Dr. Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo, writer, publisher and political activist, is dead. He was 78 years old.
He died on Saturday at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu.
Kanayo Esinulo, veteran journalist who confirmed his death said: “Dr. Nwankwo fought battles for our people and and won many. He never ever detracted from values that he cherished. Ndigbo will miss him. I will miss him, so much.””
Nwankwo was born on August 19, 1942, in Ajali, Anambra state, located in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria. He grew from humble beginnings to become one of Nigeria’s foremost authors, publishers, historians and political commentators.
He had a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science from Eastern Mennonite University, Harrissonburg, Virginia. Master of Arts from Deuquesne University in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and D.Lit (honoris causa) from Shaw University in Raleigh North Carolina. Nwankwo also has a Howard connection – he attended summer schools at Howard between 1963 and 1967.
Dr Nwankwo was a publisher, award winning author and Chairman, Fourth Dimension Publishing Company, the largest publishing company in sub-Saharan Africa with over 1,500 titles. He has authored over 27 books and numerous articles.
He was convicted of sedition during 2nd Republic (1982) and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour and 50 naira fine for his book “How Jim Nwobodo Rules Anambra State”. This conviction was later quashed by an Appeal Court acquitting and discharging him of all charges. A Supreme Court investigation, later resulted in the sacking of Justice Emmanuel Araka, Francis O. Nwokedi and the Court Registrar, who participated in the lower court ruling.
This case is now a locus classicus in Nigeria’s legal, and judicial system and resulted in sedition being expunged from Nigeria’s Criminal Law.
As a politician, Dr. Nwankwo unsuccessfully ran for the Governorship in 1983 on the platform of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). During the Babangida transition programme, his group, the Liberal Convention was not registered so he opted not to join any of the military created parties – Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC). He was a leading member of the unregistered People Progressive Party (PPP), an alliance comprising the Eastern Mandate Union/Afenifere/Movement of National Reformation and all the progressive forces in the South and Middle Belt. Dr Nwankwo was the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) Vice Chairman, and one of the NADECO delegates to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (C.M.A.G), in London, in 1997. Following his CMAG testimony he was a guest of U.S. Government and numerous U.S. based International Agencies. When prominent black leaders wrote to Bill Clinton to support the pro-democracy movements in Nigeria and apply more pressure on Nigeria’s dictator, Dr Nwankwo was the only non-African-American among the 23 honored to sign the letter. As a result of his tenacious opposition to the military dictatorship he was arrested on June 3, I998 and was released four weeks later after the death of the military dictator, Sani Ababcha.
Owei Lakemfa, journalist, labour activist, civil rights advocate said in a tribute to Nwankwo: “A giant in a country of political lilliputians, a fearless and unconquerable general of the masses and unmatchable intellectual gladiator, Dr. Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo on February 1, 2020, moved on to other battle fields, head unbowed and faith in the African people, unshaken. The struggle continues; a people united, can never be defeated.”