By Onwa Nwafor-Orizu
The attention of the family of Dr. Abyssinia Akwaeke Nwafor Orizu have been drawn to the above article written by Festus Adedayo on Sunday 3rd of July 2022. We wish to express our shock and dismay on how the name of our father; Dr. Akwaeke Nwafor Orizu, a former Nigerian Senate President and a one time acting president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was audaciously listed among high ranking politicians who have paraded fake degree certificates and titles in the past.
This is a grave injustice in lieu of the fact that the article was about high profile Nigerian politicians with dubious certificates. Our father who was never found guilty of falsifying his academic qualifications, in fact his academic qualifications of him are public knowledge up till this day, to our chagrin was viciously brought into the picture. The reason for including our father’s name in this kind of piece is surprising to us as a family.
1937. I have passed the junior Cambridge Exam through private studies.
1939, January 28. He left Nigeria for the USA to become the 14th West African, 10th Nigerian and 8th Igbo man to go to the USA for studies. Registered with Lincoln University Pennsylvania USA.
In 1940. He left for Lincoln to Ohio State University where he obtained a BA degree in Political Science and Pre-Law.
In 1944. He enrolled in the Graduate School of Columbia University in New York City from where he obtained a master’s degree in Public Law and Government.
1948, May 27. He was awarded a doctorate degree of Law (LLD) by Lane University Jackson Tennessee for what they called his trenchant presentation of the African point of view in his book, ‘Without Bitterness’ and his educational mission in Africa.
These schools are there for verification which of the certification did he forge to warrant listing him in this group. For the same reason, a University in America honored him, and the British Colonial Government imprisoned him.
Concerning the ACAE (American Council of African Education);
It was international organizations founded by our father and duly on April 17, 1944, incorporated under the Membership Corporation Law of the State of New York;
It had some offices in some states in America with its head office at 172 MacDonough St. New York. It also had offices in different branches with its head office in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
It operated a POOL system where by the money paid by a few students and money donated by some public spirited persons were put in one central purse from which was supposed to be sponsored to augment the scholarships. Note that most of them were indigent and contributed nothing. From this fund, the administrative offices were operated both in America and Nigeria. There was a head office in New York and accommodation for the students.
The success in sending out ten students took the colonial government by surprise. With all the roadblocks and impediments they put in place, Orizu still succeeded in sending out more and more students. The British Colonial Government in Nigeria precipitated an inquiry and several unfounded allegations. This resulted in the Colonial office in London represented by Sir. Ivor Cummings and the State Department in Washington represented by Dr. Ruth Sloan instituted an investigation on the activities of the council. After their investigation, they found out that there was no sign that he was using ACAE funds for himself. Secondly, there were no ACAE students not in a University. They commented that for every four Africans studying in America, there were three ACAE students. Orizu was advised to temporise on the influx of the students as cost of maintaining them could not be carried by the meagre resources of the council.
Dr. Orizu was imprisoned for his political activities. His daredevilry of him in confronting the colonial government and their stooges.
Let it be noted that, the same colonial government that imprisoned him gave him free pardon for his unjust imprisonment in a Free Pardon Certificate dated August 30, 1960. In effect, this imprisonment was blotted out of his records.
Let it also be noted that all these students studied and came back to Nigeria to assume important posts in the building of the Nation.
Your own Yoruba brother Prof. Aliu Babatunde Fafunwa, one time Education Minister, was a beneficiary of ACAE.
One time Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria whose picture appears on the Nigerian 1000 note not Clement Isong an Efic, was also a beneficiary.
Mr. Festus all in a bid to prove that our illustrious patriarch and a great Nigerian patriot deserves a seat in his self determined hall of shame went ahead to paint a grotesque picture of how our dear father went to prison for seven years for academic fraud related issues.
For the purpose of clarity, we want the general public to know it is actually true that in the course of our fathers’ quest to join his fellow nationalists in demanding for our nation’s independence he was imprisoned at the Port Harcourt correctional facility. However, it is imperative we state unequivocally that he went to prison for trumped up charges.
Regrettably, without any form of research to balance the other side of the story which good journalism is all about, the writer regurgitated the British trumped up charges in the stated article. He stated how our father through his American council on African Education defrauded African students of their money while promising them American education. A good journalist would have added that our father was later vindicated of the said accusations.
On this note, we want to make it categorically clear that ACAE never defrauded any student rather the body raised money through royalties from our father’s book, Without Bitterness, which was a bestseller in the United States of America and free will donations to send many Nigerian students to study in America. For a robust understanding of the activities of ACAE, our father’s autobiography, Liberty of Chains, Africa Must Be Free is in the public domain. The number of students who benefited from the program were duly listed. How the monies were raised were duly listed. How he went to prison without being charged or allowed to defend himself was also well documented.
Interestingly, how he was eventually released without finishing his term was also well documented in the book. Additionally, how Chief Obafemi Awolowo sent a delegation to visit him in prison, and consequently lobby him to join his Action Group was also clearly stated.
The question is, will Chief Awolowo who many believe is circumspect about people’s personality visit a fraud and lobby him to join his party if truly he was a fraud? Nigerian and African history is replete with many nationalists going to prison for many trumped up charges during the colonial era. A serious researcher will not pore for long before finding out that the real reason our father went to jail was because of the moving speeches he was making against the colonial overlords from his seat of him as a member of the Eastern House of Parliament.
Just a little research would have helped Mr. Festus to know that our father was a victim of the political climate of his time just like Awolowo who went to prison for a trumped up treasonable felony. Does Awolowo being imprisoned now make him a dubious character? I guess Mr. Adedayo will say no.
We therefore ask that Mr. Festus makes a public apology for citing our father among his dubious politicians of the past. We also demand that he removes his name from him from the said article.
We also wish to use this medium to advise journalists and opinion molders that they should strive to make in-depth research of any chosen topic they choose to treat. Some people who were labeled criminals in the past, especially during the colonial era, were termed so as to demobilize them politically. For anyone to continue with such a narrative when there was no evidence to prove their criminality will be a clear case of double tragedy.