Arthur Nwankwo: Giant in a country of political Lilliputians
I CALLED Dr. Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo a few months ago to discuss what those who fought for the enthronement of democracy can do to rescue the country in the aftermath of the 2019 elections and inauguration. As I began to explain the motives and why I want him to be one of the principal conveners to prise the country out of the hands of a hopeless political class, he interjected: “Owei, go ahead. I know whatever you are thinking and planning must be good for us. I am in. Put down my name.” That was a patriot who had implicit confidence in people and ready to take risks.
In a political system where principles don’t matter, he lived by it. He believed that a politician with no clear ideology is a danger to his community and people. Nwankwo reminds me a lot about Mokwugo Okoye, MOK, who taught Nigerians that our independence was not just about building a neo-colony, but that there were nationalists like Raji Abdallah, Bello Ijumu and Osita Agwuna who, like Kwame Nkruma in Ghana, Patrice Lumumba in Congo Democratic Republic, Felix Moumie in Cameroun, Sekou Toure in Guinea and Ahmed Ben-Bella in Algeria, fought for real independence.
My generation heard about MOK, but they were snippets; we truly had no idea what he wrote or what he and his fellow patriots of the Zikist Movement stood for. Then we heard that a Dr. Arthur Nwankwo of the Fourth Dimension Publishers in Enugu had published MOK’s seminal work: Storms on the Niger and a race to get copies commenced. That book formed the foundations of our understanding of the independence struggle and why our country was in a sorry state.
In those days, there were healthy intellectual debates around literary genius, Professor Wole Soyinka and radicals on campuses who tended to compare his writings with those of Ngugi Wa’ Thiongo in terms of political and ideological contents. Then there were stories of a set of American-based neo-liberal scholars called the ‘Bolekaja Critics’ who were tackling Soyinka from Afrocentric planks.