people I respect have testified that I am result-oriented
and well rounded in experience. I have led among my Igbo
people and I have led teams of multinational professionals
in several settings. I am comfortably and unabashedly rooted
in my Igbo heritage and yet profoundly conversant in the
undercurrents of virtually all the cultures and peoples
with whom the Igbo must compete and contend. I am the first
to make the sacrifice I ask others to make. I abhor injustice
and I have lost quite a bit in my career and in my personal
life in pursuit of fairness and equity. I see myself in
the tradition of the civil rights and Pan-African activists.
I hold a Pan-African worldview, with an Igbo center. When
I came about my Igbo-centric consciousness, I jettisoned
once and forever the "Kingsley" that used to be
part of my name.
Perhaps more importantly, in WIC I have not just sat and
warmed seats – I have delivered in virtually every
task that was either assigned to me or for which I have
volunteered. Some say that I have done so superlatively.
I have been associated with WIC since its 1995 convention
in California, but I have only been on the Board since 2001.
I know WIC, I understand WIC, and I am convinced that with
the peoples support, I will make WIC consequential. We the
people of the sun and of the sea shall not long posses the
sky. Therein lies the rationale for trust.
Many have sharp criticisms about the organization
that you aspire to lead. What's your take on these criticisms?
As always, there at least two sides to a phenomenon. There
are critics and criticisms of the World Igbo Congress that
are genuine, constructive and helpful. I too am a critic
of my WIC. As James Baldwin once said "Because I love
America, I must criticize it." I say because I have
tremendous respect and hope for the promises of WIC, I must
However, there are criticisms that are clearly mean-spirited
and designed to pull down, rather than build. I would rather
we stay away from such. I reject the Darwinian concept of
survival of the fittest. I have never believed that someone
else must fail or fall for me to rise.
Do you see WIC as more of a sociopolitical or
socio-cultural organization? Should the WIC been more proactive
in intervening in the Anambra state crisis?
I don’t believe that it is helpful or even useful
to compartmentalize WIC and its sphere of influence in the
lives of our people. Everything is at once social and political
and spiritual and economic. The WIC of my dreams is holistic
and all encompassing. WIC must be political but not partisan.
I regret that you refer to the crisis in the "Anambra"
section of Ala Igbo as the Anambra State crisis. It is an
Igbo problem. The World Igbo Congress however, must be conscious
of its limitations. Even in the things it can do, WIC must
be consistently on the side of the masses and on the side
of what is right. I wrote the IGBO WORLD’s editorial
that called for fresh elections as far back as August 2003.
You indicate an interest in bringing about change
in WIC. What are your areas of priority?
My first priority is to build WIC into a formidable entity
indeed not just in perception. I can’t do that unless
I enable Ndigbo in the Diaspora to buy into WIC. They won’t
buy in unless they are given ownership and yes, control.
My abiding mantra shall be this: WIC should never worry
about whether the people are with it; WIC should always
worry about whether it is on the side of the people. Whenever
we are on the side of the people, the people will be on
Another priority is to actualize the corporate nature of
WIC, financially and organizationally. As Chairman, I shall
be willing to share whatever is perceived to be power in
the office, with an Executive Director whom I shall search
and appoint with Board approval. I shall appoint volunteer
continental and regional directors to help us improve our
reach and accountability.
I want to professionalize WIC’s conventions. Starting
with the Boston convention in 2006, I want it run like a
professional confab, with professional accountability. But
beyond the annual conventions, I want WIC to have at least
three other major events in the year: An annual World Igbo
Youth Conference for Igbo youth; an annual Igbo Heritage
Awards (which I once proposed to WIC as the Ikenga Awards);
and an annual Philip Efiong Lecture series.
I see the World Igbo Congress and the position of Chairman
as the greatest stage on which to hoist the flag of Igbocentricity
as I have conceived and conceptualized it. A sentiment that
approaches a layman’s description of Igbocentricity
is the part of my declaration for Chairman that stated:
"My God does not make mistakes, and as such I recognize
no land holier than Alaigbo; I know no language more divine
or more sophisticated that asusu Igbo; I have heard no name
more majestic or spiritual that aha Igbo; I have received
no love sweeter than that of Igbo women; I have not known
any burial ground more sacred or more honorable than Alaigbo,
and I place no heroes, heroines, prophets or saints above
my Igbo heroes and heroines."
What specific things can you do as WIC Chairman
to enhance the Igbo Diaspora presence in our new adopted
The Igbo must be seen and heard. I shall work to provide
outlets for them to be seen and heard, in print (as in the
Igbo World), in books, and in the movies. I shall assemble
experts in various fields to put together guide books for
survival and success for new Igbo immigrants in various
localities. I shall link WIC clearly and visibly to the
Black Congressional Caucus, the NAACP, the Urban League,
and the Jewish national organizations. I shall be present
at a rally of an Igbo candidate for political office anywhere
in the Diaspora if duly invited. I shall work with Igbo
governors to seek incentives for prominent and economically
viable African Americans to locate their African roots in
Igbo land, with the hope and belief that should hell break
loose, in the Diaspora or at home, we shall find ready allies.
WIC is thought of, by many, as a secretive organization
run by a reclusive Board of Directors. Is this a valid viewpoint?
What makes you feel that you have what it takes to change
the status quo when you assume the mantle of leadership?
Everyone that is supposedly "INSIDE" right now
in WIC was at some point "OUTSIDE." I alone can
not open up WIC. My visions alone, no matter how articulate
and inspiring, can’t open up WIC. Only the delegates
and Board members from the various affiliates will open
up WIC. The extent to which I will change anything will
depend on the "people power" that I can bring
to the table. Board members of WIC are people too, and my
candidacy is an appeal to both the Board and the masses.
WIC has no financial resources to operate with.
Why is this so? What are WIC revenue generation sources
at this moment?
To the best of my knowledge, the main source of revenue
to WIC at this point is the dues the affiliates pay. The
conventions have not had a good record of revenue generation.
WIC does not have money because the people have not fully
bought into it. This is why enabling the necessary buy-in
must be job number one.
The Education Committee of the WIC appears to
be the only component of the organization that is active.
What other committees exist in present WIC?
I thank you for your kind words regarding the Education
Committee. I will submit that the Constitution Review Committee
headed by John Udoh has been active too. So has the Economic
Development Committee headed by Joe Nzepuome, with Chuks
Ibekwe as a productive member. So has the Road Map Committee
heeded by Professor Kalu. The Membership Development Committee
headed by Nnaerika Okonkwo has been active. The Electoral
Committee does its seasonal work as at when due. And now
the National Conference Committee heeded by Kemnagum Okorie
is fast at work.
Are you content with present committees or are
you contemplating specific changes if you become the Chairman?
The committees are not the issue. The major issue is getting
people who are willing to leave foot prints with the assignments
they are given. If approved by the Board and HOD, I would
like to streamline the committees under Vice Chairpersons
of WIC. Additionally, I plan to set up a shadow government
that mirrors the major ministries in Nigeria’s government.
In other words, I plan to appoint, with Board and HOD approval,
Secretaries of Education, Defence, Commerce and Industry,
Energy, Agriculture, etc., to not only monitor their counterparts’
performances in Nigeria, but to be the lead advisors on
WIC’s visions for these vital areas.
Some have charged you for fraternizing too closely
with political elite outside of Alaigbo, particularly the
North. Doesn't this fact disqualify you to lead an Igbo
Diaspora apex group?
I am a Pan-Africanist in the tradition of Zik and Ojike.
I believe Odumegwu-Ojukwu was born in the North and has
remained in fraternity with the North, even after a bloody
war of survival. The issue is not fraternization. This is
the question: Is Ojukwu or Ugorji comfortable enough in
his Igbo skin and rooted enough in Igbocentricity to choose
the Igbo group interest over any other interest? The answer
for me is an unqualified and unassailable yes. Having said
that, I will also say that what is good for the Igbo is
good for the Nigerian nation, because the Igbo is the one
group that can be found in virtually all local governments
I will tell you this story: There is this brother of mine
in New Jersey who used to rant and rave about who is too
close to the North and how northerners are the enemy of
Ndigbo. Yet each time this community leader shows up at
Igbo events, he comes in babariga. One day I pulled him
aside at an Igbo-USA event and asked him why he was so much
in love with babariga, if he saw northerners as enemies
and oppressors? He was puzzled. His ranting was never grounded
in any consciousness at all. What one is proud to wear speaks
more to your closeness to the culture and people from whom
the outfit comes, than hypocritical polemics designed to
hide complexes. The brother has generally left me alone
since that encounter.
How do you intend to bridge the gap in perception
that is evident between the leadership of pro-Biafra groups
and the WIC, for example?
First I must ascertain, and help all sides understand, that
we are all in the same boat, as far as our love and hopes
for our people are concerned. I am not sure that the anti-Igbo
forces make any distinction between pro-Biafra Okoros and
pro-Nigeria Okoros. We must find a way to agree that we
are not each other’s enemies, not even when we attempt
to pull each other down. In other words, at some point we
have to sit down and talk Igbo to Igbo.
Is there any need for other pan-Igbo groups
like PNF USA, Ekwe Nche, Enyimba and World Igbo Council
(WIC)? How will you relate with these groups if you become
the Chairman the World Igbo Congress (WIC)?
Where two or more are gathered in the reported interest
of Ndigbo, I will ask my father to pour libation to their
success and strength. I would pour the libation myself except
that my father, thank God, is still here on Earth with me.
I will relate to all Igbo groups who wish WIC well, as brothers.
I shall be fraternal to those groups who are fraternal with
WIC; I shall however keep my distance from any group whose
agenda is to demonize WIC or to see to its disappearance
WIC presently supports Igbo presidency project
for 2007. Is this a realistic ambition for Ndiigbo? How
can the WIC help to make this a successful endeavor?
I find the question as to whether a President of Igbo heritage
in Nigeria is realistic insulting. Was it realistic for
the women at Aba to route the colonialists and their warrant
chiefs? Was it realistic that we would survive a 33-month
war with complete blockade and with both the Soviet Union
and NATO against us? Was it realistic to think that Chioma
Ajunwa would beat Jackie Joyner Kousie in the long jump
at the Atlanta Olympics? Was it realistic that Enyimba football
club would win in the continent two years in a row? Of course
an Igbo presidency in 2007 is realistic and I predict it
How can WIC help? First WIC must not flirt with any other
candidate unless none of the formidable parties nominate
an Igbo. WIC must call on all the parties to nominate a
competent Igbo among them. WIC must set up the machinery
to raise money for a consensus candidate if he or she requests
it. We must go home to register to vote. We must go back
to not just vote, but to protect the real votes that are
cast. And finally if need be, we must be prepared to fight
stolen elections. If we truly know that any government in
any part of the country stole an election in 2007, then
we have no business giving that government’s functionaries
the coveted stage at WIC conventions.
Lack of firm spiritual anchor contributes to
corrosion of our Igbo values. Do you consider spiritual
reawakening as a necessary step in mobilization of downtrodden
people? Do you have any model that best suits our present
H. D. Major once said: "when the religion of a civilization
dies, the death of the civilization speedily follows."
There can not be an Igbo-centered people without an Igbo-centered
sense of spirituality. In our Igbo heritage, our ancestors
told us that there were certain kinds of transgressions
that were so heinous you could almost never expiate them
(e.g. murder and incestuous rape). As such our people were
ultra cautious not to engage, the result was that these
crimes were quite rare.
However, along came the concept of individual salvation,
as opposed to communal balance. Now a politician can kill
his opponent at night or steal elections in broad day light
and run to sing the praises of foreign saints and prophets,
at shrines built with Igbo wealth on Igbo land but named
after foreign saints and prophets. And they are forgiven
and saved. Even with this antidote, I do not prescribe a
particular spiritual model for my people. I believe in religious
and spiritual freedom, provided that no one is deliberately
exploited or harmed in the process. I am as appreciative
of the impact of Christianity in my life as I am of my Igbo
religious heritage. All I say is that onye ma nnaya ma ndi
iche. Nna anyi bu Chukwu. Let my people be whom God created
them to be – a quintessential, righteous people by
nature, beholden only to one supreme God. And when one transgresses,
one apologizes to umunna and makes whole with both God and
umunna. Egbe felima, Ugo felima.
You have pledged to run the WIC, if elected
Chairman, with an Executive Director. Why do you think that
the cost is worth the benefits?
The biggest cost is in not having one. We’ve got to
leave the daily management of the organization to competent
hands that have the time, the motivation, the expertise
and the reach to make the organization consequential.
Are you content with current electoral system
in WIC? If so, why? If not, what specific changes do you
propose for implementation before this year's election?
I have said it before: I believe that the delegates and
members of the Board must participate in the election of
their leaders. I am more comfortable with a leader chosen
by the many than one chosen by the few. I am the leading
proponent of "one delegate one vote" in WIC. I
believe that the pool of voters and potential candidates
for WIC leadership should include members of the House of
Delegates. If this does not happen in this election, and
if I am elected Chairman, I assure you that I will go to
meetings every time seeking support to open up the organization.
Women and youths are often the most underutilized
resources of the Igbo Diaspora, especially in operational
agenda of the WIC. Why is this the case? Do you have specific
plans to address this if you become the WIC Chairman?
I am not sure why it used to be the case, but the Education
Committee set up by Dr. Diogu has changed that. With my
leadership, we have set up scholarship programs for the
youth and some have benefited already. We have identified
and profiled some of our youth in Igbo World, which I edit
for WIC. And we have proposed an annual World Igbo Youth
Conference that is now awaiting the approval of WIC’s
Board. God willing, the first of such a conference will
take place sometime this year (tentatively scheduled for
May 21, 2005).
Regarding the participation of our women, the challenges
of work, motherhood (sometimes), and tradition have combined
to make it difficult for our women to be as engaged in WIC
as the men are. I know that it was a woman (Ester Ohen)
who chaired the constitution drafting committee of WIC back
in embryonic days. Gladys Nwosu (New Jersey) and Anuri Nnodim
(New York) have been active in the Education Committee.
And Mrs. Oruh has been carrying the torch as the lone woman
I will encourage other affiliates to do what Peter Nwogu
did in Washington, DC - send women to the Board. And I shall
seek from affiliate Presidents names of competent women
to name as heads of committees.
Should an umbrella organization like the WIC
not fund and offer strategic assistance to MASSOB whose
main objective is sovereign self-determination for Ndiigbo?
To the best of my knowledge MASSOB has not asked for funds
or strategic assistance from WIC. If I am elected to serve,
we will cross that bridge (in house) when the request comes.
However, I am on record as insisting that WIC must fight
to protect the civil rights of all Nigerians, including
the rights of MASSOB members.
What are your personal thoughts about the lot
of Biafran War veterans?
I am ashamed as an Igbo about it. What we do in the memories
of those who died for us, and what we do for those who were
maimed in the process, will affect significantly the ease
or readiness with which this generation and future generations
would want to risk it all for their people. My first visit
upon election as Chairman of WIC shall be to the settlements
where we have our veterans. I will put the feet of Igbo
governors to the fire on this matter – I will literally
shame them into action if need be. I will also call for
the establishment of a Veterans Department in each Igbo
State or at the very least the establishment of a Special
Assistant for Veterans Affairs in each state governor’s
office, with a budget to support it.
Further, I plan to lead WIC to initiate the building of
a War Memorial edifice somewhere in Ala Igbo in commemoration
and remembrance of a particularly significant period in
our history as a people. Once the Board and the HOD conceptualizes
what should be located at the memorial site, we would invite
our finest architects to compete for a design of the memorial
How often do you visit Alaigbo? What can the
WIC do to help address dilapidated roads and widespread
erosion menace in Alaigbo?
I visit at least twice a year. I suspect that I would have
to visit more often as WIC’s chair.
Roads are another area where we must put our governors’
feet and our president’s feet to the fire. These are
principally the responsibilities of government. To the extent
that we can inspire grants from international bodies to
address roads and erosion control, we should do so in WIC.
As a publisher and writer, you must respect
the power of the written word. How can the WIC help to advance
literacy and growth of popular African literature?
WIC must encourage the support of Igbo authors and publishers.
You can’t be a capitalist without capital. Somebody
packaged Achebe’s first works and presented them to
the world, and it was not Igbos. In this time and generation,
we must package our own stories and patronize them. WIC
can do this easily by dedicating a session during each of
its conventions to the discussion of works by Igbo writers
and publishers. To this I am committed as a person.
As an opinionated member of our vibrant Igbo
Diaspora community, you must have stepped on some sore toes
over the years. What word do you have for those who may
elect to oppose your candidacy due to their past personal
experiences with you?
Among the first things I did, even before I decided to run
and independent of my aspirations, was to apologize personally
to all I may have offended. Ofo nnam ji dictates that I
do that for homeostasis. My Christian upbringing demands
that of me as well. All I say to those who may still be
aggrieved is that Nke iru ka. I shall live the rest of my
life making them understand that the whole is much more
than the part. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery,
and today is a gift, which is why it is referred to as the
present. I can not promise that I won’t offend someone
tomorrow – every effective leader offends some people
some of the time – but I pledge not to make the same
Are there other credible contenders for the
WIC chairman? What do you fear most in the capacity of your
potential competitors for the WIC chairman?
Oh there are many credible potential leaders of WIC. I like
Sam Enyia’s sense of honour. I like Chibuzor Onwuchekwa’s
knowledge of my Igbo culture. I like Gibson Chigbu’s
long history and experience in serving our Nigerian and
Igbo community in the Diaspora. I like John Udoh’s
attention to detail. I like Bernard Nwaiwu’s commitment
to the principles of fairness and equity. I like Dr. Louis
Okonkwo’s command of respect. I like C.Y. Nwaguru’s
political acumen. I like Ezeudo Egbujor’s generous
and kind heart for Igbo causes. I like Peter Nwogu’s
magnanimity and sense of decorum. I like Joe Nzepuome’s
dignified presence. I like Chuks Egwuim’s uprightness.
I like Uzodike’s calmness and efficiency. I like Chikezie’s
assertive prodding and analytical mind. I like Chuks Ibekwe’s
sense of loyalty. I like Okey Nwanna’s sense of commitment.
I like the fresh air that Dike and Dr. Orji bring to the
Board. I like Mrs. Oruh’s uniqueness and courage.
I could go on and on. Anyone of them could emerge to lead
and I would be glad to follow. And I fear nothing about
any of them because each is too lovable to be feared. I
am inspired by all on the Board and by everyone in the HOD
clamoring for change.
Do you have free time at all? How do you usually
spend it whenever available?
I read, write, and edit written materials in my free time.
Intellectual and creative works are where my passion lies.
However, my greatest joy comes from playing with my wife
and my four boys, although it is a different kind of play
with the wife.
What is your favorite Igbo food?
Gari and ofe egusi, with okporoko and anu ewu.
Please, tell us a little bit about your nuclear family.
An exciting thing happened on my way to Lorji from the US
in 1991 – I fell in love with a young woman called
Chioma. She works in the same field that my father worked
for years – teaching. I call her Chifine. I have four
sons – Nnamdi, Ugonna, Uzonna, and Uchenna. My wife
does not find it funny that they are all boys, with all
these nna nna names. She says she has five boys altogether
in the house (counting me) – four are growing up and
are eager to leave the house; one refuses to grow up and
has no plans of leaving.