Dr. Leonard Madu

Dr. Leonard Madu

Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute of Nashville and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, Tennessee. 

 

Since a Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi won the last Egyptian presidential elections, the organization has come under increased scrutiny. Most people outside the Arab world do not know whom they are or what they stand for. Since the brotherhood came to power under the Freedom and Justice Party platform, tension has increased in Egyptian society. There is increased strife between Christians and Muslims. Christians are terrified and are emigrating in large numbers to the United States and Europe. Millions of Egyptians are beginning to believe that they are moving from an Islamic State to a Theocratic State. So who are the Muslim Brotherhood and what do they stand for?

However, the Brotherhood has been part of Egyptian political life for over 80 years. It was founded in the city of Ismailia in 1928, four years after Turkish leader Kemal Ataturk abolished the Caliph-the office that had authority over Muslims in the Arab world since the death of Prophet Mohammed. The brotherhood was founded by Hassan El Banna, a Muslim cleric and intellectual. It is a global Sunni revivalist  movement that advocates a move away from secularism and a return to the rules of the Koran. It calls for a one party state. Its motto is "Islam is the solution". It started as an organization with five members and by the end of the second world war it had about half a million members. It began as a religious association with the intent of fighting westernization and re instituting Muslim laws and morality. They were concerned with the social dislocation caused at that time by modernization, industrialization and capitalism and sought answers to them. As an organizational genius, El Banna created cells in all of Egypt by building physical fitness centers, community centers, Young Men's Muslim Association(YMMA), feeding centers for the poor and clinics. These institutions served as recruiting centers to build a mass organization.

In the 1930s, what started as a religious association transformed itself into political Islam. It started advocating opposition to British and French colonial rule in the Middle East, against the corruption of King Farouk and the return of the Suez Canal.  In 1948, it was disbanded and its assets impounded on the orders of the Egyptian government under Prime Minister Mahmoud Pasha.  This did not go down well with the brotherhood and Pasha was later assassinated by a brotherhood member. El Banna condemned the assassination, but was himself assassinated the following year  in 1949.  The core beliefs of the Brotherhood can be found in the "ten principles of Hassan El Banna".

After El Banna's assassination, the Brotherhood under Sayyid Qutb became more radical and violent. Osama Bin Laden was a disciple of Qutb.  In the 1954, after an attempted assassination against President Nasser, the organization was banned and its members including Qutb were arrested and imprisoned. Qutb was executed by the Nasser regime in 1966. It remained banned until new Egyptian President Anwar Sadat lifted the ban. However, in 1981, Sadat was assassinated by the Islamic Jihad an offshoot of the Brotherhood led by Ayman Al Zawahiri who later became bin Laden's deputy and now leader of Al Qaeda. In 1982, its branch in Syria led the rebellion against President Hafez Assad in the city of Hama. Assad flattened Hama and over 10,000 people were killed in a matter of days. The organization was banned by Assad and it became a capital offense to be a member.

After the assassination of Sadat, Hosni Mubarak cracked down on the organization. Many of its leaders were jailed and some executed. After Mubarak's overthrow, they resurfaced again. In June 2011, they registered as a political party with the name of Freedom and Justice Party. In 2012, its candidate Mohammed Morsi was elected  president of Egypt. The election of Morsi has severely polarized  Egyptian society. Since his election, Morsi has been issuing some bizarre decrees and gradually concentrating power in his hands, setting the stage for another dictatorship. Nobody knows how governmental decisions are made, and transparency has jumped out of the window. One cannot expect an organization that has been introverted and secretive for over 35 years, to suddenly become transparent and extroverted. Since the Brotherhood advocates a one party theocratic state, Egyptians might never see another free and fair election after the brotherhood consolidates power.  Hassan El Banna had articulated a one party theocracy for Egypt. Given that Mohammed Morsi is known to be a disciple of Hassan El Banna, Egyptians might wake up to find themselves in a one party theocratic state under the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood has branches in most countries in the Arab World, in the United States and in Black Africa under different names. In Libya-Justice and Development Party; Tunisia-The Renaissance Party; Yemen-Yemeni Congregation Party; Sudan-National Islamic Front; Algeria-Movement for the Society of Peace; Gaza-Hamas; Somalia-Harakat Al Islah; Jordan-Islamic Action Party; Iraq-Iraqi Islamic Party.  In the United States, several Muslim organizations are allied with the Brotherhood. These include the Muslim Students Association, the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Society of North America.

However, because it is a Sunni organization, its influence is minimal in Shiite dominated countries like Iran, Bahrain, Lebanon and Azerbaijan.

 

*Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, TN.

Thursday, 17 January 2013 15:32

Who Are The Yoruba People of Nigeria?

The Yorubas are an ethnic group of West Africa. Worldwide, they number about 45 million, with 35 million in Nigeria. They constitute about 21% of Nigeria's population. Along with the Akan, Hausa/Fulani, and the Igbo, they are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. There are also significant Yoruba populations in Benin and Togo. 

The Yoruba are of interest, because of the contribution Yoruba slaves  made to the culture of the Caribbean and Latin America, in particular of Cuba and Brazil. Nearly all the slaves brought to the Americas came from West Africa, and none had a greater influence on New World culture than the Yoruba. Inside Nigeria, they are one of the three largest  and most important ethnic groups. The others are the Hausa/Fulani and the Igbo. The three ethnic groups together constitute more than half  of Nigeria's population. For more than a century, the Yoruba were the dominant group among Nigeria's educated elite. Prior to 1937, when Nigeria's first president Nnamdi Azikiwe rose to prominence, they provided political leadership in the development of Nigerian nationalism. Following Nigeria's independence in 1960, they became the minority party when the Igbo and Hausa  formed a coalition, but still remained very influential. 

During the four centuries of slave trade when their territory was known as the slave coast, untold numbers of Yoruba were carried to the New World where their descendants still preserve Yoruba traditions, including some which many Yorubas in Nigeria have forgotten. Political structure, clans and lineages have been destroyed and the family system has been altered. But language, music, dance, mythology, folklore, cooking and religion have been maintained with some modifications. In several parts of the Caribbean and South America, Yoruba traditional religion has been accommodated to Christianity, with Yoruba deities identified with Catholic saints. In Bahia, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Fortaleza, Porto Alegre (Brazil), Matanzas and Havana (Cuba), Yoruba traditional religion still flourishes. In 1859, the Olokun worship took hold in Cuba.  In Brazil, the Yorubas are known as Nago, in Cuba they are known as Lucumi and in Sierra Leone they are known as Aku. Though 40% of Yorubas are Christian and 40% Muslim, the traditional religion is still very influential and significant. 

In 1839, 300 Yoruba slaves purchased three condemned ships and made their way back to Nigeria. They sent word back asking for missionaries from Sierra Leone, opening the way for the first missionaries in Nigeria, who reached the city of Abeokuta in 1842. Among the early missionaries was Samuel Ajai Crowther, one of the freed Yoruba slaves who compiled the first Yoruba dictionary in 1843, and who later became Bishop of the Niger. He was the first African Bishop of the Church of Missionary Society (Anglican) of England. Today, Yorubas along with the Igbos are the most educated ethnic groups in Africa. Some of the best universities in Nigeria are located in Yoruba land. These include the University of Ibadan (first university in Nigeria), University of Lagos and the iconic Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile Ife. The first television station in Black Africa was built in Yoruba land, as well as the first floodlight stadium. 

In terms of urbanization, they are the most urbanized group in Black Africa. Their tradition of urban life gives them a unique place not only among African societies, but among other ethnic groups around the world. Some of the largest and most densely populated cities in Africa are located in Yoruba territory. These include Lagos and Ibadan.

 In terms of business and commerce, they are very significant players in Nigeria and West Africa. The country's economic powerhouse, Lagos is located in Yoruba territory. They also predominate in the media and legal professions. 

In the political arena, they have played a significant role in the nation's turbulent political history. Most of the important human and civil rights activists like Nobel Literature Prize winner Wole Soyinka and musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti are Yorubas. Former military and civilian president Olusegun Obasanjo and late billionaire Moshood Abiola are also Yorubas. The current Nigerian Ambassador to the United States,  Ade Adefuye is a Yoruba. There is also evidence that Booker Taniafeni Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute is of Yoruba ancestry. 

 

*Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Cmmerce in Nashville, Tennessee.

Prior to the advent of Islam and Christianity, most Africans practiced traditional African religion. Christians and Muslims were in the minority. Even after 1900 when Christian and Muslim expansion reached its peak, traditional African religion still maintained relevance. Very much misunderstood, the religion has been called all kinds of derogatory names, from animism to paganism. Traditional African religion is much more than Westerners give it credit for. It is a global framework of life, encompassing  every human situation and governing the whole society. Over 100 million Africans or 10% of the population still practice the religion full time.

Unlike other religions, African religions have no sacred texts  or creed comparable to the Torah, Bible or the Koran. Their expressions are found in oral traditions, rituals, myths, festivals, symbols and shrines. The primary role of Traditional African religion is to provide for human well being in the present, as opposed to offering salvation in a future world. Though beliefs and practices differ and vary across ethnic groups and regions, they have unifying themes. One single faith with local differences. For example, the Igbos of Southeastern Nigeria worship differently from the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria. The Akans of Ghana worship differently from the Dioula of the Ivory Coast. But they all believe in one super god, lesser divinities and in honoring the ancestors.   

In a nutshell, traditional African religion is characterized by belief in a supreme being, who created and ordered the world, but is often experienced as distant and unreachable. Therefore, lesser divinities who are more accessible act as intermediaries with the super god. Violations of taboos or social norms are widely believed to result in hardships or illness for individuals or communities and must be countered by ritual acts  to reestablish order, harmony and well being.

Believers of the religion hold that ancestors sometimes act as emissaries between living beings and the divine, helping to maintain social order and withdrawing their support if the living behave wrongly. If there are infractions, the oraculists are called upon to discern what is wrong and make recommendations on how to resolve it.

It is very significant, that most Africans who adhere to Islam or Christianity also incorporate elements of indigenous African religion into their daily lives. Most Africans still believe in the power of Jujus to protect them. Most Christians and Muslims in Africa still consult traditional religious healers when someone is sick, and participate in ceremonies to honor their ancestors. In short, Christianity and Islam coexist harmoniously with traditional African religion. The reason for this harmony is because of the capacity of traditional African religions  to tolerate and accommodate alternative religious cultures. This accommodation and tolerance is because African traditional religion is not export oriented, non hegemonic and non proselytizing. Unlike Christianity and Islam, these traditional African religions did not have the ambition to conquer the world. It was a domestic religion for Africans and Africans only. Therefore, it was not in competition with Christianity or Islam in the marketplace of creeds and souls, thereby avoiding conflicts and tensions.

When African slaves came to the Americas, they carried their religious practices and beliefs with them. These beliefs evolved into Voodoo in Haiti and Santeria in Cuba.

 

*Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Commerce. He is also a Fox TV foreign affairs analyst and writes from Nashville, TN.

Sunday, 25 November 2012 22:30

The Igbo people of Nigeria-Jews of Africa?

       In a White House memo dated Tuesday, January 28, 1969 to President Nixon, former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger describes the Igbos as “the wandering Jews of West Africa-gifted, aggressive, westernized, at best envied and resented, but mostly despised by their neighbors in the federation”(foreign relations document, volume E-5, documents on Africa 1969-1972).

    Kissinger's description aptly portrays the Christian Igbos and their experience in Nigeria. Over the years, the Igbos have been the victims of numerous massacres, that they have lost count. Most of the violence directed against the Igbos have been state sponsored. One can say that the Igbos knew how to spell “state sponsored terrorism” before the rest of the world did. The state sponsored terrorism directed against the Igbos in 1966, led to the declaration of the Republic of Biafra by the Igbos and subsequent civil war. Over two million Igbos died in the civil war, primarily by starvation. One will not be wrong, if they call the Igbos the “Tutsis” of Nigeria. Today, an Islamic terrorist Conglomerate led by the dreaded Boko Haram are still slaughtering Igbos and other Christians in Northen Nigeria. Igbos have always seen themselves as a bulwark against the spread of Islam to Southern Nigeria, and as a result, a perennial target of Islamic zealots.

     However, the Igbos are one of the largest and most distinctive of all African ethnic groups. Predominantly found in Southeastern Nigeria, they number about 40 million worldwide, with about 30 million in Nigeria. They constitute about 18% of Nigeria's population, with significant Igbo populations in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Ivory Coast. Igbos predominate in five states in Nigeria-Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Abia. In three other states- Rivers, Lagos and Delta, they constitute almost 25% of the population.

    During the slave trade, Igbo slaves were known to be the most rebellious. Most of the slave rebellions in the United States, Haiti, Jamaica, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Guyana were led by Igbo slaves. In South Carolina, Igbo slaves were reported to have drowned themselves, rather than be kept as slaves. Today that place is called Ebo Island in commemoration of the slaves who died there. The Gullahs are Igbo. Igbos were one of the 13 African ethnic groups that provided the bulk of the slaves who were brought to the Americas. Majority of the slaves who ended up in Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, Maryland, Arkansas, Mississippi, South and North Carolina and Georgia were Igbo. An Igbo museum has been built in Virginia to honor the contribution of Igbo slaves to the state. One of the Igbo slaves who was sent to Liberia by the American Colonization Society-Edward Roye- became the fourth president of Liberia. Another Igbo slave, Olaiduah Equiano wrote the famous slave chronicles.

      During the colonial period, the British disliked the Igbos, because of their supposedly uppitiness and argumentativeness. During military service in Burma and India, the pride of Igbo soldiers amongst other African soldiers was proverbial. In the company offices and orderly rooms, the first few words from the White officer speaking to an Igbo soldier was followed by “don't argue, you! Or “you want to be too clever”, and similar expressions. Their expressive and aggressive mentality which they enjoy in their culture at home, does not always allow them to accept false charges or accusations without responding. The late famous writer, Langston Hughes, observed “the Igbo looks proud because he is bred in a free atmosphere where everyone is equal. He hates to depend on anyone for his life's need. He does not mind if others look proud. He has much to be proud of in his land. Nature has provided for him. He is strong and able to work or fight. He is well formed. He is generally happy in his society where no ruler overrides his conscience. He likes to advance and he is quick to learn. He likes to give rather than take”.

     Culturally, the Igbos are a very diverse group with different clans, families, subcultures, and subgroups. However, the customs are similar with local varieties. Although there are disagreements about the origins of the Igbos, there is a consensus that they originated from Nri in Anambra State of Nigeria. The language of the Igbos is Igbo or Ibo.  It is one of the largest spoken languages in Africa, with Hausa and Yoruba. Igbo speaking people are divided into five geographically based subcultures-Northern Igbo, Western Igbo, Southern Igbo, Eastern Igbo and Northeastern Igbo. Not as urbanized as the Yoruba, they live in multitudinous villages, fragmented into small family groups. They do not have hereditary chiefs like the the Yoruba or Hausa/Fulani. Every Igbo more or less is his or her own master. The Igbos operate the “Umunna System”, which emphasizes the patrilineal heritage, rather than the matrilineal. Some of the important Igbo cities include, Onitsha, Enugu, Umuahia, Aba, Asaba, Abakaliki, Owerri, Nsukka.

    In commerce, the Igbos are a mobile, vividly industrious people who have spread all over Nigeria and Africa as traders and small merchants. In countries like Gabon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Gambia, Igbo traders predominate in retail trade. Most Igbos are clannish, despite their individualism and hold closely together in non Igbo communities. They are often very unpopular in the communities they live in, because they push very hard  to make money and often dominate the retail business in alien communities. In his book, the Brutality of Nations, Dan Jacobs describes the Igbos “as ambitious, dynamic and progressive people whose education and abilities did not endear them to those among whom they lived. Even during British rule, there were massacres of Igbos in Northern Nigeria-in Jos in 1945 and in Kano in 1953. The Igbos have acquired the sobriquet, Jews of Africa”.

     Education is highly emphasized and given priority in Igboland. Converted to Christianity by Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian missionaries, they took up self improvement with such enthusiasm, that by the 1960's, the Igbos had the highest percentage of doctors, lawyers, engineers, physicists, and teachers than any other ethnic group in Africa. Because of the abundant educational talent in Igboland many newly independent African nations recruited them to fill vacancies in their civil service. The first American style university built in Africa was in Igboland-the University of Nigeria at Nsukka. Its founder, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was a graduate of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. The Igbos and the Yorubas are the most educated ethnic group in Africa.

     Politically, the Igbos are very  effervescent and volatile.  According to author Dan Jacobs “for Britain and for the British civil servants who continued to work in the Northern Region, the Igbos have always been a troublesome element in the federation, a people with a democratic tradition who are not easily controlled. Many  British were glad to see them out of a central position in the federation, as were those who had driven them back to their homeland and those who now held the civil service and other jobs they had left”.  The Igbos had been the  most ardent advocates of a united Nigeria. Upon independence in 1960,  an Igbo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe-American educated- became the first President and Governor General, while another Igbo, Aguiyi Ironsi became the first indigenous military chief.  Leadership of most of the elite universities in Nigeria were also occupied by the Igbos.

    Following the military coup of January 1966, which the Igbos were accused of initiating, Aguiyi Ironsi, an Igbo,  became President and Supreme Commander of the armed forces. Tensions rose very high in the country resulting in the massacre of Igbos in May 1966. In July 1966,  a  Hausa/Fulani/Tiv  inspired military  coup overthrew Ironsi's regime and a terrible massacre of the Igbos began in earnest. This led to the secession of the former Eastern Nigeria and the declaration of  the Republic of Biafra. This eventually led to the civil war. According to George Orick, an American businessman and consultant to UNICEF who was in Nigeria at the time, one million Igbos were to be killed in order to avenge the death of a man called Ahmadu Bello, who was the Sardauna of Sokoto-Prince of the Islamic Sokoto Caliphate. He reported that “one could hear on Northern Nigerian radio the reading of  long lists of Igbos who were targeted for extinction”.-see Goddell team report, congressional Record of February 15, 1969, pp51976-7.    The Igbos believe, and rightfully so, that had they not fought back, their fate would have been worse than that of the Tutsis in Rwanda. The same way Northern Nigerian radio was exhorting the Hausa/Fulanis to kill the Igbos, was the same way Radio Milles Collines was exhorting the Hutus to slaughter the Tutsis in Rwanda.

    Similarly, Heinrich Jiggs, a Swiss businessman in Nigeria who later became the chief Red Cross delegate in Biafra, reports seeing one of the circular letters in Northern Nigeria which stated that every Igbo down to the age of six would be killed.  A Canadian Journalist, Alan Grossman, who had been West African Bureau Chief of  Time Life News Service in Lagos from May 1966 to June 1968, testified before the External Affairs Committee of the Canadian House of Commons on what he saw. He told the committee “many thousands of Igbos were slaughtered in towns and villages across the north, and hundreds of thousands of others were blinded, crippled or maimed or in majority of cases, simply left destitute as they attempted to flee to the Igbo homeland in Eastern Nigeria. Some of the fleeing refugees did not make it home. On one train that arrived in the East, there was the corpse of a male passenger whose head had been chopped off somewhere along the line. Another group of Igbo refugees men, women and children whom I happened to see-I would say 100 or more of them-were waiting in the railway station in the city of Kano,  the largest city in Northern Nigeria, for about three days, with no security guards, for the arrival of a refugee train, and a land rover full of government soldiers  came and mowed them down with automatic weapons. Igbo shops and Igbo hotels were  ransacked and looted, while blocks of non Igbo  businesses were carefully left untouched”. (see minutes of Canadian House of Commons proceeding, external Affairs Ref. 7 pp. 239-40).                                                                                             

    In the final analysis, Dan Jacobs, in the Brutality of Nations, summarizes the plight of the Igbos in the following way, “to the other Nigerians, the Igbos were not only leaving Nigeria, they were departing with the oil under the lands with which they are seceding. Here lay the explanation of the paradox that the Nigerians had driven the Biafrans out, yet seemed to be fighting to keep them  in the federation. What they actually wanted was the land the Igbos were on and what lay under it-without the Igbos”.

    Some internationally recognized Igbo personalities include former president Nnamdi Azikiwe, former military ruler Aguiyi Ironsi, writer Chinua Achebe, former Biafran leader Odumegwu Ojukwu, former justice at the World Court  Daddy Onyeama, former commonwealth secretary general Emeka Anyoku, former middleweight and lightheavyweight champion of the world Dick Tiger and Cardinal Francis Arinze-Pope in waiting.. Some African Americans of Igbo ancestry include evangelist T.D. Jakes, actor, scholar and athlete Paul Robeson, actors Forrest Whitaker and Blair Underwood.  

*Dr.Leonard Madu is President of the African Caribbean Institute and African Chamber of Commerce in Nashville, Tennessee. 

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