TRIBUTE IN HONOUR OF THE GREAT FREEDOM FIGHTER DR ARTHUR AGWUNCHA NWANKWO FROM MOBIN AND THE CUSTOMARY GOVERNMENT OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA ON HIS SEND-OFF PARTY TO ETERNAL GLORY THIS 8TH DAY OF DECEMBER 2020
Our Mentor and Political Adviser, the Patron of the Movement of Biafrans in Nigerian (MOBIN) and the Customary Government of Indigenous People of Biafra, Dr Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo, Ikeogu Ndigbo, the indefatigable freedom fighter who demonstrated the power of the pen and brain in freedom fighting, it is with great joy that we have gathered here today for your send-off to Eternal Glory. You fought a good fight for humanity and deserve a good rest in the bosom of the Almighty God.
You sowed the seed of freedom fighting in Biafra by intellectual power in your first book in 1969, THE MAKING OF A NATION: BIAFRA. You worked in Biafra and excelled in the Media Department. Even after the war, you remained resolute in defending us. Your pen remained sharper than razor blade, and you could not tolerate the corrupt politicians who had become tyrants and local colonial masters over us.
In 1982, you changed the Nigerian Criminal Law of Sedition when you published the book, “How Jim Nwobodo Rules Anambra State” for which you were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months. You rejected the judgment and appealed to the Court of Appeal. Your bravery and challenge to tyranny delivered us from the Law of Sedition made by the Colonial Masters to intimidate us and silence our opposition and freedom of speech.
You were vindicated when the Honourable Justice Olatawara, JCA, (as he then was) made the judicial pronouncement in the case now cited as Arthur Nwankwo v The State (1985) 6 NCLR 228 in the following words:
“It is my view that the law of Sedition which has derogated from the freedom of speech guaranteed under this Constitution is inconsistent with the 1979 Constitution, more so when this cannot lead to a public disorder as envisaged under Section 41(a) of the 1979 Constitution. We are no longer the illiterates or the mob society our colonial masters had in mind when the law was promulgated. The safeguard provided under Section 50(2) is inadequate more so where the truth of what is published is no defence. To retain Section 51 of the Criminal Code in its present form, that is even if not inconsistent with the freedom of expression guaranteed by our Constitution, will be a deadly weapon and to be used at will by a corrupt government or tyrant……The decision of the founding fathers of this present Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech must include freedom to criticize and should be praised and any attempt to derogate from it except as provided by the Constitution must be resisted. Those in public office should not be intolerant of criticism.”
Our Mentor in Freedom Fighting, you purchased the right to freedom of expression for us in this country. By that case, the Court of Appeal declared Sections 50 and 51 of the Criminal Code null and void. That was the end of the Law of Sedition in Nigeria. Sedition is no longer part of the Nigerian Criminal Law because of the case of Arthur Nwankwo. But alas, the agents of the devil are working surreptitiously again in the National Assembly to reintroduce the Law of Sedition with a new label described as the Law of Hate Speech.
You were fearless and resisted all tyrannical governments including the military junta with your pen and brainpower. On the annulment of the Nigerian Election on June 12, 1993, you were in the vanguard of NADECO fighting to restore democracy in the country. General Sani Abacha felt that you were a threat to his government and threw you into detention in 1998 but God killed him miraculously within four weeks and released you so that you could continue the fight for our freedom. You did not relent but continued the fight unto the end.
In 2018, you invited us to a meeting in your house and told us that Nigeria had become irredeemable and that you had mourned for Nigeria just like David wept over Saul who was rejected by God and slain for his stubbornness.
You gave us your last book titled, “NIGERIA AND HER PATH TO DOOM” where you wrote in the Prologue as follows: “I do not want to die a shameful death. I do not want future generations of Nigerians to point to my grave and say, ‘there lies the remains of a man who could not speak the truth’…I weep for Nigeria, a country richly blessed of God but whose destiny has been frittered away on the altar of expediency. I weep for Nigeria, a country with the awesome potential for the renaissance of Africa but wasted in a heap of corruption. I weep for Nigeria, a country with the capacity to drive the fourth dimension of global economic resurgimento but scuttled on the evil temple of religious bigotry and ethnic jingoism. My heart bleeds for this country. Professor Chinua Achebe must have had today’s Nigeria in mind when he chose ‘Things Fall Apart’ as the title for his epic novel. For indeed things have fallen apart in Nigeria and the centre can no longer hold. Like David wept over Saul and Jonathan, I weep over Nigeria. In typical Davidic fashion, my cry is that the beauty of Nigeria has been slain upon the evil altars in Aso Rock”.
Yes, we heard you as you referred to the evil altars in Aso Rock upon which the beauty of Nigeria was slain. Nevertheless, on Page 164 of your book, you still proffered the best solution and gave a warning in the following words: “I am not unmindful of the fact that Nigeria has become a very treacherous environment where truth is stifled and where commitment to speak the truth could easily be misconceived and mischievously interpreted as felonious. But the truth about or situation is that we cannot avoid talking about a restructured Nigeria if there must be a tomorrow for us. There is no alternative route to this. Nigeria must be restructured urgently or it will die”.
Although you have departed from the earth, your words will bear witness that you warned Nigeria but she refused to listen. We have joined you to weep over Nigeria as a failed state. The smokes of her institutionalised corruption and injustice against the Igbo Nation have reached heaven.
The inhabitants of heaven and earth, visible and invisible witnesses of the wickedness of men, have heard that Nigeria took a loan of $22.7billion for infrastructural development of the country but did not allocate a single kobo for the development of the South East. Yet, it is a national debt placed upon the head of every Nigerian citizen. It is very clear that the wickedness of Nigeria against the Igbo people and its inability or reluctance to protect our lives and properties can no longer be remedied.
For this reason, we are insisting that Nigeria must be renegotiated and restructured to guarantee autonomy and self-governance to the 6 geopolitical regions that make up the country so that every region would be free to govern itself and develop at its own pace. There is no alternative to restructuring Nigeria into Regional Governments otherwise Nigeria will surely die.
You inculcated in us the discipline and resoluteness required for Freedom Fighting by intellectual prowess and political strategies. We have resolved to continue the fight from where you stopped. We acknowledge that the journey is far and tedious but we assure you that we shall never give up. We shall fight from generation to generation until our freedom is achieved.
We are grateful to you for all the lectures, advice, books and resources you placed in our hands to continue the battle of wits and intelligence after your departure. We assure you that we shall never disappoint you.
Rest in Peace, our great Patron and Mentor, Dr Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo, the Defender of the Igbo Nation.
Emeka Emekesiri, Esq. (Chairman)
For and on behalf of all Biafran activists under the Supreme Council of Elders of Indigenous People of Biafra who believe in the Legal Methodology of Self-determination consisting of the judicial, political and diplomatic processes