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The Evolution of Igbo Union in Liverpool

Igbo Union in Liverpool was formed in 1935 as a self-help group by Igbo Seamen, who were domiciled in Liverpool. Membership at first consisted mainly of ex-merchant seafarers who worked in British ships that traded between W. Africa and the rest of the World. The formation of Igbo Union of Liverpool was as a result of controversy surrounding the treatment and the radicalised discrimination and disadvantage suffered by one Mr OKPARNTA, Igbo fireman of a named British ship bound for America. Mr Okparanta was accused of sabotage and when the ship returned to Liverpool, he was chained and put to custody awaiting trial. The Igbo people in Liverpool by then, on learning of his misfortune decided to levy themselves by contributing money for his defence and litigation. With the support of the people and heavy financial backing, Mr Okparanta won the case. After the case Igbo people decided to form a Union which will be strong enough to fight any form of discrimination and disadvantage and to look after the welfare of its members. The end result was the formation of a culture of resistance and the formation of the first Igbo Union in the UK.

The Igbo Union decided to be meeting on the last Sunday of the month till today. The first meeting was held at No.92 Upper Standhope Street Liverpool, a house belonging to the First Chairman Mr Daddy Thompson Onyeama from Aro Chukwu in Abia State. The role of the Union was and still is that of social and welfare benefit for the community. Dues collected from members were deposited in British Bank of West Africa (BBWA).There was soon enough money for Igbo Union of Liverpool to move forward by buying a property at 12 Mulgrave Street, L8, which provided the much-needed accommodation and a meeting place and temporary loading place for new arrivals and those on transit to USA, at a time when it was a common thing to find notices for accommodation saying "No black, No Irish, No dogs."Many prominent sons and daughters were guests at the house mainly, boxers - Late Dick Tiger, politicians namely Late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Late Dr Nwafor Orizu, very many students, Seamen and businessmen coming from Igbo land in particular and West Africa and Africa in General. In 1967, the City Council started a clearance policy in the area and Number 12 Mulgrave was forcefully taken from Igbo people in the name of C.P.O in 1969 during the Biafran war with Nigeria.For months the Igbo people had nowhere to hold their monthly meetings. As determined by predestination or natural law under the leadership of Dr Madu from Oji River , Prof. Okemu ,Chief Justice Azinge and Late Mr Osisiogu of Umuahia, Late Mr Agornsi, 54 Prince Road was bought in 1969.

The community must not forget the Trustees to 54 Princes Road, nominated on 16/9/1969, the late Mr Aru ,late Mr Agornsi, late Mr Osisiogu, late Mr Obianyiudo, late Chiz Onuora...who used their houses as asurety.Shortly, after the purchase the property was gutted by fire uninsured.It is on record that during the Biafran war the Igbo Union was split into two camps what was describe as "inside-out and "outside-in"approach towards the war efforts. Late Dr K. O.Mbadiwe, Late Chief Ogbuluafor and......from Nnewi described members of the Igbo Union of Liverpool as caterpillars and bulldozers when they gave generously during and after the Biafran war.

Igbo Union Liverpool contributions should be remembered in the annals of History. 54 Princes Road was purchased in 1969 with an initial deposit of about £3,000 paid by Igbo Union and £2,000 from money raised by the members of the Club. The property faced another crisis of repossession and during the Igbo Day celebration, usually on the New year Day, Igbo people raised over £14,000 to put the property back on its foot and as a business. Again 54 Princes Road was C.P.Oed on 1/2/1983 .Once again History repeated its self and the Igbo Union had no meeting place from 1983 to 1988.

During the presidency and-leadership of Chief Angus Chukwu Emeka, late Mr Osisiogu, late Mr Igbowe, Late Mr Onuora ,late Mr Kalu Nmaju , Mr Ray Osuagwu and others in 1987, 2 Parkway the present Igbo Community Centre was purchased with a freehold of the property for 1,000 years. A part of the structure is a Grade Two Listed Building. The initial deposit was from capital raised by members of the social Club contributing £250 each, which was different from the Union membership. With Unity, good management as a Night Club we paid off all the utility bills- electricity, gas, water and VAT that accrued from 54 Princes Road. Within 5 years the Association paid in full the mortgage of 2 Park Way before the Night club was closed down.

During the Presidency of Mr C. Maduike, The Liverpool City Council paid £29,457.48 as Disturbance Allowance in 1998 for 54 princes Road.During the Presidency of Prince Uka U. Uka, The City Council paid £32,672.74 as Brick and Mortar for 54 Princes Road in 2001.On 24/11/2001 we had a fund raising and honoured few of our past presidents namely Dr Madu and Chief Angusu Chukwuemeka and our last Patron Mr Osisogu .The community believes in self-help first , hence (save the Igbo Centre) Izoputa Obii Ndi Igbo",and we raised over £3,000.

Igbo Community Association had a Charity Registration No.1092248 dated 29/05/2002 The Trustees were Mr Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogbadnufe, Late Mr Kalu Nmaju Kalu, Mr Uka U.Uka, Late Mr Chiz Onuora, Mr Hycent Egbuchiri, Mr Francia Nduwuishi Ofoegbu etcSome parts of the building were renovated. The community was paid as accounting body for Merseyside Refugee Forum Liverpool. We aimed at building a strong partnership with cooperate, educational and charitable institutions, in order to leverage our combined resources to promote our culture and identity within our multi- cultural Britain.It may be of interest to some people, to note that Igbo Union in Liverpool, evolved through the direction of family, provincial and state associations. Hence the Ngwa Welfare Association was founded in 1952 and they contributed to the building of IBO National High School at Aba, Abia state, now a Campus of Abia State University as stated by Late Mr Ohajuru. The Orlu Provincial Union was formed in 1967 as a result of the berevement of Late Mazi Ogbuokiri from Ezinachi Orlu as stated by Late Mazi Obigwe. Bende Family Union was formed in 1967, as a result of the visit of Late Chief J.J. Ogbuluafor from Olokoro Umuahia as one of the delegates of win the war effort of Biafra. Also Owerri Welfare Association. Mbaise Family Union, 1978, it is remarked that they encouraged equal opportunity as they held meetings inclusive of their daughters and wife's.

The Igbo Women Association was formed in 1982 when more women joined their husbands. Enugu/Onitsha family Union was formed in 1986 said Late Mr Chiz Onuora this time as professionals with entrepreneurial culture and they bought an off-licence business and a property in Smith Down Road which later led to the disintegration of the Union. Anambara/Enugu Welfare Association was later formedThe Umu Ada Cultural Group was formed in the late 80's by the first grown up daughters from six families namely, the Chima's, Okoro's , Maduike's, Ofoegbu's, Nwauzu's and Egbuchiri families. This group introduced the tradition dance and igba nkwu Nwani in Liverpool and few other outstanding socio -cultural events.

The Igbo community Association has been a catalyst in trying to bring Igbo people together. To understand the roll played by Igbo Union Liverpool, let me go a little back in date and history. Liverpool attended the inception of Igbo Community Manchester (ICM) on 13/9/97 with Dr G.Etugo as the Chairman. World Igbo Congress (WIC) started holding conventions in 1995. Dr Gilbert Igboaka invited Liverpool to attend the one held in London on 4/8/1998.The Igbo Union lead by Bar.C. O. Ume was looking for a beautiful bride Liverpool to join forces with Igbo Union London (IUL)to form an umbrella organisation that unites and represent the interest of Ndigbo in the Diaspora. In the year 2000, Liverpool went to London , three times in three consecutive months ,Sept.,Oct.,Nov. to unite WIC and IUL organisations in London and Dr Igboaka of WIC London did not attend. A steering committee was set up at a meeting in Manchester with Bar. Cyril O.Ume as the chairman on 7/2/2001. In London on 8/4/2001 Dr G.Etugo of (Manchester) was elected as the first President, Nzuko Ndi Igbo U.K and Eire (NNI) with 30 votes and Prince Uka U. Uka (Liverpool) Unopposed as the 2nd Vice President. Mr Chinedu Nwaosu Unopposed as the General Secretary.They were 13 affiliate organisations at inception. Liverpool was accepted as the Headquarters of NNI on 24/11/2001 during the fund raising and honouring event of Izuputa obi Ndigbo in Liverpool. At first AGM on 11/6/2002 the numbers increased to 15. To sum it up, the social and economic history of Igbo Community of Liverpool has been that of patriotism, love of Igbo Culture, entrepreneurial, conflict resolution and reconciliations. The Igbo Union has always been the Umbrella and the fulcrum upon which other arms of the community balance.

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