At the just-concluded 2019 World Igbo Festival in Staunton, Virginia, USA, Prof. Chidi Osuagwu brought the tables down when he spoke on the Igbo worldview of “A just, free world.” Below atre excerpts of the speech.
“Ten years ago, Chief John Avoli, director, American Frontier Museum, was in Owerri. He had come during the occasion of the 2009 Igbo Day to inform the Igbo nation of the great honour the Commonwealth of Virginia, and America had done to the great Igbo people. The Igbo people had been identified, through parallel studies that came to the same conclusion, to be the one African people that made the greatest contribution to the framework of American civilisation. Igbo and their culture had, therefore, been selected to be representatives and custodians of the African elements of American civilisation. A classic Igbo Village was being built at the American Frontier Museum, Staunton, Virginia, to symbolise this historical honour. It was my luck, as chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Imo State at the time, to welcome John and his distinguished delegation to Imo State.
“Perhaps, I would not have realised the grand import of John’s announcement, if not for a second spectacular announcement concerning the Igbo from the great United States of America in the same 2009. General Benjamin Freakley, of the United States Army, had announced a special recruitment programme for foreign nationals of a very few select ethnic nations who wanted to fast-track US citizenship status at the time. These were welcome to join the United States Army, as facilitator. Featuring from Mother Africa, alone on the list, was, again, the Igbo nation.
“It dawned on me that Uncle Sam was darn serious about a special relationship between the Igbo nation and the great United States of America. Yes, I know about the Jeffersonian moral ambiguity that gnaws, intermittently and debilitating, at America’s Spiritual Essence! ‘Greatness is in the American spirit. America is a great human statement; not perfect, but uplifting!’ America admires and welcomes the Igbo spirit, because we are kindred free spirits … hardworking, fair-minded, kind, democratic and republican peoples.
“From forgone background, I want to comment as follows: The Igbo Village in Staunton, Virginia, is endowed to African people and their civilisation, with Igbo acting as representative and custodian. This spirit implies imperative need for broad involvement and ownership by All African peoples, including, particularly, African-Americans. The Village, in spirit, is indeed designed to be an African Renascence Centre in the United States and should be viewed, promoted and built up as such.
“African-Americans of Igbo extraction should realise that this is a special tribute to them. They are indeed ‘the core Igbo-in-question’ with respect to the Igbo Village in America Project. It is their very presence in America and their distinguished role that is being recognised.
“As a student in America who interacted very closely with African-Americans, I noted that some wondered why Africans were involved with the enslavement of their own people to Europeans. I have news for them! The Great Igbo Nation, as other Africans acknowledged them in the Americas by calling them Ibo Granmoun (Haiti, etc.), Gran Ibo (Louisiana, etc.), never in an organised form approved or promoted enslavement of their people. They rather fought, characteristically determinedly, against slavery.
“Slave-empires and slave-kingdoms rose here and there in Africa, but not in Igboland. A synthetic clan whose synthesis from many neighbouring tribes (Efik, Ejegham, Igbo, Ibibio, Akpa, etc) was inspired by the Europeans themselves, after more than a hundred years of the slave trade and fruitless attempt to access the densely-populated Igboland for enslavement by Europeans, were the chief agency of slavery in Igboland. The Aro Slaving Clan that emerged from this amalgam of peoples are still called ‘Aro-okeigbo’ (Aro-of-the-Igbo-boundary) and begrudged their role till this day.
“So, African-Americans, who we know from the works of Professor Douglass Chambers and others to be significantly Igbo in origin, should read up the facts. They should be prouder of their homeland Igbo kinsmen who, as history shows, fought very hard against slavery and colonialism, both in the African homeland and the Americas, than many realise.
“Odogwu Nat Turner did not turn up from thin air to fight against slavery in the United States. He himself said that he fought against slavery because he was told, by his Igbo kinsmen in America, that those who bore the kind of birth-mark, Ahumarachi, as he did, were marked, pre-ordained, to fight for their people in their ancestral Igbo homeland. And once he gained some success in his anti-slavery insurrection, he proudly had himself invested with the Igbo Warrior Odogwu title.
“‘Mgbemmirin’amaohuk’onamaonyekpoya’; ‘Onye ji mmadun’ala, ji onweya!’; ‘Onyewodawuonyemkporo!’ The Igbo, as principle, hold that ‘A slaver is a slave’; ‘An oppressor is oppressed’ and ‘A jailor is a prisoner!’ So, the intellectual or psychological incentive for a normal, self-respecting Igbo to be involved in slavery was not there. Follow the slave route, and it would not lead to the Igbo nobility or any indigenous community. Usually, indeed across Africa, such routes would, ultimately, lead to settlers from the Middle-East hundreds of years earlier or came with the slave trade to war and promote it. But, then, the Igbo have been so liberally free over historical times that a thousand years of Igbo enslavement would still leave them the freest people Earth ever knew. We harm ourselves when we imbibe the self-serving narratives of adversaries who create the impression that human enslavement started and will end with the African race. Yet to be enslaved is to be made to become like a Slavic person…like Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Serbian, etc., who other peoples, Greeks, Romans, etc., enslaved over many hundreds of years. We now know these are freedom-loving great peoples! Nobody messes with Russia in the world today, for instance.
“Jews were enslaved by many empires in the Middle-East, Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, etc. But pound-to-pound, they are the world’s greatest people today. The Irish, Scots, Welsh, Basques, etc, are marginal remnants of the original Celtic owners of Europe, who were violently displaced. All these peoples will now make jest of Igbo African-Americans, and slavery, and we waste time listening to them? These peoples whose major powers (Spain, Britain, France, etc.) Ibo Granmoun led African freedom fighters to militarily crush in Haiti, between 1791 and 1803, have nothing to tell us about freedom and valour.
“China did not build the Great Wall as sign of global power, but to protect her weak people from violent ‘Northmen’, as there has always been in the history of this world. India didn’t build a wall to wall off aggressive Northmen, like China did, and Aryan ‘Northmen’ invaded and have enslaved or dominated the autochthonous owners of India for 3,000 years. Lesson: Igbo, her Diaspora and other Africans, should note the slave trade and not personalise it as an African inheritance. We learn the lesson that weak angels are enslaved in this world, unless they can self-defend.”