles that spread widely far beyond Igboland has attracted the interest of historians from the early ones like G. Jones (1939) to the later ones like Alagoa (1985). Oracles provided avenues for appealing cases to a god. After offering sacrifice at the shrine, the judgment of the god was pronounced by the priest who was the god's mouthpiece. The oracles could also bestow the blessing of fertility to a childless woman. The oracle could kill those disobeying its verdict and disputants who invoked it falsely. For fear of the latter, most litigants told the truth.
The nationally famous oracles of Igboland widely believed to give impartial verdicts were: the Ibini Ukpabi of Arọchukwu, the Igwe-ka-Ala of Umunneọha, the Agbara of Awka, the Amaduọha of Ọzụzụ, the Ojukwu of Diobu, and the Onojo Oboni of Ogurugu. The influence of Ibini Ukpabi covered most of the Igbo hinterland and stretched through the Cross River and the Niger Delta and beyond to Urhobo, Idah and Idoma. The influence of Onojo Oboni covered Igala outside Igboland and their royal house at ldah consulted this oracle.
The influence of an oracle was spread by its agents who traveled widely. This factor made Ibini Ukpabi pre-eminent. The Arọ who acted as its agents maintained thriving trade activities and organized settlements at all important centres in Igboland, the Niger Delta and the Cross River areas, especially along the main trade routes. There was a kind of symbiotic arrangement between them and the oracle operators. They were respected and no one dared harm them for fear of the oracle. This enabled them to procure and channel slaves and their merchandise to the Delta markets without impediment. In the name of lbini Ukpabi tracking down wrong doers, they used mercenaries from Abam, Edda, Ọhaọfịa and Abrịba to ravage communities as in the case of Ogeni at Enugu Inyi, looting properties and capturing people to sell as slaves. The Ogeni community was surrounded and completely wiped out. They also used mercenaries against their trade rivals.
Although the Arọ had the religious power of lbini Ukpabi and the military might of the mercenaries available to them, they never attempted to build an empire by force. This again points to the pacifistic nature of the Igbo. Nevertheless, the British then in the Niger Delta feared the dominating influence of the Arọ and believed that an Arọ empire virtually existed. This was regarded as a threat to the British empire-building strategy. As a result, a punitive British expedition arrived at Arọchukwu on 24 December 1901, destroyed the shrine of lbini Ukpabi and hanged some Arọ chiefs in 1902 (Crowder 1968 p.129).
4. CONFLICTS OF COLONIAL AND TRADITIONAL GOVERNMENTS
Historians have often drawn attention to the military weakness of segmentary governments like those of the Igbo. On the other hand, large kingdoms can raise strong armies. Possibly, the realization of their military limitations contributed to the pacifist tendencies of the Igbo to which attention has already been drawn. In the light of this, it is relevant to briefly outline the conflicts between colonial and traditional governments in the period of the establishment of colonial rule.
The British began the establishment of their rule over Nigeria by negotiating, persuading and signing treaties of protection with the big kings and chiefs holding sway over large areas and peoples. They believed that the protectorates treaties transferred the sovereignty of the areas to them, even if the people were not consulted by their traditional rulers. Later: they preferred the swifter method of military conquest taking advantage of their superior weapons and technology. In southern Nigeria, the British swiftly imposed their rule by overthrowing King Jaja of Opobo in 1887, and easily conquering Ijebu in 1892, Nana of Itsekiri in 1894, Benin and Ilorin in 1897. The events were similar in Northern Nigeria. Sir Frederick Lugard easily captured Bida and Kontagora in 1901, Bauchi in 1902, Kano and Sokoto in 1903. In Eastern Nigeria there was no single state or power whose defeat would put the whole region or any large part of it into British hands. Although Arọchukwu was captured in 1901-02, it was not until about 1920, after 20 years, that the whole of Igboland was subdued in a series of small military expeditions (Afigbo 1984).
Michael Crowder (1971) edited a book on the West African resistance to the establishment of European colonial rule. The following is cited from page 15 of his overview:
"The nine case studies in this volume are concerned with the confrontation of African and European armies, and as such do not cover the resistance of the segmentary societies or peoples divided into numerous petty chiefdoms which had no coordinated military organization beyond the level of the village. Nevertheless, such societies in particular the Benue peoples of the Benue valley in Nigeria and the peoples of Southern Ivory Coast - provided some of the stiffest resistance the colonial forces of occupation experienced. Since each village offered its resistance, there was no identifiable army to defeat among the Igbo as there was, say, among the Tukulor, the Emirates of Nigeria or Samori's Mandingo empire. Each village or federation of hamlets had its own war leader. These societies conducted what was in effect guerilla warfare against the invading armies, quite the best tactic that could have been adopted in the circumstances. Unfortunately no detailed study has yet been made of the military resistance offered by these societies to colonial occupation."
In view of his last sentence we briefly outline the encounter between the British and Inyi community. After taking the neighbouring clan of Ufuma, the British delayed attacking Inyi probably because an article in the National Geographic in about 1908 cautioned special preparations before attacking the warlike peoples of "Inyis and Ishielus". On the other hand Inyi people were planning to attack and loot the British and sent reconnaissance groups to study their outlines.
Eventually, benefiting from the information of their spies, the British attacked at noon on Nkwo Abia day when the Ọzọ title investiture ceremony of Alfred Obika was at its peak, merry makers crowded the market and the Inyi clan was engrossed in festivities. Their firing from afar from the direction of Amankwo Inyi tore down twigs and branches of trees in the market They exploited the resulting pandemonium. With some research this event can be accurately timed because Nkwo Abia is always on the Nkwo day nearest to the 24th day of the third lunar month after the Aja Ala lnyi festival which takes place on the first full moon in October of each year.
The British attack swept through Inyi against unplanned and ill-equipped resistance. Maduekesi Ekwele, the third member of his family to become the leader of Inyi in succession, came out of his shelter in the double-face cave at Awla to surrender to the British with a cow, although his son was killed in the battle. The British settled on the outskirts of Amankwo and ordered the surrender of guns. All attempts to remove them by juju power and guerilla tactics failed. There was a second invasion and burning of houses associated with a certain McGregor. The exact cause of the second invasion was not clear from investigation but it was probably a reprisal for the continued harassment of the British.
Later, the British asked Maduekesi to nominate one of his sons to replace him as Inyi leader. Maduekesi suggested Ọhaka to the council but had to present his other son Ezechukwu, preferred by the clan council. Ezechukwu was made the first Warrant Chief of Inyi. The leaders of the British were identified as a certain Ọgba aji aka (one with hairy arms) and a ruthless Major. In the 1950s, I read a book, Juju and Justice in Nigeria, by Frank Hives. He recorded that the natives called him Agbajaka because of his hairy arms. I therefore believe that Frank Hives was the man Inyi people called Ọgba aji aka.
The above has outlined the military resistance related to the establishment of colonial rule. The introduction of taxation engendered another series of widespread insurrections. Indeed, the British approach to taxation was indicative of double standards. One of the causes of the unrest that led to King John granting the Magna Carta to the British people on 12 June 1215 was taxation. The British are proud of that event and also cherish that John Hampden resisted the tax imposed by King Charles I because neither the people directly nor their representatives were consulted to discuss and approve the taxation. In spite of these 'precedents', the British imposed taxation on Nigerian communities without the necessary consultation.
There were numerous riots in Nigeria, indeed all over West Africa against the introduction of taxation by European colonial rulers (Afigbo 1984 and Crowder 1968). After rationalizing why West Africans reacted so strongly against taxation, Afigbo (1984 p.480) recorded:
"The last and most famous riot against such imposition (of taxation) was the women's (Aba) riot of 1929-30 in Eastern Nigeria during which the women, among other things, asked the British to leave the country so that the people would run their own affair as they had done in the days of yore"
The introduction of taxation in Inyi clan has an interesting story. According to Inyi oral historians, the British gave the directive in about 1928 that all male adults be registered for the purpose of utu ala (contribution for the land). Arising from a serious misinterpretation of English into Igbo, it was believed that according to tradition the British would offer oji ala (land rent normally paid for using another person's land) to be shared by those being registered. Adolescent males reaching the age of puberty were enthusiastically registered.
When it transpired that the people were to make the contributions, there was a commotion. A delegation was sent formally requesting the British to pay land rent for occupying the people's land. When that failed and the tax had to be paid, the reverse argument was made that the age of puberty was no indication that the young male had an independent livelihood. My investigations in the 1950s through oral history could not establish how the misunderstanding of the age of liability was resolved, but the taxes were eventually paid under duress.
5. THE LEGACIES OF IGBO ENWE EZE
From the above review we note the major legacies of Igbo Enwe Eze as follows:
Indeed, Davidson (1981 p.113) posed the very fundamental question at the core of our topic.
"Does it mean that peoples without chiefs or kings were less successful than the peoples who formed themselves into states with central government?"
He answered emphatically as follows:
"Far from it. Some of these people without kings were to be among the most go-ahead of all the peoples of West Africa: very active in trade, very skillful in politics, very shrewd in dealing with their neighbours. Prominent among them were the Igbo who have lived since times beyond the reach of history, in the fertile land to the east of the lower part of the Niger. Most Igbo have governed themselves without giving power to chiefs."
6. LEGACY OF SELF-RELIANCE
Perhaps we should say more about self-reliance, which is strongly influenced by the legacies of Igbo Enwe Eze. It is clear from our review that the Igbo were among the last Nigerians to come under British colonial administration. Very soon there was no disguising their appetite for the trappings of Western civilization. Indeed, there was a local song glamourizing Western civilization. Their competitive spirit emerged in education as the vehicle for the acquisition of the good things of Western civilization.
Within 10 to 15 years of the last Igbo village being subjugated by the British, some Igbo were already working and settling in various parts of Nigeria. The Igbo took their destiny in their own hands. All over Nigeria, they were very active in the public and private sectors mainly as clerks, teachers, members of the security forces, artisans, petty traders and domestic servants to foreigners. Even without their kindred in high positions to act as godfathers, they began to improve their positions by dint of hard work. But their rapid progress did not go unnoticed. Indeed, it later contributed to ethnic rivalry in Nigeria.
The Igbo in the cities organized their traditional assemblies of people from the same village, town or clan, and often one person belonged to the movements at these levels. The assemblies at home and "abroad" (away from the clan) rendered mutual help to their members, promoted development in their clans of origin and often awarded scholarships to their sons and daughters. The various clan assemblies in a city federated to become an Igbo city union especially in cities outside Igboland. Some of the unions built Igbo schools in the cities of their abode such as in Kano: As time went on, individuals and assemblies mustered enough resources to build private schools in Igboland but the demand for education still appeared insatiable. In 1943 the Igbo State Union, a federation of the Igbo city unions, was created and its first assembly met at Aba. It had an anthem and an ambitious programme including the building of five secondary schools.
However, this was not unique. The lbibio National Union was already in existence. Some other ethnic groups with segmentary traditional governments like the Urhobo and the Tiv also experimented with national unions (Webster 1984 p.573). In 1948 the Yoruba joined the others with the formation of Egbe Omo Oduduwa. With limited success (Webster 1984), this was followed by the Egbe Omo Olofin.
The regionalization of Nigeria introduced by the MacPherson Constitution in 1951 acerbated the ethnic rivalries and bitter disunity in the nationalist movements in Nigeria. The regional governments provided focus for the major ethnic groups. The Eastern region controlled by the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) was dominated by the Igbo; the Western region controlled by the Action Group (AG) was dominated by the Yoruba; and the Northern region controlled by the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) was dominated by the Hausa and Fulani.
As full political independence and withdrawal of the British was becoming imminent, fears of domination of one ethnic group by the other began to loom. The Northern region had suspicion and deep fear of domination by the more educationally and economically advanced South. The Southern regions talked of the threats of the Fulani either to continue their interrupted march to dip the Quoran in the sea or to withdraw from the Nigerian Federation (Aluko 1984 p. 639). The Yoruba were becoming uneasy about the fast rise of the Igbo into prominence. Indeed, there were the allegations of threatened Igbo domination of the Yoruba (Coleman 1958 p.312; and Enahoro 1965 p.98). P.28
In the circumstance, when the British virtually offered self-government to the people of Nigeria "on a platter of gold", the Nort1len region refused to accept self government until they declared their readiness for it. The attempt by the Action Group to force the pace of self government against their wish precipitated the Kano riots of May 1953 in which at least 36 persons were killed and 240 were wounded (Aluko 1984 p.640). The Northern region seriously considered secession from the Nigerian federation. True to their legacy, the Igbo embraced the slogan of "One Nation, One Country, One destiny" and worked very hard to keep the Nigerian federation together. The NCNC wanted the Northern region "to be given time to decide on the date for independence and were anxious that no step should be taken on the issue which might push them towards secession" (Aluko 1984 p.641).
We may continue this sketch because it provides the background to an event that fully tested the self-reliance of the Igbo. In 1957 the Northern region declared its readiness to accept full internal self government by 1959 and Nigeria became an independent country under the British Commonwealth on 1st October, 1960. Ominously, this provided potent weapons to the defeated distrust among the regions and ethnic groups. The spiral of events that inexorably changed the course of Nigerian history from democracy to cycles of military rule began with a split among the leaders of the Action Group in the Western region.
The split led to the breakdown of law and order in the Western region. The Federal Government intervened with the appointment of a sole administrator for the region. The use of soldiers to control the ugly events in the Western Region introduced them into Nigerian politics. A military coup occurred in 1966, ostensibly to engender a Nigerian federation more peaceful than the one ruled by the politicians. Ironically, the effect was exactly the opposite.
Before the military rulers fully settled down, unprecedented riots occurred all over the Northern Region and parts of Western Region. Northern Nigerians wantonly massacred thousands of men, women and children of Eastern Nigeria origin in all walks of life and asked them to go home. In its wake, the second military coup occurred and eventually the civil war of 1967-1970 followed, as the Eastern Region declared secession as the State of Biafra.
The Biafran war tested the self-reliance of Eastern Nigerians, especially the Igbo, to its limit. The small Biafra was totally and effectively blockaded. Britain comprehensively armed Nigeria with modern and heavy weapons of attack by land, sea, and air. Initially, armed with machetes, and small fire arms, the hopelessly outnumbered and ill-equipped Biafrans faced the awesome armaments of Nigeria with great courage and determination. Then Biafran scientists and engineers began to fabricate grenades, mines, bombs, mortars, rockets, pontoons, plated vehicles etc. The contributions of these scientists and engineers were severely limited by lack of materials, tools and workshops but they greatly boosted morale.
Perhaps the most difficult problem was hunger. There was campaign for growing food crops everywhere in whatever land was left in Biafra that was being squeezed almost to a point as Nigerian forces advanced. People were urged to eat wild vegetation pronounced safe by scientists. Despite that and massive relief by the international charitable organizations, Kwashiokor was widespread and many people died of starvation. These was exploited by the powerful Biafran propaganda.
The Research and Production (RAP) wing of the defense effort built mini-refineries which together with the widespread home-made boiler refineries kept the vehicles going on Biafran roads. The RAP units manufactured salt, soap, soft arid hot drinks, perfumes and so on. Telex links with the outside world and Radio Biafra station, which were constantly re-located, were effectively maintained throughout the war. Thus the self-reliant efforts of Biafrans kept them going for about 30 months of the war against fearful odds. The BBC (1995) Time Watch television and video documentary titled, "Biafra Fighting a war without guns” shows only a glimpse of the heroic Biafran epic.
The self-reliant efforts of village assemblies, their improvement and development unions that quickly projected the Igbo into the front line of Nigerian affairs, saw them through the dreadful civil war and the reconstruction thereafter, have continued ever since. As the improvement and development of rural communities progressed, these village development unions mustered greater resources for bigger projects like the establishment of secondary schools that was earlier tackled by the entire Igbo State Union.
Again, I illustrate with examples nearer home. We spearheaded the founding of Inyi Welfare Association (IWA) in 1952 and Enugu Community Union (ECU) in 1968. These development unions have been responsible for expanding the main market and building market stalls, road improvement, building a post office and a town hall, facilitating village health clinic, promoting pottery industry, giving scholarship, establishing a secondary school and so on. These were projects selected by the town and the clan, as the case may be, as most important to them at the time. The projects were achieved through the self-reliant contributions of the communities. Most other development projects after these have been sponsored by the Government.
Federal government policy has articulated the need to develop rural communities at the grassroots level. So far, this has been pursued through the enhanced funding of local governments. Unfortunately, there has been little evidence of its impact at the village level. It should be possible to link the efforts of these development unions with the local governments through some cost-sharing arrangement for mutually approved projects. Hopefully, this may also promote greater accountability.
7. SCIENTIFIC CULTURE AND IGBO ENWE EZE
We find some parallels between scientific culture and the legacies of Igbo Enwe Eze. Scientific culture recognizes no kings and chiefs with divine knowledge. The tests of demonstrability and conformability are applied to the views of all scientists. The ancestry, country of origin and position in society do not confer any privilege on the discoveries and views of a scientist. The long-standing researchers and great achievers in a field of science may be respected and may be invited to write or review progress in the field but there is no servility to their views. Thus like the Igbos, science has no kings.
Scientific culture does not recognize any priest who speaks as the mouthpiece of nature. Views of the established religions and their interests are not allowed to influence the course of scientific enquiry. The celebrated case in history is the discovery by Copernicus in the 16th century that the Earth revolves round the Sun. The Church was greatly displeased and vehemently opposed it. It would have been a monumental set back if the discovery had been hidden or abandoned in deference to the Church.
Science thrives through open discussion in seminars, symposia and assemblies. Everyone has a right to attend and to speak at the scientific assemblies. Treaties on the freedom of movement of scientists are sought to ensure that the host country admits participants from all countries including those currently in conflict with the host. Life in Igbo traditional government, kinship among scientific disciplines is invoked to widen the fields covered and to enrich the intellectual and data resources available to the scientific associations and their assemblies. The scientific associations are also structured like the Igbo development unions. They federate from town to national and then to continental and world scientific unions. Scientific culture encourages competition in scientific investigation. It honours hard work and excellence. Like in Igbo legacy, promotion is by achievement and service to the scientific and the general community. Indeed, a systematic procedure is in place for assessing the achievements of those to be elected for awards of fellowships and prizes. Scientific inquiry develops self-confidence in its practitioners. Scientists are always ready to deal with new problems and to seek their solution. They have the propensity to question conventional wisdom and are easily adaptable to new situations in accordance with the latest discoveries. These are very much akin to Davison's (1981) conclusions on the legacies of Igbo Enwe Eze.
We have reviewed the traditional governments of the Igbo without kings. We have briefly outlined the contrasting traditional governments of certain communities in Nigeria with kings. Attention has been drawn to the major legacies of Igbo Enwe Eze, and their endorsements by historians. Certain relevant experiences of the Igbo have been discussed in the light of the legacies of Igbo Enwe Eze. At appropriate junctures, specific local events have been used as illustrations to provide the flesh of reality to the bones of the generalizations of history. The legacies of Igbo Enwe Eze are found to accord with modem trends and scientific culture.
Our conclusion is that the implications of Igbo Enwe Eze are democratic. self-reliant, scientific, modern and in tune with the best traditions of human kind. Indeed, in modern times, nations that have kings have been divesting them of political and religious powers that used to be their royal prerogatives
Ọha na eze
Let us proclaim Igbo enwe eze
Let us say it loudly
Let us say it proudly
E Kenee mu unu
A CITATION ON AHIAJOKU LECTURE & FESTIVAL 2000
PROFESSOR A. E. AFIGBO (NNOM)
Ahiajoku is about Igboness. Igboness is about those things that distinguish us from other Nigerians, and indeed from other peoples worldwide. Igboness cannot be defined in terms either of gene pools or of spiritual qualities. At the genetic level we are the same with all peoples classified as Negroid. At the spiritual level we are the same with all mankind being, as the holy books of the world put it, all breaths of God. Igboness is defined, and can be defined, only in terms of culture, that is in terms of certain mentifactual, sociofactual and artifactual aggregates which in turn define and constitute the way we are born, live, die and are buried - our culture and civilization.
A second fundamental point that should be made is that none of Ndi Igbo can claim that by himself or herself he or she decided to be Igbo. The decision was made by a being higher than any, or indeed all, of us: a being we call Chineke or Chukwu in Igbo and which, in the English language is called God. Thus our Igboness is a divine given. It is. It is not the way this stadium, which was conceived by man, designed by and constructed by man and can be taken apart any day by man, is. It is the way the Imo River or the Niger or the earth or the sky is - the manifestation of a divine fiat.
In recent times there has been a surreptitious, at time not so surreptitious, attempt to denigrate or even destroy Igbo culture, that is our Igboness, our identity. This campaign is part of the explanation for the epileptic existence which Ahiajoku experienced under certain administrations in this State which I do not want to name in order not to insult my pen. From the two fundamental points made above it should be clear to those involved in this campaign what it is they are engaged in. First they are aiming to destroy our Igboness, our culture, our identity. This, under certain United Nations Conventions, is included in the list of crimes against humanity known as genocide. In the second place they are questioning the wisdom of God who decided that we should experience in this world as Igbo and reach, or return to, Him by passing through the Igbo school of being and experience. Indeed, they are not just questioning God, they are playing at being God, at being Super-God.
I do not want to belabour these points here. I have hinted at them so that future Governments of the Igbo speaking parts of Nigeria, and other groups which think they know better than God may become aware precisely of what they are headed for when they seek to wipe the cultural slate of the Igbo people clean - and as part of that effort to undermine Ahiajoku or any other celebrations concerned with rediscovering, highlighting and sustaining the inner springs of our Igboness and being as a nation.
Having got this out of the way, I want to make another fundamental point about Ahiajoku. This is that it is pan-Igbo, embraces the entire geographic space which is Igboland as well as the entire organism known as Igbo culture and civilization. It is pan-Igbo because the lecturers are chosen on merit from all parts of Igboland. It is pan-Igbo because the topics treated are pan-Igbo in scope. It is pan-Igbo because attendance is open to every Igbo man, woman and youth. The attempt to make it pan-Igbo through the financial support of all Governments whose writs run throughout Igboland has not been quite successful for reasons I should not go into here: In some respects, this is nothing to bemoan. It just means that a Providence we cannot, or should not, question has chosen the Imo State Government and its people for this role of helping to create and sustain a pan-Igbo ideology, a pan-Igbo identity.
The last fundamental point I want to make here is that Ahiajoku was conceived, and has continued to be promoted, at the highest intellectual level. It is not an Eke Onunwa project or what, at the University College, Ibadan, we would call a Dugbe market project. The reason for this is clear. There is the question of the level from which the resource persons are drawn. Ahiajoku is also an exercise in interpretation - the interpretation of Igbo ways in the arts, science and technology of civilization, first to the Igbo of today who are almost strangers to it and then to those whom the Igbo interact with on the national and international planes. These latter, in particular, at times wonder if anything good can come out of Igbo Nazareth. This answers the question as to why it is high-brow and in English. Perhaps, there is a case for something else, which will serve as “Ahiajoku Retold for easy Reading” - for the Eke Onunwa level.
That done, it is my pleasure and privilege to invite all you illustrious sons and daughters of the land of our fathers to join me in inspecting our "Yam Harvest" for A.D. 2000. This particular harvest actually goes back to 1996 when the Di Ji who will take us through the barn was chosen by my predecessors on this seat. The gate to the barn is now wide open. After that comes the feasting.
You are All Heartily Welcome.
It is heart warming to note that a world renowned scholar of Professor Agodi Onwumechili's stature is the ljere - Masquerade; of this Year's Ahiajoku Lecture Festival. The Year 2000 Ahiajoku Lecture Planning Committee was thoughtful in making this choice, in view of the obvious gap created by the lapse of the festival from 1996, after the heart throbbing lecture titled Ezi Na Ulo! by (another eminent Igbo Scholar) Professor Chikezie Uchendu in 1995.
This Year's Ahiajoku Lecture titled 'Igbo Enwe Eze' derives from the age-long aphorism which points to the egalitarian or republican nature of the Igbo individual. This expression has over the years generated some controversy, misunderstanding and misinterpretations. Some Igbo and non-Igbo alike have understood this expression to mean that Igbo Society had no historical tradition of monarch or kingship until the advent of the colonial masters who introduced the warrant chiefdoms. Some others have at best interpreted this expression as referring to the ungovernable nature of the Igbo people; and yet some others have disagreed completely with these views, citing examples of monarchies in Igbo land that are as old as the Igbo Society.
Interestingly, Professor Agodi Onwumechili, a scientist of great repute has scientifically explored this age-long expression - Igbo Enwe Eze? with analytical dexterity and precision. In his characteristic manner, he has through a well-articulated historical expose of the Igbo Society and her neighbours of Nigeria, been able to assert that the Igbo Society was essentially republican in style of governance, though with traces of kingship, and or traditional rulership. This erudite Igbo Scholar has gone beyond the continuing controversy on the aphorism 'Igbo Enwe Eze', to provide an insight into the ancient democratic principles of governance, capable of strengthening the nascent democracy in Nigeria and the global village.
I sincerely recommend this year's Lecture Publication to the general public, as a valuable intellectual harvest of Igbo contribution to Nigerian and indeed world civilization.
Dr. Emman-Owums Owuamalam, JP
Hon. Commissioner for Information and Culture
A CITATION ON THE 2000 AHIAJOKU LECTURER
PROFESSOR CYRIL AGODI ONWUMECHILI, B.Sc General (LONDON); B.Sc
Special (LONDON) PhD (LONDON); C. Phys (UK) Hon. D.Sc (IFE) Hon. D.Sc (ESUT)
BY SIR FESTUS CHUKWUEMEKA EZE, BA; MA; MNIM FIAMN, CDA, FIMC; KCSJ, KGS
FORMER REGISTRAR, ASUTECH/ENUGU STATE UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE
AND TECHNOLOGY. AND PRESENTLY HEAD OF MANAGEMENT STUDIES
EBONYI STATE UNIVERSITY ABAKALIKI.
Your Royal Majesties,
My Lords Spiritual and Temporal,
Distinguished Scholars and Patriots,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Onye Obuna Jide Nkeya,
Ndi Igbo Nma Nmanuo!
I feel highly honoured, immensely lucky and exceptionally privileged to stand before you, the cream of our Igbo nation, on this epoch-making occasion. My task, being to perform an act which would thereafter, associate me with an event that has become since 1979, the pride of our Nation. I do not accept that my assignment is to introduce the high priest of today's intellectual harvest, as he needs no introduction. Besides, such an assignment would have been completely beyond me, considering that while I was yet to compete for entry into the University in the mid-sixties, our revered lecturer had for over a quinquennium, been a Professor of his dry and dreaded discipline. I rather see my role as that of child-masquerade, propelled into the arena by public goodwill and luck, to sweep the stage and herald the arrival of a giant masquerade.
Our giant masquerade Professor Cyril Agodi Onwumechili, is an erudite
Scholar of great international repute. He was born in 1932, in the quiet food basket town of. Inyi, in what is today Oji River Local Government Area of Enugu State. In the rural setting of those days, authentic right-handed sons of the soil like him, felt satisfied with their social status, and hardly concerned themselves seriously with formal education. But our Cyril, fuelled by a keen desire to learn the ways of the whiteman, went early to school, where he soon demonstrated great physical prowess and a high intellectual potential.
In the classroom, he led his class; while in the field of play, his firm, swift legs never missed a scoring chance. His teachers were certain that they had a star in their hands. Fortunately, excellence in footballing, had not become the wealth and repute it is today. It was therefore easy for his teachers to bend him in the direction or undistracted academic pursuit. And his efforts were rewarded when in 1944, and from that rural environment, he performed a feat by gaining admission on Government Scholarship, into the prestigious King's College Lagos.
Today his academic attainments are so numerous, his experiences so rich and varied and his life so full and effective that we need more than a whole day to recount them with a measure of justice. Within the limited time at our disposal, we can only present a sketchy profile and the landmarks in the career and public life of this man of great creativity, this distinguished academic, this excellent scientist, and this worthy kinsman with an intimidating array of academic and professional laurels.
After a brilliant period of studentship at King's College Lagos, our young Cyril won a major College Scholarship that took up to the country premier institution, the University College, Ibadan where in 1953, he obtained the University of London B.Sc General Degree in Physics, Pure Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. Still on Scholarship, he continued at Ibadan concentrating on physics and obtaining in 1954, the B.Sc Special Hons Degree. By that feat, he attracted attention to himself as being unquestionably capable of high level of originality and of pursuing sustained research. Though he was not generally patient with works of literature, young Cyril found Alexander Pope's Essays on Criticism most entertaining largely on account of the following stanza which haunted him and which he repeated often to himself:
A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain
And drinking largely sobers us again
Fuelled by Pope's advice young Cyril, still on Government scholarship, proceeded to work for and to earn from the University of London, the Ph.D Degree in Physics. And thereafter, he joined the Department of Physics, University College Ibadan, as a Lecturer II in 1958.
Within a record time of four years only, and as a Lecturer I this intellectual giant broke enough new ground in creative output and performed so outstandingly well in other relevant areas that (in 1962), he was without hesitation, elevated to the enviable position of Professor of Physics, with twin responsibility to direct the development of this discipline at Ibadan and to be a light unto the path of other seekers of truth in his dreaded terrain.
Thus, Professor Cyril Onwumechili, unaccustomed to loud-life and feather bed, rose through industry and commitment to excellence, and to the pinnacle of his academic career. In doing so, he set an academic record in Nigeria, that has remained impossible to beat.
It is necessary to recall at this stage Mr. Chairman, what the first indigenous Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan and another eminent son of Igboland, the late Professor Kenneth Onwuka Dike, (under whom I was, lucky to serve as Senate secretary in the country's first University of Technology), had to say about this guest lecturer:
It was purely on account of his outstanding competence and capacity for originality and incisive research that Cyril rose like a meteorite to the rank of a professor from lecturer I in less than four years. As I now look at the quantity, quality and galaxy of his contributions to knowledge and university education in Nigeria and beyond since 1962, I feel extremely proud to have been closely associated with him and thank God that when we have all passed by, his achievement, including numerous immortal works, will be there to vindicate the action of those of us who appointed him young.
Indeed, with over hundred Scientific articles in nationally and internationally respected and highly rated journals, with several book contributions and numerous technical reports and papers, Professor Onwumechili has recorded tremendous academic achievements and acquitted himself as a distinguished scholar and an outstanding academic administrator. Additionally, he is a proud member of over sixteen national and international professional bodies, including:
¾ The Nigerian Institute of Physics
¾ The Nigerian Academy of Science and Technology
¾ American Geophysical Union
¾ British Institute of Physics
¾ New York Academy of Sciences
¾ Third World Academy of Sciences
¾ World Power Conference and Society for Terrestrial Magnetism and Electricity of Japan
Similarly, he is a Fellow of over twenty national and international bodies which include:
¾ British Institute of Physics
¾ Science Association of Nigeria
¾ Nigerian Academy of Sciences
¾ New York Academy of Sciences
¾ The African Academy of Sciences
¾ Third World Academy of Sciences and
¾ The Nigerian Institute of Physics.
On account of his very high academic standing, his contributions to the advancement of learning and his achievements in the field of University Management in Nigeria; West African Sub-Region and beyond, Professor Onwumechili has been listed in World's Who is Who in Science; Dictionary of African Biography; Who is Who in the World; Dictionary of International Biography; and Men of Achievements and Africa Year Book to mention a few.
His University career runs through the range of Professor of Physics, Head of Physics and Dean of science at the University of Ibadan; Dean of Science and Physical Sciences at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Acting Vice-Chancellor Proposed University of Science and Technology, Port-Harcourt; Visiting Professor of Geophysics, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, USA; Vice-Chancellor, University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-lfe); Deputy President; President and later Vice-Chancellor, Anambra State University of Technology Enugu; Visiting Professor of Physics University of Wales at Cardiff, United Kingdom.
It is noteworthy that while Professor Onwumechili was at Ibadan, he ably directed several observatories in Nigeria including the observatory in Ibadan, Zaria, Kontagora and Sokoto. After this man of vision and creativity left Ibadan, those observatories he developed and maintained could not be sustained by his successors who lacked his diligence, patience and skill.
As expected of an academic giant, Professor Onwumechili had supervised several successful Masters and Doctoral degree students in several Universities; he had acted extensively as an external examiner in physics at various levels in the Universities within and outside Nigeria; and had directed several successful research projects financed within and from outside Nigeria. He had similarly served either as Chairman or member of over two hundred boards including Councils of Universities and Boards of organisations like
¾ the international Institute of tropical Agriculture
¾ UNESCO's African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions; Nigerian National Committee for UNESCO
¾ National Science Research Council of Nigeria
¾ Panel of Experts to prepare Policy for Nigeria
¾ Nigerian Energy Commission
¾ United Nation Panel of Experts on Science and Technology for Development
¾ UNESCO Regional Seminar in Africa on Re-orientation and Re- organization of studies and Research in Higher Education Having Regard to Requirements of Indigenous development.
While always committed to academic excellence, Professor Onwumechili took keen interest in University governance and management and disagreed with some of his impatient academic colleagues who canvassed the view that "those who can, teach while those who can't, administer." In time he became an established authority in university governance and leadership. As an ardent apostle of meritocracy he was always driven by a sense of equity and fair play in dealing with peers and institutional constituencies. He revolutionalised university administration at Ife and ASUTECH where hi institutionalized “policy guidelines” and "decisions on the basis of precedent". By so doing, dealt mortal blow on adhocrism, favoritism and arbitrariness which often hampered the smooth management of our universities.
An excellent committee-man, this giant masquerade was never tired of searching for consensus in dealing with issue. He knew when to bow out of situations and would do so when the ovation was loudest. For instance, as the Vice-Chancellor at Ife where his ability to act with impartiality and to hold the balance enabled him to provide the community with excellent leadership, he bowed out at the height of his popularity, declining a second term. Also, at Enugu, he bowed out even as the university community, and the cream of Enugu Community (who were impressed with his administrative prowess and unequalled ability to manage deprivation and institutional poverty) pleaded passionately with him, to stay on. Professor Cyril Agodi Onwumechili, is indeed a firm-minded apostle of efficiency who would always involve others in decision making, while making the final decision and accepting full responsibility for doing so. In the words of Elizabeth Browning, he is indeed.
A great man (who)
leaves clean work behind him
and requires no sweeper up of the chips.
Perhaps all that has been said thus far would not have qualified this erudite scholar and academic administrator to be invited by the culturally conscious organisers of Ahiajoku Lecture Series, to perform the role of the high priest at this year's harvest, if in addition to these agreeably outstanding achievements, Professor Cyril Onwumechili had not also been
¾ a most successful family man (being a devoted husband of a graceful wife and fulfilled father of three successful children);
¾ an ardent disciple of the best in our Igbo Culture;
¾ a prominent member of the prestigious Ọzọ Society in Inyi community;
¾ A pioneer in his field who through leadership by example had trained several of his kind and inspired numerous young persons in Igbo-land, Nigeria and beyond;
¾ widely traveled (having visited over one-hundred cities in the five continents);
¾ adjudged by the worthy organisers to be capable of bringing the totality of his rich and varied experiences to fruitfully bear on this sacred assignment.
May I therefore Mr. Chairman, thank the organisers of this year's Lecture series for their wisdom of choosing this intellectual giant, to preside over this year’s intellectual harvest. As I do so, may I salute Chief Cyril Agodi Onwumechili, Ogbunechendo I of Inyi Town, Professor and Vice Chancellor Emeritus for your outstanding accomplishments and invite you Worthy son of Igbo Land to take the stage.
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