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Arochukwu goes global

By Ignatius Ukwu Nnaekpe, NY

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June 18, 2001

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About three weeks ago, the Eze of Arochukwu, Mazi Vincent Ogbonna Okoro, was hosted by the Arochukwu community in New York and New Jersey, in the second phase of his visit to the Americas. Earlier, or in the last week of May, he was in Washington for his first visit with a cross-section of the Aros. In that week, the monarch bonded with his subjects who invited him to be their guest of honor at their annual conference of All-Aro USA. The event was festive, full of colors, pomp and pageantry - just an occasion appropriate for a royalty.

Like the high pitched occasion wasn’t memorable enough, the site of the festivity spoke volumes! Besides accommodating the attendees in sumptuous splendor, the beautiful hotel venue of the bash, located in the outskirts of Washington, DC, named Colonial Hotel, appeared to have been chosen deliberately. According to history, before the arrival of the British in Nigeria, the Aros had colonies almost all over the country. So it portended déjŕ vu as the people came out in their traditional colors and feasted in a setting under a banner that waved a name like the people were attempting another epoch-making feat.

Often, when people of history gather, one could not help guessing things. In this case, given the myth surrounding the kingdom of Arochukwu, which the monarch embodied as he visited the Americas. And the time was probably right, one could assume, for the Diaspora Aros to be reminded of their past and how prosperous, maybe, their sojourn in the Americas could become and lead to reclaiming the glory of their forefathers.

Though this is just an observer’s passing reflection, it appeared more than a co-incidence to see that of all the Hotels in Washington, D.C., the one the Aros chose for this occasion was the sprawling and beautiful "Colonial" Hotel.

Eze-Aro’s reception
While in the Washington, DC, "Colony" banquet hall, the monarch addressed the people; after some speeches by other dignitaries, he was graced with a special dance by the dreaded Ekpe society members. The dancers who wore traditional uniformed gears, did some beautiful numbers of the society to the admiration of on-lookers. This was followed by the Aro-women Ojojo dance, whose performance the crowd applauded with a drowning ovation. With their tan skins left top-bare, the women bubbled and twisted and the crowed went wild. The war dance came last, and the men girded with wrappers featuring the Omu Aro logo made a few fancy moves just before the closing of the curtains.

The highlights of this occasion weren’t much in the fun or dances, but in what the monarch, some participants and the delegates said and did. In his address, the monarch appealed for unity and asked Aros to participate and donate towards the construction of a civic center and the on-going centenary commemoration in Arochukwu, reportedly to be capped at the end of this year.

Between 1901 and 1902, the Aros and the British joined in a war whose centenary is now being commemorated. In that war, the Aros put up a fierce resistance and drove the British away in the first imperialist attempt to colonize them. Could you imagine a people fighting America? At the time of the war, the British Empire was like America to the world; yet, the Aros fought them. Hence, irrespective of any obstacle, this is one thing Aros must celebrate because, beside the pride and waves to be made, the event may turn the entire Arochukwu into a tourist attraction.

While addressing his people, the monarch assuaged them to donate for the centenary commemoration, whose celebration has already begun, among others. He seized on the theme of unity and spoke pointedly as if he had some inkling that all might not be well with his subjects in the Americas. And as the evening held on with the evocateurs fully in their bloom, the hall looked like the gods had descended as the people swirled like they were in seventh heaven. Among the personalities that accompanied the monarch from Nigeria were the Ohabunwas: President-General of Nzuko Arochukwu and the honorable member of the Nigerian National Assembly, to mention a few.

After the monarch’s plea for donations, one particular Arochukwu son, known as Dr. Ukpabi, did the unexpected. I say the unexpected, because it is not usual to see subjects deviating from the goals of their king - especially in the public. But this was an Aro thing; moreso, since royalty in Arochukwu is quite unlike others anywhere - this was probably an opportunity for the world to learn how monarchies should operate in a democracy.

Even though the authority of Eze-Aro commands guns and swords, as borne by the Omu Aro, the monarch tends more or less to operate as an adviser to his people. So, as he tried to collect donations for Arochukwu developmental projects in Washington, the good doctor pledged more than anybody dared, but for a different purpose.

Because of the doctor’s largess, news circulated that the his position bore no import because the projects for which the monarch sought donations were said to be what really mattered to the people back in Arochukwu. Obviously, there was no doubt that the civic center to be built would be useful, since it would provide a venue for many Aro events. Equally, the centenary commemoration would be an event of a lifetime sure to bring to this generation of the Aros a sense of who their forefathers were. Yet, the doctor’s hospital project was simply not debatable because the matter hinged on the life of the Aros. It was an investment towards the Aros’ survivability, addressing the issue of being sick and have an hospital to visit for treatment, or being sick and go to another man’s hospital to be duped and ignored to die untimely?

Dr. Ukpabi who announced his donation of $50 thousand, for the renovation of the dilapidated hospital in Arochukwu, first in Washington, also followed up and made the announcement again in New Jersey during another bash in honor of the monarch - before his visit to Houston. The doctor stated that he wanted to make it understood that the $50 thousand was available for the hospital project.

But what was most moving here was the sense of a good gesture by a rare "Man of the People." If Nigeria were to have up to a percent of her population to be like Dr. Ukpabi, there would have been a springboard by now for the poor. The doctor deserves praise, and his selflessness is worthy of emulation. I think it is just fair to feature him as the true patriot and hero that he is, because his type are not many; for if they were, Nigeria wouldn’t be owing $30 billion to the Paris Club today.

Dr. Ukpabi is a self-made, private man. In New York, he is known widely for his largess to Nigerians. For many festivities, he is constantly sought after to chair the events; primarily, because he would donate and give worthy exhortations. This time, out of his loving heart - a deeply caring one, he was ready to forgo the equivalent of more than N5 million to help his people. Among the thieves in Nigeria, some of the so-called leaders, who have continued to loot Nigeria’s treasury, it is not known how many of them could give away such a fortune with the ease the good doctor was parting with his money.

Yet, Nigeria seems not to have any use for this fine man! Philosopher Cicero, in his Pro Ligario, said that "In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in doing good to their fellow men." Dr. Ukpabi has done much good to many Nigerians over the years. The question now is, who is better able to run the ministry of health in Nigeria than this man?

When President Obasanjo appointed his recycled ministers, he forgot about caring minds and brains like Dr. Ukpabi, who have been able to prove their mettle to the admiration of even the white people in the Americas whom Nigerians like to keep their looted wealth with, and worship. This beautiful character of a man is not even minding that Nigeria has not invited him to serve, but has continued to make the difference - simply using his hard-earned money to do the very thing the Nigerian leadership that controls the people’s wealth has failed to do.

Given the way the Federal government has been treating the Igbos, gestures like that of Dr. Ukpabi must be seen in the light of the communality that guided the Igbo spirit in the past.

No matter the good time or celebration, one who is not well would need a hospital and a doctor first. The hospital in Arochukwu is in a very poor state, it must be fixed. Dr. Ukpabi has set the ball rolling; let it be encouraged. All sons and daughters of Arochukwu should back the good doctor up, by donating amply towards a well-equipped hospital for the 21st century.

This yearend while celebrating the centenary commemoration, the project should be launched. The state government may even help to match whatever the people raise on their own. I am thinking that the effort may be so infectious that that ebullient and progress-minded man of Abia State, Governor Orji Kalu, may surprise the Aros. Let it just be started!

Countering the plot of economic genocide
Facts abound that Aros, and maybe Igbos, in general, may not have much choice now than to rely on themselves. The key to this is collectivity: pooling of resources - by investing in individual villages to monetize the local lands and houses for capitalization.

It must be remembered that Igbos are not in the loop of those planning the industrial take-off in Nigeria. And Igbos did not partake in stealing the billions necessary for what it takes now to make a substantial stake investing in Nigeria.

Years ago, as the Igbos were just coming out of the war, an indigenization of national industries was conducted. The timing was deliberately picked to keep the Igbos out. To-day, after many years of looting by ex-soldiers and their proteges, the oil business is gradually being privatized and costing more than $50 million to make a reasonable entry. And can you guess those with the money to invest?

Equally, the GSM telecommunication business- a high-tech phone business, which is bound to produce more money than oil to the owners - is being licensed to others, except the Igbos. Igbos couldn’t take part because it is too expensive for an individual to pay for the license. Although the owners of Nigeria - those that were born to rule, who siphoned billions of Nigerian petro-dollars to Western banks had no problem putting up more than the $200 million needed.

But the Igbos, or the Aros, could help themselves if they would let collectivity to now be like labor and capital, where one cannot be without the other. The biblical Moses used it in a war and conquered, when "Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands until the defeat of their enemies at sundown."

In Nigeria of today the Igbos are not the people that matter - believe it! As far as the leaders are concerned, they are in a position to inflict "that wound" of hunger till the Igbos pass, if need be. Go around the country, check all the Federal government institutions, you would come back to accept my assertion that Igbos can only hold the high ground on their own by pooling their resources and pitching bases in their villages.

Unity as the bedrock of collectivity
When the Arochukwu monarch talked about unity at the bash in NY/Washington and laid emphasis on the issue to his people, he meant to drive it home as the basis of strength and progress. It was exhilarating to hear the man exhorting his people to behold and live the beauty of unity - the only way to exist like "roses in guns."

As unity in the Americas seems to have been one elusive thing to the Aros - even other Nigerian ethnic groups, maybe now that the monarch has been made aware, if he lends his voice strongly, the people will heed and unite. We pray.

In Igboland what unites people has been the "umuna" associations. But in the Americas the association is owned by a few. Moreover, the Aros prefer their individualism, which the bible says is, often, rooted in pride and envy brought about by inadequacies.

In this matter of unity, the culprits among the Aros have been the current members of Nzuko Arochukwu NY/NJ ("umuna" association of the Aros). This association is so divided that even the Arochukwu monarch did not benefit from the teeming population of the Aros in the Americas because they had been turned off, and made to disconnect with their brethren, by the few Aros who have supplanted themselves and hijacked the association.

Since emancipation, the next system that the Western world invented has been mental and economic entrapment. Institutions, like the IMF and the World Bank, were set up by the developed world to keep the less developed world oppressed and sapped. While invisible corporate gangs, internationally in the likes of multinationals, and domestic corporations within the shores of Western countries, were formed to use and deprive the downtrodden. With this, they have been able to make it unprogressive for the Aros, nay Nigerians or minorities - particularly, of African descent - to attempt to love their own and unite.

Unity, an offshoot of love whose strength Songs of Solomon stated that "many waters cannot quench", neither can the floods drown it, - is what endears and cement gangs - or in economic parlance: corporate undertakings. It is unity that fosters collectivity, which enables people to invest or work towards the progress of their corporate interests and profitability. This type of collective effort is why the stock markets thrive in the Western world. It makes people to pool their resources and buy into economic ventures providing capital and liberating themselves from the shackles of poverty. It is a direct result of people uniting for love of themselves and their communities.

If the Aros were to emulate their forefathers and operate in a collective effort, which the corporate world thrives on, the effect of their progress could have been felt down their villages’ nooks and crannies in Arochukwu.

As Nigeria may never be able to accrue enough to develop the entire country because of entrenched evil policies and leadership at the center, people must help themselves. A while ago, an Igbo Senate President said that Igbos were not marginalized by the Federal government. But when you look around, Arochukwu has no roads - just roads for some economic activities! Yet the Senate President couldn’t know any better, just because he probably has been able to make some rounds from the Villa with loaded Ghana-must-go bags to build two mansions in his village, so Igbos are not marginalized.

After the destruction of Dr. Okadigbo by the executive mafia for trying to enforce democracy, the current senate president was chosen. Hitherto, the man was another weather-beaten Nigerian. But, at the set time, he rose vertically and grabbed the mace. As the powers-that-be and the mafians nodded their approval, the rewards of inhumanity poured in, and he bloated up - adding to himself thrice his size overnight. Any wonder why he is incapable of understanding what afflicts his people?

Recently Mr. Obaseki of the NNPC, asserted that it was a mistake for people to mention that they had discontinued prospecting for crude oil in the Chad basin. This is how you know the people operating corporate Nigeria. Mr. Obaseki would not spend NNPC’s money for a hopeless effort in any Igbo state. Yes, because the Igbos don’t belong.

Even though it has been established that the entire eastern states make up the Niger Delta because of their peculiar soil, which are crude-prone, such expenditure cannot be made anywhere there. And, Arochukwu may as well have oil beneath it, but it is in Ani-Igbo! There are sure to be other minerals in the town’s soil, as well, but who is there to prospect for them? What is known now is that there exists limestone in commercial quantity in the town. Aros should collectivize and tap the mineral for cement production, to rejuvenate the economic base of the ancient town.

There is no other way to survive than to set up an economic base that can sustain life in Arochukwu. As I write, they are Diaspora Aros who are ready to return and set up concerns. But the main obstacle is the bad roads, let alone electricity and telephone service; for one may have to wait till Christ returns to have the latter working efficiently.

Those roads running from Umuahia to Arochukwu through to Calabar and Nkana, in Akwa Ibom, are said to be the responsibility of the Federal government. But for how long would they be ignored? Should Aros pool their resources, they could fix the roads and collect tolls for their upkeep, to create an enabling environment for economic activities to thrive.

Let the Arochukwu monarch’s visit to the Americas, and the caring attitude of Dr. Ukpabi, spring forth a new deal and a new approach that can spark reasoning among the Aros. Moreso, let the monarch’s unity exhortation guide every endeavor and be the way the people should follow to re-configure where they lost it - and this time, the fire forever!

Long live the Eze Aro, Mazi Vincent Ogbonnaya Okoro, CFR!

Long live the Kingdom of Arochukwu!!

Long live Nigeria!!!

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