Leo Igwe

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Dare to think. Dare to doubt. Dare to question everything in spite of what the superstitious around you teach and preach.
—Leo Igwe[1]

Leo Igwe (born 26 July 1970) is a Nigerian skeptic and humanist, who is currently serving as the chair of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, and holds leadership positions in the James Randi Educational Foundation and in the Atheist Alliance International.[2] He holds a PhD from the University of Bayreuth,Wikipedia and has led efforts to promote reason and science in the African continent. One of his most prominent efforts is for the ending of child witchcraft accusations in sub-Saharan Africa. He founded the Advocacy for Alleged Witches Foundation (AFaW),[3] which serves to aid those accused of witchcraft effectively.

His criticism of religion and superstitious thought has not been uncontroversial in Africa, a continent of very devout religious views, and has brought him into the sights of religious organizations such as the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, an organization quite responsible for much of the problems Igwe has discussed. But even with this, Igwe has stayed optimistic concerning the spread of rationalistic and humanistic thought in Africa. In A Manifesto For a Skeptical Africa, Igwe states that:

...an African Age of Reason can be on the horizon! The fact is that there are many Africans who reason well and think critically. There are Africans who are skeptics and rationalists. But active African skeptics are too few and far apart to form the critical mass the continent needs to experience a Skeptical Spring. Nonetheless, the momentum is building slowly and steadily. And one can say that an African skeptical awakening is in sight. As it is said: the darkest part of the night precedes the dawn. So there is no need to despair for humanity in Africa. There is every reason to be optimistic and hopeful.[4]

Impact of Imperialism on African Skepticism[edit]

In the aforementioned A Manifesto for a Skeptical Africa, Igwe also discusses and disputes the belief in Africa that rationalism and humanism are somehow "un-African," stating that:

Devoutness and underdevelopment, poverty, misery and superstition co-exist and co-relate. It should be said that the dominant religious faiths in the region are faiths alien to the continent. That means African Christians are more devout than Europeans whose missionaries brought Christianity to Africa. African Muslims are more devout than Muslims in the Middle East, whose jihadists and clerics introduced Islam to the region.

Meanwhile, whatever good these foreign belief systems may have brought to or done in Africa can only be unfavorably compared to the damage and darkness they have caused and are still causing in the region. Some paranormal or supernatural claims of the two main religions of Christianity and Islam are part of the factors holding Africans hostage. Most Africans cannot think freely or express their doubts openly because these religions have placed a huge price on freethinking and critical inquiry. Because these belief systems rely on paranormal claims themselves, Africans feel they cannot speak out against superstition as a whole, or they will be ostracized or even killed by religious zealots. Belief in demonic possession, faith healing, and the “restorative” power of holy water can have deadly consequences for believers and whole communities. Africans must reject superstitious indoctrination and dogmatization in public institutions ... Africans must begin to think freely in order to ‘emancipate themselves from mental slavery’ and generate ideas that can ignite the flame of an African enlightenment.

Essentially, he is stating that much of the bigotry and superstitious beliefs that exist in Africa today are not something inherent to Africa, but rather an import from outside a consequence of imperialism.

In reference to this, Igwe has also stated that much of the homophobia that exists in Africa's laws today is not a consequence of some inherent homophobia within its culture, but rather because of imported Western and Arabian norms through colonialism and imperialism, stating that:

... the fact remains that the legal homophobia in contemporary African countries has roots in imported colonial western and Arabic legal norms. The religious homophobia in the region has strong undercurrent of Christianity which was introduced by western missionaries and Islamic sharia law which was brought to the region by muslim scholars and jihadists. [5]


In 2017, Igwe introduced the method of "iDoubt" in an article for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Essentially, iDoubt is a way to scrutinize information before one takes it as fact, a way for critical thinking. To do this, Igwe introduces five "doubts," which he calls "individual doubt, inspire doubt, inculcate doubt, inform doubt, and Internet doubt."[6]

Support for LGBTQ+ rights in Africa[edit]

Igwe has undertaken advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights in his home country of Nigeria, and has written articles in support for the LGBTQ+ community in Africa.[7][8] In a 2017 article for the Nigerian Observer, Igwe noted that:

Too often religion, culture, and tradition have been used to legitimise hatred and discrimination against homosexuals. God, Allah and other constructs of this imaginary asexual entity have been invoked to sanctify opposition to the human rights of gay persons.

Texts that were written by human beings centuries and millennia ago but which clerics and preachers, godmen and women, theologians and faithful scholars have refused to disclose their true authors and intent have been used to justify norms that are spiteful of human rights of women, children, and minorities.[9]

External links[edit]