Dr. Arthur Nwankwo, who died recently at the age of 78 at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, was a man of many parts. An author, social critic, he was the former Vice Chairman of the National Coalition NADECO and the founder of Eastern Mandate Union (EMU).
His demise is summed up in the thought of England’s national poet and “bard of Avon”, William Shakespeare, who posits about death in his book, Macbeth: “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
The social critic, publisher and philosopher wrote 23 books in his lifetime, including The Making of a Nation: Biafra (1969), Nigeria: The Stolen Billions (1999), Nigeria: The Political Transition and the Future of Democracy (1993), The Igbo and the Nigerian State (1999), The Igbo leadership and the future of Nigeria (1985), among others.
On the whole, the elder statesman and pan-Igbo activist had 58 works in 233 publications, 2 languages, and 2,735 library holdings. Most widely held works about Arthur Nwankwo include Before I Die: Olusegin Obasanjo/Arthur Nwankwo Correspondence on the One-Party State, The Nigerian Condition by Victor Eke Kalu, Justice Sedition Charge, Conviction and Acquittal of Arthur Nwankwo, How Jim Nwobodo Rules Anambra State, and Critical, Creative and Centered Scholar-Activism: the Fourth Dimension of Arthur Nwankwo, by Agozino.
On the other hand, most widely held works by the author include Season of Hurricane, which the 11 editions were published between 1993 and 2002 in English and held by 96 WorldCat member libraries worldwide. There is Retreat of Power: The Military in Nigeria’s Third Republic, 9 editions published between 1990 and 2002 in English and held by 84 WorldCat member libraries worldwide and The African Possibility in Global Power Struggle, 7 editions published in 1995 in English and held by 79 WorldCat member libraries worldwide.
The Nigerian writer and political activist addresses the question: Will Africa remerge as a global force? Is Africa capable of fruition in the new Millennium? What steps must be taken to challenge those who have dismissed the African episode in world history?
Nwankwo adopts John Lukas’ position that an accurate interpretation of modern history that departs from the premise that the motivating ideological forces in the contemporary period are not communism and democracy but racism and nationalism.
He argues that the challenges facing Africans do not begin and end with poverty of leadership, ecological disasters and social strife, but are more deeply rooted and relate to the dominance of racial configuration and the real foundations of democratic political culture and practice. In the end, in spite of the racial dimension, the author argues for rehumanisation of African people and reemergence in the global power struggle.
Born August 19, 1942, in Ajalli, Aguata, Anambra State, Dr. Nwankwo has been described as the intellectual crusader for enthronement of rule of law. He was a renowned advocate for justice which the founding fathers of Nigeria desired for the people. He turned his idealism into action while alive and helped in changing the Nigerian social and political landscape.
He, at various times and fora, cried out against the injustices of the Nigerian system, exposed cruel labour practices and steadily worked for a more equitable system for everyone. His campaign for an equitable society, says Paul Uwadima, caused him his freedom countless times. In 1982, he was convicted of sedition and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour for his book, How Jim Nwobodo Rules Anambra State. The conviction was later quashed by an appeal court, acquitting and discharging him of all charges.
The cerebral Nigeria writer had his struggle anchored on good conscience, and devotion to the good of humanity. It was equally driven by vision, mission to serve, and aversion to poor governance, fueled by conviction that, when the righteous is in power, the people rejoice; but when evil people are in power, the people groan.
He dedicated his entire life to the cause of the ordinary people who have borne the brunt of the cruel leadership sadly imposed on the country. He was concerned about the wretched of the earth who have been unconsciously deprived in the midst of plenty, and subjected to the most degrading level of feeding from the garbage bins and to whom justice has always been denied.
In the bid to see to the triumph of good over evil, he had to endure harassment, intimidation, blackmail, imprisonment, threat to his personal security and abuse of his fundamental human right. Despite such harrowing experience in the hands of the state, the prolific writer remained focus and unmoved yet hopeful that one day Nigeria would realise her folly and toe the part of reason.
In the foreboding climate of uncertainty, he made it clear that he was still hopeful of an opportunity to salvage the Nigerian system and make available to all Nigerians, irrespective of gender, class, religion and ethnicity, the reason to continue living and believing in the Nigerian project. Nwankwo was quoted as saying that, as long as he lived, he was committed to prosecuting the struggle to its local conclusion in representing the conscience, and aspiration of Nigerians criminally disenfranchised and impoverished through leadership ineptitude and tendency for criminal accumulation of wealth.
In the course of struggle, Nwankwo, who was the presidential candidate of the People’s Mandate Party (PMP) in 2007 general elections, was jailed and exiled during the dark days of military dictatorship.
President Muhammadu Buhari has sent a condolence message to the deceased family in recognition of his contributions to the enthronement of justice and good governance.
In a statement released by his media spokesman, Femi Adesina, Buhari said that posterity would always remember the labour and sacrifice of the successful writer. He called on Nwankwo family, friends, as well as professional and political associates to find solace in his contributions to national and global development.
Buhari noted that the departed statesman stood for democracy and development and also worked hard to ensure that the pivoted institutions were strengthened and sustained. He believed that all the investments the deceased made in humanity would endure.