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An Interview with Dr. Leo Igwe on Advice, Developments for Humanism and Secularism, and a Historical Perspective (Part Two)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/06/15


Dr. Leo Igwe is the Founder of the Humanist Movement in Nigeria. He discusses: recommendations for leaving religion; exciting developments of humanism and secularism in Nigeria; and a historical perspective.

Keywords: Christianity, humanism, Islam, Leo Igwe, Nigeria, religion.

An Interview with Dr. Leo Igwe on Advice, Developments for Humanism and Secularism, and a Historical Perspective: Founder, Nigerian Humanist Movement (Part Two)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: For those men who are leaving religion and looking for a safe place when they leave religion, what are recommendations for them? For women who are looking for a safe place when they are leaving religion, what are recommendations for them as well? 

My assumption is such that women and men leaving religion will different difficulties on average. Of course, there will be overlap.

Dr. Leo Igwe: Religious people are usually not happy when one renounces religion. Both men and women are usually unpleased to hear that one no longer believes. They find it annoying and regard it as a form of betrayal. They can respond subtly in terms of severing family ties or relationships, refraining from helping the person when he or she is in need.

So there is a price to pay for leaving religion. Incidentally, men do not get the same treatment as women because men are in a stronger social and cultural position. So, it is always important for people who leave religion to try and become independent in terms of finance and other means of livelihood. They have to be in a position to fend for themselves, to exert material and financial independence otherwise they could come under pressure and persecution, even to the point of religious people denying them familial or social support.

2. Jacobsen: What are some exciting developments of humanism in Nigeria now? What, also, are some positive developments of secularism in general?

Igwe: There are many positive developments. One of them is the fact that today there is a space for nonreligious persons, an official platform for those who are critical of religion or of religious ideas in Nigeria. People are expected in many countries to simply believe, and not question. But today, things have changed. We have a space for people who are non-believers including those who are undecided, those who are “confused.” People who are questioning their beliefs or who are unsure about the existence of the supernatural. Those who do not want to be associated with religion. This is one exciting development.

We also have the benefit of having a forum to challenge religious claims. Very often, you can’t question religious beliefs in many places. You either believe or preach one or another religion. Right now, we have a trend of challenging and questioning openly the existence of God, Islamic teachings, Christian teachings, the idea of an afterlife and the content of the Quran, the Bible, and all these holy books (if they make sense or if we find them reasonable, ethical, or moral), and so on.

Non-religion has gone to the table of religious discourses. So, this is a very important development. Also, we are seeing humanism recognized and being a significant part in the campaign against superstition in the region, against witchcraft related abuses, and the campaign against harmful traditional practices. We are witnessing a kind of cultural renaissance. Some reformation, an intellectual awakening that seeks to liberate people from religious chains and shackles is sweeping across the region. I think that as the movement grows and blossoms, we will see some more positive developments.

Jacobsen: Can you hear me now?

Igwe: It is clear now.

Jacobsen: One last question keeping in mind the time limit.

Igwe: It is very clear now [Laughing].

Jacobsen: I know! Finally, right [Laughing]? You know what, I paid $10 million for my new WiFi. It was due to the wonderful Nigerian prince who sent me a Spam email was desperately saying, “Sir, I have to give you money.” He said, “Dear Brother, Mr. Scott…”

Igwe: Yes [Laughing].

3. Jacobsen: Let’s take a serious historical perspective, if we are looking at individuals who are seen as emancipatory figures, whether intellectually or by their life, individuals like Kwame Nkrumah or Nelson Mandela. 

We are looking at people providing an image of an Africa in a post-colonial or, at least, slowly exiting a colonial context, not simply on paper, but the derivative impacts that are noticeable. 

If we are looking at a Nigerian context, of a post-colonial context, what can be done to make that transition more rapid, more healthy, for Nigerian citizens on Nigerian citizenry’s terms?

Igwe: I think it is very complicated, okay? Because, first of all, many people try to survive. For them, it is a case of: “Let’s see what we can do and make the best of the situation.”

Sometimes, they find their efforts encumbered by other interests, by global-international schemes, by cultural policing forces from the east and the west. Many Nigerians are fighting for the basics of life in terms of food, shelter, and clothing.

They want to enjoy what life has to provide, the innovations and inventions of this world. They want to move around freely. They want to have a vibrant economy. They do not want an economy that continues to worsen daily, weekly, and yearly.

They want an economy that provides the basics of life. Unfortunately, things are getting worse. Every change that has been made in the post-colonial context has not yielded the benefits of emancipation and economic empowerment.

We have seen more devastation, more poverty, more penury, suffering, despair, hopelessness. This is how the whole trajectory has played out. The basics of housing, better salaries, food, good living standards have continued to elude many.

Living conditions continue to worsen. This is not only encumbered by local conditions but also by global forces of greed and deceit, by interests driven by profit and the quest to exploit whatever can be exploited in the region. People find themselves in a hostage situation which they cannot break away. The goods of this life are not translatable at least on account of their own efforts or aspirations. They hear about prosperity, wealth, and development, but never possess them.

Sometimes, these goods are only in the West or come only to the West, not to the rest. The good of this world has eluded the most in the world. People feel disconnected, and disempowered. They do not see how the efforts that they are making would help them connect or live well, or help them realize their basic yearnings and aspirations. That is why today; we are seeing the waves of migration of those most affected by the prevailing global inequalities. Global equality is forged and maintained by the powerful nations who gain most from it. But many African people are making perilous journeys across the desert and the Mediterranean because they have been betrayed; they have been left behind by the world. They have been duped by the east and the west, by the north and the south. They feel that the whole project of African emancipation has failed. Globalization is a pernicious process that has brought alienation and devastation. African development has become an illusion.

4. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Igwe.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder, Nigerian Humanist Movement.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 15, 2019:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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