Ojukwu: I Distinguish A Hero
Written by Ambassador Dozie Nwanna
Saturday, 25 February 2012 17:02
My first encounter with the Hero, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, did not come until 1989, in Lagos, at the first launch of his book Because I am Involved — that most honest writing by a Nigerian leader. I was not disappointed by the cleverly set oeuvre, whose binary message was meant on the one hand to console and update his own brood and, on the other, to confound those who may still bear hate.
At the end of a long queue I arrived face to face with the Hero. I stood at attention and presented my copy of the book for his autograph. He raised his head as if to assess me. It was then that I discovered the man. He had commanding eyes that glared like balls of fire. His presence attracted and arrested like the Ijele masquerade.
I would have other occasions to meet him in London. I had the privilege of being around the Hero uncountable times, as he lay on his sick bed. It was painful witnessing the mighty man of valour in his bravest ever struggle. He was so engrossed in the enterprise of the moment, almost never heeding any intruder. One day, I felt bold enough and stretched out my hand. It touched the great one and, unexpectedly, the Ezeigbo moved his head as if to look. He seemed to wink. So electric was the moment that, like the case of “the woman with the issue of blood”, the experience was medicinal.
I believe the Hero fought so valiantly in London just to be able to address Nigeria one more time. He more than achieved it by the arcane syntax and eloquence of his passing. For he actually addressed the world from the Dead!
But the man made his greatest utterances long ago. His audience, unfortunately, were mainly deaf. It reminds one of the religious knowledge stories of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight . . .’’’ It does not seem that that voice was well heeded.
I have always linked that story with another narrative (Matthew: 11) in which Jesus Christ made one of the most haunting remarks of the entire Bible. Upon being told of the demise of John the Baptist, the Lord was reported to have said:
“Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater . . . “
Those words will forever be the most authoritative instruction to mankind to reckon with hierarchy. Its lessons are particularly cogent for Ndigbo, especially so for the bumbling purveyors of the tenuous “Igbo enwe eze” doctrine in their midst.
Further down, on the same passage, we read:
“. . . the kingdom of heaven surfereth violence, and the violent people take it by force . . .”
This remark is like Akulu, the wine from the unadulterated sap of the palm tree, which gets better with age. It encapsulates a warning that has never been more apt for any people or generation than ours. Look well and you will find that it paraphrases the raison d’etre of the Hero and the gist of his advisory to his beloved country. It is also an immortal admonition to anyone anywhere that nowhere is safe from the menace of those who deal by hate and aggression. Security is supreme. Not even ‘the kingdom of heaven’ is immune! For that vision, I salute the blessed eyes that glimpsed our tomorrow yesterday.
The passage concludes: “Whoever has ears, let them hear!”
If there ever was Onyigbo who most embodied that which is typical, remarkable and the best of Ndigbo, it was the Hero, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi, pater and most-beloved leader of Ndigbo, and the eternal Commander-in-Chief of the tireless Forces of Hearts and Minds of the Igbo Spirit. Only he reached that mythical station of being that confers upon any Onyigbo the status of Prince of All Igbo, the unspoken Sovereign. The Hero rightfully claimed this distinction, universally authenticating the doctrine of “Igbo aso eze”.
The Hero was always special: from out of the loins of the truest aristocrat Africa ever had, he was born singular and big like an elephant; completely imbued with cause and grit. While vulnerably caught in the winds from the four corners of his country, he leapt for freedom. So high was the leap that he touched the firmament, peeked at futurity and glanced our common Chi.
Descending like Moses, the Hero met his people at the point on their odyssey where the road hit a fork. Like dazzled hatchlings whose mother had been snatched, the people had been unable to trace the way home unaided. They, the once content people of that country south of the Savannah, where the River Niger, the Imo River and the Cross River, joined by a hundred brooks, bathe the soil and flow home into the Atlantic. They, of the place from which rises the sun, who in inviting others to behold what they were seeing, shouted “Bia fulu” and got misunderstood.
If we could liken the Hero to the tusked one, then perhaps we can say that one misfortune of his otherwise wonderful life was that Nature mistook this elephant for an ant; consistently aggregating him with humans whose eyes were as those of ants. This was specially so among his own people.
Where the Ikemba saw a grain of sand and would waste neither time nor effort on, these people inevitably would see the Zuma rock and, in foolish fright, tarry to wrongly sing “Rock of Ages Cleft for Me” in hope of appeasing the tin gods and demons of their own creation.
For the same reason people perceived and regarded the Hero as different things, just as in the fable of the elephant and the six blind men. This explains why Nigerians were never in agreement on whom and what the man was while he was with us.
But since 26th November 2011, when the man got promoted from these lower courts, every mouth has been speaking, singing. So remarkable has been the harmony that it has become the best advertisement of the real Nigeria and of the big-heartedness of her people! It brought sweet tears to the eyes. It gratified. And it reminded me of the words one of my favourite hymns, City of God How Broad and Far:
“One holy Church, one army strong; one steadfast, high intent; one working band, one harvest song, one King omnipotent.”
Truly, the Ikemba was very distinct in his ways. His life and work defined the Nigeria of our time and will continue to do so until his restless spirit and those of his own ‘blind men’ meet at the junction we would be glad to name ‘Catharsis’. For, in the saga of the Hero’s life there could not be any question of right or wrong — just the needful, executed on either side by persons who merely saw through a glass, darkly.
When it became right, the Hero showed himself again to be the most remarkable Nigerian, outmatching any of his compatriots in forthrightness, forbearance, faith and ferventness in the search for national oneness. In tow, his people are playing to win the award for least provokable Nigerians. Such is truly rare and should be encouraged.
The Hero was indeed many things. He was at once the Enyimba that leads from the front, a reluctant rebel, the people’s Prince, a democrat, and the most candid Nigerian that ever lived. Subsequent events have confirmed he was visionary. It can also be said, as many testimonies point, that his life was ransom for the ultimate joy of every Nigerian. He will now live eternally in the heart of the people that he embraced at the point where roads crossed.
The Hero, who saw his first daylight at Zungeru, cut teeth and lost his innocence as a pranking youth in the Nigerian crucible, Lagos, would have fashioned a triangle when finally he reaches home to join his fathers at Nnewi. His triad of great junctures on the Nigeria arena — his origin in the North, the classic jaunt in the West, punctuated by the bowing out from the East — all encompass a grand legacy, the story of which, when told, will demolish the weak views of those who might seek to pigeon-hole this Complete Nigerian and consign him to a dim corner of his great country. The cherub of Zungeru, who became the wunderkind of Lagos, shall be riding home to his ancestors from Nnewi in a fiery chariot that will be identified by its invisibility to all sinners. Like Elijah!
Yet it should be acknowledged that this Prophet lived a life that is in every sense a triangulation. He epitomised two contradictions: being a vital sinew of the heart of a nation still being built and simultaneously remaining the missing dimension whose unconsciousness to the builders stultified the project. He, who now goes finally home, was ever so involved with Nigeria, trying to help his fellow citizens construct the most equitable country he believed they deserved. He is gone, but may never really leave or be left alone. For the guardian angel already has a post in the hearts and minds of those that fathomed him.
And as the Hero passes from this mortality, we, who know his sacrifice, can find solace in the fact that he had a full, dutiful, worthy and widely shared life, by which he gave his all and asked for nothing. We may now pray that the departed receives the Mercy and Peace of the Most High, and that he awakens in the bosom of his Almighty Creator.
Ambassador Dozie Nwanna (UK)
OJUKWU: THE POSTER FACE OF IGBO SPIRIT
By Nzuko Ndi-Igbo Germany
Tuesday 7th February 2012
Like fading pictures in a photo album, some memories remain in the mind long after time has erased details of the events. So it is for Ndiigbo with the final bye bye for our one and only Dikedioramma (beloved hero), Eze Igbo Gburu Gburu & Ikemba Nnewi – General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Gen. Ojukwu┤s death brings back the very painful memories of the Biafra-Nigeria war to which Ndiigbo lost over one million people.
Ndiigbo fought alone with honour and with God on their side survived Nigeria and its allied forces including Britain, Russia, Egypt, etc. The fact that we (Ndiigbo) survived the war means that Ojukwu can not die, he lives for ever.
Odumegwu Ojukwu is a natural born leader to whom Ndiigbo enthusiastically endorse as their leader. If, as Shakespeare wrote, what┤s past is prologue –and it often is, then Ojukwu┤s political history is particularly relevant now. Although the war ended on January 15, 1970, its no longer news that the very things which precipitated and necessitated Igbo secession have remained, nonetheless in their multiplied dimensions.
On Aburi we stand, Ojukwu┤s sincerity of purpose and courage were on full display at the ABURI Conference Ghana, where he outlined a road map for Nigeria to avoid war and make progress like other countries. Nigeria instead chose the opposite. To defend his people, Ojukwu declared the state of Biafra and therefore become the poster face of Igbo spirit of self determination and never say die. One surely cannot mistake the passion and depth of Ojukwu┤s appeal to our people.
Gen. Ojukwu showed competence, integrity, professionalism and a command of respect among his colleagues and distinguished him. This he demonstrated by his ability to inspire and motivate the Biafran masses, students, engineers, scientists, diplomats, technocrats etc in a war of survival.
Odumegwu Ojukwu wrote his own tribute with the AHIARA DECLARATION and Biafran technological break-through, unequalled on the African continent. It takes a genuine leader to tap into his people and get the best out of them.
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the People┤s General
The Poster Face of Igbo Spirit
We Honour You
We Thank You
We Love You
Nzuko Ndi-Igbo Germany
(The entire Igbo Community in Germany)
(This Tribute is written by Sab Ekeh (Journalist) based in Cologne for Ndi –Igbo Germany and sent by Chief Joe Mmeh, Co-ordinator, Gen. Ojukwu Funeral Committee, Germany)
Ojukwu: Setting the records straight
The Nigerian Civil War broke out on May 30, 1967, when Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the then military governor of Eastern Region, declared the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Biafra from the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Federal Military Government under General Yakubu Gowon held that the union of Nigeria was perpetual; hence, from July 1967 to January 1970, the whole country was thrown into a bloody civil war which resulted in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of lives, and property worth millions of naira.
Many analysts, writers and commentators on the Nigerian Civil War have painted Ojukwu as a megalomaniac who wanted secession and, by extension, a civil war at all cost. In existing literature on the civil war, Emeka Ojukwu is labelled as rebel, villain, dissident, mountebank, ambitious empire builder, elitist, arrogant spoilt-brat, and so on. In sharp contrast, a critical and objective look at the causes, consequences and lessons of the Nigeria Civil War shows that Ojukwu might not necessarily fit into all these negative appellations.
To begin with, Ojukwu represented a new era in Nigeria’s political history – the era of “secession action” as against the previous era of “secession threats”. I have shown in one of my papers on the civil war that almost all sections of Nigeria had had cause to threaten secession from Nigeria in the past. For instance, the North threatened to secede from Nigeria in 1950 if the the region was not given 50 percent representation in the central legislature. The same threat was repeated in 1953 when the South moved a motion for the independence of Nigeria in 1960. In the same vein, when the Western Nigerian leaders could not establish political control over Lagos in 1953 as a result of its declaration as the federal capital territory, they threatened secession. Similarly, as a reaction to the shoddy conduct of the 1964 federal elections, the premier of the Eastern region, Chief Michael Okpara, also wanted the East to opt out of the federation. And when the Tiv found NPC’s rule intolerable, one Isaac Shaahu threatened secession on their behalf in 1965. Furthermore, in February 1966, Isaac Adaka Boro proclaimed the Niger Delta People’s Republic, although abortively. All these are to show that different sections of the country had threatened secession even before 1967. What is, however, significant about Biafran secession was that it went beyond mere threat to action and use of force.
The Biafran secession also brought into fore the basic imperfections of the whole Nigerian enterprise and the insincerity of the political class. It showed that the political entity called Nigeria was nothing more than an agglomeration of states and peoples forcefully and hurriedly put together by Britain for mere economic exploitation. On the eve of the Nigerian Civil War, as it had always been since the mistake of 1914, there were persecutions of non-indigenes, particularly the Igbo, in the northern parts of Nigeria, and the Federal Military Government could not do anything. In other words, the Nigerian Civil War revealed failures of government in all ramifications as exemplified in the high-level of insecurity in Nigeria during the period. All these anomalies were pointed out by Odumegwu-Ojukwu, but deaf ears were turned to him. Therefore, secession was seen as the last resort to ensure the dignity of human life for the Igbo nation.
The outbreak of the civil war was also a manifestation of the prevailing social and political forces operating in Nigeria prior to 1967. E. H. Carr has rightly argued that the great man is always representative of either existing forces or of forces that he helps to mould by way of challenge to existing authority. Ojukwu’s declaration of secession and the subsequent outbreak of the civil war must be understood within the purview of the zero-sum politics of winner-takes-all and the high level of ethnic and sectional loyalty which shrouded the Nigerian military after the January and July 1966 coups. Therefore, the power struggles within the top military elite in Nigeria were responsible for the outbreak of the civil war rather than the ambitions of Ojukwu.
More importantly, the declaration of the sovereignty of Biafra was a resolve of the majority of the people of the Eastern region rather than a personal action of Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Long before 1967, there had been growing distrust among the Igbo for the Nigerian state. For instance, a constitutional study group set up by the Okpara government in Eastern Nigeria in 1965 had recommended the Igbo secession in these words: “Secession is the ultimate cure for our difficulties. In arriving at this conclusion, we have considered the population of Eastern Nigeria, her economic possibilities and scientific and administrative expertise and her goodwill abroad.”
That Ojukwu was not the architect of secession becomes clearer when we realize that members of this constitutional group - like C. C. Mojekwu, Michael Okpara, J. I. Emembolu and Kalu Ezera - featured prominently in the 1967 secession. The position here is that all classes of Igbo were in support of secession in 1967 and Ojukwu was only doing the biddings of his people. In fact, it took the people some time to win and convince him of the critical necessity of Igbo secession in 1967. It was even said in some quarters that some Igbo threatened to lynch him if he refused to declare secession at the period he did. This can be supported by Ojukwu’s preaching of Nigerian unity in May 1966 during the investiture of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, as the chancellor of the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He said, among other things: “For years this country has striven for unity.... All the danger of points of disintegration have been passed. The common generality of the people of this country have come to regard one another as brothers and sisters.”
From the foregoing, we can conclude that the Nigeria Civil War was the product of forces which went beyond the alleged political ambition of Odumegwu-Ojukwu. While it is true that Ojukwu and his lieutenants gave leadership to the Biafran movement, it should be recognized that they could not be held responsible for the socio-economic and political situations that provided grounds for secession and the consequent outbreak of the civil war. Therefore, rather than castigate or paint Odumegwu-Ojukwu in black colours in Nigerian history, what is important is to emphasize the lessons of the civil war for the prevention of a reoccurrence of such ugly events. The civil war should teach Nigerians lessons on the need for good governance, security of lives and property, national loyalty and patriotism, responsive and responsible government, free and fair elections, provision of basic infrastrutures, and so on. It should also teach us the undesirability of divisive forces like ethnicity and ethnic cleansing, sectionalism, religious crisis, election and census manipulations, insecurity of lives and property, marginalization, and so on.
Finally, there is no better time than now for Nigeria to reflect on the lessons of the civil war. The political situation in the country now is not fundamentally different from what obtained in 1967 on the eve of the civil war. The big question is, do we ever learn from history?
Source: Business Day, 14th February 2012.
Ojukwu’s shoes too big for me – Son.
*‘I’m now exposed to public scrutiny’
By Chinyere amaechi
As plans for the burial of the Biafran leader, Ikemba Nnewi Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu intensify, the immediate family is already counting its loses. The eldest son of the fallen statesman, Akpunwa Debe Sylvester Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu sees his father’s demise as an ouster from his comfort zone thereby exposing him to the harsh realities of heading the vast Ojukwu empire with all the challenges that go with such responsibility. Akpunwa cries out in this interview saying, his shield is no more. Savour.
I am Chief Debe Sylvester Odumegwu Ojukwu. I am a legal practitioner, an international business man, and the eldest son of Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. I am the Akpunwa Nnewi, Akpunwa Emii in Imo State, Akpunwa Okuzu, Akpunwa Nnokwa and Akpunwa Isi-Ala Ngwa.
Why Akpunwa in all your titles
My first chieftaincy title is Akpunwa. There is this trend in this country which I find ridiculous. We do naming ceremonies for our children as a kind of nomenclature or classification. The essence of this is for quick identification. Like I have said, I find it ridiculous that a particular gentleman will bear Akaji-igwe I as title from one community, Odogwu in another community and other names in others. I think the essence of name for identification is defeated. People could get easily confused associating one man with so many names. One could easily loose his identity in this process too. This is why I have maintained one name for all my chieftaincy conferment. My very first title given to me by my own people is Akpunwa Nnewi and I have upheld the same title in all other places where I have been honoured with chieftaincy titles.
Initially, I had refused every title proposal extended to me until my nuclear community conferred one on me. I strongly believe in that common say that, “charity begins at home.” Invariably your nuclear community knows you better than any other community and when they say you deserve to be honoured it then means that you really deserve it. I began by that Nnewi recognition and thereafter I have had additional four others.
It is my ambition that any day the Emir of Kano invites me for another title to become Akpunwa Kano or the Oba of Ife to confer on me Akpunwa Ife in Osun State or Ijebu and I think this is another way of nurturing Nigerian unity.
How did your family take the news of the death of Ikemba
As I said in London when we went to bring his corpse home, it is transition rudely brought home to us in stature. We did not initially realize the proper appraisal of how large he had grown because we were contented by the fact that he is (I do not want to say he was) our father. It is indeed the announcement of his transition and the outpouring from so many people saying so many good things about him that opened our eyes to the spectra of the society which he had touched in one way or the other. Then again on the reverse, since each coin must have two sides, on one side was the rude awakening and on the other side was the humility which he imbibed on his children. It is now that we have come to the realization that we had a very big obstacle to surmount because before then he had his life. His life is not distant, his life is real and right there before us because that is our father.
The immediate expectation is that you should approximate to the qualities he has. Even if you have been trying to mend a not-so-good life, there is still a challenge. You must have to tow the line and must be beaten into shape.
Burial plans and the change in date
The burial planning is in top gear but the change in the initial date fixed for it is attributable to certain imperfections in the burial arrangement but it has been nipped in the bud. I must add here that the essence of the extension is for all plans to be brought to perfection in a befitting burial for my father.
There is nothing I would consider a special effect. However, the execution is in two phases - the burial should have been a family affair but the state has come in to assist us for which I will and of course the nuclear family remains grateful. We had planned so many things that would have rested squarely on us and of course tasked our resources but with the state coming in to assist us, we will remain forever grateful. Our plan was to give him a peaceful and decent burial but for the intervention by the state which has indeed lightened the burden on the family.
I am convinced that members of the international community would also grace the burial. We should not be oblivious of the fact that he lived a reasonable life and as I have said in London, the Ikemba spent his formative years as a student in London studying part of his secondary education and his university education. Again, he spent his formative years in London. What I mean here is the very years that firmed him up when he was trained as a soldier. He spent his final years also in London traversing hospitals that catered for him while he was sick until his subsequent death in the process.
With this scenario, I won’t be totally wrong if I say that there was a strong internecine cord that bounded him with the international community.
I see the late Ikemba as a compassionate father. In Mathematics we say given that A+B = 2AB but giving in family circles that a father should be compassionate keeps one asking – why am I so drawn to the quality of compassion I show to my children. The answer however, is not far fetched when you realize that he was a soldier’s soldier. One now understands why it is worth celebrating that even against that steel character comes a man with all flesh and no bone, all love and no hate.
My memories of him
I did not see him as a father. I had always seen him as my very good friend. Of all of us, I think I am the only one he chose to be his friend and he related to me in that light. He used to wake me up from 03.00 o’clock in the early mornings to tell me stories about himself and his life. When a father begins to reveal his life to you is an indication that he holds you in high esteem. He still had scars of wounds on his body till his death and from time to time he will tell me about each wound and how he sustained it. By so doing he revealed a lot to me and I am very happy about that. I do believe that instinctively he felt that he should tell me all about him. He did not hide anything about himself from me unless the ones he did not remember. He will always want me to know him for the way he is.
How long ago did this closeness begin?
I have always maintained that I am his clone. More often than not whenever he wants, to talk, I coincidentally may want to talk and it is not unlikely that we may tow the same line of argument. When he wants to smile, I may want to smile at the same time as if I predict him so to say. When you fixate me into a particular situation where he had been, I have noticed that I am very likely going to do something very similar to what he did. But this common attribute turned into obsession about 15 or 16 years ago and that was when I realized that he did not treat me like others or the way I expected him to treat me. Like my peers and siblings, I had wanted to play pranks and get away with it but instead he would frown very seriously at it as if I have committed a heinous atrocity.
It was later that I realized that he did all these to me because he wanted an abstraction of himself. He wanted to hoist me. As a visionary, he fore-saw my future responsibilities and like a committed father, he felt duty bound to prepare me for it. He was tacitly telling me that there was no time.
As a person how do you feel about his death?
I miss him. I will soon release the tribute I did for my father and that says it all about the way I feel about his demise. He was like a shield over me which is no more and I am now exposed to the reality of who I am and the realities of my responsibility. Don’t forget that when you reach for the skies and its accompanying glamour and beauty that beneath all of these is an underlying danger. This is why I tell people that I feel very comfortable then despite the attraction and beauty one finds in being glamourous, I feel safe and secure in my very obscure life style because I was never called to question. But all this will change now the umbrella that has been shielding me is no more. I am now fully exposed to the fullness of censor in every way.
Last one-on-one meeting with Ikemba
My one-on-one discussions with him towards the end of his life were spread out. One of them, was when I took my cousin, Robert Bigger to him. The young man was to take a Congolese (From Congo Brazzaville) wife which many saw as a fantasy if not a fallacy. By this time, my father’s health was beginning to fail so I took it up. We were to travel to Congo for the rites but with some other arrangements the bride came over and they had their court marriage and I stood solidly behind them. Before we could do that, I felt it was pertinent that I took the couple to my father for his blessings. The young man is the son of his elder brother who died at Obi Junction during the civil war. The very funny aspect of it all is that for a long time my father has been estranged from the young man over one misdemeanor or the other the young man must have committed.
When he wanted to oppose the move I insisted telling him that he cannot discard his own as I instructed the couple to kneel before him. Without further move, he blessed them. He did that for my saying-so. There was no pre-notice to that visit and mission.
Again, when former governor Christian C. Onoh, his father in-law, died, he tried to be as manly as ever even as an aging man. He tried to play his cultural role of a befitting burial for an in-law and of course I stood by my father throughout. At the end of it, he called me to say, son you made me float on a balloon literarily meaning that I made him proud and happy. In fact, that was an addition to my lexicon because before then, I have never heard about that idiomatic expressions. This is why I equally see him as my teacher. We had so many memorable moments together.
There are many other meetings too. When he had his last attack, I also visited him at Enugu. When I saw him and his condition, I shouted demanding to know who annoyed him that brought him down. As soon as he heard my voice, he nodded in acknowledgement like a little child as if to say that is my champion who will talk sense into his offenders. After shouting, I picked his right hand starting with his fingers I began to massage it up to his neck, his head and crossed over to his left hand in same manner. His personal physician Professor Okey was there. I had barely done with his left hand when he raised that hand which before then was stiff and could not be moved. The doctor shouted and said come and see miracle live.
I think it is just a thing of the mind. It’s about how far one’s affection can go. Many a time, things happen when the one you love or have affection for is around.
Do you foresee a replacement for Ikemba in the near future?
Like I have always told people, my father was a product of pestilence and was situated by the situation he found himself. In a peaceful situation or do I say a party setting, we may not have gotten the Ikemba we had. I do believe in the way God does His things. He does not leave his people unguarded. He has always promised and brought a comforter when the need arises to his people at the nick of time.
I do believe that should another crisis erupt, swallowing the Igbo nation, of course God will provide another Ojukwu for His people. You do not talk war when there is peace or at a tea party because they are opposites.
Do not also forget that my late father as a young officer in the Nigerian Army was a very sociable officer. He was teaching them etiquette which entails how to enjoy life and how to relate with others in a decent mannerism. He should be about their best man but the irony came when he was faced with the choice of proving himself a responsible administrator and a leader of the people and he decided to jettison friendship. It was the need of that moment that created the Ojukwu we knew. If anyone tells you that he was groomed for the role he played in the Nigerian civil war the person is not saying the truth.
Did you have any reason to hate him?
It is not right or cultural in Igboland to speak ill of the dead or to speak ill of a father. The latter is because it is believed that a father does all for his children with good intentions. Even at that and as time has come to prove most of his acts that I personally brooded over because I did not understand his reasons behind them I have now come to realize as best intended.
Aspects of him you are going to miss
Some of the aspects of his life that I am going to miss is the champion in him. He loathes injustice. He is never bought over for any price. He is always ready to tell you nothing but the truth.
Unknown aspect of his life
Many did not get to know that he was a simple man. What people consider as fire in him or for those who thought he roars like a lion is about cytoplasm, it is in-born. There are certain animals which exert bate at a particular time, they cover themselves in cysts in order to re-generate themselves. When you see those outward outbursts, they are only a fašade to defend himself but deep down him he was a simple man to the core.
You have not been especially since the demise of your father. Any explanation for that
The family has not chosen anyone as spokesperson for the family but that my siblings are also seen talking or around the media since the incidence is mere coincidence of the fact of who was on ground when any necessary explanation or information needed to be made.
Burial planning burden
This squarely rests on me. However, there are two variants involved – we have the state aspect and we have the family. Substantially, the family aspect has been concluded because it is for us to act and since we are not limited by any bureaucracy unlike the state that must agree on a budget and other formalities and I think that was why it could not meet the target and so sued for extension to tidy up. We are working hand-in-hand with the state for indeed it is our patriarch that died. I have initially sourced for a casket at the cost of 3000 dollars to be flown in from United States of America (USA). I also sourced a private jet to bring in his corpse and everything I costed came to about 100,000 dollars. If the state now flies the corpse into the country, that is a great financial relief to the family.
The terminology has remained that a big Iroko tree has fallen, implying that something great has happened. When there is a tree fall of this magnitude, there will always be the rising of dust which given sometime settles down. With the death of my father therefore, there are bound to be some jostling for positions and like dust everything will also settle down. The dynamics of life is consistent. Many miss this point and so look for solution at the wrong place. You cannot expect that there will be no misunderstanding or disagreement in times like this. These and the resentments that go with them form the unifying factor for the family at the end of the day.
Current killings in Kano as Ikemba is yet to be buried
Like I have said, the umbrella covering us as Ndigbo is torn and the Igbo nation must do as much as quickly sew up the licking umbrella. We must not forget that the 1967 pogrom came in waves indicating that we were no longer wanted. We must rise up to the challenge of an urgent replacement for him.
My appeal is that the people he loved and protected should turn out en masse to pay him this final respect of a befitting burial. He lived for all so they should honour him with their presence as he goes home. If the family sees a mass turn out at his burial, we will be convinced and comforted by the fact that all his fight was not in vain. It will show that Biafra was not a personal vendetta or a battle in futility but a mandate given to him by his people who he fought to defend. He was true to their aspirations and led them to the best of his ability and it is only right for them to show him love this time.
Source, Daily Champion, 11th February 2012.
Fare thee well, Emeka Ojukwu
By SENATOR BEN NDI OBI
Saturday Sun, February 11, 2012
How are the mighty fallen! Ikemba Nnewi, my brother, friend, confidant and leader, you are gone. The news of your death came to me as a big shock, just a few days after I visited you in your London Hospital, on my way to United States of America in November 2011. On that visit, though you were not the same effervescent, forceful, and ebullient Ikemba that I had known and associated closely with for well over 25 years, I however saw the determination in you to win the battle. Painfully, that was not to be, but we rejoice because you transited triumphantly to the throne of Grace. Alas, the advocate of the voiceless and defender of the oppressed is no more. He has joined his ancestors.
Eze-Igbo, in life you made a choice to be self-opinionated. Though born great in the Shakespearian sense, you decided to achieve greatness through hard work, pursuing your own vision about life and legacies you eventually left behind. You demonstrated the enigmatic personality you were early in life, not minding the aristocratic background you were born into. Despite the best of education you had, in both Nigeria and England, you opted for a civil service job in remote communities in Nigeria, in place of managerial job in your father’s colossal business empire, with all the comforts attached to the position.
Not done yet, you abandoned the civil service and dramatically joined what turned to be the Nigerian Army, the Royal West African Frontier, Force in 1957 as a recruit.
IKEMBA, THE MAN OF HISTORY.
From young age in King’s College, he made history. In England, he studied History in place of Law and upon his return to Nigeria he made history, both in his civil and military professions. His contributions to the development of Nigerian military were unparalleled. Records hold that Ikemba was the first Nigerian graduate of a master’s degree level to join Nigerian Army in 1957, as a recruit. He later converted to officer cadet, trained in Ghana, Eaton, Warminster and Haythe, all in England. Ikemba was also the first Nigerian trained military officer instructor at Royal West African Frontier Force Training School at Teshie Ghana, from 1958-1960, during which he trained some officers that later became Nigerian military leaders. He was the first Nigerian indigenous quarter master-general who modernised Nigeria Military Armoury by procuring modern weapons from various countries.
No doubt, Ikemba, you were a unique military officer and commander, an astute civil administrator and political leader magnificus. As a member of constitutional conference, you were part of the group that put in place the six geo-political zones as political re-engineering to ensure and enthrone equity, justice and fair-play in the way political succession takes place in Nigeria. Your death now, therefore, has robbed the country of one of the very few Nigerians who represent the true value of leadership and patriotism.
INDEED, HOW ARE THE MIGHTY FALLEN!
Nigeria has lost a true patriot. Alas, the centre of gravity and equilibrium of the Igbo nation in Nigerian political power game is no more. With Ojukwu’s death, we have lost a great scholar, a philosopher, great historian, a political clearinghouse, east of the Niger, a soldiers’ soldier, and the apotheosis of responsible and responsive leadership, astute administrator and a leader magnificus
With the death of Ikemba, I personally feel a deep sense of vacuum in the political landscape of Nigeria and South East Nigeria in particular. I see nobody in the near future who will make the sacrifice he made to unite the Igbo nation and its people. As I write this tribute, I remember, with nostalgia, our struggle to recover the Vilaska Lodge from the Lagos State government, when they attempted to eject you from your father’s property. I recall our trip to Kano to present your famous book, “Because I am involved.” On our way to the palace of your great friend, the Emir of Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero as soon as the good people of Kano noticed your presence in the car, they lifted the car in which you and I were riding off the ground and landed us safely at the palace of the Emir of Kano. I also remember our visit to my maternal home in Warri, and our visit to the Olu of Warri in his palace, in company of our chief host, J. O. S Ayomike, a respected Itsekiri leader. I remember our visit to Eyimba city, which was shaken to its foundation. I remember our visit to Jos and Ilorin, just to mention but a few. Indeed, I remember very many things most of which cannot come into this tribute. But I remember you, the man who says ‘I am fear himself.’ I remember you “amuma na egbiligwe” (thunder and lightning).
I therefore, mourn the exit of this great giant, an Iroko, the symbol of Igbo resistance and pillar of hope. I mourn the transition of a great leader who personified history. I mourn a leader with irresistible aura and personal charisma, a man of great oratory, a star of our generation, a man of noble reasoning and infinite faculty. I salute the only Nigerian leader with multi-lingual potentials. In fact, the only one, who, while he lived, spoke Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba with ease and English and French in poetic style.
Fare thee well, great leader. Fare thee well, dike di ora mma Ndigbo. Though your death at this time was painful to us, we are reminded that your life span was well above three scores and ten. According to Ecclesiastes 3 verses 1 and 2: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.” Alas Ikemba, your death has again confirmed the aged long biblical truism and the Shakespearian maxim, which states: “Death is a necessary end, it will come when it will come.” What a life? What a death?
You will forever be remembered for all the efforts you made to bring the Igbo together, and the personal denials you suffered while you propagate their cause.
Great leader, as you now travel to the great beyond, may the Angels of God receive you at the portals of Heaven and May the Good Lord Grant your gentle soul rest in His bosom. Amen.
Obi is former senator, is Oku Uzu Na-agbaze Igwe Awka.
The Essential Ikemba: Tribute To A Soldier-Statesman -
By Emeka Ihedioha
Written by Emeka Ihedioha, KSC, CON
Tuesday, 07th February 2012
Since the news of the death of the great soldier-statesman, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Dikedioranma Ndigbo, on Saturday, 26 November, 2011 in a London hospital was made public, the entire country has been thrown into mourning. The people of Nigeria, irrespective of tribe and religion, are united
in their position that the country and indeed Africa has lost a remarkable political figure and leader.
The outpouring of emotions and condolences eulogizing the Ikemba Nnewi for what he stood for in Nigeria`s history have been understandably effusive. I join my colleagues in the National Assembly and millions of Nigerians and Africans all over the globe to mourn the transition of this political icon, who meant so many things to so many people, into immortality.
The essential Ikemba was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth in 1933 in the railway town of Zungeru, which at the time was the capital of Northern Nigeria. His father, Sir Louis Philip Odumegwu Ojukwu, a transport magnate, was known as the richest man in Nigeria then.
With his aristocratic background, he attended choice schools and was offered the best education that was available both in Nigeria and abroad. At the age of 13, he was sent by his wealthy and influential father to Epsom College, Surrey, England to complete his secondary education. From there he gained admission into Oxford University, considered the best in the United Kingdom, where he graduated with a Masters degree in Modern History.
As he was to prove later with the various roles he played in the life of the nation, the Ikemba did not allow his aristocratic background to blur his focus and vision. A man with strong convictions, he chose to lead an independent life in the service of the nation, away from the enchanting luxury which the family business empire offered him.
Equipped with very solid education, Ojukwu returned to Nigeria in 1956, and contrary to his father`s wish and expectations, took up appointment with the government of Eastern Nigeria as a District Officer in the Udi Division in the present Enugu State. Ojukwu had a choice to join his millionaire father in his chains of businesses and live a more luxurious and enchanting life, but instead he chose the path of sacrifice and service to his fatherland.
He ignored his father’s career preference for him and enlisted in the Nigerian Army, thus becoming one of the first university graduates to do so. A far-sighted and fore-sighted leader, this singular decision was later to properly position him for the frontline roles he played in the political history of Nigeria.
He rose quickly in the Army, attaining the rank of Lt. Colonel in 1964. He was placed in charge of the Fifth Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Kano as Commander. When the Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu-led coup took place in January 1966, Ojukwu did not support it. Rather he rallied support for the then Head of the Nigerian Army, Major General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi to foil it. This amply testifies to his pan-Nigerian nationalist persona and not even the Biafra adventure can blur this inimitable fact.
With the emergence of Ironsi as the new Nigerian leader and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Ojukwu was appointed the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, a position he occupied till the outbreak of the civil war in July 1967. The counter coup of July 1966 staged by Northern officers was targeted against the officers of Eastern Nigeria origin in revenge for the January coup. The Head of State, Major General Ironsi was assassinated and hundreds of many other Igbo officers serving in the North and West were hunted down and killed. This was followed by waves of massive killings of people of Eastern Nigeria in different parts of the federation, particularly in the North.
Overwhelmed by the pogroms, Ojukwu demanded from General Yakubu Gen. Gowon who had taken over from Ironsi as Head of State a halt to the killings and guarantee for the safety and property of Easterners in the troubled parts of the country. Unfortunately, the killings continued unabated.
A last ditch peace effort in Aburi, Ghana to halt the massacre and prevent the country from sliding into war could not pull through as different interpretations were given to the Aburi Accord which decided on a confederal status for Nigeria in line with Ojukwu`s position. On return to Nigeria from Ghana, the federal side reneged on the Aburi agreement while Ojukwu insisted on the total implementation of the Aburi Accord or nothing else. This was the last straw. The slogan, “On Aburi We Stand”, became the mantra for the people of Eastern Nigeria.
Following the failure of Aburi Accord and other negotiations for a peaceful settlement, Ojukwu, acting on the directives of the people of Eastern Nigeria, through the Eastern Peoples Consultative Assembly on 30th May, 1967 declared the Eastern Region as the sovereign and independent state of Biafra. This led to the 30 month Nigeria-Biafra civil war that claimed millions of lives on both sides of the war.
Like he noted in some of his interviews, the actions he took were in defence and protection of his people who at that material point in time had become endangered species in their own country. Perhaps, if the lives of Easterners outside the East were guaranteed and secured, the story would have been different. Again, if the federal side had honoured the Aburi Accord, Ojukwu might not have declared Biafra. But it is said, the rest is history. In the final analysis, Ojukwu will be remembered for his fearlessness, courage, outspokenness and belief in justice, equity and fair play.
The greatest tribute that we can pay to the memory of Ojukwu is to ensure that the present inequitable structure of our federation is seriously addressed to the mutual satisfaction of all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.
Ojukwu is like an avatar that cometh once in a generation. His place in Nigerian history is already assured. Hate or like him, you cannot deny his forthrightness, courage, charisma, charm and unmatchable oratorical power.
Nigeria has lost a gallant soldier; Africa has lost a statesman of uncommon abilities. When next cometh another Ojukwu? Indeed, this is the end of an epoch.
As the body of this great visionary lies still and motionless in the cold hands of death, I join all well meaning patriots and compatriots to condole with the family, nation and Ndigbo for this epic loss. My prayer is that Nigeria should draw inspiration from the principles he stood for to right the wrongs of the past and present so as to move the nation along the path of equity and justice.
The truth of the matter is that Ojukwu`s death has left a huge void in the political leadership of Ndigbo nay the nation which may be difficult to fill. But God in His infinite mercy will help us to overcome the circumstance in which we have found ourselves. Adieu the great Ikemba Nnewi! Adieu Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu!! Adieu the Peoples` General!!!
- Ihedioha is the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives
The best Senator Nigeria never had (1)
By Godwin Nzeakah
Those who say that most of the newspaper articles eulogising Ojukwu in death are fake may have a point, but the truth remains that Nigerians do appreciate honest and charismatic leaders, especially those that have guts and combine it with learning, courage, and incorruptibility.
It is true that Nigeria had a tragic drama in 1967–70 in which Ojukwu played a role as a regional leader, rising willy-nilly to be a General and head of the still-born Republic of Biafra, which role actually brought him more into limelight, yet out of his 78 years on earth, Ojukwu spent 65 in non-military service to the people of Nigeria. Out of the remaining 13 years, 10 were spent in military engagements in Nigeria, before things fell apart (apologies to Chinua Achebe) and he was obliged to carry the Biafran cross for about three years.
Therefore, in looking at the question as to the level of burial to be accorded him, it is essentially the 65 and not 13 years that should count, so that we avoid doing injustice to a man who all his life had stood for justice – a man who was born with a golden (not just silver) spoon in his mouth, but shunned that spoon, preferring instead a life of self-sufficiency and service to the people.
I tried to follow closely Ojukwu’s three decades in politics, during which period he ran for the Senate in 1983 and obviously won but was robbed of that victory by his party. He did also contest for the presidency, mainly, as I saw it, to boost the morale of Ndigbo in view of the endless, irksome obstacles that existed between Dr. Alex Ekwueme and the nation’s topmost post. There is no doubt in my mind that given his rare talents, Ojukwu would have made his greatest mark in politics operating as a legislator in Nigeria’s upper chamber.
This is, however, not suggesting that he wouldn’t have excelled as president if he had the opportunity. There are few senators or parliamentarians in history with Ojukwu-type eloquence, charisma, insights, courage and, above all, oratory. These include Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 BC), Edmund Burke (1729-97), Henry Clay (1874 – 1965), and our own Senator Emeka Echeruo who represented Okigwe in the Second Republic Senate (1979 – 1983). If, certainly, Ojukwu would have excelled and done Nigerians proud in the Senate even more than Burke did to Britain or Cicero to Rome, but for the shenanigan of the hawks in the NPN, what stops us from rising up today and toasting the best senator Nigeria never had?
As a man of destiny, Ojukwu lived his dream as a man of the people. Being human, his foibles and mistakes were not a few, but he did his best in every task he found himself. In fact, it is doubtful if any other Igbo leader without Ojukwu’s leadership qualities would have survived the 1966–1970 Nigerian crises let alone managed the situation effectively to the admiration of, at least, majority of Ndigbo. During the war, he did not draw any salaries and even deployed part of the wealth of his father to the Biafran cause. He ought to have flown his sick father abroad for treatment but refused to do so at a time when no other Biafran could afford such a luxury. And so Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu, the acclaimed patriarch and Nigeria’s foremost billionaire was hospitalised at Nkalagu’s cement factory clinic where he died.
I did not get to know Ojukwu a bit closely until I was deployed to the School of Infantry (S of I), Orlu as an instructor. Like many other young men, and even women, I had joined the Biafran Army partly fired by Ojukwu’s remarkable leadership qualities, including his oratory and his eloquence, his poise, his courage and aura. As head of state, he always came to the S of I to preside over commissioning ceremonies, including critical interactive sessions lasting several hours, during which he took questions on field craft and tactics, sometimes amidst thuds of exploding bombs in the vicinity, dropped by Russian jets.
I noticed that while Colonel Ochei the Commandant introduced the senior members of staff to him, Ojukwu could not hide his appreciation of the fact that the place was a melting pot of sorts for practically all the ethnic nationalities of Southern Nigeria: Igbo, Yoruba, Edo, Ijaw, Efik/Ibibio, Ogoja etc. There were, for example, Major Peter Ademokhai, Major Adeleke, Capt. Appiafi, CSM Krubor, CSM Murphey, et al. It was during those interactive sessions that I took time to confirm my impression of him as my ideal leader. And I hasten to say now that Ojukwu was the kind of leader a woman would like to touch and then touch her belly, praying God to give her such a son.
Before Ojukwu, I never knew or heard of any leader in history so loved and admired by his people without compulsion, especially a beleaguered, war-ravaged people, including an under-armed and malnourished army. Even the legendary George Washington could not command such loyalty in war-time America; for it is on record that on December 23, 1783, on his way to Annapolis to submit his retirement papers to Congress, Washington was confronted by rampaging troops in a mutiny that included his officers, protesting non-payment of salaries. In fact, Washington needed to remove his glasses in order to convince the mutineers that he had “grown both blind and grey” in their service, before he was allowed to continue his journey.
Back to Ojukwu. I was later deployed from S of I to the war front once again, the STF Division, Arochukwu, precisely. Soon after, we were cut off completely from the rest of Biafra but somehow managed to get Ojukwu’s periodic memos regularly.
Nzeakah writes from Lagos.
To be continued Friday
The best senator Nigeria never had (2)
By Godwin Nzeakah
The last of such memos came in November, 1969, warning that should the Imo River basin fall to the Federal troops we might as well count the resistance as ended. It was prophetic. And true to his words, once the ominous signal appeared, as the 12th Division’s defences began to collapse, Ojukwu took his leave.
As a man who did not believe in half measures, which guerrilla warfare symbolised, he did what any proud leader who was really in touch with the plight of his people should do at that very time: quit the scene and allow another commander to take over. After all, he was an experienced teacher of warfare and knew that flexibility is a principle of modern military campaign.
As the staying power of the resistance, the whole thing probably would have lasted a bit longer or taken a new shape was he still around and knew that the entire 31 Battalion (my unit), under Capt. Okenwa’s command, was able to cross, fully armed, into enemy territory in the Ohaozara/Afikpo axis and assemble at Okposi on the night of January 9, 1970.
But as God would have it, Ojukwu knew the limit of power as well as the limit of human endurance and the limit of the kind of historic movement at the head of which he accidentally found himself. Biafra, as he kept explaining, was no “separatist movement”. Biafra was rather a defensive mechanism of sorts that resisted, again, as he explained, “until it proved unnecessary” and “unwise to continue.” This, however, does not deny Prince Tony Momoh of his view (in Vanguard) that had “the CNN been there, Biafra would have been a reality.”
Of course, one lingering question raised by the issue of Biafra as well the grim circumstances that culminated in it has to do with whether federalism is made for man or man for federalism; whether in case of a complete collapse of federal authority, the federating units or peripheral centres of power which were originally autonomous ethnic nationalities should stand arms akimbo, helplessly gazing into the void— a dangerous vacuum —indefinitely. In any case, Ojukwu, from all indications, hardly dreamt of secession ab initio.
In fact, as a member of the sprawling Odumegwu Ojukwu business empire with investments spread all over Nigeria, Emeka, as a thoroughbred product of aristocracy and capitalism, given also his cosmopolitan blood, was the last Nigerian to habour any thought of breaking Nigeria. If Ojukwu haboured any thought of either breaking Nigeria or unleashing war on her, would he have taken the risk of opposing Major Nzeogwu in the North – the very action that neutralised the January 1966 coup in that region? What was Ojukwu’s take not just on the civil war, but also on wars generally?
In his work, Hannibal’s Legacy, the British historian, Arnold Toynbee, says “war posthumously avenges the dead on the survivors, and also avenges the vanquished on the victors.” That is to say that war is an ill-wind that blows no party any good. This is not different from Ojukwu’s take on the same subject: “Every form of war,” as he declared, “is regrettable, because no war in history has ever solved the problem it set out to solve. Whatever solution there is emerges from a conference table…
War does not solve, it cowers and the problem remains.” How true of Nigeria! And being confident of giving a good account of himself in any discussion, Ojukwu had always proffered the dialogue medium as the best option for settling matters. In fact, all through his life, his main theme on the Nigerian Question was Dialogue, Dialogue and only Dialogue – the same theme Wole Soyinka has never ceased to harp on, and the same theme that encompasses Tinubu, Kanu,Ohaneze and Afenifere’s recurring calls for true federalism. Any true national dialogue would ensure a Nigerian union based on fairness, fraternity, justice and mutual respect.
Nzeakah writes from Lagos
Igbo leaders launch Ojukwu’s dream today in Ahiara
From EMMANUEL UZOR, Onitsha
As Igbo leaders converge on Ahiara, Imo State, the historic site of the famous declaration of the philosophy and vision of the failed state of Biafra on June 1, 1969. Ohanaeze President, General Chief Ralph Uwaechue articulates the new Igbo struggle anchored on the dreams of the late Biafran leader, Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Below is the speech:
The Ahiara Declaration and Ndigbo
“Today, Monday January 16, 2012 in Ahiara, Imo State , we are commemorating an epochal event that marked the unflinching determination of Ndigbo to resist oppression and persecution unleashed on them in Nigeria . With the Ahiara declaration of 1st June 1969, the Igbo Military Leader Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu rallied Ndigbo behind a common cause – the struggle for their survival in dignity and security as an ethnic group.
The Biafran secession bid, aimed at securing that objective, failed militarily, but the spirit which propelled it remained in the minds of many, symbolized in the towering personality of Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. His enduring message to Ndigbo, now a most treasured legacy, is that they must always be courageous and united in their legitimate struggle for political and economic survival within the Nigerian nation.
In furtherance of the actualization of that unmistakable admonition and as an abiding tribute to this great Igbo leader, Ohanaeze Ndigbo following wide consultation, is launching a determined bid to fulfill Ojukwu’s cardinal dream – a Nigerian president from his home base, the South-East geopolitical zone.
Recent developments on the national scene have made it mandatory for Ohanaeze Ndigbo to step out promptly and nip in the bud, the incipient but potentially divisive controversy, involving some highly placed Igbo political office holders, vis-Ó-vis the position of Ndigbo on the vexed question of South-East presidency.
Six Zonal Structure
There is today ample evidence that Nigerians, irrespective of their political affiliations, have accepted the six zonal arrangements and not a Sudan-type, conflict-prone, bi-polar demarcation of North and South. This fact came clear in 2007, when the elective headship of the two key arms of government – the Executive and the Legislature emerged from North-West (President Umaru Yar’Adua) and North-Central (Gen. David Mark). At the same time the third arm of government – the Judiciary – was headed by Justice Legbo Kutigi also from North Central, although by existing convention, succession here has been by professional seniority.
Nobody, anywhere in the country, complained that the “South” was short-changed and deprived, simply because what the vast majority of Nigerians saw in the situation were two contiguous but separate zones, North-West and North-Central. They did not see a “North” having it all and the entire “South” going empty handed. For them our country has six geo-political zones, not two, vis-Ó-vis the distribution and rotation of key national offices.
At Independence in 1960, what our founding fathers settled for was a full-blown Federal Structure, with three Regions, East-North-West as the federating units of our nation.
They did not, in their wisdom, opt for two regions – North and South. All three regions were constitutionally equal in status. A fourth Region – the Midwest , was created by regular constitutional amendment in 1963. Alongside the subsequent creation of states by abrupt military fiat in 1967 and thereafter, the democratically conceived regional option remained very much alive and soon metamorphosed into the current six geo-political zonal arrangement. This equilibrated political zonal structural adjustment, now serving as the basis for the distribution and rotation of key national political offices, was informed by the glaring need to better accommodate the interests of our nation’s numerous ethnic groups, large or small.
The primacy of regional control over the federal in our country’s power equation was dramatically demonstrated by the choice of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the charismatic and powerful leader of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) to head the government in Kaduna as the regional premier and send his deputy Sir Abukakar Tafawa Balewa to head the Federal government as Prime Minister in Lagos. Thus, the national master plan adopted by our founding fathers at Independence was pure federalism. There was an agreed specific power sharing formula between the federal and regional governments.
For our recently recovered democratic dispensation to stabilize and endure, we should not perpetuate the autocratic military deviation from the unambiguous terms and intentions of this zonally based socio-political contract, which brought us together as a modern nation, without first of all properly consulting and securing the clear consent of the inheritors of that sacred agreement – the Nigerian people.
Those who are still preaching the antiquated, if not unpatriotic, North-South political doctrine with regards to power shift should stop to reflect on the fact that of the fifty-one years since Independence, the geographical area which they designate as the North has produced civilian and military rulers of Nigeria for some thirty-eight years, leaving in the process a most significant stamp on the crucial configuration of our State and Local Government structure. Although we admit that some of them, proved to be leaders of good polish and nationally acknowledged integrity, like Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and lately Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua.
The so-called South by contrast has so far clocked less than fourteen years in the presidential saddle. If therefore, the two-zone North-South concept were to prevail, and strict equity were to apply vis-Ó-vis power shift, when then is the South due to hand over the presidential baton? Is it after completing its own equalizing stint of thirty-eight years? Surely, in the interest of national cohesion and socio-political stability, we must recognize the fact that our country simply cannot progress steadily, to the desired benefit and comfort of all the component groups, while operating an unstable elastic zoning system, which either shrinks to two or expands to six as and when it suits the sectional interest of any part of this vast and variegated nation.
Igbos role in Independence
Igbo political role in Nigeria has been consistent in the pursuit of national unity and inter-ethnic cooperation. Under the leadership of the late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwwe, the Igbos played the role of bridge builders in the fledgling Nigerian nation. Zik, as he was fondly called, accepted the leadership of the legendary Yoruba political activist, Herbert Babington Macauley to form and direct the first truly significant national political party – National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC).
With respected and nationalist Yoruba leaders like Dr. Ibiyimka Olorun–Nimbe, the first and only Mayor of Lagos, Sir Odeleye Fadahunsi, the first national vice president of the NCNC and second indigenous Governor of Western Region, Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu, the lion of Ibadan politics, and others including Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Chief Mojeed Agbaje and Otumba T. O. S. Benson, the then Igbo leadership forged a political alliance which cut across ethnic boundaries. Such was the extent of their success that Zik was poised, after the regional election of 1951, but for a last minute hitch, to become the Premier of the Western Region, the home ground of the Yoruba nation.
The party which he led, NCNC and its allies won a majority of seats in the Western House of Assembly. Similarly, in the Eastern Region, the Igbo-dominated NCNC, true to its pan-Nigerian orientation and commitment, elected as the first mayor of Enugu metropolis, Mallam Umaru Altini, a moslem from Katsina, North West Nigeria.
Furthermore, in 1957 when the British colonial Government, under intense pressure from southern politicians pressing for Independence, attempted to uncouple the union between the North and the South forged through Lord Lugard’s Amalgamation of 1914, with the offer of Independence to the three Regions individually, provided any two accepted the offer, a political crisis loomed large on the national horizon. The Northern Region, led by the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) took the position that the North was not ready for that level of political and economic Independence . The Western Region, led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group (AG) promptly declared its readiness to accept the offer. It was the Igbo-led NCNC that held the balance. It was an issue that could make or break Nigeria if the three Regions chose to go their separate ways to Independence.
The NCNC leader, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, took the stand that although the Eastern Region was ready to assume the responsibilities of Regional Independence, its attainment without the North would lead, in his own words, to the “Balkanization of the Nigerian Nation” and conceivably a break-up of the country. The Eastern Region would rather suppress its appetite for Independence and the obvious gains it would entail until the Northern Region was ready. That was how Nigerian Independence was delayed until 1960. In short, the Igbo–led Eastern Region would rather forgo the advancement of its own political and economic interests, than risk the break-up of Nigeria. Similarly, when Zik moved to the Federal scene as Governor-General and later titular President of Nigeria, the NCNC, under the dynamic leadership of Dr. Michael Okpara, continued faithfully.
Had the Eastern Region opted for Independence at that time, the territory under its control would have comprised in today’s terms the following nine states with their enormous human and natural resources: Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu , Imo, and Rivers. It would also have included in all probability (as was the case with then Northern Cameroon, which became today’s Adamawa and Taraba States) what was then Southern Cameroon, with the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula well in the middle of a distinct, sovereign and Independent Eastern Nigeria. By 1960, the three Regions would have become separate sovereign states. There would have been no question of Biafra ’s attempted secession in 1967 from a non-existing Nigerian federation, nor indeed, the ferocious and devastating civil war fought to stop it.
The role of Ndigbo in socio-economic front
On the socio-economic front, the Igbos played and are still playing a leading role in the promotion of national integration. Today, there are several millions of Igbo people living, working and helping to develop significantly parts of Nigeria outside Igboland. They are in remote villages and towns nationwide. Be it our country’s commercial cities of Lagos or Kano , heavy Igbo presence attests to Igbo people’s belief and commitment to pan-Nigerian nationhood. For the Igbos, anywhere in Nigeria is home. Indeed, a few years ago, the former FCT Minister, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, was quoted as saying that Igbo investment in indigenous private property development in the Federal Capital Territory, accounted for some seventy percent of the existing structures. Clearly, the Igbos put their money where their heart is – Nigeria ’s centre of unity.
It is therefore clear that all this long, since the British colonial administration put together this vast country, the evident role of Igbo people in the political, economic and social history of Nigeria has been that of bridge builders and nation builders. The desperate resort to Biafran secession in 1967, following successive massacres and tearful exodus of Igbos from Northern Nigeria the previous year, and its subsisting residual echo in the emergence of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), are clearly an aberration, not an Igbo hallmark, emanating from a sudden sense of rejection and persecution of a people who have given their all, in spirit and material resources to the concept and construction of a truly united, prosperous Nigerian nation.
There is today therefore, the cruel and bewildering irony that a people who have done so much to keep Nigeria alive as one nation are being systematically denied their rightful “Federal Character” turn at producing a president for this country. The negotiation for Nigeria’s Independence from Great Britain, though with the strong support of the smaller ethnic units, was masterminded by the leadership of the three largest ethnic groups – Hausa/Fulani (Sir Ahmadu Bello); Igbo (Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe); Yoruba (Chief Obafemi Awolowo). Apart from the minorities who have been presidents of our country, two of these three bigger groups – Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba – have already had their turns of the presidential slot several times over.
How to balance the imbalance
To rectify this stark and totally unfair anomaly, virtually perpetuating the exclusion of our country’s largest ethnic group from its rightful share of political power at the centre, must now be clearly perceived and resolutely accepted as the priority task of the leadership of the Igbo nation in charting a new course for Ndigbo in the Nigerian polity. The attainment of this objective will restore the confidence of the Igbo nation, severely bruised by the civil war and its debilitating aftermath, both in itself as a people and in the Nigeria project, where it once held an indisputable pride of place.
Ndigbo, apart from their demographic weight are exceptionally resourceful as evidenced by their outstanding achievements in various fields of human endeavour both at home and abroad. Now is the time to put these impressive attributes to work and make the desired political impact at the national level, where team work is crucial for our collective success. Hence Ohanaeze Ndigbo, is putting great emphasis on uniting our people and guiding them towards a common political and economic agenda. The attainment of South-East presidency demands all hands on deck as it will not be handed over to Ndigbo on a platter of gold.
The increasing display of unity by South East Governors and other well-meaning Igbo sons and daughters in pursuit of a common political and economic agenda is a welcome step in this direction. The virtually unanimous Igbo support for President Jonathan at the elections of last April is an instructive evidence that our people are coming seriously together and can use their collective demographic weight to influence national affairs significantly. This is a healthy departure from the hitherto individualistic, rapacious and opportunistic approach prevalent amongst those struggling for political office in total disregard for collective legitimate Igbo interest at the national level.
How to achieve Igbo Presidency in 2015
In pursuit of the objective of South-East presidency in 2015, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has put forward a case and is canvassing for the rotation of the office of the president among the six geo-political zones of our country. The rallying cry for Igbo support for President Jonathan during the general elections of last April was clearly based on this particular premise. It was essentially support for a South–South presidential slot, with Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, already in the saddle at Aso Villa, as a lucky, credible and worthy beneficiary. This patriotic political Igbo gesture extended to the South-South zone in 2011 is characteristically consistent with the massive Igbo support similarly given to Chief M.K.O. Abiola’s South-West zone in 1999 cited earlier, with Chief Obasanjo triumphing over his kinsman Chief Falae, in a distinctly intra South-West presidential contest.
In line with this thinking of Ndigbo, all five governors of the South-East zone in an impressive and patriotic display of unity, irrespective of their different political party alignments, spoke with one voice and acted in unison in support of the South-South presidential candidate and selflessly abstained from the presidential and vice presidential contest. So did a good number of erstwhile South-East aspirants to the presidential seat equally abstain. So also did support for the South-South come from our respected traditional rulers, revered religious leaders of all denominations, major political stakeholders and the masses of the Igbo nation, who came out to register and support a South-South presidency at the election proper last April.
They all expect the South-East to have its turn in 2015.
President Goodluck Jonathan has publicly declared and emphatically assured our nation that he will not seek re-election at the end of his current tenure in 2015. To every politically conscious Nigerian, who believes in true and demonstrable federalism and wishes to see the strategic office of the president go round the various geo-political zones of our great country, this is the opportunity to complete the first round of zonal presidential representation, hence the South-East should take its rightful turn in 2015. Thereafter, and only thereafter, will it become fair and proper, if considered necessary, to change the extant rules of engagement, certainly not in the course of an on-going game.
By the time President Jonathan completes his tenure, South-East, the once hallowed political base of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, generally acknowledged as perhaps Nigeria’s foremost founding father, the placidly intrepid Dr. Akanu Ibiam, the indomitable Dr. Michael Okpara, the indefatigable Igbo Union leader, Chief Zacchaeus Obi and lately our legendary Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, all of blessed memory, now sticking out in unenviable political solitude, will distinctly remain the only zone that has not held the top-most executive office in our country since Independence in 1960.
Producing the next president by the South-East, a zone replete with outstandingly capable hands, is therefore, not a favour waiting to be granted, but a logically due and legitimate political right justly accruing to it within the Nigerian family in a true ‘federal character’ setting. Ndigbo worldwide fervently and fraternally urge all Nigerians and our various political parties to see the case of South East presidency in this equity-generated light.
Source: Sun, 16th January 2012.
Ojukwu: Nigeria’s most controversial patriot
BY UZOR MAXIM UZOATU
The recently deceased Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is yet to be buried but a book is about to be released on his charmed life and times. It’s in character that Ojukwu almost always dominated all discourse in the course of his journey on earth.
In death he has upped the ante of his enigmatic profile through the imminent release of Ojukwu: The Rebel I Served written by the irrepressible journalist Uche Ezechukwu who served as Ojukwu’s media assistant and speechwriter for two years following the ex-rebel’s pardon and return to Nigeria.
It is indeed remarkable that the causes that Ojukwu championed are still staring Nigeria in the face. Ojukwu served as a kind of Nostradamus in seeing far into the future well ahead of his contemporaries; whence the reality of some eminences who opposed him in the past are now calling for a Nigerian confederation!
As a world figure in his leadership of the Republic of Biafra, Ojukwu graced the cover of the esteemed TIME magazine and forged friendships with distinguished deans such as the bestselling author Frederick Forsyth, author of The Day of the Jackal.
Uche Ezechukwu brings to bear on the book his intimate knowledge of Ojukwu at close quarters. Ojukwu: The Rebel I Served is thus a candid encapsulation of a well-rounded life. The book is deservedly dedicated “to Mr. Peter Gregory Obi, ‘the uncommon Governor of Anambra State’ (as the Ikemba himself used to describe him), for the unprecedented care, love and attention, which he extended to the icon, thus enabling him spend his last years on earth in comfort and contentment.”
It is noteworthy that Ojukwu’s last wish on earth was the clarion call on voters in his native Anambra State to re-elect Governor Obi. When that wish was granted him through the winning of the election by Peter Obi, Ojukwu saluted the people of Anambra State for “giving me a befitting burial even while I’m still alive.”
It is a mark of Uche Ezechukwu’s doggedness that he wrote the entire book in 17 days flat! Ojukwu died on November 26, 2011, aged 79, and we are here reviewing a book on his life and death barely two months after! Ezechukwu sums up the Ojukwu persona thus: “He was a special, yet a natural person – humane, understanding, fearless, humorous, extremely intelligent, tender, charming and more. He was also a natural person with normal human foibles: he was often over-ambitious, spontaneous, selfish and even rash at times.
Yes, he was not an angel…” To that extent, Ezechukwu has not penned a hagiography. The author’s objectivity cannot be gainsaid. Ojukwu told Ezechukwu that he did not find being addressed as a rebel appalling because it was only rebels who changed the course of history.
The author happened to be a child soldier in the wilds of Biafra, so he was up there with the Ojukwu phenomenon from the very beginning. It was on a certain Tuesday before the Easter of 1986 that Ezechukwu met Ojukwu in flesh and blood through the introduction made possible by the late Chief Chris Offodile.
Ojukwu’s controversial declaration for the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the concomitant rivalry with Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) forms a pivotal anchor as Ezechukwu worked for Satellite newspaper owned by the family of the then Anambra State Governor Jim Nwobodo of the NPP.
There are glimpses of Ojukwu’s war of attrition with the Lagos State government over the ownership of Villaska Lodge, Ikoyi, during which Ojukwu always camped out in the open with Stella Onyeador.
It should serve as a measure of Ojukwu’s spirit of accommodation that he employed Ezechukwu as the editor of his magazine NewGlobe, even as some people had given to the ex-Biafra leader anti-Ojukwu articles written by the author in his Satellite column. Insights about Nigerian leaders such as Murtala Muhammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, TY Danjuma etc abound in the book. There is the bombshell that Murtala Muhammed actually hails from Edo State!
Ojukwu: The Rebel I Served is a remarkable read. Uche Ezechukwu has given the world an insight into the mind of one of the most gifted Nigerians ever. Given that the book was written in 17 days there are of course some editing errors such as on Page 15: “The South East and its leaders had filed out, a mere fortnight earlier to celebrant (sic) his last birthday…” The errors will definitely be corrected in future editions.
A very insightful book to behold, Uche Ezechukwu’s Ojukwu: The Rebel I Served deserves an esteemed place in every library.
Source: Vanguard, 15th January 2012.
Onyekakeyah: Born in the war front (1)
BY LUKE ONYEKAKEYAH
THIS piece is a tribute in honour of Chief Chuwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, patriot, nationalist and statesman, who passed on to eternal glory on November 29, 2011 in a London hospital at the age of 78. The death of Ojukwu, the fiery leader of the Biafran revolution provides an opportunity to relive some of the dramatic high points of the Nigerian civil war that raged from 1967 – 1970, as seen from my childhood perspective. Ojukwu’s death aroused nostalgia of the civil war, which nearly annihilated the Igbo, had it not been the way Ojukwu chose to handle it with tact.
From the outset, I would like to clarify some salient points that have been misconstrued, which I regard as the central truth about the civil war. One is that it was not Lt. Colonel Udumegwu Ojukwu that declared the war that broke out on May 27, 1967 between the Eastern Region that wanted to secede and the Federal Nigerian State. Instead, it was the Nigerian State led by Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon that declared war and at the same time launched a ferocious attack on Biafra to force it back into the Nigerian state.
Ojukwu, as the then Governor of the Eastern Region, merely responded to the attack in defence of the East. Having found himself in a war front by virtue of his birth and leadership position, history beckoned on him to rise up to the challenge and take charge of the situation. Any other person who found himself in that position at that material time could have done exactly what Ojukwu did. Given that Ojukwu had no personal ambition at the time to dismember Nigeria, it is absolutely wrong for any one to ascribe to him an ambition or dream that he never contemplated.
The fact that Ojukwu was not a party to the first ever military coup led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, alongside predominantly Igbo officers proves this point. The truth, however, is that if the Nigerian State had not launched the vicious attack against Biafra, which led to a civil war that claimed over a million lives mainly on the Biafran side, there would have been no civil war. Though the action of the federal government was expected at the time, it is important to put the records straight and appreciate the real brain behind the war. It is only a tree that stands still when it knows that it is about to be cut down.
That brings me to the second point, which is that Ojukwu was not fighting the cause of the Igbo alone as many have erroneously turned the war into an only Igbo project. The truth is that Ojukwu was fighting the cause of the entire defunct Eastern Region made up of the present South-East and South-South zones. The pogrom that broke out in the North did not spare anybody from the Eastern Region. Igbo and non-Igbo from the other ethnic groups in the Eastern Region were massacred alongside the Igbo without separation. That was why Ojukwu issued the order at the height of the crisis urging all Easterners to return home since they had lost favour with their fellow compatriots in other parts of the country. He didn’t call on the Igbo alone to return. It is therefore not correct to say that Ojukwu foisted Biafra on other ethnic groups in the East when the uprising was an Igbo affair. The uprising was nationwide targeted against Easterners.
My first consciousness as a kid was confronted with sad tales of killing and massacre of men, women and children in Northern Nigeria. It was like someone born on the war front whose life is shaped from the outset by war. As kids in the primary school, our teachers showed us gory pictures of beheaded, bandaged, bleeding folks, who had machete cuts in Northern Nigeria. As a kid, I did not understand what was going on or why people could inflict deep machete cuts on their fellows, butchering them as sheep and goats.
Then came a flood of returnees from Northern and Western Nigeria. Men, women and children poured into the East from all directions. People who had been away for decades suddenly found themselves in their village totally unprepared. It was a period of uncertainty for millions of folks and their families.
Amidst the tension, news kept pouring in of killings of Igbos in different parts of the country. That was sometime in the second half of 1966 before the actual war broke out. We heard about the departure of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to the United States of America for medical treatment. Zik was Nigeria’s first president. We heard about the Aburi Accord reached between Federal Government delegates led by Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon and Eastern delegates led by Ojukwu as Governor of Eastern Region. Lt. General J.A. Ankrah, Chairman of the Ghana National Liberation Council hosted the meeting in Aburi, Accra, as the safety of Ojukwu could not be guaranteed in any part of Nigeria. The failure of the Accord paved the way for an all out war. But the East insisted by declaring “On Aburi we stand”.
We heard about the Ahiara Declaration, which articulated the principles of the Biafran revolution and set the stage for the war. Though, we didn’t understand the meaning of all this, as kids, we kept refraining the “On Aburi we stand” slogan with unrestrained audacity. Our belief was strongly founded on Ojukwu. As far as he was concerned, whatever he agreed, we agreed. Whatever he accepted, we accepted. And, whatever he rejected, we rejected. Ojukwu’s position on any matter won popular support.
When the war finally broke out, schools were shut. We retreated into the bush, under big trees and pitched our classrooms and blackboards. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, served as the intellectual melting pot for Biafran scientists who researched on weapons manufacturing that helped to prosecute the war. There was high enthusiasm among the youths, who readily joined the Biafran army. Military establishments were set up in the nooks and crannies of Igbo land. The presence of soldiers wearing the khaki and camouflaged Biafran army uniform with the rising sun emblem was commonplace. Some of our boys who were wounded in battle or deafened by artillery shell or mortar retuned home for treatment or break.
The Biafran Organisation of Freedom Fighters (BOFF), the dreaded commandos, made a lasting impression on me because their headquarters was located in the neighbourhood of my village. They provided us with close insight into the workings of the army. We witnessed their training sessions, the movement of arms and ammunition and learnt new war songs, which the soldiers dished out on continuous basis. Biafran scientists were highly creative. Ingenuity was not lacking. They could turn wine into water if that was what was needed to win the war.
But one thing that scared us most was the frequent air raids from Nigeria. The buzzing of assault fighters and bombers was dreaded, as they bombed anything on their path without exception. Churches, schools and markets were among their main targets. In order to restrain the air raids, all public places were camouflaged with palm fronds and green tree branches. Schools and churches had their roofs decked with palm fronds. There was high sense of alertness among the populace, who had been drilled on how to take cover whenever there was an air raid.
Biafrans were taught to double their vigilance. The slogan, which when translated reads “He who is surrounded by the enemy guards his life – Children of Biafra don’t sleep”, sank deep into people’s consciousness. People developed the Spartan spirit of never give up. The survival mentality spurred people to act in an unusual way with successful outcome.
The early days of the war saw the Biafran troops recoding resounding success. Within a twinkle of an eye, they overran the entire Eastern Region and advanced across the River Niger to the Mid-West and pushed as far as Ore. But they were driven back following sabotage by some unscrupulous elements in the army, which turned the fortunes of the war against Biafra. The push back turned the hand of the clock as federal troops launched fierce attacks on all fronts against the ill-equipped Biafran forces. But the doggedness of Ojukwu spurred the army and the people alike to fight on against all odds.
Whereas, the federal government was supported by world powers comprising Britain and Russia, the Biafrans managed to resist the onslaught and managed to prosecute the war on their own ingenuity alone to the surprise of the world. We were told the Federal Government planned to overrun Biafra within 24-hours but Ojukwu’s scientists produced weapons that wrecked havoc on the enemy forces. The famous “Ogbunigwe” and “Sure Battery” devices proved very potent in restraining the enemy’s strategic advance from different directions.
Source: The Guardian, 27th December 2011.
Onyekakeyah: Born in the war front (2)
BY LUKE ONYEKAKEYAH
OJUKWU’S scientists produced weapons that wrecked havoc on the enemy forces. The famous “Ogbunigwe” and the “Sure battery” devices proved versatile in restraining strategic enemy advance.
Consequently, a war that was initially planned to last for 24-hours dragged for three years from May 1967 to January 1970. As the Biafrans resisted to the surprise of the federal government, the then Minister of Finance, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, came up with a strategy. The strategy was hunger and starvation that would weaken the beleaguered Easterners.
According to Awo, starvation was a weapon of war. The best way to deal with Biafra, he thought, was to impose total blockade on the encircled territory and prevent foods and other material supplies from getting in. With empty stomach, he thought, the soldiers would be weak to fight and would surrender.
That was how the vicious blockade was imposed on Biafra by the federal government and it worked. Gradually, essential food items disappeared from the market. Meat, milk, salt, fish and other essential supplies became scarce. Lack of protein foods, particularly, dealt a deadly blow on Biafrans. Children and the elderly suffered most from malnutrition. This category of people was ravaged by malnutrition, which led to the dreaded kwashiorkor pandemic that depopulated Biafra. Thousands of children and the elderly died. It was common then to behold grotesque-looking and badly malnourished children famished by hunger and starvation. Some looked like dried skeleton while others had swollen heads, tiny limbs, bulging stomach and eyeball.
But the Biafrans were not totally abandoned. A number of international relief agencies rallied to save what was left of the population. Using cargo aircraft that made risky night operations, they unrelentingly supplied tonnes of foods that helped save thousands of lives. Since there was blockade, the relief planes made daring night flights to Uli Airstrip, which served as hub for Biafran aviation.
The Red Cross, Caritas and World Council of Churches (WCC), were most prominent in the effort to save Biafrans through humanitarian aid. They brought corn meal, powdered milk, salted stack fish and an assortment of canned foods and medicines. These were distributed by local relief organisations using churches, schools and community centres as distribution centres.
The clergy played a prominent role in the relief distribution effort. Reverend fathers, sisters and brothers of different orders were involved. At the height of the crisis, hundreds of badly malnourished children were flown to Gabon, which had recognised Biafra alongside Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) and Tanzania.
The Biafran project was launched at the most inauspicious time when the world was not inclined to letting go of separatist groups anywhere in the world. But the post-cold war era that began with the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991 has seen the reverse of this inclination. Thus, the Biafran project would have succeeded if it had been ignited latter than it did. The world has seen the emergence of countries from the former Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, and even Africa; the latest being Southern Sudan.
Apart from the relief materials that were given, the people themselves were determined to survive the onslaught. For example, as kids, we embarked on aggressive fishing, hunting and food gathering. The forests and streams became our second home. They were combed day and night for fish, bush meat and vegetables. Several forest products served as food for the hungry Biafrans. Hunting and fishing was a major occupation that served as the primary source of food.
One thing that was clear throughout the war was that the unshaken public support for Ojukwu. The people were solidly behind Ojukwu. There was no wavering apart from the handful of saboteurs that became unpopular among the population. Men, women and children hailed Ojukwu as a trusted leader. There was no murmuring or complaining against Ojukwu. Instead, people were angry against the federal government for launching a war against Biafra.
Throughout the war, Ojukwu proved to be a fearless commander. He moved from one sector to the other raising the morale of his men. We heard that he personally took the command of some of the fiercest battles. Where ever the battle was hottest, Ojukwu breezed in to back his men. His unparallel intellectual capacity was a huge asset to Biafra. Some have critised Ojukwu on that ground for failing to take advice on some occasions. His excellent academic credentials were uncommon at the time in the army. Ojukwu obtained a Masters degree in Modern History from Oxford University in England. That placed him high above his mates.
Ojukwu was a strategist whose uncommon tact proved to be an asset in executing the war. How he managed to confront the well-equipped federal troops with practically nothing remains an enigma. He would have succeeded in the campaign had it not been that he was sabotaged, coupled with the fact that he confronted a force that was greater than him. The global geopolitics of the time was more conservative than liberal. During the time, demand for self-determination was an anathema. That was why the major world powers ignored the plight of Biafra and instead joined forces with the federal government to subdue the oppressed people.
But coming back home, the war was a revolt against the forces of injustice, oppression and suppression. These triple forces of repression appeared to have been targeted against Easterners, which in turn sparked the war. The flight of Ojukwu into exile at the most auspicious time, when the federal troops overran Biafra and captured Owerri, the last bastion of the resistance was a wise decision. His self-imposed exile to Ivory Coast prevented the federal troops from capturing him and probably summarily executing him.
For, as Bob Marley rightly sang in one of his hits, he who fights and runs away will live to fight again. His flight to Ivory Coast, after delivering a captivating speech to his compatriots effectively marked the end of the war in January, 1970. Ojukwu lived to continue the fight as politician against injustice in the country after his return from exile in 1982.
Since the war ended and Biafrans were re-integrated into Nigeria, the issue of injustice, oppression, suppression and marginalization have taken a new turn. Rather than abating, these divisive tendencies have escalated to the point of potentially putting the country on fire once again. The unity promoted in the “One Nigeria” slogan, which the war sought to seal has eluded Nigeria ever since. From a mere four regional structure at the start of the war in 1967, Nigeria has undergone dramatic split into 36-semi autonomous and antagonistic states that technically under the Nigerian identity. Discrimination is the order of the day.
Today, it is extremely hard for a Nigerian from one state to get employment in another state. All the talk of unity in official quarters is mere rhetoric. Those of us who were born in the war front have tales to tell. The misconstruing of the war as an Igbo project made the Igbo the scapegoat out of the other ethnic groups that made up the defunct Eastern Region.
Consequently, the Igbo have borne the brunt of the war in many respects. The plan of the Federal Government, for instance, to build three additional refineries in addition to the existing four all outside the South-East zone underscores the injustice and marginalization being perpetrated on the Igbo.
Ojukwu lived a transparent life completely free from corruption, which today is a stigma plaguing public figures in Nigeria. It is regrettable that he died without realising his dream of a just, free and fair Nigeria. Nevertheless, his legacy as an astute politician and foremost nationalist will live forever.
Conclusion of the Ojukwu tribute from last week.
Source: The Guardian, 3rd January 2012.
Ojukwu Was Ndigbo’s Churchill – Uzoh
BY LOUIS ACHI
Dr Obinna Uzoh, a philanthropist of note and key political chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Anambra State is also Chairman of Gocuz Group of Companies. In this brief encounter with LOUIS ACHI he eulogized former leader of the defunct Biafra, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who died on November 26, at the Hammers-field Hospital, London. He also spoke on some other national issues. Excerpts:
What historical political model would you cast the late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu into?
You are pushing a debatable question here. However, I would say that the total passion with which the late Ikemba pushed the Igbo cause and let’s not forget, the Nigerian cause also, puts him in the mould of the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He demonstrated extra-ordinary strength and courage in the face of extreme challenges. He was a patriot extra-ordinary. There are so many other comparable historical models but let me leave it at this for now.
You are a key voice in Ndigbo’s political intelligentsia. Following the Ikemba’s death, willy-nilly, attention is now shifting to talk of a successor. What are the choices before Ndigbo?
Talks of succession for now are premature. The core issue now is to organise a befitting burial for Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. To indulge now in the kind of speculation you are alluding to is for me disrespectful of our fallen hero. We will like to use this major milestone in Igboland to reunite our people. In grief new meanings can arise, new imperatives, new dreams, new hope and a deepened sense of unity and common destiny. I want to use this occasion to Ndigbo to unite. Please don’t misunderstand me. Igbo unity will benefit Nigeria also. To do the departed Ikemba best, we must emulate the depth, sweep and strength of his vision. We should also emulate his sheer courage. Leadership succession is a natural process that follows time-honoured principles.
Ndigbo grieves. What is your personal feelings and assessment of the fallen Igbo leader?
Ojukwu will remain evergreen in the mind of Nigerians. He is as among the great personalities of his clime, respected and revered for being intelligent, brave, courageous, fearless, erudite and a charismatic leader. His charisma and personality commanded and commands respect.
His death will remain a big loss to Ndigbo of the South East and to Nigeria at large because the man who many called Ezeigbo gburugburu (over-all king of the Igbos) made the Igbos what many other ethnic nations want to be. Ojukwu can simply be described as a true patriot who abhorred injustice and a man with with uncommon love for Ndigbo. One of his greatest achievement as an Igbo leader and politician is that he influenced and aroused the political consciousness of Ndigbo to what he perceived as injustice in our political environment. He fought for, stood for, justice, equity and fairplay.
With Ojukwu, you can be sure of who you are dealing with. He was very reliable. He was one not easily swayed by promises of material things or political office patronages; a man ever ready to fight in defence of the oppressed and the powerless. There can never be another Ojukwu in Nigeria.
Are you in support of proponents of state burial for the late Ikemba?
Yes, am in support of state burial for Ojukwu. Ojukwu deserves a respectful burial by the state governments in the South East as well as by the Federal Government of Nigeria because at various times in his life, he served the country with his strength and might. The various eulogies being poured on Ojukwu from parts of the country, clearly showed that Ojukwu is loved and widely respected in the country.
The Federal Government should preserve Ojukwu’s name in gold by naming one or more public institutions or structures after him.
Let’s shift to the national scene. They key challenge to the nation now is security amongst others. What’s your reading of the situation?
The successful evolution of a nation state comes with many challenges. Nigeria is not an exception. You simply need to look at history. The modern European states went through trials even more extreme than ours. We must not lose faith. The other day, the Nigcomsat 1R was successfully powered into space. Did you notice the general excitement that trailed that event, even presidential elation? Nigerians must raise their gaze; we must renew our collective vision.
We must grapple with our common challenges without necessarily losing faith in the polity. Our difference must not become factors that should separate us or break our brotherhood. Our political leadership must appreciate that expressions of anxiety and concern are genuine. They must manage these feelings with understanding. The citizens must also give the current leadership the benefit of doubt. President Goodluck Jonathan has promised a transformational administration and put a consummate administrator at the head of his economic team. They need time to rebuild a multi-sectorally challenged socio-political and economic environment.
Source: The Sun, 27th December 2011.
General Chukwuemeka Ojukwu: Head Of State, Republic Of Biafra
'If the truth must be told, Ojukwu fought the most just war of any leader in history. His people were the aggrieved party; Gowon's dishonourable repudiation of the Aburi accords forced war on a reluctant Biafra and its leader. And they fought the war like heroes every single one of them. " Dr.Dele Sobowale
General Chukwuemeka Ojukwu: Head Of State, Republic Of Biafra
Written by Osita Ebiem
It has surprised many discerning readers following the sad news of General Ojukwu's passing; of how some half-baked and confused Nigerian journalists are employing and abusing the word "warlord" to supplement their bankrupt chest of vocabulary, in reference to the former Head of State of the Republic of Biafra, the late, General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Whether anyone likes it or not Biafra existed and was recognised as a sovereign independent state by some morally upright and politically honest nations while she lasted. From 30th May 1967 to 15th January 1970 Biafra stood proudly as an independent state which though was severely persecuted unjustly by more powerful states but completely justified and dignified to exist. Historical records around the globe state that Biafra was a short lived Republic. Even a child can tell the difference between a warlord a Head of State of a Sovereign Nation. A warlord focuses on fighting a war while a President focuses on running a country which can include the prosecution of a war. The dynamics of running a country are far bigger and more complex than fighting a war. As a Head of State, General Ojukwu did very well. In fact it is on record that Biafra introduced an innovative form of Military Democracy which functioned so effectively as against the complete inept form of government practiced by all subsequent Nigerian leadership.
Going by the way these Nigerian journalists mischievously misuse words no decent society can ever accord them the same respect that is usually accorded to "people of the pen" in other parts of the world. This is because they lack the streak that distinguishes a journalist from a note taker or the pedigree that demonstrates balance and objectivity. Many times we read or listen to poorly skilled or crafted questioning techniques during interviews by these so called "journalists". Even an untrained person could do better by demonstrating some imagination and critical reasoning when writing, interviewing or investigating a matter. Poorly thought through or structured interviews and discourses are their signature. Have you observed interviews conducted by these journalists; especially, when interviewing people of "power", they evidently manifest a disgusting and irritating lack of competence and journalistic will to conduct cutting edge investigative journalism that brings the esoteric to light during these interviews.
One may ask; over the years how many Nigerian journalist have been imprisoned, sacked or paid the supreme price because of excellent reportage in the last ten years? Your guess is as good as mine. This demonstrates that most of them are in the pockets of the "Gold or Power" holders. They write only what their sponsors will like to hear and the term warlord sounds good to them, not that it bothers us, but the truth must be told.
Why would a journalist worth their salt describe the Head of State of a Country that was recognised as a Sovereign Nation by not one but five Sovereign and Independent States as a warlord? The sophistication of the whole infrastructure and political articulation of this nascent Republic (Biafra) could not have been led by anyone less competent than the best President any nation can ever produce. The evidence is there for all to see. In fact, it took two superpowers and a host of other backers to temporarily halt the development of this Great Biafra Republic. The scientific and technological feats of Biafra 1967 -1970 are also there for all to see. Unfortunately, these achievements have yet to be surpassed in black Africa to date.
In addition to this, Professors, Scientist, Economist Lecturers, Lawyers and a host of professionals and artisans collectively submitted to General Ojukwu's charismatic and inspiring leadership; demonstrating that it was not the gullible or ignorant people who were beyond reason that followed him. Why would the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, Professor Chinua Achebe, Professor Eni Njoku, Dr. Michael Okpara and a host of other heavy weights support the cause wholeheartedly? Because it was morally and politically right. Even among the other ethnic minorities within Biafra, General Ojukwu was not known for tribalism but for fairness and equity. Biafra was more than an army fighting a war; she is a Nation that has all it needs to thrive. Professor Eugene Arene, a Nuclear Physicist within the Biafran Research and Production Directorate states it so well:
"I can make the assertion here that if what the 'Biafran' Scientists had achieved in weaponry and general civilian goods manufactures (without any foreign technicians and inputs) and the tempo with which they did those things, had been copied by Nigeria at the end of the Civil War in January 1970, when Gowon made his famous quote 'no victor, no vanquished", Nigeria might not now be where it is scientifically and technologically, still very dependent on foreign inputs (in raw materials and personnel) for virtually all its so-called scientific and technological advances." ~~ Professor Eugene Arene "The 'Biafran' Scientists (The Development of an African Indigenous Technology)" - January, 1996
The same clique that refer to the "Peoples General" Ojukwu as a warlord are the ones who find it difficult to call him a General or Head of State ignoring glaring opportunities to be objective and non partisan, especially, given that the war ended forty one years ago, or did it? Will they claim ignorance to the fact that General Ojukwu's second in command, His Excellency the late, Major General Phillip Effiong signed the ceasefire terms in Dodan Barracks as Major General administering the Republic of Biafra? We are highly satisfied that General Ojukwu was a Biafran General. Even, Generals Sani Abacha and Olusegun Obasanjo former Heads of State of Nigeria had to take him along on visits to the countries that recognised Biafra during the War because he was the former Head of State of Biafra. Would President Boigny have given full state welcome and a military ceremony to General Ojukwu on his state visit to Cote d'Ivoire, if he was just a warlord? Sometimes one wonders; what kind of journalists are these that can not do basic research or write the truth?
The foreign press have followed a more objective perspective referring to the former Biafran Head of State as a Leader or Head of State of a secessionist Republic etc. This is a more balanced and acceptable approach that exemplifies good journalism.
Shockingly, some journalists from Biafra Land who should know better are some of the worst culprits using this term. They cannot claim ignorance of the derogatory and disrespectful notions that the term conjures up. They may think that they are trying to conform to a popular parlance; however, they demonstrate a mediocrity and actually make a fool of themselves for their readers to see.
His Excellency, General Ojukwu could not have been just a mere warlord to have achieved what he did. His legacy is only being noticed as the best is yet to come. Dr. Shobowale, a writer and journalist of class, excellently articulates it in this way: 'If the truth must be told, Ojukwu fought the most just war of any leader in history. His people were the aggrieved party; Gowon's dishonourable repudiation of the Aburi accords forced war on a reluctant Biafra and its leader. And they fought the war like heroes every single one of them. "Courage is knowing you are beaten before you start but moving forward anyway" said John Wayne. The prospects were daunting and a less courageous leader might have excused himself and left the country. Igbo's had always been inventive but the civil war and Ojukwu's leadership brought out the best in them. Winston Churchill would have called it "their finest hour". "Anger supplied the arms" as Horace (65-8 BC) would have said. There is a great deal of danger for future generations in confusing Ojukwu the hero with Emeka the celebrity. One amuses us, the other uplifts us. The hero is known for achievements, the celebrity for well knowness. The hero reveals the possibilities of human nature. Ojukwu the celebrity graces the front pages of our papers and magazines pushing up copy sales; the heroic Ojukwu resides permanently in the hearts of all Igbo people and for that matter all Nigerians who realised that in 1967 and even now, Igbo's have got a raw deal from the Nigerian state. Deep in his or her hearts, every Igbo person yearns for another Ojukwu to rise up and say "Never again". For a non-Igbo, Ojukwu is one commander I would gladly have followed to war because his cause was just'.
Ojukwu was a leader, hero, and Commander in Chief of the nation's army and, Biafra's Head of State, among other honourable things but nothing like a mere "warlord".
We, the entire people of Biafra, from Agbor to Opobo commiserate with the family of our Leader, the People's General Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. You are much more to us than words can describe. You live in our hearts and as long as we have breath in us we shall continue with the good work that you began: The actualization of a free, independent and sovereign state of Biafra.