The Nigerian columnist and public intellectual Edwin Madunagu has written a piece about Leo Igwe and the Nigerian Humanist Movement.
I first met Leo Igwe a couple of years ago when he came to the free library I oversee in Calabar to do some research. From the type of books he consulted in the library and the books and papers he had with him, I guessed he was interested in philosophy, sociology and human rights. Later, I learnt from him that he was working for a higher degree or diploma at the University of Calabar. I also learnt that, simultaneously, he was active in a human rights organization called the Nigerian Humanist Movement…
…when Leo Igwe sought audience with me his request was promptly granted. He told me he was organizing a number of seminars on child abuse in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states as well as a national conference on human rights. I have forgotten the theme of the conference, but I think it was to take place in Ibadan.
I could not personally attend Leo Igwe’s events, but I encouraged the young persons around me to attend and participate actively. Our interest in the seminars was strong on account of its specific subject, namely: rescuing, and defending the rights of, children accused of “witchcraft”. Unrescued or undefended, these named “child witches” faced gruesome death or serious permanent disfigurement carried out, of course, criminally or extra-judicially. The victims of the anti-witchcraft “crusades” were mainly children from poor families and the campaigners were usually fundamentalist church groups, aided and abetted by the victims’ parents and older family members who, in almost all the cases, initially identified the “child witches” and then invited churches to “deliver” their “evil” children.
The seminars were invariably subject to attack, and Leo was assaulted every time.
Edwin Madunagu seems to be my kind of guy.
In addition to the public library, I ran a programme aimed at developing anti-sexist, anti-patriarchal and critical consciousness in adolescent boys. As we all should know, the prime victims of patriarchy or patriarchal system are women and children (of both sexes). Other victims include strangers, the poor, the “outcasts” and the minorities (ethnic and religious). You will therefore appreciate why the adolescent participants in our conscientisation programme were interested in Igwe’s pro-child seminar and why I encouraged them to attend and participate actively.
Meanwhile, officials in Nigeria are throwing up stupid obstacles to keep the Nigerian Humanist Movement from registering as a corporation. Madunagu is trying to help.