By description and definition, a patriotic leader is one who loves his people, his community and his country, and goes ahead to show same in all what he does.
A patriot will always show love to his people; he can even die for them to survive if need be! This is what patriotism portrays – it is a thing that makes one think of one’s people and their welfare and well-being, not ‘me-first’ thinking always! A patriotic person always cares for those he leads. He asks such questions as: why don’t my people have pipe-borne water to drink? Why don’t my people have good roads they can travel on to their home? Why is the library of books that is located in my town and which should have books still empty, and lacks relevant books?
A patriot will always ask why a branch of Abia Hotel located in his town has been overtaken and over-grown by weeds and trees for about twenty years now. A patriot will always ask why the policemen, local government employees, other civil and public servants posted and transferred to his place (Arochukwu in this case) always reject such transfers and will do all they can to go to Aba, Aba North, Umuahia, Umunneochi, et cetera in preference. A patriot will always ask why a road construction awarded to two indigenous (Aro) contractors have never been 50% completed since 1985 the contract was first awarded to them. The list goes on and on.
Whereas many other Igbo communities might have more patriots, Arochukwu has less and less of them, really! This is what I know. I say this from what happens in the town. One can hardly point to a person now in Arochukwu who could qualify for a patriot judging from his behavior – in traditional rulership, political leadership, social leadership, name them – unlike what happened in the past; in those good days, we had many patriots in Arochukwu who vouched for the town in all ramifications.
A few names would suffice here. The late Eze Aro VII of Arochukwu, Mazi Kanu Oji, was a most patriotic traditional ruler – who used his energy, wisdom and all he had to help Arochukwu. It was because of what the man stood for that he was honoured (the first of its kind in the whole of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria) with the CFR medal/office in 1977 when Gen Olusegun Obasanjo visited Arochukwu. No other traditional ruler in Nigeria had any medal above him – even to this day! Eze Kanu Oji loved Arochukwu, his subjects and gave the town his best while alive.
What of Alvan Azinna Ikoku? I don’t think there will be enough space here to catalogue all he had done for Arochukwu in patriotism – it was the man that left the lure of living ‘forever’ in Aba, Enugu, Lagos or any other township then to come back to the ‘forest’ called Arochukwu then in 1932 and before then – he had come to Arochukwu to establish the first privately-owned college in Africa! Yes, in the whole of Africa then – where all Aro sons and daughters had passed through to acquire secondary education in Arochukwu even to this day!
In modern-day Aro, do I need to mention our only Kinsgley Dagogo Okoronkwo (Atu Aba); our only SAN-son and a great lover of Arochukwu trado-cultural heritage, Dr Nwakamma Okoro? Those people were very much patriotic and had done all for the progress of their town, and some of them living today still exhibit their acts of patriotism.
But today, the majority of what we have in Arochukwu today are persons who want to tell every body that they have arrived in wealth acquisition, in buying all the available parcels of land in Okobo, those who drag people to courts on flimsy and very minor things; those who stay in Lagos, Aba, Abuja, Cameroon, Calabar, Enugu and schedule all Ikeji, Easter and Xmas meetings in their homes just to tell us they have ‘arrived’ by their palatial homes – where they give those who come beer brands and other drinks to drink! After that, they vamoose and leave the town of Arochukwu empty; those who build hotels in the town.
Such unpatriotic elements (knowingly or unknowingly to us) frustrate efforts to provide good roads for their people. They do not care about the fact that Arochukwu Central Market should have lock-up stalls by now the way Igbere Market has; Afikpo Market, Uzuakoli Market. Rather such unpatriotic Aro leaders live in Lagos and Abuja and try to make sure all open stalls in Arochukwu Central Market are allocated to them!
There is a reason why there is high level of unpatriotic elements among Aros. This is Diaspora-living of Aros which results in more ‘stranger-Aros.’ In 1991, the late Sir J O Nnanna had lamented that Arochukwu had less committed leaders because of this reason, as only an infinitesimal and insignificant percentage of Aro leaders can claim to be real Aro men and women – by birth and orientation. This reasoning, to me, is a reality! Many of those who claim to lead Arochukwu today have been those born and reared outside the town called Arochukwu; these are people who returned to Arochukwu in adulthood and after living in Diaspora villages and towns and, therefore, had acquired the traditions and cultural heritage of where they were born, those mba ovia villages! So, when they return to Aro, they exhibit the mba ovia characters and training they had acquired while away – and, in their conduct, do next to nothing to help Arochukwu in patriotism – after building their mansions, naming every pathway after themselves, their fathers and mothers! Nonsense!
And during Easter, Ikeji and Xmas periods, they drive their jeeps through the ever-bad roads to Arochukwu, schedule meetings in their houses where they lavish drinks and food on their attendants and, after that, vamoose and go back to Lagos, Abuja, NY, Cameroon, et cetera. Such people will never ask why there is no pipe-borne water for the dwellers of the town; why the only post office in Arochukwu has completely seized to be a post office. They don’t care if sun flies bite those at home round the clock; why there is no motorable roads in Arochukwu till today; why all infrastructural facilities government had provided in Arochukwu have all rotten away or fallen off! So, to these people, Arochukwu becomes twin babies nearly every body loves but nobody actually wants to have. These are the people who use the name of Arochukwu as a cover but actually do next to nothing to develop the town but do all to develop the towns and places where they were born and brought up in other parts of Igbo land and beyond.
This is a terrible thing, really.