Dr. Leo Igwe is the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. On May 27, 2018, we published an interview. Here, we talk on the responsibility that comes with public recognition of excellence.
Dr. Igwe and I were conversing on the subject of the widespread recognition in Nigeria and African, especially the non-religious and humanist communities for founding the movement.
The Nigerian Humanist Movement, the first person to enact this formal movement out of tens of millions. He is an ever-active activist for the non-religious and a spokesperson for the equality of men and women, of the need for the implementation of human rights, and the importance of critical thinking and scientific education.
With regards to the responsibility that comes from the public recognition for Dr. Igwe, he stated, “The widespread recognition means more responsibility and more work. It obligates me to exert more efforts and sustain the momentum to further humanist ideals and values. It entails devising new and more potent strategies to make humanism flourish, and mainstream the rights and interests of nonreligious persons.”
It means the sign of the improvement in performance and a track record for Igwe. It amounts to thanks for the public service and an identification of the excellence of the public service. He notes this as an enhanced sign of the importance of his life’s work: humanism.
“…an indication that a long forgotten, long overlooked need for a positive non-religious outlook is now being fulfilled. In a country such as Nigeria, religion has an overwhelming influence,” Igwe explained, “So it can be very difficult for humanist activists to make any significant impact because such an impression chips away on the rock of overbearing religions.”
He considers the recognition of excellence welcome. Igwe feels that this is a sign of hope and that this “should propel” him and other activists to work harder than before. Because the progress won to date took a long time.
It was something not in the realm of the possible centuries ago, but became one recently. That makes the consolidation of the progress never certain but easier to maintain than originally acquire in the first place.
The recognition of the peers and the youth makes this an especially important point of contact in his career, as, seems to me, he works from a harder vantage in Nigeria than in other countries such as Canada, where humanism has a long tradition.
“It means striving to ensure that humanism takes its rightful place on the table of religions, philosophies or life stances, and that humanists and other non-religious people can live their lives and go about their everyday business with less and less fear,” Igwe stated.
He continued to state that this means the end of the persecution and the discrimination of the non-religious people in the country and the region in order to secure a greater secularity in Nigeria.
Igwe said, “In Nigeria, those who identify as having no religion are in the minority; they are not reckoned with. Non-religious persons suffer systemic marginalization. For too long, persons without religion have been identified as a silent and sometimes, a non-existing minority.”
He feels the and thinks strongly that the mistreatment of the non-religious is unacceptable. He wants to work for a world where these people are not discriminated against.
“In the coming years, I want to work to ensure that Nigerians grow up understanding that religion is an option, and knowing that they can leave religion; that they can criticize religion. I want to make sure that people in Nigeria are aware that humanism and atheism as options that they can explore and embrace,” Igwe concluded.
Dr. Leo Igwe is the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He is among the most prominent African non-religious people from the African continent. When he speaks, many people listen in a serious way. He holds a Ph.D. from the Bayreuth International School of African Studies at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, having earned a graduate degree in Philosophy from the University of Calabar in Nigeria. We have talked or I have written on Dr. Igwe here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
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