I mourn the passing away of a friend. I mourn the departure to the world beyond of a great soul who was a believer of the Nigerian Project. Yes, my friend, Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo, is dead. He has gone to the world beyond.
I met Arthur for the first time in 1973. I had heard about him since 1970, when he and his friend, S. Ifejika, had published their famous book, Biafra – The Making Of A Nation.
Arthur had published another book on Biafra, entitled; Nigeria – The Challenge Of Biafra.
In 1974, I went to Enugu in search of him. We immediately became friends and we were like lovebirds married together until death came to Arthur on Saturday, February 1, 2020.
Arthur was a prolific writer. He wrote many books and pamphlets on Nigeria’s political situation until he breathed his last. He used his publishing house, Fourth Dimension Publishers, to advance his argument for a united Nigeria.
He equally established a newspaper, The Nigerian Outlook, as vehicle for the propagation of his political beliefs. He was a strong socialist and he never spared a second in his advocacy for socialism in Nigeria.
In 1981, he published a book on the political thoughts and ideas of Papa Obafemi Awolowo. The book was full of Papa Awolowo’s ideas for a progressive Nigeria.
He equally published my book, Coups – Africa And The Barrack Revolts, in 1981.
I met many progressives through my friendship with him (Arthur). It was Arthur who introduced me to the Ogbuagu himself, Chief Arthur Nzeribe. Arthur Nwakwo’s residence in London, at 53 Campden Hill Towers in central London, was centre for revolutionary discussions for many Nigerians in the 1980s. The late Senator Uchechukwu Chukwumerije, the late Chuba Okadigbo and the late Jerry Okoro (a one-time Times of London correspondent in Gaddafi’s Libya), were some of the discussants in Arthur’s house in London.
I cannot forget the fact that it was Nwankwo who ensured the writing of my prison memoirs in 1985 after being released from General Muhammadu Buhari’s prisons in Lagos, Jos and Yola.
It was Arthur who introduced me to the eating of Igbo delicacies like Ofe Owerri, Ofe Onugbu, Okazi soup and Isi-ewu (goat head pepper soup). I still eat them till this day.
My prison memoir is entitled; Inside Kirikiri. Arthur gave me a column to write in his newspaper, The Nigerian Outlook. We visited each other several times in Enugu and Ilesa in our days as friends. I cannot forget Arthur Nwankwo easily. He was a sincere and loyal friend.
Arthur’s mother was a sister to the late Dr. Ikejiani, who managed the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) during the First Republic. It was in the Enugu residence of Arthur that I met Dr. Ikejiani’s daughter, Mariam, who was married to one of the clerks. Mariam equally lectured at Nsukka during the Second Republic.
It was the Fourth Dimension Publishers that brought out the book, Storms On The Niger, written by the great nationalist, Mokwugo Okoye. It was a book written on the struggles of the Zikist Movement on the independence of Nigeria.
Arthur spent a lot of time and resources on a project he called Hand Shake Across The Niger. It was his belief that the Igbo and the Yoruba should unite in the struggles to build a great Nigeria. I was one of the willing collaborators of the project.
We equally had a friend in London, Tony Milverton Wallace, who supported us to effect all the aspirations we had for a united Nigeria. I have not seen Tony Wallace for 20 years now.
Ajalli in Orumba Local Government Area of Anambra State was Arthur’s place of birth. I was at Ajalli three times to honour some functions in which Arthur had been involved. Arthur was very well linked with trade unionism in Nigeria.
A fiery Marxist of the Nigerian Trade Union Congress then, Comrade Leye Martins, led by the late Comrade Wahab Goodluck, was equally a regular visitor to Arthur’s home town at Ajalli. I have not seen my friend, Leye Martins, for a long time now.
The saddest moments of Arthur’s active life include when his brother, Victor Nwankwo, was murdered by unknown persons in Enugu. The death of Victor Nwankwo really shook the existence of Arthur Nwankwo.
The news of the death of Arthur was first broken to me by my friend, Gboyega Onabanjo, the son of the late Chief Bisi Onabanjo, that I have always fondly called ‘my deputy Commander of the howling Archipelago.’
The news was further conveyed to me on Sunday February 2, at 7:30 a.m. by Arthur’s brother, Ben Jack, who was by Arthur’s bedside at the time of his death.
Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo will always, in his preaching, end on this note: “Life is sure, but death is surer.”
And so, my friend, Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo, has gone to the world beyond!
Arthur, goodbye and goodnight!
- Chief Babatope, OFR, is a former minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria