Special to USAfricaonline.com
USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
The Dallas Igbo Factor and Charles Maduka's 2003 electoral quest
In the course of my work as USAfrica's Publisher, I travel quite a bit across the U.S., meeting and interacting with Africans, Nigerians and Americans in various cities and communties. But in so many ways, the Igbo community in Dallas is a unique and peculiar aggregation of dignified men and women mixed up a motley crowd of pettifogging, barnyard charlatans and wise-acres.
At once, that Dallas-Forth Worth area has excellent warriors for the Igbo interest and also zombies who are either famous or infamous for their peculiar zealotry, professional animosities, unyeilding infantile eruptions and maddening foolishness on even basic issues where the fabled Igbo Umunna ought to and do agree: for example, that Igbo children and our daughters/women/wives should not be part of the targets of malice and slanderous slime in disagreement among men!
Sadly, too, Dallas has since become a geo-political war zone,
where names and stories about peoples' wives and distinguished Igbo
daughters/women have been dragged in as part of the targets to win as
leader or executive of some relatively obscure group/association and
motnhly parochial gathering of the clans.
Frankly, reading the e-mail volleys and schemes from and about Dallas Igbo community was once a matter for electronic comic relief via the Igbo Forum, it has since transmuted into mean, vain and loathsome derogations from serious issues about the Igbo nation and Nigeria.
Why do I seek to share these realistic and key aspects of Dallas as a prologue to the quest by Dallas-based attorney and one of its key community leaders, attorney Charles Uzoma Maduka?
First, it is important to understand this background in order to assess the politics, agenda and personalities in that Igbo community.
Second, to know how Maduka has operated in the recent past in such a local millieu.
Third, what likely the persuasions, methods, and challenges which Maduka will face or bring to his drive for nomination towards the 2003 Nigeria's House of Representatives seat.
Fourth, as a student of political science, I know that from the relevant political past and his sociological context, we can project into the future. Already, he's having to contend with his Dallas "friends and foes."
Hence, I had an exclusive mid-March 2002 USAfricaonline.com and NigeriaCentral.com interview with attorney Maduka who, himself, is not a shrinking violet. The man is an interesting mix, embodies some useful core beliefs and has remained a vehicle for some unreasonable controversies. With his executives while he was the ICAN president, they also raised more funds than 3/4 of other Igbo organizations. Maduka also had some confrontations with the umbrella World Igbo Congress currently led by Dr. Kalu Diogu Kalu.
Say whatever about him, though, Maduka is everything but one who shies away from speaking what he thinks or plans. Maduka, a former Assistant District Attorney for Dallas County, while drawing acerbic roasting from his opponents relishes what he calls his "solid support base" from those who like him and his ways, and passion for public service/leadership.
For fairness to all, anyone mentioned or referenced by Mr. Maduka on the ICAN Dallas squabble or any other event in this interview has the assured right of reply in USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica The Newspaper, and strictly only on the issues.
In this USAfricaonline.com special and in the March 30, 2002
latest print edition of USAfrica The Newspaper, Maduka makes his
first wide-ranging interview since he declared his interest to run,
covering a wide range of issues: his quest for a seat in Nigeria's
2003 House of Representatives, ICAN controversies and Dallas local
political wars, proposed agenda for change, funding of his campaign
and relationships with Annie Okonkwo and Emeka Offor, law practice in
the Nigerian community, Nigeria's so-called National Sovereign
conference, family and social interests.
Chido Nwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), is Founder and Publisher of USAfricaonline.com (first African-owned U.S.-based professional newspaper to be published on the internet), USAfrica The Newspaper, NigeriaCentral.com and The Black Business Journal. He also serves as an adviser to the Mayor of Houston on international business (Africa) and appears as an analyst on CNN, VOA, South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), NPR, CBS News, NBC and ABC news affiliates.
CHARLES MADUKA: "Annie Okonkwo,
Emeka Offor are my friends but I'm my own man...." for 2003
Archiving of the following interview on any other web site or newspaper is unauthorized except with a Written Approval by USAfricaonline.com Founder.
USAfricaonline.com: What are the motivating factors for your decision to run for the House of Representatives in Nigeria?
Maduka: I thank you for giving me this opportunity to offer a fresh hope for the youths of Nigeria. The issues that are critical to solving Nigeria's myriad problems are not being addressed. Nigeria needs a new breed of servants that understand what our priorities should be. The Mother of all solutions, the Sovereign National Conference and a Re-structure of the country to decentralize the center should be the on top of our agenda. To actualize that, we need selfless, honest, dynamic and visionary minded persons. There is no measurable results coming from the representative we have now. My people need a selfless servant who can produce and be accountable to them.
Describe your constituency and features/resources therein?
My constituency comprises of Nnewi South, Nnewi North and Ekwusigo Local Governments. These LGAs are located in Anambra South. The people of these areas are very hard working and business minded. Very densely populated, ownership of land is a very hot issue. This drives up the cost of land in the area. On resources who really knows. I wouldn't be surprised if there is gold or diamond in the areas around Akwa Ihedi and Ukpo. Signs of oil and natural gas have been mentioned. No one really knows because the people have not been allowed to explore the land. The states should have the right to explore their land to know what is in it. They should be allowed to control their resources.
What are the relative capacities and weaknesses of your opponent the incumbent?
The incumbent is Chief B.M. Efobi. He is much older than myself, and well funded. I am sure he has done his best for our people in the past 3 years. I know that the people expected more from him than what he delivered. Legislating is not for everybody and I am sure that Chief Efobi could be better used in other areas. My area needs an aggressive and result-oriented representative who has the interest of the people at heart, especially the youths.
How can you win an election inside Nigeria while you're spending the majority of your time in the Dallas Forth Worth area; or were those 2001 trips you made to Nigeria, preparatory to the March 23 announcement?
When I am not in Nigeria, I stay in touch and I have never been a stranger to them. I spend countless hours on the phone and on the internet with people in Nigeria. You see, in politics, planning and timing are very important. Believe me, I will be in Nigeria when I need to be. I do travel to Nigeria very extensively and in the past one year, I have been spending a lot of time there. My frequent travels to Nigeria are part of the planning.
How are you financing this major quest?
It is a peoples' effort. I want Nigerians in Diaspora to support my candidacy with their wallets. I want to be accountable to not only my local constituency at home but Nigerians in Diaspora. I do not want to be seen as having been sponsored by this man or that man. What that does is that it takes your independence away from you. I want to be there because I have the education, experience and knowledge. More importantly, I have a desire to serve the people. I will depend on organizations such as USAfrica and NigeriaCentral.com to contribute by giving as much publicity as possible to the laudable programs which will make Nigeria better, and Ndi Igbo in particular.
You've been fingered by some as the candidate of Annie Okonkwo, in a sentence, are you your own man in this election you're entering for a nomination?
This question is too loaded for a one sentence. Yes, I am my own man. Who has fingered me as someone's candidate? You cannot say because I have a good friend in Annie Okonkwo and Sir "E" that I am their candidates. I am also a good friend of the current governor of Anambra State, Dr. Mbadinuju. Don't forget I hosted him in Dallas twice. These good friends know me personally and are familiar with my abilities.
You've a reputation for being blunt to the nth degree, how will that help or hurt you in Nigeria's politics?
If you mean that as a compliment, I will take it. I do believe in honesty and an honest man speaks out no matter how bitter the pill is to swallow. There is an Igbo saying that okenye anaghi ano n'ulo eghu/ewu amu o n'ogbiri. An elder cannot sit and watch while the goat goes into labor tethered. I do believe in speaking out especially for what is right no matter who is involved. Nigeria needs people who can speak without fear or intimidation.
You've been dogged by some controversies in the ICAN, during your tenure and during the election of your successor attorney Bernard Nwaiwu, what's your relationship with ICAN, Nnaerika Okonkwo (ICAN's new board chairman) and Nwaiwu, and in fact WIC as whole since the gentleman you're reported to have backed Dr. Acho Orabuchi did not triumph in that controversial ICAN election?
If I ask you what specific controversy you are referring to, I bet you would not be able to specify one. That not withstanding, one thing I have learned in leadership is that making a change is very difficult to accept especially among those that live on status quo. Before I took over the leadership of ICAN D/FW, Inc., it was practically a club of about 23 people each claiming to be the founding father. The same organization was propagating itself as the umbrella organization for Ndi Igbo in Dallas/Fort Worth. It was not representative at all.
I promised that it had to be re-structured to be inclusive. I defeated Richard Nwachukwu, one of the arch opponents of the re-structure. He has never forgotten that defeat. He has used his newspaper to smear my name any opportunity he gets. I knew that an over whelming majority of Ndi Igbo wanted ICAN to be controlled by the parochial organizations because I spent time talking to them. In 1999, those that were opposed to the re-structure sponsored a candidate in the name of Nnaerika Okonkwo against me. He happens to come from the same parochial organization I belonged to. In an election that saw the largest turnout anywhere in the USA among Ndi Igbo, but we were able to prevail by a landslide.
They took the defeat too personal. Every effort made assuage them failed. We had to move on with the mandate of the people. They worked hard to derail the World Igbo Congress Convention coming in September 2000. My executive and the parochial leaders resisted them and pulled off the most successful convention ever. They did not stop there. They connived with the WIC leaders to change the formula for division of the proceeds of the convention. Unfortunately, the WIC bylaw was on our side. Three times they tried to move the issue to the floor of ICAN hoping that the membership will vote in favor of WIC. WIC had wanted us to give them a lion share of the proceeds against the 50/50 formula engraved in the bylaw. The ICAN membership by an overwhelming vote to only two rejected that. Nwachukwu's newspaper, African Herald, and a character called Pee Wee went after me in the said newspaper and the internet. They called me all kinds of names. I was accused of theft and embezzlement. They tried to destabilize my executive to no avail. A special panel was set up in the house made up of people from both sides to investigate the convention activity.
They came back with 30 days and delivered a report. Incidentally, the person that gave the report was one of my arch critics. In the words of Sylvan Odobulu, "all receipts and checks have been verified and accounted for ." The house accepted the report and we were vindicated again. The lesson in all these is that if you want to succeed as an Igbo leader, you have to grow a very tough and heat resistant skin. The bitterness with which these people pursued me at meetings was unparalleled. During my tenure, no major decision was taken that was not approved in the house contrary to their accusation. In all, I harbor no bitterness against anybody.
I make no apologies about my style with which I led ICAN. I know that without my fortitude, we would not have made the kind of progress we achieved. The parochial leaders, the people representatives, saw this in me and threw their mighty support behind me. I remain grateful to the people that gave the opportunity to serve them. I know my administration is leaving a legacy that will become a standard. I was just serving the people and not the establishment or interest group. My relationship with Nwaiwu is sound. We have met several times since the 2001 election and talked many times discussing the future of ICAN and how I may help. My relationship with Nnaerika Okonkwo is not as it used to be but I have no ill feelings against him. Sometimes I feel like I should have intentionally lost that election just to show how to be a good sport.
(Publisher's Note: Anyone mentioned or referenced by Mr. Maduka
on the ICAN squabble or any other event in this interview has the
assured right of reply in USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica The
Newspaper, strictly on the issues. E-mail only to Letters@USAfricaonline.com).
Tell us about your agenda for change?
There are many issues facing Nigeria and I believe the best way to solve them is by doing first things first. We need to prioritize. On my agenda are the following:
Protect the rights of Nigerians in Diaspora, to have the rights to vote and run for offices in Nigeria;
Fight to actualize SNC and a Re-structure of Nigeria, decentralizing the center and giving states the right to their own resources;
Development must reach all parts of Nigeria;
Every group must be given a fair and just shake;
Nigerians must be provided with basic needs: education; good and dependable police; good roads and water; electricity and telephone services etc
What do you do other than politics and the law?
There is no job more important than raising a family. I give it my best when I am around.
Any favorite activities or hobbies?
Tennis and reading to children.
What book did you read most recently, any lesson?
When the rain beat the cow in the eyes, by Chinwe Okechukwu, Igbo Culture is beautiful and enriching.
Tell us about your family/background
The last of 10. Father was a founding member of St. Andrews Church Amichi. Father was an Anglican clergy and traveled very extensively. My father died before I turned 1. My mother with help from the church and in-laws was able to raise us. Only six of us are left now. One of my brothers died because he was given an expired injection. Tells you what is wrong in Nigeria. My mother is doing well in Amichi recovering from the usual cold, fever and arthritis. Grew up in the hood, very schooled in Igbo culture. Had a very memorable and wonderful childhood. My mother has 65 grandchildren and great grand children. I am luckily married to Mma Di Uko, Obiageli Gloria Maduka from Umudim, Amichi, a graduate of UNN. She is a pharmacist with Merck Pharmaceutical and mother to my five children ages 4-14, three girls and two boys. Oldest is a freshman in high school and made the varsity Basketball team. All the kids are honor students and very athletic. I am very blessed.
How would you assess the law practice in our community, in the U.S?
There are many Nigerian lawyers in the U.S., especially in Texas. Houston has almost 100 and most of the lawyers are doing very well. I recommend that:
Nigerian lawyers should seek employment in corporate America or work in government agencies. This will enhance their viability in getting political appointments and contesting for political offices in America. Working in the District Attorney's Office was a big help to me;
We should be involved in more jury trials to enhance our image. I do believe that we have very good persuasive skills, our accent notwithstanding. The more jury trials we have the better our chances of getting high profile cases. As our number increases; and we should start a Nigeria Lawyers Association just like the Mexicans and Vietnamese. With such association, we can set up seminars that will benefit lawyers and judges from Nigeria in such areas as jury trials, stenographic reporting and mediation processes.
Any guiding motto/philosophy?
To answer a call to serve is faith in action. A good leader knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.Thank you for the opportunity (of this interview). Keep up the good work!
Your interview with Attorney Charles Maduka is both interesting and revealing. There is no doubt that most of us respect Charles for his drive, discipline and love for Ndi-Igbo. I am sure that given the benefit of hindsight he would rather have approached the last ICAN election somewhat differently, and in a less partisan approach too. But the circumstances were understandable and could be put in context within the prevailing "ana azuokwe" politics of intrigue in Dallas, at the time.
The organizing of the WIC convention of 1999 in Dallas was history making and constituted a turning point in the fortunes of ICAN in Dallas.
In fact, until Maduka's regime most of us in the metroplex had considered the ICAN/WIC as a gathering of geriatrics- who having been away for too long from the motherland, were looking for a forum for cultural reconnection.
But the enthusiasm generated by Charles with that august assemblage, of the Igbo creme de la creme, changed all that. It is unfortunate that the insidious and unrelenting attacks in the internet, by faceless wet blankets and nitwits like 'PeeWee', cast a pall and may have put a dent on the political mileage that would have accrued to Maduka therefrom, the fact still remains that being able to pull that one off was a testament to the man's organizational skills and tenacity of purpose.
I have no doubt that attorney Bernard Nwaiwu, with his classy ways, will sustain and even surpass the momentum generated by Maduka during his term. But we must not fail to give honor to whom honor is due, no matter. I am glad I can say this without the benefit of the knowledge of all the intrigues that dogged ICAN prior to 1999.
So as Maduka prepares to throw himself into the thicket of
Nigerian politics, one can only wish him luck. Because if there is
any one in the Diaspora whose love for Ndi-Igbo will drive to do good
and will be selfless in the representation of Ndi-Igbo in the
Nigerian federal House of Representatives, if given the opportunity,
I think Charles Uzoma Maduka is such a person. So I hope his
constituents will rally to him and not deprive Ndi-Igbo of his
Iberosi is based in Dallas, Texas and serves as co-moderator of the NdiIgbo Forum via the Yahoo newsgroup.
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