By Kelechi Nicholas
Vice Chancellor of National University of Science and Technology, (NAUST) Abuja, Prof. Joseph Ahaneku, has urged Igbo people in Southeast Nigeria to under self-rediscovery and stand firm in asserting their rights in the country.
He decried the ongoing negative profiling of the Igbos which poses a threat to their survival in he country.
Prof. Ahaneku bemoaned such narrative about the Igbos as people who lacked respect for their elders, culture and identity among others.
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He stated this in his address during the 2023 Heartland Lecture organised by the National Association of Imo State Students, (NAISS) in collaboration with the Imo Professors Forum (IPF), University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) chapter, held at the Princess Alexander Auditorium (PAA), on Wednesday.
Speaking on the topic “Identity, Determination and Self Realization Through Knowledge-based Ideology” the former Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka addressed the issue of identity and problems of the Igbos in the country.
Prof. Ahaneku, giving his take on who a typical Igbo man is described him as one from the South Eastern part of Nigeria, well known for his enterprising, independent, nomadic and adventurous nature, hence the zeal to explore the world for greener pastures.
He encouraged the Igbos to stand for their rights and advised that they should also explore the media which he considers a powerful tool of change, in “Reporting Until Something Happens (RUSH),” with a view to changing this mentality towards them.
He further discredited the stereotypes by noting that there were veritable Igbo men and women who had displayed doggedness and true Igbo spirit to the world.
“Persons such as Sir Louis Ojukwu, recorded by Forbes Africa as the first billionaire in Nigeria; One whom is described as being resilient in productivity with his venture as a tyre sales clerk after his secondary school is from Igbo tribe,” he stated.
He also cited Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe recorded as Nigeria’s foremost politician as well as an astute journalist and lawyer who contributed his quota to the change and development of the country through his careers, especially in pre and post independence period.
He also mentioned Professor Chike Obi, who was the first Professor of Mathematics in Nigeria and participated actively in the polity as a legislator and a legal luminary. “He was one of the founders of the then dynamic party which later collapsed and merged with others,” Ahaneku said.
Also mentioned was Alvan Ikoku, a foremost educationist and nationalist, who participated in active politics and was a member of the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroon (NCNC) bearing in mind, the need to extend the work of catering to the welfare of the people beyond four walls of the classroom. More so were Igbo writers like: Chinua Achebe, and Cyprian Ekwesi, among others, who have through their literary works, displayed a true sense of Igbo determination and patriotism for the country.
The VC further attributed the true Igbo spirit contemporarily to Prof. Sylvester Ugo, His Royal Highness; Prof. Peter Ebigbo, NNOM (Royal father of the day), Prof. Ihechukwu Chidozie Mmaduike, who have spread their professional tentacles beyond the academia, into politics for the greater good of all.
He averred that the Igbos needed to undergo self-realization, and strongly defend their identity, promote their talents and pursue their needs and aspirations in coexistence with others.
In his words, “the only way to ensure good administration is getting good heads.
“This is a problem in the political administration of a country. As such to achieve this, the Igbos are to unite in their massive numbers, in one voice, infiltrate the system and effect change, else the system continues to dwindle.”
He equally warned that grumbling and lamenting about the past by the Igbos were futile actions and not necessary for growth, as challenges abound and are inevitable in every society undergoing development.
Speaking to Imo Professors Forum in UNN, the don advised, that they should abhor self-centeredness, incessant suspicion, hatred and discrimination among themselves but should rather imbibe love, harmony, solidarity and growth-mentality in order to bring into realization the development and improvement they all yearn for.
Prof. Ahaneku encouraged the Imo professors to come together in solidarity to gain access into the system so as to effect change.
He charged them to take their place in the social-economic and social-political reconstruction of Nigeria. He urged them to put into practice their academic disciplines.
“Political professors should take up political positions and practice the political theories, that would redefine the narrative. Also, professors of Economics, Finance and Management, should promote private sector businesses and consequently turn around the economy of the country while professors of social sciences and humanities should work together to cause a new moral and value- orientation among Nigerians,” Ahaneku advised.