A BRIEF HISTORY
by Chima Oji
The year 1977 was indeed a historic one for the Black Race. Globally the major issue confronting Black People was the total emancipation of the African Continent. Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola were in the final throes of colonial rule and exploitation. The sensitisation of children of the Black Diaspora to answer the call of Mother Africa and look homewards had reached its highest crescendo especially with the just concluded 2nd Festival of Black Arts and Culture held in Nigeria (i.e. if we choose to ignore and relegate to the background the philistinism and vulgarity of the organisers of FESTAC 77).
In Nigeria the nation was still undergoing a rather ironic phase of shock and trying to come to terms with disbelieve to the rude awakening of hopes dashed and yet another dream destroyed with the loss of General Murtala Mohammed, whose dynamic but brief leadership had been halted by the Imperialist/Neo-Colonialist instigated assassinations of February 1976. For the first time in her history, the sleeping clay footed giant of Africa had woken up to proclaim Africa as the centre piece of her Foreign Policy and taken an uncompromising stand against neo-colonialism and all its modern variations of Western Imperialistic and Euro-American exploitation.
Within the University community, Student Activism and Unionism was at its zenith as the “Alli must go” demonstrations had shown. It was against this background that during the 1977/78 academic session nine (9) undergraduates of the University of Benin who were concerned and aggrieved about the dilemma and plight of the Black Man came together to form the Neo-Black Movement. They were:
Godwin Ehigiator †
The Patron of the movement then was Professor Onwuejiogwu (a Professor of History and Anthropology). Their inspiration came from the lives and works of men such as Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jnr, W.E.B. Du Bois, Kwame Nkurumah, Nelson Mandela, Ben Bella and historic characters like Sundiata Keita, Shaka Zulu, Ewuare the Great, Ovoranwen and the Pan-africanist teachings of musicians like Robert Nesta Marley, Peter Tosh, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and the Ossibisa/BLO amalgam.
In 1982 the Movement opened its first branch outside the University of Benin in the then College of Education, Abaraka now Delta state University, and was followed by subsequent expansion to the Federal Polytechnics in Auchi and Idah, the then Bendel State University in Ekpoma and the Universities of Ife and Ibadan before the end of 1983. Within a decade of its existence the Movement was operational in most major tertiary institutions in Nigeria. The wave of campus violence that has plagued Nigerian tertiary educational institutions since the late 1980s to date made the Movement to take the rather painful decision to withdraw its operations from the Campuses in 1994.
Presently the Neo Black Movement has Zones in most major cites all over the world with its Headquarters in Benin City, Edo State in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The redirection of all minds towards Black Realism and Determinism and the
inculcation of discipline in the individual both in the body and mind.
The prevention of all acts that seek to tarnish the image of Black people.
To seek and conduct research into African Traditional religion.
The publication of a regular magazine called the Uhuru, which would serve as
the mouthpiece of the movement.
To co-operate and exchange ideas with other organisations whose objectives
are similar to ours.
The ideology of the movement is Neo-Blackism, which was a complex mix of Intellectual Radicalism, Pan Africanism, Negritude, Research into African Traditional Religions and Cultures, Fraternal Relations, Secret Rites of Passage and Activism.
The Neo-Black Movement believes in equality and brotherhood of all races and men. It does not encourage or seek to propagate any teachings or acts of supremacy or the practice of any forms of inequality in any variation based on race, religion, socio-political affiliations, sex, tribe or tongue.
The movement adopted a Motto, which was to serve as it guiding principle “Whenever there is a cry of oppression Neo-Blackism begins”.
THE NBM TRINITY:
The Neo Black Movement and its members are guided in their actions, thoughts and utterances by the concept of the NBM Trinity which can be likened to the tripod on which the flaming pot of life stands. These guiding principles are; Reason, Courage and Grace. Therefore the Axeman (a Member of the Neo Black Movement) is always expected to talk with Reason, act with Courage and behave with Grace; this has served as our code of conduct and has resulted into what we call the eternal equation of:
Reason + Courage = Grace
The Neo Black Movement in its early beginnings published the Black Axe Magazine which served as the official mouthpiece of the Movement. This has since metamorphosis into the Uhuru publication which presently is the official magazine of the Movement. The issues raised with the inaugural publication of this noble Movement in 1978 are as relevant today as they were then.