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(LEADERSHIP) - Dr. Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji, a founding member of the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) recently submitted his resignation from the group. In this interview with CELESTINE OKAFOR, Ugorji who was a Council Member of the ADF, spoke about the ADF and his resignation from the group.
We understand that you recently resigned your membership of the Igbo intellectual group, the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF). We saw the email copy of your resignation. What led to it? Why did you resign?
Yes, l did. But the question of “why” is a philosophical question.  Let’s just say that several issues have been weighing on mind since my considered active involvement with the ADF, but the most egregious recent matter has to do with a letter purportedly written by the ADF to Donald Trump, the president-elect of the US and the manner in which Professor Uzodinma Nwala (President of ADF) has handled my criticism of the letter. 
 In the copy of the ADF’s letter to Trump, which was also published in the Sunday paper, the ADF congratulated Trump on his victory, sought a meeting with him and expressed some grievances against the Nigeria state, and also said they were praying for Trump. What do you make of that? 
Well, there were too many suicidal elements to that letter that many of us found monumentally embarrassing and a grand betrayal of the goals we thought were the goals of ADF. By suicidal, I mean suicidal to the stated cause of ADF and suicidal to what some of us thought was the shared consciousness of the ADF. My reaction (resignation) was therefore an internal discussion within the ADF. I am pained that it has gotten out, but there is almost never anything wrong with sunshine. Second, I think it is intellectually and ethically important that I disclose my bias in this matter before I say anything further. It has been reported in the Nigerian press that I worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign. It was two months of active involvement in a historic campaign that is still raw for many of us. So yes, I come to this with that background and bias. However, my candidate (Hillary Clinton) has congratulated Mr. Trump in the finest tradition of US democracy. And President Obama has congratulated Mr. Trump in the same tradition. Therefore, the congratulation of Mr. Trump is not the issue per say. It is who is doing it, why, and how.
 So what is it about the ADF congratulating Mr. Trump that rankled people like you in ADF?
Ugorji: Well, let me answer your question this way: I am a member of what is called the Council of ADF, which is supposedly the highest decision making body of ADF. The draft of the letter to Trump was deliberately kept away from me. Most of us in the Council saw the letter only after it had been reported in the news and published by outlets. That letter was a piss on our humanity as Ndigbo, which I don’t know if you have the time for me to explain.
 Go ahead!
ADF is a foundation registered in Nigeria, governed by the articles of registration at the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC. While Professor Nwala, a distinguished academic and beloved elder brother of mine, was at the center of it, the group is now a public organization held in public trust. As a public organization, and with Nwala as a public servant in his capacity as the president, I don’t even have to be a member in order to criticize it, contribute to it, or have an impact in its structure and conduct. But the status of my membership demands even more, because I had attached my little name and my meager resources (intellectual, financial, and spiritual) to it. The stated goal of the ADF is for the development of Alaigbo (I am being heavily brief in that stated goal). The letter to Trump has absolutely nothing to do with any developmental project that ADF has created for Ndigbo. That is the first thing. Second, the ADF claimed in the letter to be speaking for Ndigbo. That was wrong. It was pretentious. I am conversant with Igbo leadership at home and abroad. I have invested sweat, time, and resources in support of legitimate Igbo, Nigerian, and African organizations, including the ADF. I know who is who and what is what. ADF is not Ohanaeze. ADF is not APGA or UPP (both of which were founded by that distinguished activist of unsurpassed patriotism and consciousness, Chief Chekwas Okorie). ADF is not the World Igbo Congress, which is the recognized Apex Igbo organization in the Igbo Diaspora, based in the US (of all places). To WIC’s credit, the voice of Ndigbo in the Diaspora declined to support the ADF letter to Trump.

You also lamented the betrayal of consciousness in the letter. What do you mean by that?
That was one of the most disappointing parts of the letter. You know, you join groups populated by intellectuals and you want to believe that there is some consciousness that is shared, especially on the basic facts of our existence and journey in history. The ADF letter to Trump, which will go down in history as one of the most traitorous documents authored by an Igbo group since the Nigeria/Biafra war, referred to that calamity in our people’s life as “the Biafran war.” This is what these homeboys wrote to Trump. Even the Ikenga of Nnewi, Dr. Ikedife (who incidentally chairs the ADF Board of Trustees), has come out to say that the reference of “Biafra war” in the letter was wrong and said that l (Ugorji) was right in that part of my critique.  Now, that begs the question: Did the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of ADF see the draft of the letter before it was published?

And now to the most painful part of the letter. For over 20 years, I have been immersed in the civil rights movement in America, driven largely by African Americans, but with multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious participation. There is no legitimate serious civil rights group in America of any hue that did not see Trump’s campaign and rhetoric as racist, xenophobic, and white supremacist. None. Now, how does a crew of Igbo professionals, sitting in Abuja and Benin and other places, get to beg to want an audience with a man who campaigned as Trump did? As I said in my letter, that’s like sending a congratulatory message to P.W. Botha and Cecile Rhodes. Do these brothers not understand and appreciate history? Is this a joke to them?
 Is that why you called the letter and those who wrote it “apologists for white supremacy?”
That was the critique that prompted Professor Nwala to ask me to apologize. That critique revealed that you have Igbo intellectuals who have no global understanding of the issues that they claim to be championing; men and women who do not understand their designed role in the perpetuation of global white supremacy. The letter portrayed ADF as a clueless and bumbling crew who have no cohesive strategy for their actions. They ventured laughably into international relations without understanding that it is nation-to-nation business, which a foundation has no business broaching. Now, please understand that If Professor Nwala, as a professional and consultant, were to take up a job with President Trump tomorrow, I would never criticize him for it. But when a supposedly Igbo-centered, Igbo-led, and Igbo-populated foundation praises, prays for, and seeks an audience with a man who has not apologized for any of the things he said, for which many civil rights movements and even some conservative institutions called out as racist, that will get me boiling any day.
But IPOB also sent a message to Trump.
Great point. IPOB has the courage of its convictions. IPOB makes no bones about seeking a different nation called Biafra. One can understand why IPOB, as an iconoclastic entity, would address an American President directly. ADF has not said it wants Biafra. ADF has not rejected Nigeria’s sovereignty over it, at least not to my knowledge. I don’t like pretenses. As you can see, I speak my mind freely. I have spoken against official violence towards protesting IPOB members and I have spoken against violence on the part of some protesters. That ADF letter to Trump pretty much ended any hopes the group had of becoming significant in the lives of our people. A development foundation known as ADF has not done jack about development, except to hold seminars. We have raised over 15 million Naira in three years with no evidence of planting any developmental seed in Alaigbo; not one Igbo life has been improved except a few hustlers who may have fed off the trough of ADF.
 How do you mean?
Let me not go into that right now. Let’s stay focused on the changes that must take place in ADF.  But let me also be certain to separate the hustlers from the grand patriots on the Board of Trustees and others.
What kind of changes? Professor Kalu Idika Kalu, in his own email reaction, has called for the resignation of officers of ADF. Is that what you want?
Professor Kalu was one of the grand patriots who helped fund the initial activities of what became the ADF. I will get back to him and what Nwala has called him and called those us who are incensed about the letter. The first thing is that ADF should retract the letter and apologize to Ndigbo for the disastrous adventure. After that, then there must be some structural changes. ADF is not a private foundation. The ADF is a public entity and accountability must not only be inbuilt, it must be seen to be practiced.
 What structural changes do you propose?
First things first. Let’s see whether the ADF retracts its letter. That will tell some of us whether the group is even worth restructuring.

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