Nwachukwu Anakwenze, a renowned American-trained physician, is the President of World Igbo Assembly, an umbrella body coordinating Igbo activities in the Diaspora. Before assuming the position, Anakwenze headed the Anambra State Associations in the United States of America, ASA-USA, during which, for decades, he led health professionals from all states in the USA on annual medical mission to various communities in Anambra State.
Although he has lived in the USA for about three decades, he has always kept in touch with the home front, which was why his community, Abagana in Njikoka local government area crowned him as the traditional prime minister of the town, a position that places him next to the traditional ruler of Abagana. In this interview, Anakwenze spoke on the position of the Igbo in Diaspora on burning national issues.
The Igbo in Diaspora must be conversant with what is happening in Nigeria, particularly the killings and unstable economy. How worried are they?
In the past, we had peace and tranquility in Nigeria, but things have changed with stories of herdsmen invading our villages, killing people, destroying crops and raping our women, something we cannot tolerate. We are very concerned about that because the well- being of our people is involved. We will no longer accept this condition and we are going to talk to our people on what to do.
Everybody needs to prepare to defend himself and his family against the menacing herdsmen because we are not prepared to cede an inch of any Igbo land to anybody. Our people must protect their crops always. If any animal comes to eat the crops, it means hunger will be in the land because that is what the people use after harvesting and sales to train their children.
These animals must be killed if they invade the farms and destroy the crops. If the cows come and eat our food, we will eat the cows. If the herders kill our people and destroy our things, we have the right to reciprocate. We want peace for us and for everybody, but if somebody comes to fight us on our land, we will fight back.
Are you satisfied with the way the governors in the South East are approaching this issue of herdsmen?
So far the governors have said they won't give out our land and we are satisfied with that. We don't have any land in the first place. Our states have the smallest land mass in Nigeria and therefore, we don't have any to give. What should be done is to have ranches in the South and RUGA in the North and then we will be happy to sell the food the cows need to them. They have a lot of land in the North and they don't need it in the South.
Have the Igbo in Diaspora articulated any plan on how to handle this delicate matter?
We are already in court in the USA to fight for our human rights. Some have even gone to the international Court at the Hague. This is human rights abuse because we are not killing anybody. We cannot just watch and allow our women and children to be raped. We are suing against genocide because that is what it is.
Who are the defendants in the suit?
All the parties involved are the defendants, including the herdsmen and those sponsoring them. What we are doing has nothing to do with what IPOB is doing. In fact, there are many law suits on this matter in America and in Europe.
How do you see the activities of IPOB?
IPOB is fighting for freedom from a different way. We are supporting what Ohanaeze Ndigbo is doing. We are using diplomacy to solve the problem. We are happy the way Ohanaeze, the Afenifere, PANDEF, Middle Belt group, the South-South are speaking out about what is happening in Nigeria. All we want is for Nigeria to be restructured so that every part of the country can develop at its own pace.
We are not looking for the breakup of Nigeria. If Nigerians can live together, that will be better. But if it can't work, we cannot sacrifice ourselves for the sake of Nigeria. If Nigeria can work and everybody benefits from it, I am for that. If it wouldn't work, there is nothing with that either. So our approach is diplomacy; talking to other people to try to solve the problem peacefully.
Supposing the herdsmen eventually leave with their cows, do we have alternative? We hear some state governors are planning to invest in cattle rearing but do you think it will work?
We had cattle ranches during Michael Okpara administration in the 60s and they worked. We only need to revive it. We used to have Obudu Cattle ranch in Cross River and in some parts of the present Imo State and they served the purpose for which they were meant. Northerners can do their ranching in the north and when it is time for sale, they can bring them to the South by rail transport to make their money.
Would you say the Nigerian government has handled security issues well?
Government has handled security issue poorly. Things are worse in the country now than in the past. Take the situation in Benue State for example, hundreds of people had been killed and their land forcefully taken and government has not done anything to solve the problem. The worrisome aspect of the whole things is that we have everything but we can't manage what we have. Japan does not have the kind of natural resources we have, but look at where they are.
Saudi Arabia imports water and they don't lack water in that country. Here we have water everywhere, but we can't harness it. God has done for us what has not been done for many countries. Our people are intelligent and if we give our young people the opportunity they need, they can rule the world and make our country one of the best in the next ten years. Here, our leadership stinks and it is all corruption from head to toe. The security system is corrupt and these are the reasons our youths don't have hope. The rest of the world is moving forward while we are retrogressing. Here we are striving to eat once or two times a day.
Our leadership is a disgrace and it is because of it that our youths don't have a future. Our people can match Chinese and Americans in intelligence but they have to be given the opportunity. All that our leaders do is steal our common wealth. Even electricity is worse under this administration than in any previous government. I don't see any progress under this government. When I was young, Nigerian degrees were accepted as equal to America degrees. Today, our degrees are not acceptable there. Before we used to command a lot of respect, but they have run this country down and it is a disgrace.
But there is this allegation that our Diaspora people are not doing enough to support the Nigerian government. How do you react to that?
That is not true. For instance, I dedicate all my life to the service of my country since I qualified as a medical doctor in USA. I was attending Igbo meetings regularly in all parts of the world.
Government is not sponsoring these meetings and it should be realized that the Diaspora people you are talking about do not have money. Most of them are teachers and office workers and would have preferred to return home if things are good. They are not Innoson or Ekene Dilichukwu or Dangote. But they send up to $25 billion home which is more than what Nigerian government declares as sales from crude oil.
The annual medical mission by Igbo in Diaspora was regular when you were president of ASA-USA, but it has died down. What went wrong?
Since I left ASA-USA, there had been in-fighting among themselves and they are in court. But I am head of Anambra State Association Worldwide and we are still doing medical mission every year. We are very active and we will be here in December this year. Whenever there is election, we are always involved and that is why we have good leaders in Anambra.
We have made sure that people of doubtful character do not come near Government House again. Peter Obi was exceptional and Obiano is doing better than most governors in Nigeria. There is no crime here again as people can walk about any hour even at night. That is what we expect. We are happy the new governor of Imo State is cleaning up the mess in that state.
You are one of those that pioneered the establishment of Igbo village in Virginia, USA. What is it all about?
I am the chairman of Board of Governors and President of the Igbo Village and Museum. The museum is owned by the State of Virginia and they appointed me chairman of the board to represent all the black people in the world in the museum. I have been the chairman for 12 years. The important thing to note is that four major groups founded America.
They are the English, the Irish, the German and the Igbo. Half of African-Americans are Igbo people who were those kidnapped and taken into slavery. If they do DNA test, it will show they are Igbo. Every year, we do our Igbo festival during which we do DNA which shows that most of them are Igbo. We are not just talking; we have scientific proof of what we are saying. Many Igbo traditional rulers and leaders of Ohanaeze attend the festival every year. It is on the back of Igbo people that America was built.
It is the people that were taken from here that did the cutting work, farming the Tobacco. Our people worked for 250 years without pay. That America is a super power is because of our people. Igbo are not foreigners in America; we built America. It's our fathers that built America. That is why the American government picked me to represent the black race at the museum. It was in Virginia that the slaves landed first and it was from there they distributed them to other parts of America. So we have two countries-Nigeria and America.