In September 1987, the first Administrative Secretary of Nzuko Arochukwu and a patriotic Aro man of the highest order, the late Mazi John Obinali Nnanna (my teacher at Amuvi Community Primary School, Amuvi, Arochukwu in 1973 through 1974), had made a statement that has had a lingering impact on me and which I don’t think I will ever forget concerning Aro affairs, even as I have now become a public administrator by training.
While responding to our greetings to him at Baraki (where he had just assumed duty as a supervisor away from classroom teaching duties), he had wondered and murmured aloud (maybe, unknowingly) how the up-coming Ikeji would go, may be, again, considering the latest developments in Arochukwu town then and the condition in the palace. In the end, he concluded and said it open to all of us there with him: “Well, let us wait for them to return. I wonder why Umu Aro must have to return from Lagos first before we arrange for Ikeji in Arochukwu!” He sighed and, heavy-hearted, got up and left us. I was serving in Arochukwu then as a Public Health Officer.
During the Ikeji proper, another home-based Aro man made a similar statement. He had said he would not understand, and wondered, why Aro sons and daughters living outside Arochukwu must first return from wherever they lived before such things as mere hiring of chairs for Eke Ekpe Day and similar ‘minor things’ could be done in Arochukwwu. In his discussion with some people after the Eke Ekpe Day activities, he had concluded that one of the problems Arochukwu faced as a town was the total dependence on Umu Aro outside before any activity could take place in Arochukwu!
True, what the above patriotic Aro men remarked about leadership in Arochukwu way back in 1988 has continued to plague Arochukwu till today, and will continue if nothing is done to check the situation now. To put it straight, Arochukwu is in the condition it is today because of lack of grassroots leadership and total reliance on leadership of the town hoisted, foisted and made in Lagos, Abuja, London, Jerusalem and even Jericho!
Yes, anybody who has had studies in Government, Public Administration, Sociology or Human Resource Management (and the like) will admit and concur that Arochukwu will continue to record low and less meaningful progress in almost all developmental strides as long as foisted leadership on the town continues. As long as leadership of the town will continued to be in the hands of those who live in Lagos, Abuja, Washington DC, London, Canberra, Rome and other places, Arochukwu will continue to suffer and become irrelevant in the affairs of Abia State in particular, Nigeria and even globally. This is because grassroots leadership is the catalystic fulcrum every town relies on to develop, anywhere. I have not said that sons, daughters, wives of Arochukwu who live outside Arochukwu are not relevant in the developmental strides of the town. No; far from it. They are one hundred percent relevant, and can even become catalysts in this sphere too. But the practice of waiting for them and always relying only on them wholly to carry out activities in Arochukwu is what is being discussed here. It is not good, as it is not, and will never be, in the interest of Arochukwu. Aro activities must continue at home when those residing outside go back to their abodes after visiting Arochukwu occasionally as they do. This is what obtains in other communities in Igboland, in comparison.
Maybe examples and a few illustrations will suffice here. Before the military exited from Nigerian political scene, the Commissioner for Information in Abia State had visited Arochukwu and had gone to our palace. There, he openly told his audience that Abia State Government then (and which goes on even to this day) did not know what the people of Arochukwu were doing in the State, in terms of their activities. He had urged us to change that habit and be in tune with what others were doing in the State’s affairs. He was apparently referring to the ‘noises’ and other inputs into the political and social systems other communities were making in the State, as noted by Government through the various channels of communication. As a member of the then Publicity Committee of Okpamkpo, Arochukwu, I had noted that the commissioner was right in his observation. His observation was a direct result of the lack of grassroots leadership in Arochukwu, which has continued till today. Activities literally cease in Arochukwu once Aro returnees leave the town and go back to their places of abode.
Let me give another example. On 17th January, 2013, BCA Radio had announced that there would be an election for Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Abia State the next day, to fill vacancies at the State and LGA chapters of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation. I decided to go and watch what was to happen and who would be elected. I arrived by 10:14am at the venue in Umuahia. While people from other LGAs were present there in their numbers, not even one man from the 19 villages of Arochukwu town was there, including those resident in Umuahia. Shortly after, introductions were made among those who were present to ascertain their LGAs. And when the organisers of the event noted that I was from Arochukwu, one of them (Elder Kalu Uma Kalu from Ohafia) leapt in joy and went ahead to beckon to me to come to him. He then took me to a quiet place within the hotel premises and related to me how Arochukwu (a town he confessed was dear to him because of her role in the preservation of Igbo traditions and cultural heritage) had been conspicuously and consistently absent from Ohanaeze Ndigbo activities over the years. Ever since, he continued: “One Aro man became the chairman of Arochukwu LGA chapter of the organisation in 2004. We understand he lives in Enugu from where he came for the election in 2004, and after he was elected the chairman, nobody has seen him again. What is happening in Arochukwu?” he finally queried.
He then talked me into contesting to be elected the chairman (because of my interest in coming to the event) and go ahead to fill the gap, and which I did, and was subsequently elected.
The above was to paint the picture of exactly what obtains in Arochukwu today. People live outside permanently and from their abode go ahead to dictate what happens in Arochukwu, hoist and foist leadership on the town in a smokescreen. Those who reside in Arochukwu are usually not regarded as human beings by most of those who live outside and who carry out this act of disservice to Arochukwu. This is why those in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Aba and other towns must become automatic leaders of Arochukwu; dictate all that happens in Arochukwu endlessly, even to the extent of dictating what happens in the hiring and setting of chairs at Amaikpe Square during Ikeji. This is unlike what obtains in Abiriba, Bende, Item, Ohafia, Ohuhu, Uzuakoli, Ibeku and other neighbouring towns. In these towns, there are solid, grassroots leadership and fellowship, and those living outside these towns cue in and add to the efforts of the grassroots leaders of these communities when they come back home, and not dictating and imposing on those at home what happens in these towns as what obtains in Arochukwu. That is why the national unions of these towns are formidable in getting appointments for their people from Abia State government today, for example. Through those of them in high offices in civil service and political circles, these towns do always get anything they demand from government. With combined efforts of those at home and those in the Diaspora, those towns achieve a lot and get many appointments for their people from Abia and Federal governments.
Yet another example. As a Director in Abia State Civil Service, a colleague from a Bende LGA town had visited me in office, and we discussed. During our discussion, he had told me how his town union had directed that all their directors in Abia Civil Service should attend a compulsory meeting with all the political leaders of their town in Umuahia for briefing; and that they were to contribute a certain amount individually. When I probed into why they were levied, he revealed and confided in me that the amount realised would be used to ‘sort things out’ for one of their indigenes they were sponsoring into ‘one important office,’ and who had been briefed on what he would do for their town while in office. Four months later, he mentioned the name of the person his town union had wholly sponsored into that office. Does such a thing take place in Arochukwu – where our town union will collectively vouch for and sponsor one of their own into an important office for the sake of the community? The answer is capital NO! Rather, what obtains is that one or two, three of those living outside Arochukwu who arrogate leadership of Arochukwu to themselves only will (because such persons drive Jeep, have built one big upstairs or the other in Arochukwu, have Ph D, M Sc or MBA, or have arrogated and given to themselves one Aro ‘title-award’ or the other, they propound in their Nzuko) selfishly use their positions (even through phone calls) to front their surrogates, relatives, friends or associates, allies for one post or the other; and when such persons eventually get into such offices, they do only those things that please those men who had put them there and do next to nothing in helping their town, and this sordid cycle continues; which is why Arochukwu remains desolate as it is today, deserted and a haven for bad roads, dilapidated infrastructure, mosquitoes, and sun flies, et cetera. Today, mediocrity is worshipped in Arochukwu as a result.
I make bold to state, from experience and knowledge of my training in this regard, that lack of grassroots leadership and followership has been the bane of the overall deployment of Arochukwu, governmental neglect and the present rot in existing institutions and structural facilities in the town. It is time those who arrogate to themselves exclusive leadership of the town because they live in Lagos or Abuja, Jerusalem or Jericho, London or Washington DC, and drive Jeeps, understand that Igwe bu ike. Yes, unity is strength. They should no longer look down on those resident in Arochukwu and environs, and think such people are inferior to them in any way. No! They are not, and will never be. It is regrettable that many of those who are involved in this act have never lived in Arochukwu for once in their life, but outside.
Nzuko Arochukwu at home should be as strong as those branches outside Arochukwu. Leaders of Nzuko Arochukwu at home must be galvanized and harnessed to be the engine room of the union, and not the other way. The current passive nature of Aros living at Arochukwu in the affairs of Abia State must cease. Publications of Arochukwu, such as Aro News and The Omu Aro must be vetted properly by experienced editors (who abound in Arochukwu and outside) before they are published and pushed to the reading public, as outsiders who read these Aro documents usually assess Arochukwu as a whole through these publications as they represent Arochukwu. They should be well written and devoid of errata, corrigenda, and clumsy narrations. The publishers must always avoid the use of cut-and-nail English, or American jargon programmed in as often copied from computer sets! Here, the mere possession of Ph D or M Sc, et cetera means next to nothing. The publishers must always bear in mind what Allan Maurice had asserted before all the two Aro publications came into being some years ago:
“Even though all educated persons can read or write, it takes a heavenly born genius to edit.”
So, when it comes to editing for exactness and exactitude, Ph D or M Sc, MBA holders may not do it better; only heavenly born geniuses can do so. We should find them amongst us to edit Aro publications henceforth, in the overall interest of our town Arochukwu.