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The quintessential Innocent Chukwuma

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Sir: Speaking about many clouds of witnesses who have compassed us, Innocent Chukwuma immediately comes to mind. From a South-East horizon and upbringing, Chukwuma characteristically would have risen in due season from a battered Anambra-Igbo community troubled by the checkered military regimes at the time, particularly the ones instantiating the 1967 Civil War, culminating into the revolutionary theoretical secession of a country called “Biafra.” The impact of Biafra is largely felt such that the separatist pro-Biafra group – the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – is notably blamed for the burgeoning blazing and civil unrest rocking down on the South East.

It was during these tumultuous and turbulent periods of leadership that Chukwuma was sprouting out resiliently. A political starter but definitely pungent human-rights crusader, Chukwuma faithfully demonstrated his full-blooded democratic commitment and intellectual responsibility to the bewildered herd at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka when he unflinchingly frowned upon oppressive scenes of school authorities, on one hand, and the deeply depressive dramaturgies of the Nigerian military and arbitrary infiltrations into the Nsukka campus, on the other hand, ultimately deploying the 1980s Central Working Committee of the Reggae Movement as a flag-bearer, together with a few contemporaries like Chima Ubani, Emma Ezeazu and Jonas Awodi, unwaveringly expressing the distance-of-power wrongdoings of the political elite.

For example, with UNN as the voice of major Nigerian universities, students vehemently reacted against the enactment of the Babaginda Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), which spurred institutional re-engineering on the academia, criminalising and fact-checking students uncontrollably. And consequent upon the unwonted shooting and killing of Ahmadu Bello students in the late-80s, the UNN students democratically challenged the course of the nation imperiled by the tempestuous rulership of political apparatchiks.

Comparatively speaking, it’s little less like a microcosmic neonatal-USSR body challenging the malediction, misappropriation and expropriation of pro-U.S. conquistadors, who’d opportunistically capitalised on their capitalistic or militaristic manufacturing of consent, which had long kept them in line with necessary illusions. To Chukwuma, breaking through the Iron Curtain would be a herculean task: the Nigerian polity at the time was meant for the bourgeoisie; it was meant for the opportunism and adventurism of power; it was an ideological space to perpetually subsume the hoi polloi as spectators – and not participators. 

Ultimately, Chukwuma’s uncommon activism was anchored on intrinsically self-styled composure. Chukwuma’s character was occasionally informed by spontaneous sterling paradoxes of seriousness and humour. As founder of the CLEEN Foundation, an organisation immersed with the burden of proof of promoting public safety, security and justice, potentially targeted towards police reformation, Chukwuma has innocently left an inconvertible landmark on Nigeria’s “innumerable sins.”
• Segun Ige is a freelance journalist in Lagos.

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