Stop Lamenting And Tell Us About Your Dream, Dr. Nwodo!/

On August 28th, 1963, at the ‘March On Washington’, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a nightmarish speech about how much debt white Americans owed African American. In what will go down as one of the darkest speeches from Dr. King, he warned that “rude awakening” awaits those that underestimated the power of the civil rights movement.

At one point, sensing that Dr. King has dwelt too long in the “dark valley”, the voice of Mahalia Jackson (a gospel singer that has been travelling with Dr. King) rang out from the back of the podium, “Tell them about your dream, Martin!” Mahalia realized that what Dr. King should be doing at that critical moment was to bring the crowd up to the “sunlit mountaintop”. So, she cried again, “Tell them about your dream!”

Dr. King heard her, quickly changed the direction of his speech and said, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair”. He rallied the tired crowd in “a rapid climb out of the valley” by declaring, “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech became a key moment in the struggle for civil rights in the United States and a spirited call for racial justice and equality.

It is Black History Month in the United States and I have been reflecting on the contrast between Dr. King’s change of direction from nightmarish to liberating speech and Dr. Nnia Nwodo’s switch from mundane lamentations to nightmarish speech on the state of Ndigbo in Nigeria.     

Dr. Nwodo has been delivering this nightmarish speech at every opportunity since assuming the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo; we have heard him talk about Nigeria’s unfairness to Ndigbo as a “Ticking Time Bomb”; we have heard of the perennial lamentations on the state of infrastructure in Southeastern Nigeria. I don’t know about you but I am tired of listening to his lamentations.

The purpose of this piece is to tell Dr. Nwodo that we have heard enough of his complaining and that it is time for him to tell Ndigbo and Nigerians about his dreams. Dr. Nwodo has dwelt long in that “dark valley”, and it is time for him to replace his doomsday discourse with a pragmatic and aspirational one. Just like Dr. King, Dr. Nwodo needs to start giving positive messages on how to take Ndigbo to the sunlight mountaintop. So, like Mahali Jackson cried out on August 28, 1963, my cry is, “stop lamenting and tell Ndigbo your dream Dr. Nwodo!”

Like children’s bedtime stories, this story of the state of Ndigbo in Nigeria should have a happy ending. But dwelling in the dark valley and lamentations will do Ndigbo no good. As emotionally powerful as Dr. Nwodo’s “support” for the cause of the Biafran agitators is, his subsequent reduction of the complex challenges facing Ndigbo in Nigeria to the mere cry of marginalization is in itself hollow and dangerously combustible.

As an activist and a politician, I am sure Dr. Nwodo is familiar with the jagged edges of a mix of ethnic and religious politics in Nigeria. To succeed, he should avoid the pitfall of his predecessors at Ohaneze that openly coveted one major political party and despised another.

As a start, therefore, Dr. Nwodo should decide if Ohaneze is and should remain apolitical. If it should remain apolitical, then, he needs to strike a balance in his engagement with political power houses and personalities in Nigeria.

Dr. Nwodo should know that he is leading an orchestra, and to lead an orchestra, you must turn your back on the crowd.  Unfortunately, Dr. Nwodo appears to be facing the crowd. His appearance with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the subsequent call for his head by Biafran agitators should be an eye opener on the volatile mindset of the mob he claims to represent.

Beyond rhetoric, Dr. Nwodo should see himself as a redemptive voice and tone for Ndigbo. I will love to see Dr. Nwodo’s militant posture and provocative rhetoric transform the contours of Igbo/Nigerian democracy. He needs to blend his revolutionary rhetoric with political pragmatism. So, here are steps he should take in order to take Ndigbo to the sunlit mountaintop.

Ohaneze under Dr. Nwodo should adopt strategies that will make an enduring mark in the political consciousness of Ndigbo. To do that, he needs a team that will focus exclusively on achieving impact and improving the position of Ndigbo in Nigeria. This team should focus on constantly challenging the performances of Igbo political leaders. They should be asking difficult questions without entertaining excuses. They should push for faster progress in the delivery of visible dividends of democracy to Ndigbo. They should be called Ohaneze Ndigbo Delivery Unit.

This unit should be made a permanent arm of Ohaneze. The key attributes for membership should include respected leadership. Though reporting to the leadership of Ohaneze, the delivery unit should operate outside the line-management hierarchy. The independence of the delivery team is crucial in allowing them to be “critical friends” of Igbo political leaders. This will enable them to deliver difficult messages on performances.

Dr. Nwodo and Ohaneze should also have a gathering unit that should gather data in order to set targets and trajectories. What has been missing in the style of leadership in Ohaneze is prioritized set of measurable, ambitious and time-bound goals. These are needed to discourage “firefighting” responses to the complex and dynamic political scheming in Nigeria.

For example, I have heard Dr. Nwodo talk about the inherent fault in the structure of the Nigerian state. Lamentations will not lead to the restructuring of Nigeria. So, how about setting up a team to commence lobbying and dialogue with the leadership of similar ethnic nationalities across Nigeria? Their sole task should be to prevail on elected representatives at the state and federal level to push for restructuring Nigeria through constitutional amendment.

It is not going to be easy, but there has to be a starting point and a concrete target. The time for vague rhetoric and unmeasurable targets should belong to the past. So, “stop lamenting and tell us your dream Dr. Nwodo!”

You can email Churchill at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or follow him on Twitter @churchillnnobi