By Odinaka ANUDU
Prof Pita Ejiofor On Rediscovering The Lost Igbo Values
Though Prof Ejiofor wrote his keynote lecture in Igbo Language, his diction was not far from being apt and simple.
Prof Ejiofor recalled that the population of Igbos is greater than that of 147 out of 177 countries in the world and is one of the five greatest in Africa. He stated in clear terms that during the slave trade, white slave traders sought more of Igbos than any other set of people in the world because Igbos were special people from the days of creation. Most of the slaves brought to America between 1650 and 1800, according to him, were Igbos, and these people were instrumental to the development of the country. He cited the case of “Igbo Farm Village” built in Staunton Virginia for Igbos as a testimony to this fact. Up to the present moment, according to this erudite scholar, no other tribe has ever received this type of attention from the government of America.
Down here in Nigeria, Ejiofor said that between 1914 and 1967, it was difficult for anybody to talk of development in Nigeria without talking about Igbos who were indubitably champions of development. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, for instance, was in the forefront of NCNC and a champion of Nigeria’s Independence, while Prof Kenneth Dike was the first vice-chancellor in Nigeria. These, he said, were a testimony that Igbos are a great nation. He also cited the cases of Louis-Philippe Ojukwu (the first millionaire in Nigeria), Chike Obi (the first PhD holder in mathematics), Olaudah Equaino (Igbo ex-slave and first black man to write a book) to buttress his point.
He, however, lamented that things are no longer the same, as out of 100 top African universities named recently, no university in Igboland made the list, even when University of Benin, University of Ibadan, Pan African University and Obafemi Awolowo University Ife were mentioned. He also brought to the fore that out of the 50 private universities in Nigeria today, only 8 are in Igboland, even when 22 are in the South-West. These, to him, do not augur well for a nation which was known for intellectualism in the distant past.
Prof Ejiofor listed some of the firms that existed in Igboland to include Nigercem, Nkalagu; Iron and Steel Factory, Onitsha; Permatex, Enugu; Orient Bank; Ekene Dili Chukwu Farms, Anaku; Golden Guinea Breweries, Umuahia; Monarch Breweries, Ninth Mile Corner, etc. He then asked, “How many new firms are being built?” He admitted that even though he knew that there had been additions, they were still very few and inadequate.
The former vice chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka also decried the state of infrastructure in Igboland, beginning with Port Harcourt-Enugu road and Onitsha-Enugu road. He lamented that Akanu Ibiam International Airport was yet to be upgraded to the status of international airport while nothing had been done on River Port in Onitsha that has lasted for up to 20 years. He also restated that it had been up to 20 years since the issue of dredging of River Niger began and regretted that despite that Igbos are champions in commerce, they are still made to go through Lagos and Port Harcourt ports to get their containers of goods. He also noted that out of four refineries in Nigeria, none was in Igboland.
Ejiofor further said it was regrettable how Igbo language is almost gradually going into extinction, using the case of UNESCO’s findings in 2006 in the Nigerian movie industry to prove his point. According to UNESCO’s findings, only 1% of films produced in Nigeria were done in Igbo while 44% were done in English, 31% in Yoruba and 24% in Hausa. This is so in spite of the fact that Igbos started the industry with “Living in Bondage”. He also cited a release in 2010 where the National Film and Video Censors Board revealed that out of 234 films produced, 98 were done in Hausa, 94 in Yoruba, 31 in English, 11 in Edo/Bini, and none in Igbo.
On the issue of revenue allocation, Prof Ejiofor statistically proved that between 1999 and 2007, the South-South got N2.500 trillion; the North-West got N1.726 trillion; the South-West got N1.410 trillion; the North-East got N1.169 trillion; the North-Central got N1.119 trillion; while the South-East got just N0.918 trillion, stating that Imo was 13 while Anambra was 26; Abia was 28 while Enugu and Ebonyi were 32 and 35 on the list of 36 states, respectively. He also wondered why no Igbo person had been the Chief Justice of Nigeria despite that the first lawyer in Nigeria was Louis Mbanefo, an Igbo man.
Ejiofor therefore concluded that there was the need for Igbos to have a good understanding with other regions. He advised that Igbos should come back home and develop Igboland and that stakeholders in the education sector in the land should help revivify the sector.
He called for a sovereign national conference in Nigeria and a conference of all Igbos, where issues like unemployment, language extinction, “run-away philosophy”, Igbo presidency and values would be discussed.
Prof Benjamin Chuka Osisioma On Servant Leadership
Prof Osisioma distinctly examined the concept of servant leadership and concluded that the problem in Igboland was absence of a servant leader.
According to him, leadership is influence that aspires through character. It is neither salesmanship (making of friends and getting popular with people) nor demagoguery (the charm of a magnetic personality that captures the imagination of men). It is not promotion, either. It is rather vision (clear and compelling picture of a better tomorrow), ministry/service (leaders are servants who first think of others), modelling (living by example), integrity (walking on high moral ground), partnership (with God and with men), and is akin to priesthood (it involves personal sacrifice).
In his analysis, the accountancy lecturer put forward the 7 Cs of leadership as conceptualised by Maxwell. These include Character, Competence, Conviction, Courage, Charisma, Commitment and Compassion. However, he concluded that the most critical factor in the making of a true leader is character. Character, in his erudite opinion, is the foundation upon which a leader builds his or her life.
Prof Osisioma’s exegesis of servant leadership was compelling. In fact, he did not hide the fact that the title of his paper “The Greatest among You Must Be the Servant of All – Why We Need
Servant Leaders” was drawn from the Bible (Matt 20: 25-28), where Jesus Christ told his disciples that whoever desires to become great among them must be their servant; and that whoever desires to be first among them would be their slave.
He quoted Robert Greensfield (1968) who clearly stated that the leader is first a servant and that servant leadership begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. “Do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” he queried.
Then he threw a poser: What happens when leaders fail to practise servant-leadership? The answer is simple: They become self-servants. Then he gave the instance of Samson who, despite that he won many battles for the Israelites, without any cause, he ended up on Delilah’s laps. He gave other pertinent examples: Saul, who ruled a kingdom but could not conquer his jealousy and self-indulgence; David, who destroyed Goliath, but bowed to the seductive prowess of Bathsheba. These and many more are some of the Biblical examples of what happens when leaders become self-servants, according to Prof Osisioma.
He further asked: What went wrong with the Igbo nation of today? Why is servant leadership sought like a needle in a hay sac within the Igbo nation? The answer too, according to him, is simple. The Igbo man of today has an inordinate love for money and he is a chief and lord in his own rights. There is absence of unity and genuine oneness, and Igbos prove they are expendable, even though they are still hardworking and diligent. They have a penchant for converting anything – including votes, human parts, and hard drugs – into money. Also, they love titles, most of which are not genuinely earned.
“Where is creativity which enabled Ndigbo (Biafrans) to withstand the might of Soviet Union and Great Britain during the Civil War?” he quizzed. The answer to this question, he said, is that absence of servant leadership has made it difficult for Ndigbo to recall and realize some of their potentials.
Without doubt, the erudite scholar believes that Ndigbo need leaders who show the way; inspire and motivate rather than manipulate and intimidate; convert setbacks into comebacks; take a greater share of the blame and a little smaller share of the credit; continue to search for the best answer rather than the familiar one; and live with the people to know their problems and live with God to solve them.
“Is there a Nigerian leader you can hold out as an example and model for your children? Which leader in Nigeria do you secretly want to be like in character, morality and general disposition? Which Nigerian leader can you honestly say with confidence that he will never lie to the
people? Which Nigerian leader can you truly call the servant of the people?” Prof Osisioma further asked. He also referred these questions to the Igbo nation and concluded that Igboland needed a leader who would work his way into the hearts of Igbos by the force of his convictions, the elegance and style of his professional performance, and the integrity of his life and practice.