Ojukwu understood Nigeria but Nigeria did not understand Ojukwu
By Olaitan Ladipo
10th December 2011
Good leaders do not necessarily make the best decisions; they make necessary decisions. Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who died last week, took the necessary decisions for his people at critical times. The Ikemba definitely fascinated me as an enigma, underlined by the fact that the reasons for my captivation are the same for which his fans adore him, some Igbo revere him, his critics berate him, and his enemies loathe him, all at the same time.
That paradox is definitely not of the Ikemba’s creation. Ojukwu was not a complex human being, not by any measure. On the contrary, he came across as sincere and straightforward. Unlike many of his slithery comrades both in the military and in politics, you could see Ojukwu coming from ten miles. When pressed to apologise for taking the Igbo to war, he declared without equivocation, “We didn’t declare war on anybody”. As for a solution to the AIDS crisis in Africa he said, “I don’t know. I am not a doctor”. As Chido Nwangwu observed in 1999, “There exist, rarely, grey areas about this man”.
Unfortunately, friends and foes alike pre-paint unreasonable pictures of the man, attributing to him things that he did not say, imputing motives to him that he did not agree. Consequently, many notably from the North and the West were reluctant to listen to him. And of those, mainly Igbo, that listened a large proportion either did not understand the Ikemba’s message or chose deliberately to misrepresent him.
He spoke to anyone that cared to listen, even though he chose what he spoke. For example, he refused to publish his war memoirs, insisting he would not, until General Yakubu Gowon first writes his own account. He entertained big international media names but also had time for young upcoming journalists. In the process, he said things that many people, friends and foes alike, did not like to hear. In fact, one of the hallmarks of Emeka Ojukwu was that he spoke things some people would not speak and to which some others would not like to listen. It is a hallmark of true leaders, but not of politicians. He was not a politician. Emeka Ojukwu was a leader. Thus, I consider it a tribute to his memory, that some of us are prepared to say things about the Ikemba now, which others, friends and foes alike, may not like to hear.
The North could not see beyond Emeka the rebel. Western Nigerians were fixated on the unwise war general. The greater problem, however, is that his profound insights into Nigeria’s history and his aspirations for the country’s politics disappeared into a sea of his own people’s wishful beatification of Ojukwu. Put off by tall Igbo tales, the rest of Nigeria consequently failed to accord the man the respect that his well-informed messages deserved. It sounds cliché but Ojukwu is truly one of those leaders that came before their time.
More than Oxford degrees, on which I will comment later, Ojukwu’s philosophical understanding of Nigeria’s history and politics was a result of his practical knowledge of the country. He was born (coincidentally, as the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe) in Zungeru in northern Nigeria. He spent his adolescence in Lagos in the West and served most of his Nigerian Army career in the North. Those antecedents not only enabled him speak better Yoruba than many natives but also gave him a sense of belonging in any part of greater Nigeria, at the same time as being fittingly a proud Igbo man. However and as all humans, the man had his own foibles.
While other people have written a lot especially about his civil war roles, his political (mis)adventures, and his love of the good life, which I do not want to repeat here, there are other areas that I consider worthy of mention.
I will not go as far as label the Ikemba, the way some do, as another spoilt son of a rich father but there is evidence (Frederick Forsyth) that his family background inspired in him a sense of entitlement to Nigeria’s rulership. Something he hypocritically but constantly criticised of Nigeria’s Fulani rulers. Ironically, for a people that constantly lecture the rest of the country on their traditional democracy, majority of Igbo people appear to subscribe to the notion that Emeka Ojukwu’s wealthy heritage and schooling, places him at par with Nigeria’s Fulani princes. More than that, it seems, they believe it qualifies him for the same entitlement to that well known born to rule mentality. It probably explains why the Igbo show unbelievable annoyance when other Nigerians are not as impressed with Ojukwu’s family heritage and his education, as they are.
The truth is that Yoruba nobles and scholars had been graduating from Oxford and Cambridge for over a century before Ojukwu and, as Salisu Suleiman wrote recently, Sokoto princes like Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji and Shehu Malami even spent their holidays in Buckingham Palace while studying in the UK. Some people may acknowledge heritage but they respect only individual achievements.
Apart from the President, probably only two other living Southerners could make the type of journey that General Olusegun Obasanjo made two months ago, to mediate in the Boko Haram crisis, and come out alive. One is Obasanjo himself. The other person was Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. As if to underline their bare tolerance, the actors promptly murdered Obasanjo’s host within forty-eight hours. I recall that incident for a purpose.
For different reasons, Obasanjo and Ojukwu personify (personified, in Ojukwu’s case now) their ethnic nations within Nigeria’s current political dispensation, in a way that no other member of those nations can. The wisdom is that a lethal attack on any of the two would constitute an attack symbolically on his nation. It explains why, though Ojukwu lost elections to politicians in Anambra, the Igbo still plan a global funeral, and demand an official national burial for him. It is a fitting tribute to a tentative politician but an indisputable leader of his people.
Issues that caused civil war are still alive – Ekweremadu
BY TONY EDIKE, ENUGU
Deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu reviewed Saturday the increasing cases of insecurity in the country and declared that the factors that gave rise to the 1967 civil war were still very prevalent in the country.
He stated that the country was still struggling to survive as a nation stressing that everything possible must be done to ensure the unity of the country.
Ekweremadu who paid a condolence visit to Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu in Enugu over the death of the former Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, urged Nigerians to use the demise of the Igbo icon to address the issue of how best to co-exist as one nation.
He said: “The things that gave rise to the civil war are still with us and that is why many years after the war we had the Modakeke/Ife crisis; the Jos crisis between the Fulani and indigenes, the Umuleri/Aguleri crisis in Anambra.
“So those crises are still there because what gave rise to the war was the massacre of people who are Nigerians living within Nigeria by the other part of Nigeria and that is still going on. So it is that same hatred for one another that gave rise to the civil war; we still have them here and there; and those problems are yet to be addressed.
“I believe that the best we can do for Ikemba is for all of us to sit down and talk to ourselves and see how to address this issue so that we can live as a nation because as at now we are all managing to survive as one country. It’s important that we address this problem.
“I don’t believe they are insurmountable; we can find an arrangement to accommodate everybody in Nigeria so that people can live peacefully wherever they find themselves and be able to earn a living there.”
Ekweremadu described Ojukwu as a humble person who abandoned his father’s wealth and its luxury to enroll in the army at a period when the Army was left for the poor; “moving from one place to the other without any luxury and without knowing what would happen to him the next moment; what better sacrifice could a man do for his people.
“So he loved his people; but what they have been doing since his death also shows that they also love him. So I hope that the people of the South East and old Eastern Nigeria will give him a befitting burial.
“But the important thing as I said is for us to address those issues he fought for because they have not been addressed; I believe it could be addressed and the vision he lived for will be realized in due time.”
“Ojukwu as a person came ahead of his time; Ikemba lived ahead of his time and Ikemba died ahead of his time; because his visions, his views are yet to be realized but I believe that surely they will be realized and it is then that Nigerians will appreciate him better.
He also poured encomiums on Mrs Ojukwu; “the important thing as I said is that the wife is my sister from Ngwo; I praise her because of the efforts she made to sustain Ikemba up till now; I recall when I was Secretary to the Enugu State Government (SSG) I had cause to visit Ojukwu with the then governor.
“Then he was very strong and full of life, and we asked him the secret and he said the secret was the ‘wa-wa girl’ referring to his wife Bianca; and she sustained that maintenance , the love, the care up till this time, I believe that’s why Ikemba lived up till now.
“We are very proud of our daughter and I am also sure that the entire Igbo race is proud of her as the wife of the late Ikemba.”
Also speaking after paying condolence visit to the family of Ojukwu in Enugu yesterday, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha urged the federal government to find ways of immortalising Ojukwu, adding however that the National Assembly would be fully involved in his burial.
Ihedioha was accompanied by some members of the House including Hon. Chris Azubuogu representing Nnewi North, South and Ekwusigo federal constituency who described Ojukwu as his mentor and benefactor.
Azubogu pledged to follow the footsteps of Ojukwu by rendering selfless service to humanity and to remain steadfast in fighting the course of the oppressed in the society.
Source: Vanguard, 11th December 2011.
How Ojukwu visited prison for the first time, by Ralph Uwazuruike, MASSOB leader
In this interview with Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, the leader of the Movement for the Survival of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, on the death of Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi and Eze Igbo Gburugburu of Igbo land, Uwazuruike, who practically relocated to the Enugu Casabianca House of Ojukwu since his death was announced, spoke painfully and emotionally about Ojukwu, his politics, vision, what he meant to his people and about the direction of Igbo struggle and leadership. The interview is as sizzling as it is emotional. Excerpts:
By McPhilips Nwachukwu
The death of Ojukwu means a lot of things to many people. As one of the closest persons to the late Igbo champion of struggle for emancipation, what does his death mean to you?
Honestly, Ojukwu’s death is a very devastating news to me. But, before he died, I was on phone with Iyom Bianca, the wife. She called me few hours before he died and told me that he was in crisis situation. So, after that sad call, we talked more on phone, prayed, cried and all that. Then, when he passed on, Iyom called back to inform me and we continued talking till morning.
The whole thing was shocking, but I was able to stabilize myself because, within the hours of that night that I was told that he was in crisis situation, I was following the whole situation and, because of that, the news of his death no longer came to me as sudden announcement because I had an early inkling about his situation.
Ojukwu was the father figure of Igbo struggle for emancipation, which, in the past few years, you have undertaken through your activities with MASSOB. What will be the direction of Igbo struggle now with Ojukwu’s death?
The struggle remains. Nothing changes.
Rather, we will intensify the struggle to make sure that we make him happy in the spirit world. You may want to know that
Ojukwu was known to me before I started the struggle. I knew Ojukwu for close to twenty years. And I knew him close to five or six years before I started MASSOB.
So, I worked with him closely one-on- one before I started MASSOB.
I knew his ideals and I knew what he stood for and that was why I started MASSOB. I mean that I was one of the closest persons to him then.
So, why should the struggle come to an end now that he is dead when the struggle started when he was alive?
If he didn’t like the struggle or like Biafra, I wouldn’t have started it in the first place!
When I started the struggle, he was with me and he was with me more than any other person. While I was in prison he would be the first person to call my wife to ask after my children to make sure that there was money or food in the house.
Each time I was imprisoned or detained, in some cases, he would come to the prison to see me.
The first time he went to prison to see somebody was to come to Owerri prison to see me. He came personally with Iyom Bianca to see me at Owerri prison where he told the prison officials that he never did that before in his life time.
So, he did so many things for me that he never did for any other person.
Therefore, I have to do things for him too, which I have never nor will do for any other person.
There is nothing that I do for Ojukwu that is too much or anything that any Igbo man does for him that is too much.
People say to me, ‘Every day, you come here and stay from morning till night,’ and I say to them, ‘Yes, I can do it for many more days because Ojukwu could have done same for me’. So, to me, it is a loss, that he died but I know too that it is a very big loss to Ndigbo. But, to me, the loss is indescribable because he played a role that my biological father couldn’t play in my life.
He was everything to me. He managed me like his own son, told me things. When I went wrong, he called me and cautioned me. And each time I did wrong, he did not fail to admonish me. And if I did rightly, he would call me to congratulate me. He also taught me family life. In fact, he gave me education on some of the things I didn’t know about family life. So, there wasn’t anything that he didn’t do for me.
Do you see any other person filling this gap of what he represented for you and the Igbo nation?
That is the difficult question. And people have been asking me this question and what I say to them is that it is only God because it is Him who took Ojukwu away from us and He knows that Ojukwu is irreplaceable. There is nobody that can replace Ojukwu for Ndigbo.
All of us are now are like sheep without shepherd. We are just mopping, looking, wondering and asking what next will happen? If any person tells you that he can replace Ojukwu, that person must be joking. What we can do now is only to hope on God to throw up somebody for us. Somebody that Ndigbo will like and work with.
But the most important thing that Ndigbo should do now is to see Ojukwu’s death as an opportunity to bond for unity. That’s the much we can do now. And we started it even before his death.
On November 4, we organised a birthday party, which people from all walks of life, from across party lines attended for the first time. But we never knew that he wouldn’t live to experience the next birthday.
I think we should build on that birthday because it brought Ndigbo together and we contemplated that, after that birthday, we would call for another gathering this December so that a section of Igbo leadership would come together to deliberate on Igbo affairs.
Ojukwu’s spirit was Igbo spirit. To us Ndigbo, Ojukwu was like Jesus Christ, which if you mention his name, it sends a message across: the message of unity, togetherness, oneness and we have to build on that.
Is Ohaneze not providing that kind of direction?
What is Ohaneze? Who is Ohaneze to Ojukwu?
All over the world, when you mention Ojukwu, every Igbo man knows that he is our father, our leader, the man that we follow.
Ohaneze is there and, after every two years, they pick one person and, after another two years, they bring in another different mentality. They are always in Abuja chasing after one thing or the other. Well, I am not to deride anybody.
But Ojukwu was a fearless person.
We are talking about leaders that can sacrifice their lives.
Those that can stand up for their people and say, ‘Okay, let me die’. We are not talking about people who are looking for contracts or looking for positions.
We are talking about people whose concerns are about the well-being of the masses.
Ojukwu used the resources of his father to execute a project for the welfare of his people. Because of his people, he went on exile and stayed for more than ten years. Because of his people, he encountered suffering, humiliation and insults. These are the people that we are talking about.
Don’t you think that the critical question now should be about the Igbo leadership. Who fills the gap?
What we are saying is that he is not here now. He is dead. But that he is not alive doesn’t mean that Ojukwu should be forgotten. Whatever we do in Ala Igbo can not work with Ojukwu’s name!
It is just like in Yoruba land. You can’t denigrate Awolowo today because he is not there. It is not true. Till today, the name Awolowo is the in thing in Yoruba politics. So, it will be the same in Igbo land with Ojukwu.
So, the first thing that we can do now is to give him a befitting burial. The best in Africa and everybody will see it. We have to do it. After that, we will have a meeting of Igbo leaders to sit down and chart a way forward for Ndigbo. God must surely throw up somebody.
Leadership is not a game of contest. In Igbo land, ana asi na anaghi echi eze eze , ana amu eze amu( the king is not crowned but given at birth ). That person who does what his people love is their leader already. And so it was with Ojukwu. He worked himself into the heart of his people. Even when he was coronated, Eze Igbo, some of his opponents challenged the title, but, because of his acceptance by his people, it didn’t take long before everybody began to hail him as Eze Igbo Gburugburu.
So, leadership is not about going to sit in Abuja or by election.
Nobody as a matter of fact elected Ojukwu to be his or their leader. But through his actions and activities, he was adopted by his people as their leader.
In a recent statement credited to you in one of the national dailies, you were quoted to be warning Federal Government and Nigeria that since Ojukwu, who stood as the stabilizing force against the use of violence by Ndigbo in their agitations, is no more, Ndigbo will no longer hesitate to opt for violence if the need arises in the future. What does that kind of statement portend for your struggle?
What that means is that a people should not be taken for granted. If you come to Nigeria today, it is only the Igbo people that have prosecuted a war as a tribe. In the war, all the other tribes fought against Ndigbo. So, we know the burden of war and we know the triumphs of victory. So, we have consummated that burden of defeat in whatever way you look at it.
You know what it means to lose your father or your mother. If you come to Okwe, there are a whole lot of people, who were abandoned at Oji river, men, who lost their limbs and legs fighting for Biafra. I built a home to relocate them at Okwe. Each time I see them, I know how I feel.
I pay them salaries every month to stop them from begging. I know the burden of feeding their children and sending them to school. More than126 people and I know how it feels! Somebody who hasn’t experienced that before will want you to go to war.
But, unfortunately, this government listens to only people who shout for war.
It is very unfortunate.
Look at our roads. Even, look at our youths, nobody listens to them. Every day we read about hundreds of youths from other places being sent abroad for higher education. What about Igbo youths.
Must you be a militant or carry guns and start shooting people before you are included in the scheme of things? If you come to Nigeria, it is only the South East that has only five states and the least number of local governments. And when they share revenues, the North will go home with billions of naira and scanty amount of money will be given to our governors.
So, what do they want? They want us to start rioting before they begin to give us equal number of states and local governments? Is that what they want? You can’t talk about peace without justice. Shortly after Ojukwu’s death was announced, there was rioting in Ebonyi State. I had to send some of our members to go and quell the situation because it would have degenerated to other places.
What was the cause of the riot?
Ojukwu’s death! Information got to me that the youths were mobilizing and I had to quickly intervene because, before you know it, Onitsha, Aba, Okigwe, Owerri would have all been caught up in the riot. These youths were angry. They saw Ojukwu as their father. Now their father is dead and they felt like, ‘Okay, let us show our anger’.
But I had to stop them. I brought non violence all the way from India and Ojukwu sustained it because he loved it. He didn’t want Ndi Igbo to die again. Ndi Igbo died during the civil war. So, that was why I made the statement. If Nigerians think that Ndigbo are cowards, they are making a mistake and they know it.
And they know that whenever we start a thing, it takes another dimension. They know that if Ndi Igbo start violence now that involves gun that we manufacture guns ourselves. They know that the only tribe that manufactures guns are Igbos..
It will look like kidnapping. Kidnapping started in the Niger Delta, but when it came to Igbo land, look at the dimension it has taken. Immediately they allow Ndigbo to go into violence, Nigeria is finished.
Source: This Day, 11th December 2011.
Ojukwu and I made Igbo nation our focal point —Achuzia
By Nwanosike Onu
How did you receive the news of the death of your friend, Ojukwu?
I have been coming to this family with every amount of happiness but today, I came with sorrow. I am here with tears but our own tears can not be greater than the family members of the great leader called Ikemba Nnewi and that is why I’m here to say sorry.
When he was in Ivory Coast, I was constantly visiting him until he came back to this country. When he was starting this building here, I was equally with him, we have been close right from time. If he had not finished his mission on earth he would not have gone now. He came and suffered for his people. We have a lot to tell about Ojukwu. It remains a little time for me to talk on why I followed him even at the point of death. That time will come and the whole world will hear it.
I still believe that he is not dead but resting somewhere; so far as I live, Ojukwu lives also.
What was the binding force in your relationship with the late Ikemba?
Our relationship is well known, you could hardly distinguish him and I and people usually think we are from the same parentage (laughs). We almost think alike and we face issues in the same characteristic military way. But most importantly, we made the Igbo nation the focal point of whatever we do and I feel he is still alive. I’m around and as far as I’m around, his spirit continuous to live and that is the much I can tell you now until the time comes.
Source: The Nation, 11th December 2011.
Ojukwu: Fall of the iroko
By Bolade Omonijo
THERE are not many people to whom the grace to live and contribute like Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is given. It can truly be said that he came, saw and conquered. He was the one who described the late Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo as the best President Nigeria never had. It was so apt that it stuck, surviving the years.
How could one describe such a man for whom the bell tolled on November 25? Do we simply say the man died? That would not do justice to the memory of a man who left bold footprints on the sands and rock of his time. He was a catalyst of change. In the Nigerian army, he left no one in doubt that he did not just join to receive salute from junior officers and offer compliments to his seniors. Any record of the Nigerian Army without the role played by Private or Lt. Col Ojukwu would be grossly incomplete and distorted.
He was the soul and moving spirit behind the Biafran Army. He dictated the pace and he enjoyed himself while doing so. For him, there could be no dull moment. While he had commanders, he planned the war and the battles. He handled foreign relations and procuments. He was simply in charge. In the process, of course, he made many mistakes. His commanders, as Madiebo, Hilary Njoku and others attested, merely took instructions. Madiebo said he did not even know the size of the armoury. In the context, it was difficult to plan. Rabble rousers, in no time, took over what was supposed to be purely a military action. The word of the Commander-in-Chief was law. Whoever opposed Ojukwu was dubbed a saboteur and given the treatment meted to Ifeajuna and Banjo. Njoku was luckier, a jail term was deemed sufficient punishment for looking the ultimate commander in the face. Many would swear till date that the fate that befell Nzeogwu was arranged.
All these could not detract from the standing of the man. He was many things in a lifetime. He got more attention and opportunities than five other men considered great. As Biafran Head of State, he loomed large. Very large. The beautiful and philosophical Ahiara Declaration has survived the years. His many addresses as Head of State call attention to what we have missed in the current leadership of our country. A President should inspire. He should have a vision and mobilise others to share both his vision and mission. He must have a sense of history and a large dose of courage. At the point that he felt that his people had suffered enough, Ojukwu made a tactical withdrawal, and, still, he did so in style. He told his people on January 8, 1970, that he was going in search of peace. He fled into exile. The lot of surrendering sovereignty to Nigeria fell on his deputy, Col. Phillip Effiong.
The story of his impactful life did not end there. He fled and he was back. In 1982, at the thick of the Second Republic, when the ruling party felt it needed someone of Ojukwu’s stature to justify its plan to capture the South East politically in 1983, Ojukwu was encouraged to return and join the National Party of Nigeria. Although he was handed an NPN senatorial ticket in Anambra State, the party sacrificed the seat, but forcefully took over other senatorial seats and the governorship of the Great Zik’s state. It justified the humbling of Zik with the Ikemba’s membership of the NPN.
That was the political baptism of Ojukwu. In later years, he was to serve at the centre of the political theatre. He participated actively and vigorously in the Abacha Constitutional Conference. Many of those in the conference were inaudible; one only has to go through the proceedings and the eventual report to appreciate the contributions of the Ikemba. His voice rang loud throughout the confab. He was a founding member and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the All Peoples Party at the inception of the Fourth Republic.
He moved in style. He spoke in style. At various times in the chequered history of Nigeria, he did not just speak, he roared. He had clear thoughts on matters of the moment and had mastered just how to elegantly express his thoughts.
Yes, he was controversial. He was complex. Turbulence defined every phase of his life, including the establishment of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) that he joined other Igbo in giving life in pursuit of the agenda of restoring the dignity of his people.
The story of the life of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu has been written in bits and parts by many scholars and historians. The full story will yet come. The loudest noise on what the man stood for may yet come when his memoirs are published posthumous. In life and death, he was somebody and stood for something. Hecertainly died a hero.
Adieu, Ikemba, the apostle of Ohanifere, the famous handshake he proposed across the Niger.
Source: The Nation, 10th December 2011.
Ojukwu: Day the exile returned home
By OBINWA NNAJI
From the desperate, dark days of a dying Biafra, to the ecstasy of his return from exile in the then Ivory Coast, OBINWA NNAJI, reminisces on another high point of the Chuwkwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu story
It is difficult to adequately capture the ecstasy which surrounded the return of General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu to Nigeria, without first looking critically at events preceding his dramatic departure from Uli Airport in 1970 into exile in Ivory Coast, as it was then known.
The tail-end of 1969 was tortuous and posed the greatest challenge to a people who were heroically fighting with their ‘bare hands’, to put it metaphorically, having held out for over two years and 10 months.
To say Biafra was losing grounds with great rapidity, was to state the obvious. Faced with an onslaught never seen in the annals of wars and insurrections, where all the world powers viz – Britain, United States, USSR and their allies - turned their arsenal on Biafra, it must have amazed military strategists in Sandhurst, Pentagon and Petersburg, how Biafrans could last the distance - “sheer will power and of course, the Eastern spirit not to say die”.
Pounded on all fronts from air and ground; cut off by a heartless policy of ‘economic blockade’ on the high sea with virtually all essential commodities not within the reach of the citizenry of Eastern Region, causing untold hardship, malnutrition and kwashiorkor for both old and young, the people simply plodded on.
With almost all the major cities fallen – Nsukka, Obollo Eke, Abakaliki, Oji River, Awgu, Okigwe, Awka, Onitsha, Asaba, Gagem, Ogoja, Calabar, Ikot-Ekpene, Port Harcourt, Aba, even though there were skirmishes of fighting going on, it was a matter of time for other towns to cave in. When the war taunted Uzuakoli, it was only to be expected that the Biafran Operational Engine Room, the headquarters and Ministry of Defence, Umuahia would be threatened.
In spite of all these misfortunes, there was cheery news that Owerri, had been retaken by brave Biafran soldiers - but at a very high cost. There was a very touching scene when the remains of Captain Tony Asoluka of ‘S’ Brigade killed by a Federal sniper was taken to his Owerri town for burial. The surviving mother made us all cry as she kept asking hysterically “who will buy me my Lux soap again?”
Orlu town, strategically situated in the heart of the Republic, as well as the seat of Biafran School of Infantry, the equivalent of Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), where officers were being trained, was never conquered. Even though Federal troops occupied Onitsha they couldn’t link up with Awka as Biafrans held the Nkpor to Abagana axis. Of course, the famous Abagana waterloo is a topic for another day.
Uli, Ihiala, Oguta and Uga Airport and its environs were in very safe hands. Yours sincerely was in the trenches at Umuakpu-Omanelu axis, which then was 64 miles to Port Harcourt on the Owerri-Port Harcourt main road. So hilarious were the boys fighting to get back Port-Harcourt when the unexpected and shocking news of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s defection to Nigeria rent the airwaves.
My transistor radio was tucked away, and when the disturbing news broke, my co-officers in the trenches yelled “That’s the end of the War”. The defection of the first Nigerian President, Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, sometime in October 1969, dealt a severe blow to the morale of Biafran troops at the various war fronts.
Then in quick succession, in November and December, all the strongholds began collapsing. Umuahia was threatened and when it fell, it took its toll. Nobody waited to be drafted to defend the symbol of Biafra. All the warriors and commanders of note raced to join a rescue mission that was already too late in day.
Ojukwu and the Defence Headquarters had been evacuated amidst heavy fighting, shelling and bombardment by Nigerian troops from air and land. The Biafran Army Engineers had to break the bridge, the only link from Umuahia to Owerri.
If the Imo River Bridge ‘4 Corner’ as it is called was left intact, then Biafra would have been overrun in few minutes of entering Umuahia. So they were all there – the big names and top military brass – Brigadier Tim Onwuatuegwu, Col. Joe ‘Air Raid’ Achuzie, Brigadier Wilson Odo, the Commandos and famous Strike Forces and Battalion Commanders physically involved in the fight to hold back the rampaging Federal troops keen to cross over the Imo River Bridge.
The surge to reach Owerri had begun in earnest from Aba. For us, 64 miles away at Omanelu after Mgbirichi and Umuagwo, and Umuakpu, it was a nightmare. Owerri that was our safe haven was being evacuated without a gunshot, and with Federal troops not in sight.
What to do? There was total confusion and the entire ‘S Brigade’, ‘S’ Division which had several Infantry and Engineering Battalions dug in at the trenches, had to quickly adopt ‘Operation Open Corridor’.
Owerri was no longer within reach and news came that Federal troops had taken it without firing a shot. With extended line formation and fire and movement, the entire troops retreated with great speed through the marshy terrain of Egbema, luckily ending up in Awo-mama, which became the rallying point for all fleeing Biafran troops.
The felicitations and joy for surviving the fierce war, knew no bounds as soldiers greeted fellow combatants with the soothing greeting ‘Happy Survival’. It was January 8, 1970.
So came the departure at Uli Airport of General Ojukwu, widely said to be heading to Ivory Coast in furtherance of exploring some peace overtures, and the surrender by Major-General Phillip Effiong who stood in for him.
It was apparent we had come to the end of the road begun on July 6, 1967 with the first shot fired at Gagem Ogoja and Obollo Eke in Nsukka. The rest is history. So far 13 years, 1970 – 1983, Ojukwu stayed away from the shores of Nigeria in exile in Yamoussokorou, Ivory Coast.
With the advent of Satellite Newspapers on Agbani Road, Enugu, in 1982, the crop of journalists so assembled had a burning zest to begin the campaign for a state pardon for Ojukwu. From all departments of the newspaper, the fireballs came from all cylinders.
We wrote strongly-worded editorials, analysis and features making the case for his return urgent. The News Department headed by Late Sly Alakwe and Alphonsus Ikediashi, his able deputy went the extra mile. Alphonsus Ikediashi stumbled upon an exclusive with a big story on the mother of Ojukwu presumed and rumoured dead years ago in Kano. With such sensational headlines “Give me my son”, “Bring my son back” - a passionate appeal from a distressed mother to President Shehu Shagari, we hit Shagari on a very sore point.
The explosive interview caused a big stir to the extent that one of the most successful Ibo business tycoons, Chief Arthur Eze alias “Arthur 1,000”, made for Nnewi and gave a gift of a brand new Mercedez Benz to Ojukwu’s mother. Satellite roared and soared. It was Ojukwu’s mother’s plea that perhaps touched the milk of human kindness in President Shagari, that he finally caved in and announced the ‘Great Pardon’.
The efforts of the journalists on the stable of satellite had paid off. Innocent Okoye now a Professor of Mass Communications, Nzekwe Ene, the arrogant intellectual who had a penchant for correcting any script in sight and more often ended up correcting himself; stylish Victor Jegede, Uche Ezechukwu, the prose master, Late Mike Azuide, Late Chike Akabaogu, Roy Eze, Chika Ezerioha-‘Chez Williams’, Sam Nkire, Emma Okocha, Danquah Oye, C-Don Adinuba, Godwin Nzeakah and, of course, the big boss Chris Ejimofor, to mention a few.
With the pardon granted, we at the Satellite landed on ‘Cloud Nine’. The Sunday Editor Innocent Okoye was on the next available flight out of Lagos to Abidjan. It turned out he was the only journalist from Nigeria to first land in the then Ivory Coast. We had compiled back to back copies of Satellite for the perusal of the General. We had sought for an exclusive interview. Yamoussoukorou had been besieged by sea of European journalists.
Trust Ojukwu, he refused to grant an interview to the battery of journalists and photographers that lay in wait. Owing to the copies of Satellite, Innocent had passed through one of his aides, Ojukwu chose to speak to Innocent via the intercom.
Not dejected, Innocent ended up getting scoops, tracing and filming the large expanse of Ojukwu’s sand filling company and trucks owned by the Biafran leader while in exile.
The Sunday Editor was also the only Nigerian journalist at the Nigerian Embassy in Abidjan when Ojukwu was re-issued with a Nigeria Passport. We made a feast of his exclusives from Abidjan.
Then came Ojukwu’s return. The scenario that played out at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos was just child’s play. From all over old Eastern Region, the crowd took over the major streets from Ogbete-Ogui-Abakaliki Road to Emene Airport. Bus loads from the northern parts of the country, formed a rainbow procession.
Traders from Aba, Onitsha and Igbos living in Ogbete Market paced and walked to the airport singing in Ibo Language “Papa Anata Oyoyo”, Daddy is back. Several committees had sprung up with bearing the legend of ‘Onyije Nno’, translated ‘Traveller Welcome’.
To be part of history, yours sincerely had driven just past the junction of Army Barracks by Abakpa junction. It was impossible to proceed further. With my wife and two little children sitting atop my car, we were about five kilometers from the airport. The road was literally over run by termites in the shape of human beings. We sat there when Ojukwu driven in a slide-open Mercedes Benz, waving heartily to the crowd sauntered past. The rival National Party of Nigeria (NPN), faithful who had thronged the airport did not allow Anambra Government officials of the ruling Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) to come even as close to the gates of the airport.
Dignitaries were molested and soaked and sprayed with water hoist. And so the General not knowing where he was heading to, perhaps seeing his seat of government, in Enugu State for the first time since it fell in 1967, was a prisoner to those who hijacked and herded him straight to Nnewi.
Disappointed at not seeing their hero, thus bringing a sour taste in the mouths of tens of thousands that had raced to Government House, Independence Layout, Enugu where an elaborate arrangement had been laid out by the sitting Governor, Chief Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo, who had cut short his overseas tour in Madrid, Spain where he was watching the World Cup to rush home, the people that had converged began to disperse one by one - raining abuses on those who disrupted the grandiose plan for their selfish aggrandizement.
Obinwa Nnaji, former Editor of Daily Satellite Newspaper, was a one-time Lieutenant in the Biafran Army Engineers (BAE). He wrote from Enugu. The last in the three-part series ‘What you don’t know about Ojukwu’ follows next Sunday.
Source: The Nation, 10th December 2011.
Ekweremadu Demands Befitting Burial for Ojukwu
By Chris Oji, Enugu
Deputy senate president, Chief Ike Ekweremadu yesterday paid condolence visit to Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu the widow of former Biafran leader, late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu with a call to Nigerians to give him a befitting burial.
Ekweremadu who said that Ojukwu came and died before his time was of the view that his visions and views were yet to be realised.
Ekeremadu spoke to reporters shortly after paying the condolence visit said: “Ikemba as a person came before his time. Ikemba lived ahead of his time. He died ahead of his time because his vision, his views are yet to be realised. And I believe surely his views will be realised. And it is at that time Nigerians will begin to realise that Ikemba was a man who saw tomorrow.
“You see as we speak today, the things that gave rise to the civil war are still with us and that is why many years after the civil war, we had the Ife/Modakeke crisis and the problem we still have in Plateau state. Even in Anambra state, we have Aguleri/Umuleri crisis.
“So, these crises are still there. What gave rise to the civil war was massacre of the people who are Nigerians living within Nigeria. You see that such thing is still going on. It is still that same hatred of one another that gave rise to the civil war. We still have them here and there and those problems are yet to be addressed.”
Source: The Nation, 10th December 2011.
Ojukwu: The exit of mercurial, eloquent icon
WE may begin by asking, what would be written on the hallowed tomb of a mercurial icon like Dim Chukwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, as we all know him...
By Okee Sydney-Obiukwu
WE may begin by asking, what would be written on the hallowed tomb of a mercurial icon like Dim Chukwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, as we all know him, every other tongue-twisting title nowithstanding.
For sure, the oxford trained historian, who was later to became the typology of what a good soldier should be, is not just elegant with the queen’s prose, he was also what the academic–minded persons would call ‘language purist’.
There is so much mythology woven around the person of this generalissimo of Igbo ‘royalty’, that is probably why be came to be known also as Eze Igbo Gburu gburu (meaning president–general of the Igbo race)
One of such myth is that which is bandied by some of his not–so–lettered Igbo kinsmen, who for their ever willing desire to venerate high chief Ojukwu, concocted the fable that he would not appear well-defined in a photograph, because as they would often rocked the fancy of the innocent listener, he immediately disappears as the photographer tries to click his professional lens.
But as some of us later found out, after many years of being thoroughly bamboozled, by what our uncles, some of whom were war veterans in company of the ‘swaggering crocodile, ‘so called because of the crocodile staff that became his trade mark among his peers in the early, glorious Nigerian military institution; we are talking of Nigeria’s first military head of state, major–general Johnson Thomas agunyi–ironsi, who also received the United Nation’s Medal for his sterling command of the UN peace keeping force.
The truth about the state of photography then is that it was very primitive and problematic. Poor vision, mechanical inaccuracies and all that. So gradually, we began to contain our wild, wild curiosity about why the fairy tale of colonel Odumegu Ojukwu’s invisible posture as Marshal Maclughan would have theorised-images of Ojukwu in our heads, which was indeed created by the kinsmen of the warlord who, out of undying affection for their hero, weaved a mercurial image around an ordinary mortal. But if truth would be told, Ojukwu could never be called an ordinary folk.
Dr. Tafida says, during a condolence visit to his widow that ‘Ojukwu has helped to shape modern Nigeria, because it was through him that we were able to have state that we now call state that are cells of development…You husband has passed through a long period of agony so to say. We do hope and pray that the call he has answered will be to internal glory.
At this point, we need to ask: Just how, really, do you describe a man whose kinsmen, particularly spare parts dealers in Idumota, Lagos State and Onitsha in Anambra State, are used to arguing between he (Ojukwu) and the venerable Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe,who actually as they are wont to tease and stupefy their listeners, spoke the English language more impeccably than the queen. As we know already, the queen is both owner and projector of the most widely spoken language in history of the English language.
The Igbos, who gave birth to Dim Ojukwu, have never been tired of churning out mind boggling myths about their heroes. The great Zik of Africa, Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe, was once said to be in custody of the key that the British used to lock-up the body of waters in River Niger.
But our funny but mischievously creative uncles, proud witnesses and survivors of the harrowing civil war where not done yet, they stretched our imagination by claiming that if Nigerians were not careful with how they treated Azikiwe, during the elections then he may lose his temper ,and being in custody of the key, could in frustration open the padlock and therefore cause water to over–run the whole country.
What an imagination, you would say.
Source: The Moment, 10th December 2011.
Odumegwu Ojukwu: Final Death Of Biafran Republic (1967-2011)
By NUHU YARWA
“Nigeria is not a nation – state but empires of major ethnic groups meant to satisfy the major claims of competing Overlords”. Late S.G. Ikoku, a politician of Igbo extraction who died with national vision and practice.
Like the state of Biafra which Ojukwu created in 1967 through civil war within the Nigeria’s Federation had died 30 months later in 1970, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu a Lt Col. of Nigeria’s Army is now dead, 41 years after the collapse of Biafra. Thus signaling, in historical perspectives, the final death of Biafran revolution, Biafran vision and, perhaps, political separatism and hatred in Nigeria.
Odumegwu Ojukwu who was son of a merchant was born in 1933 at Dungurum (Zungeru), Northern Nigeria. He became a trained military officer and had occupied the post of a military governor of East of Nigeria, sitting at Enugu in 1967 under the national military government headed by the then Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon.
A befitting tribute to Ojukwu who in the last 78 years (1933-2011) had been a brilliant student at Oxford University in London; fine military officer, fugitive, nationalist, politician, parliamentarian, chieftaincy title holder and political father in that order, as well as a national commentator and, at large, a believer in one great indivisible sovereign Nigerian nation died in a hospital bed in UK. With his death on Saturday, the 27th of November 2011, Biafra will as well be said to have finally died now – 2011!
The following which is by way a tribute to Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi, was his “Ahiara Declaration” in 1967, in the wake of leading Biafra away from Mother Nigeria.
To what extent has his fears and beliefs enhanced or altered peace and practical federalism and unity in the larger Nigerian State since independence in 1960, but more since the declaration of Biafra (1967) and the subsequent surrender to Federal Nigeria (1970) must remain debatable in full force especially that Ojukwu died at a time Nigeria is experiencing multi-partisan thuggery, political division, rascalism and the use of un-authorised explosives to intimidate governance. Ojukwu died to the warmth embrace of Nigerians across the British-imposed colonial divide called Northern and Southern Nigeria.
The Ahiara Declaration (The miracle of the revolution)
“The revolution does not wait for the indolent, inefficient and corrupt reactionaries or else either he joins the band-wagon of the revolution, or the revolution will catch up with him.
Revolution means CHANGE – the change for better. It is always a forward moving force, very spontaneous, rapid and altruistic. Revolution improves the living conditions of the people politically for the better; economically via material possession, and socially and morally raises and purifies human love, dignity and uproots any stump of progress. A revolution and revolutionary go together; in the bearing of a New Social Order - sacred by patriotism, love and devotion to the common cause of the defence of the Mother Country --- all forms of disabilities and inequalities which reduce the dignity of the individual or destroy his sense of person have no place in the New Biafra Social Order: The Biafran revolution upholds the dignity of man --- Biafran Revolution stand against social disorder --- any attempt to destroy a people, its security, its right to life, property and progress --- to deprive a community of its identity is abhorrent to the Biafra people
Every true Biafran must love Biafra, must have faith in Biafra and its people and must strive for its greater unity. He must find his salvation here (there) in Biafra. He must be prepared to work for Biafra. He must be prepared to defend the sovereignty of Biafra wherever and by whomsoever it is challenged.
The young man who sneaks about in village, avoiding services in his country’s Armed Forces is unpatriotic; that young able – bodied school teacher who prefers to distribute relief (materials) when he should be fighting his country’s war is not only unpatriotic but is doing a woman’s job --- All Biafrans are brothers and Sisters bound together by ties of geography, trade, inter-marriage and culture, and by their common misfortune in (larger) Nigeria and their present (former) experience of the armed struggle.
Biafrans are even more united by the desire to create a new and better order of society which will satisfy their needs and aspirations. In the New Biafran Social Order, sovereignty and power belongs to the people. Those who exercise power do so on behalf of the people. Those who govern must not tyrannise the people. They carry a sacred trust of the people and must use their authority strictly in accordance with the will of the people. The true test of success in public life is that the people – who are the real masters - are contented and happy. The rulers must satisfy the people at all times.
But it is no use saying that power belongs to the people unless we are prepared to make it work in practice ---- The Biafra Revolution will constantly and honestly seek methods of making this concept a fact rather than a pious fiction.
Arising out of Biafra’s belief that power belongs to the people is the principle of public accountability.
Those who exercise power are accountable to the people for the way they use that power. The people retain the right to renew or terminate their mandate ---“
All said, is larger Nigeria better off today in line with Ojukwu’s submission? Did Ojukwu die a true democrat in the real sense of the Greek Philosophers Plato, Aristotle etc, who first theorized that democracy is only possible in a small closely – knitted group of people before embracing America’s bogus definition of the same in an heterogeneous federal entity where “representative” democracy has remained “the dictatorship of the few”?
NB Nuhu Yarwa is an editorial staff of The Leadership Newspaper’s. Special Correspondent (0803-599-3023).
Source: Leadership, 10th December 2011.
Ojukwu’s death, not end of Biafran dream
* Ojukwu was Moses of his people –Achuzia
Though at the end of the Nigeria–Biafra war, the Federal Government of Nigeria declared that there was No Victor and No Vanquished, Chief (Colonel) Joseph Achuzia was imprisoned for seven years after the war. During the Nigerian civil war, he was commonly known as Air Raid among Biafran soldiers. An engineer and former Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief (Colonel) Joseph Achuzia spoke with South East Bureau Chief, TONY ITA ETIM on demise of the Commander-In-Chief of the Biafran Armed Forces, General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who was two years his senior at Kings College, Lagos.
Can you tell us about the man, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu?
DIM Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu has always been known to me right from my secondary school days, when we were in Kings College together. Then later, we met in Britain. And by the time Nigeria became independent in the sixties, he and I came home, we met again. By then, he had already become entrenched within his position in the Nigerian Army. We did not have to interact before the first coup took place; and immediately after the coup, I left back to Britain. And I was following events because he was a key player within the scenario that was unfolding. Then the next landmark in my relationship with him took place when he was appointed the governor and Ejoor (General David Ejoor, retired) was also appointed a governor. Ejoor was sent to Enugu and Ojukwu protested, which made Aguiyi-Ironsi change the postings and sent him to Enugu and Ejoor to Benin. When we got to Enugu, the situation was such that a townsman of mine was also the Secretary to the Eastern Region Government in the person of C. C. Mordi from Asaba. A lot of things were going on: the killings in the North, pogrom; so many Igbos from the North were rushing down home; and what was taking place made me have a closer look into the sort of programme the then governor of Eastern Region, in the person of Odumegwu Ojukwu had for the Igbo people because the trauma being created by the extensive killing was such that it required somebody with a proper insight into dealing with human tragedy, the only person that can handle such situation because both soldiers, civilians, civil servants were affected.
In fact, what took place affected the core inner group that held Igbo citizenship together, something that made the Igbo Union, which one regarded as all supreme in everything, of which Ohanaeze today, the Igbozuruome of today, were modelled in somewhere Igbo Union was. Igbo Union had two retreats back to the East. In doing so, every Igbo person, male, female, child everything was heading eastward. It seemed that Ojukwu foresaw tomorrow, what would happen in the future. That was the reason he protested towards Ejoor being sent to Enugu because I’m quite certain, in my mind now, not on hindsight but from what I saw around that time that the posting wasn’t correct and that Ojukwu was right to protest. From then on, my interest became more firm and solid, in terms of support, which I made up my mind to give to him. He came to Enugu, we met and discussed briefly, then I left back to Britain. It was while I was back in Britain that during One O’clock news, in the afternoon, in London, it was announced that, Chief Obafemi Awolowo said that if the East went, the West would go. So I realised that the whole of this thing was heading towards a shouting match; and I felt that with the loss of so many experienced, trained officers from the East that they would need every hand, available, on deck. That made me to board a plane coming back to Nigeria then to meet another coup, the July coup, which brought Gowon on board. I spent two days at Airport Hotel in Ikeja. When Murtala was a Major, I knew him. George Miller, a friend of mine married to a German that I was going to stay in his house knew him (Murtala) but the instruction at the airport when we came out of the plane was that nobody goes out anywhere, so we were taken to the Airport Hotel. George Miller, being friendly with Murtala, brought him and we met, we discussed and he assured that I should wait for a day or so and there would be flight to go to Benin. He kept to his words. Two days, later the route to Benin was opened again; and myself, my wife and child were taken to the plane. We boarded to Benin and from there headed to the East. By this time, the situation was getting critical That second coup that we met was so devastating that it wasn’t only the army that everybody of Igbo origin or that comes from the Eastern Region, including those Igbos from the Midwest became involved in the selective killings that were taking place. And the vision which Ojukwu saw, when he protested now crystallized itself because the Mid Western Igbos, who were returning from the North and from the West, heading home, on reaching Benin, were not welcome. Reliefs that were being distributed were not being given them. Placements in the departments where they were working, to enable them obtain salary or whatever would be given for succour, they were told go and meet their people in Enugu. So, they all trooped out and headed for Enugu. We were also around to assist in receiving them. In fact, that was when Ika Igbo Association was formed, just as today you are hearing Anioma, Anioma; Anioma wasn’t in our lexicon then, what we had was Ika Igbo. And our interaction with Ojukwu and his government was concretised at that time. From then, even though the army in the Midwestern Command, the high echelon, was more of Midwestern Igbos but the civil service cadre, that should have lent weight to them and support were no more available, most of them had headed across the Niger. And it must also be borne in mind that the Nigerian boundaries vis-a-viz East and West weren’t as they are today. Where you have as Ogbaru and those places used to be Midwestern Region. The Niger wasn’t a natural boundary, it was the effect of the war that brought about the Niger at the end of the war being regarded as a natural boundary and the configuration that took place since then still makes it difficult for Igbos to settle down properly.
As I was saying earlier, we are talking about Ojukwu. Here is a man because of his vision, somehow prepared by God or providence, whatever it is, prepared him and placed him at this point in time in history at a place where he was to act as Moses for his people. This was a reason all his pronouncements have always been that efforts must be made to make sure that Igbos still remain recognised within the set up and arrangement called Nigeria. He made a lot of pronouncements and also, at the same time made a lot of requests from the Igbo people. I remember that there was a meeting he called of leaders of thought. During that meeting, he said what we are asking for is not separation but what we are entitled to by being partners in the arrangement called Nigeria. He said we were being pushed with intention of pushing us out of Nigeria and this we will resist. For the first time, he was the one who clarified what we meant in my mind and conditioned my attitude during the period of warfare, in the battle field. He said they push us, we will take our stand in our own soil with our back against the wall but we will not give up what we have already created in Nigeria. He said in terms of civilised norms implanted into Nigeria, it is the Igboman alone that feels he must build a decent house not only to accommodate his family but to accommodate those in whose land, in whose territory he acquired wealth and built these things. He said the Igbo man by education, self help, both within the commercial business group and within the civil service, the entrepreneurs are the Igbos, that we can’t abandon these things but we must resist the push.
Having heard all these, one wonders why, what do we do to redress the uncalled for ferocious attack and traumatisation by the pogrom. Everybody encouraged him to go to Aburi. He went. What he came back with emboldened us to mobilise our people to wait for the onslaught of Police action when the army was unleashed on the Eastern Region as if on intruders. We tried to resist hoping that it would be just something that, well in a month or two, Nigeria would get tired; we will get back to the roundtable to discuss issues. But what we were getting back from senior civil servants that were out and envoys that we had outside telling us that this attack unleashed on us wouldn’t last long, that if they pushed any further, that there were countries within the civilised community, who will then come to our aid. So, everybody girded their loins ready to continue resisting to be pushed out so as to give time and chance for help to come. That help never came. The help that came from a few African countries and the half-hearted help from the French side seemed to be the only help that we could expect. In the meantime, through his propaganda machinery and the way he interacted with the grassroots of our people, everybody was ready to lay down their lives to defend the cause he believed in, which he made us believe in. This was the reason young students, graduates from Nsukka University, everybody was clamouring for Ojukwu, saying “Ojukwu give us guns, we will defend ourselves”. The guns were not there, those that were there were not sufficient to even equip the army, never mind giving young graduates, who didn’t know how to handle gun.
Why and how did Ojukwu declare the State of Biafra.
Ojukwu tried to avoid people thinking or saying that he masterminded pulling out of Nigeria, when after the Aburi talks and the issue to some extent was reaching us that the central government led by Gowon was making arrangement to divide Eastern Region into states. First, we didn’t understand but after looking through lawyers and people who could interpret the constitution and so on; it became clear that by virtue of the fact that there were or had always been agitation by a few minorities asking for them to be carved out as a state and so on, especially when Isaac Boro was already detained for clamouring for a statehood for his tribe. All of a sudden, we were given a date that on such and such a day, the Federal Government was going to carve up Eastern Region. Ojukwu than called a Consultative Assembly of the people, among whom were the Ika Igbos, also given a pride of place as part of the Igbo nation. Our traditional rulers from the Midwest, the Igbo speaking area attended that conference. I was privy. I was there. And around 1pm, a news flash came, what we were hearing as rumour became a reality: Eastern Region was carved out. They carved out Rivers State and South East State. So we went into the afternoon recess and by the time we came out of recess and went into afternoon session, a decision was quickly reached that we couldn’t sit back and see ourselves divided. So, we decidede that the best thing to do was that we must ask Ojukwu to declare the State of Biafra. Before that, there had been a lot of argument, here and there, over the issue of what name do we go by. So many different names and configurations were bandied about but finally we asked the group of lawyers assembled to prepare a communiqué declaring the state of Biafra. Even that meeting, Ojukwu wasn’t there, he was still in Government House. This meeting was being held within Hotel Presidential. So by the time the decision was reached, this was carried to him, we were surprised that he said No and that he would not do it. That he would not declare the state of Biafra. We thought either they didn’t teach them militarily what is meant when somebody is trying to cut you to bits. If he didn’t understand, we did. So message was sent back to him and an ultimatum was given him that if by eight O’clock that night he didn’t declare the state of Biafra, not only will we remove him, we will declare and decide who led us. Later that evening, he finally announced the state of Biafra. So, we all rejoiced that now, at least, if Nigeria continued attacking us, we now know how we are going to fight. The Eastern Region we believed was one whole entity notwithstanding the earlier announcement by Federal Government creating three states out of Eastern Region.
So this is the man Ojukwu, whom everybody is calling a secessionist. Under these circumstances, is he a secessionist? Well, I have read books on reluctant heroes. In his case, he is a reluctant seccessionist but that notwithstanding immediately after that, within the army, the Eastern Command was made up of only a few handful of officers that survived the pogrom and a few other ranks. So, the question was how do we prepare for a war we saw coming. The only thing was to ask the Eastern Command of the Nigerian Army that we have to start mobilising. And the act of mobilising brought about what the Eastern Region of Biafra used to defend themselves against the onslaught of the Nigerian Army with the sophisticated weapons they used against a purely unequipped remnants of Eastern Command of the Nigerian Army. Looking back also I ask myself and I still ask reason for the Police Action, who was the Police Action targeted upon? Was it the unarmed civilians? Or against the remnants of the Eastern Command army? Then it showed the perfidy of a government determined to carry out pogrom. Otherwise, they shouldn’t have, when a people you were chasing ran away from the field of activities to their home for safety, you still pursued them with tanks. Later day events we were hearing that we lost a place called Bakassi because to prevent us from continuing running. They made a deal with a country bordering us behind to make sure we had no way to run to, that meant that the exercise was meant for total extermination but thank God it didn’t happen. And we survived it. A lot of things went through and took place during the war. First to keep the morale of the people going, Ojukwu performed like a magician. People say, ah Okokon Ndem, Uche Chukwumerije, so many of them within the propaganda machinery; it was somebody that gave them the inspiration. Without Ojukwu they wouldn’t have risen to the occasion. The army quickly changed by creating a situation where civilians were quickly mobilised into what you called Civil Defence. It is this Civil Defenders that became the backbone of the Biafran Army and one would not forget that the Biafran Army was the Nigerian Eastern Command. Whoever was recruited there belonged to Nigeria and was part and parcel of the Nigerian Army. The strength infused in them by Ojukwu made for the staunch, gallant defence of that realm by that army. When there were shortage of arms and equipment, Ojukwu called on the Biafran educated engineers and they met and he said go and find an answer. Supposing we don’t get arms from anywhere or no money to buy since that Nigeria is changing the currency, find an answer to these equipment. We quickly formed the Research and Production (RAP). The story of what RAP I will tell at a future date, not now. BOB was created, the story of who and who happened, I will tell at a later date because I was at the helm of all these groupings, to give direction and show them what to do.
Were you in the Nigerian Army before the war?
Are you saying that Ojukwu was not interested in the Eastern Region seceding from Nigeria because many are of the opinion that his stubbornness and personality led to the war?
No! Like I said, we followed his actions from the first coup. If it wasn’t for Ojukwu and the role he played, the North would have been the battle ground because Nzeogwu was holding the North and the army firmly in his hands; and the North could have been the battle ground. But that aspect of Ojukwu’s action which favoured the people who are now saying that he caused the war, if he didn’t take the steps he did, the story would have been different. The people who should be criticising Ojukwu are the Igbos because every Igboman, including the Northerners, were happy with the situation when the first coup took place. And the role Ojukwu played, like I stated by saying that he objected to his posting as governor, that he would rather be posted to Enugu, to the East and let Ejoor go to the Midwest. Had Ojukwu not been posted there, the story of Nigeria today would have been different, we wouldn’t have a new Nigeria. And I don’t believe that any Igboman, no matter how small would agree to be part of Nigeria as a slave within the soil where he was born.
Can you suggest how Ojukwu should be immortalized?
I’m not used to issue of this nature, immortalization of people. To me, I see like Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos, I would have asked what did he do to have the airport named after him? Or the currency notes, with different pictures, different people, what exactly did these people do, what signpost do they have to show for in this conglomerate called Nigeria? Or the avenues and highways that in some states, about six states, you find the name of one person, a high street named after the person, go to another street another high street. If we continue that way, where do we go from here? So I cannot say exactly how Ojukwu should be immortalised. Nigeria knows how they immortalize their people. I will leave that to those whose job it is to do so.
How should Ojukwu be buried; as an officer of the Nigerian Army, as a General of the Biafran Army or Eze Gburugburu of Ndigbo?
Any of the caps fits him. I repeat, any of the caps fit him. But if you ask me, in everything there are always stakeholders, notwithstanding the relations which under our tradition are the first port of call for burial. By his position, he is now a public figure belonging to the Igbo race, belonging to Nigerian army, while at the same time belonging to the Nigerian civil populace. Everyone of these arms gained by the experience of coming in contact with Ojukwu. So, the burial should be such that all stakeholders should feel a sense of belonging within the process of his final interment.
Does the demise of Ojukwu signify the end of the Biafran dream?
No! Ojukwu only paved the way for the Biafran dream. The Biafran dream is the Igboman’s quest for a place in the greater Nigeria. Today, everybody is saying we want a new constitution, that we want the regions as they used to be. States are now clamouring to replace the regions or maybe zonal arrangement be like the regions but they don’t want to be in a straight jacket, where it seems as if the country is under military rule. So what one is really asking for in Biafran dream is that the Igboman will be part of Nigeria but will have equal say with every other component part. People who have tried to give a dog a bad name failed woefully. Ojukwu since he came back from exile had been consistent in the promotion of a pride of place for the Igboman, within the context of one Nigeria, that those who were still steeped in the act of the Igbos must go, just as what we clamoured about ‘Ghana must go.’ Ghana went, where is Ghana today? Ahead of Nigeria! There are people still in Nigeria who are still clamouring that the Igbos must go. These are the people that continued calling Ojukwu a secessionist, saying that Ojukwu levied a war against Nigeria instead of the other way round that Nigeria levied a war against a component part of Nigeria.
There is a fresh clamour for new states for South East zone. Should Anioma be joined with the South East to make a state or a separate state should be created for Anioma?
If you notice, part of the effort to make the Igboman a second class citizen is within a plot used in the creation of states. In the creation of states, in terms of population in Nigeria, demographically, the Igbos are more in number than any other ethnic group in this country. I am happy that these states are 36 states. Go to any of these states, outside the indigenes, the next high population there are Igbos. So you don’t need an expert demographer to be able assess the situation and know that in population, Igbos are more in number than any other ethnic group in Nigeria, that is one. Then two, when states were being created, Cross River didn’t have a population to be a state: the old Igbo territory starts from Obudu-Ogoja all the way Bansara and all those places. Then all the way to Obubra down are all Igbos of Bantu stock. They have a particular facial configuration. Then you get to Rivers State, two third of Rivers State are Igbos and Igboland. But so as to reduce the Igbos in population, deprive them of their original lands, these were carved out and given states. To the Igboman, it makes no difference because, l look at Opobo, King Jaja, he was an Igboman. All these things we know. Midwest was created through the efforts of the Igbos and Zik and the others. After the West walked out on Zik after the elections and many of the Yorubas decamped, so they decided to fight to create the Midwest region. In other words, the Midwest region was meant to be another Igbo region, that is why Osadebe became the Premier of that region. Now the war finally shot up the groupings within the basket known as Mdiwest Region. Ejoor became the Governor of the region. During the period of Aburi, one expected Ejoor and Zik to work hand –in-hand because during the progrom, in the North, they didn’t care whether you were Urhoboman, Ishekiriman, Ijawman, so long as you were from the Midwest, you are an Igboman that needed to be killed. This was the situation. But when they were going to Aburi, we the Igbos had confidence that Ejoor would be part and parcel of the programme but when the interpretation started coming, we realised that Ojukwu was standing alone and when we made a request for assistance from the Midwestern Command, the governor there did not respond. The preponderance of civil officers in the Midwest High Command were more than in any other command in Nigeria. We appealed to them and the war was moving steadily to Auchi, heading for Benin. It was obvious that none of the Igbo officers would remain alive if that machinery of war met them there. The rest you had to exercise your imagination, even though at the end of the war, Nigeria accused those officers of treachery.
That notwithstanding, you asked should there be more states, state to Anioma and state to the East. My answer is No! You see, the people that created the states always have an ace under their sleeves. They created six six states, the one that could have balanced these six states they gave one extra to a zone in the North making it seven states, only one zone with seven states while disenfranchising the Igbos by removing them from six states to five states. The only thing that can be done is take Anioma and give to the South East making them six states. And for equalisation, if need be, to avoid that one state skewed the table of states in each zone, give one one more states to the six zones that didn’t have so that each has seven seven states. Anioma is an Igbo state.
Source: Daily Champion, 10th December 2011.
He loved beautiful women and cars – Cousin, Udemefuna
By IJEOMA ONUORAH, Nnewi
The family of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu may have common traits that have trailed the family from history. They are known warriors and also given to polygamy.
According to Chief Anthony Nnadozie Udemefuna Ojukwu, 73-year-old Ikemba Nnewi’s first cousin, there’s a tradition of multiple wives in the family, which he said have produced acknowledged warriors and warlords.
In this interview, held at the Ojukwu family compound, Udemefuna, shared his boyhood experiences in the house of Ojukwu’s father, where he and the Ikemba grew up as little boys.
Could you tell us about your growing up with Ojukwu?
I grew up in the house of Sir Louis Philip Ojukwu, starting from when I was eight years old. Even though we were boys then, Emeka was older than me with five years, and then he was about 13. When I got to Lagos, in 1947, he was already in class three in Kings College, Lagos. That was when he left for Eton College, London and Oxford University. As far as our family is concerned, we two were the ones closer in age.
What type of child was Ojukwu?
When he was in school, his father, popularly known as LP, wanted him to read law, but he chose to read Public Administration and History. When he came back, he became the first Nigerian District Officer. His father told me this when I was living with him in the house. Also, when he went into the army, he did that on his own. He never sought the consent of his father. He did it himself and presented us with his fait accompli. It was a bit sensational then, because he already was a graduate of Oxford University, and a D. O. when he joined the army as a recruit, shunning the officers’ cadre.
What would you say about Ojukwu’s wives?
Ojukwu married four wives in all, but he was married to each of them one at a time. He married early. You know he was a young rich and handsome man, with a lot of prospects.
Could you tell of about his wives?
His first wife was Elizabeth Okoli from ‘Nnukwu Awka’ (in Awka town) in Anambra State. She was a senior Nursing Sister, by profession. They got married between 1956 and 1958. Her father was the first Nigerian Post-Master General we had in Nigeria. He wedded her in court when he was a D.O., and they lived slightly at Udi, slightly at Enugu and largely at Aba. After some time, the fortunes of the marriage dwindled, maybe because she did not have a baby; so they divorced. I was in class two or three in secondary school then. The marriage lasted for about two or three years, but I cannot pin down the real cause of the divorce. Elizabeth later married one Dr. Onuorah, whom she had children with.
Emeka’s second wife was Njideka, daughter of the once famous C.T. Onyekwelu from Nawfia, Anambra State. She had earlier been married to one Dr. Menz, maybe of Sierra-Leonean origins. His mother, Elina-Nwamama, was very popular then in Onitsha. Njideka had a set of twins for Dr Menz, a boy and a girl, before they quarrelled and separated. I wouldn’t say if they divorced formally, but they discontinued the co-habitation. So, Emeka married her in 1964 and she had Emeka Jnr, Mimi and Okigbo for him. They had a traditional and statutory marriage in court.
They had what we call ordinance wedding then and the reception was in our house, Eastern House in Lagos. He was married to her when he was the 5th Battalion Commander till he was appointed the governor of Eastern Region and during the war, before they moved to Cote d’Ivoire. It was there, maybe because of domestic of political interplay, that she moved out to London.
Emeka now became engaged to Stella Onyeador from Arochukwu in Abia State, who was Njideka’s chief bridesmaid during her wedding and my classmate in the university at Enugu Campus of University of Nigeria. She’s a lawyer by profession and moved to Cote d’Ivoire to join Emeka where he lived. She later came back to Nigeria with him in 1982. He asked us to perform the traditional rites at her father’s compound. If they did court marriage over there, I wouldn’t know. I will only tell you the things that I can swear for in court. They later quarrelled and even went to court because they were fighting for the custody of a girl-child they adopted while in Cote d’Ivoire. Emeka was eventually awarded custody and ownership of the baby because the court said that under French law, a woman is not eligible to adopt babies, which was the case then in Cote d’Ivoire. They eventually separated. She died last year.
When Stella left the picture, Bianca came, in 1989. But when Bianca was hustling with other girls to enter, Stella was still with Emeka. She was then in stiff completion with former Governor Sam Mbakwe’s daughter, one Barrister Onwuelo’s daughter from Nnewi here and another beautiful girl, who I can’t recollect her name. They were four at the time and mostly had pedigree. They were all graduates of law. Eventually, Bianca won with beauty and brains too. They had a wedding in the Catholic Church, though you know that there’s no way you can wed in the church without a certificate from the court. She was the only one he wedded in both cases. She has a set of twins for Emeka, and another boy too.
We understand that Ojukwu loved beautiful things. Are you aware of this?
You can never know the attraction of a beautiful woman to a handsome man, like Emeka and vice versa. It is a woman that knows her reasons for marring a man. Look at Bianca. What she wanted in a man might be very different from what Njideka or Stella wanted. But what I want to assure you is that these four women were alike. They were all beautiful women. Emeka loved beautiful things and beautiful cars. He was a man of courage and handsome, which was an irresistible combination.
What would you say about his civil war actions? Where would you say he inherited this courage?
You know that Ezeubom, our great-grand father, was a warlord of Nnewi. He was the second warrior of Umudim Quarter of Nnewi; there are just two in the quarter those days and of the same blood. He married many wives then, as a symbol of his strength and as a farmer too. He had four sons, of which Ojukwu-Ezeokigbo was one of them. Ojukwu-Ezeokigbo, our grandfather, married 32 wives, of which 24 survived him, while eight died before him. Out of these 24, 16 were big women, while eight were just damsels, either growing into maturity or just getting into puberty. They were mostly placed in the kitchens of the big ones to learn how to become mothers.
Then, Sir Loius-Phillip, his father, married five wives. The difference between LP and Emeka, his son is that while he lived together with his wives, with the exception of the first who was divorced from him and that was the one he inherited from the dad, the rest lived with him till his death. Emeka lived with his own wives one at a time. He never had cumulative four wives, unlike his dad. I can tell you that out of the five sons of Ojukwu-Ezeokigbo, none married less than three wives, including my own father. Even the first son married as nearly as Ezeokigbo, his dad.
But these days, we just move along with one wife. Emeka married one at a time because that was his own idiosyncrasy. His siblings married one wife each. Now, education has changed a lot of things; it’s more difficult to keep pace with one wife, let alone two.
Source: Sun, 10th December 2011.
Name P/Harcourt Airport, 2nd Niger Bridge after Ojukwu, FG Told
The Federal Government has been urged to name the Port Harcourt International Airport and the proposed second Niger Bridge after late statesman, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Giving the advice in a statement, eminent industrialist and Okpuzu of Abiriba, Chief Onwuka Kalu, said: "There are many ways to immortalise a man of Ojukwu’s stature. One of the many ways would be to place the building of the second Niger Bridge on the top priority list of the Federal Government and naming the bridge after him."
Kalu, who is a former governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Abia State, also advised the Federal Government to name a significant monument such as the Port Harcourt Airport after Ojukwu who was the governor of the former eastern region, which Port Harcourt was a major part of. This will be a true testimony to the 'no victor, no vanquished' policy of the Federal Government.
"An annual lecture in honour of Ikemba will also be necessary because it would afford present and future generations an annual opportunity to review the events leading to and during the civil war and draw lessons from it and learn how to avoid a reoccurrence," said Onwuka Kalu, who is popularly known as Okpuzu of Abiriba.
The APGA chieftain said he wasn’t making the suggestion because Ojukwu was the national leader of his party but because of whom the Ikemba was and what he represented.
"Ojukwu was not only a hero who was loved by millions for the role he played to save the easterners from genocidal extermination but he was also an incorruptible conscience of the nation who spent much of his adult life seeking the evolution of a better Nigeria. As many commentators have already pointed out, his death truly marks the end of an era," Kalu said.
Source: Daily Champion, 9th December 2011.
Like the Phoenix
Ojukwu’ll rise again –Debe, eldest son
By Chidi Obineche
Debe Sylvester Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the late Ikemba’s eldest son is precisely a chip of the old block. He cuts in a special way, the split image of his father-the eye popping, gesticulations, mannerisms, voice modulation, physiognomy, charisma, shining brilliance, a clone, in self admittance. Debe, lawyer by profession sits atop the legendary family business empire in Lagos. In this interview with Daily Sun, he speaks with deep fond memories of his late father, his love for his people, his interests lifestyle and the things that propelled him.
His death, in his view is not the end of an era, since “It is something that runs in the family. His own grandfather, Ojukwu Ezeigbo was a great warrior. The history did not start with him. It will not end with him.”
He reveals nostalgically that his late father deliberately chose the business name of Phoenix, a mythical bird of the desert which lives long and on its death burns and from the ashes, another emerges. He speaks more on the vintage Dim, philosophy, and how he’ll be remembered.
First of all, condolences on the death of your father. What are the things you will remember him for?
At times like this, you need the co-operation and sympathy of all, to be able to move yourself through these difficult times. What is instructive about my late father is his humility. His simplicity. His compassionate love. It was from him that first and foremost, I learnt the basic lesson that if you want to be loved, the only way to get it is to exude compassionate love.
Tell Nigerians about yourself.
There is really nothing much to say. I am Chief Debe Sylvester Odumegwu-Ojukwu. I am a lawyer by profession. The first child and son of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Growing up, how was it under your father’s tutelage?
I was born when he was an assistant district officer. His life spanned from the native authority, the civil service to the Army and back to politics. So then, in his growing years, when he was developing himself, he was not much around. By influence I was so much with my mother.
What is the name of your mother?
My mother’s name is Margaret. She died Mrs. Margaret Ugbogu, having remarried after they parted. From Iwororie.
She is dead now?
She is dead.
She died in what year?
She died three years ago, in 2008.
Only three years ago. At what age?
At the age of 70.
What have you been able to learn from the life of your father who many see as a hero?
It still goes down to my opening answer. The love. Initially I was befuddled as to why the out pouring of love to him by the Igbo. If you check the history of civil wars, there is hardly any leader of a civil war who came back alive. Robert lee of USA was killed after the American civil war. But he fought the war. Left Nigeria. Stayed out of Nigeria for almost thirteen years. Came back and his people still received him.
Ojukwu, Ikemba, the icon left a lot of foot prints in the sands of time. If you were to ask for a realignment of his life. Would you still believe he should fight another war.
My father did not fight a war. My father was dragged into a war. He was dragged into a war, because of the pogrom of his people in certain parts of Nigeria. He had the opportunity to move over like others did to Britain, where he had spent about ten years.
Where he knew like the back of his palm. He had the opportunity of going to Oxford as a lecturer, or even translocating to any of the Ivyleague Universities in the world. With his academic background, he would have well fitted out as an academic. But he chose, in the face of daunting problems, not to abandon his people. That is something that is very worthy of emulation. So, I will not agree that he fought a war. He was dragged into a war. And I believe that if he were to reincarnate and the same conditions present themselves, knowing him the way I do, he will react the same way.
The only way to prevent him from being involved in a war is not to drag him into the war. It is not to be mean or oppressive to the poor people of the world. Once there is injustice, he rises to the occasion. It is not only him. It is something that runs in the family. His own grand-father, Ojukwu-Ezeigbo was a great warrior. The history did not start with him. It will not end with him. To understand him properly, you need to do retrospection and read the history of the Ojukwu family. What he did; in the nuclear family, we are never surprised by that. Because that is the way we are.
When was the last time you spoke with him, and can you recollect what he told you. Were there any special things he told you before he became sick and eventually died.
There are many things.
Can you recollect one or two of the remarkable things?
There are many of them, starting from many years ago till now. He had always wanted to make me his footstool. He had always wanted to see me always by his side. But I am always telling him, “I am your clone. So, I don’t need to learn from you”. We think alike. We behave alike. In fact, before he starts doing a thing, the only way I understand it is that I transport myself into the situation he finds himself. And in most cases, I will come to the conclusion, that I will almost do the same.
I sat down with him one day, we were discussing, I said “what will you do if you were sitting with your friend and you suddenly bend over, then on raising your head, you found out that your friend has aimed a blow at the particular spot where your head was before you bent over, then you turned and looked at your friend and he said sorry?” My father told me that he would give him a safe berth. Give him a very wide berth. “Why would you do that?” He said perhaps the only reason why he told him sorry was because his head was not off (general laughter).
Then again in Yamossokouro in Cote D’ivore, he told me one day. He had a company, and his company name was Phenix Africa. I was curious. He said Phenix in French meant a paragon. You know Phoenix is a mythical bird of the desert. It lives for a long time, but when it is about to die, it burns. When it burns, the ashes descend. Like in a supernova, another Phoenix emerges.
I have always related with him in parables. I never allowed him to tell me all his mind. But from the snippets of proverbs and things he says, he tells me deep things, I infer what he thinks about things. That is why when I discuss with him, I tell him we relate more spiritually than physically. He told me that death is nothing, that death is for the living and not for the dead. That the dead hardly knew what you are doing for them. That if he were the one lying down and his family, friends, waste time, fret in committing him to mother earth, he might start bursting from the stomach. And every basic rudimentary student of biology knows that that is where the worms come from. He once told me that. That was when I realised that this is a man that doesn’t attach too much importance to anything material.
Let’s come over to the family side; the Ojukwu family is like a dynasty. There are about three or four trees back in the ages. Your father was not the first son, I want to believe. But he is the well recognised son of the Ojukwu dynasty. Did he leave behind any will?
Well the issue of will is not for people to speculate on. As a lawyer, I know the procedure on wills. The lawyer who writes a will hardly divulges anything on the will. It is when they have done total burial, and everything that anybody who is in custody of anything will arrange to have it read. I am not speculating about it. I am not interested.
Actually, there was a day he was writing one, with his lawyer. He asked me to come and sit, I said no, not on your life. He said why? I said I don’t know if I am a beneficiary and I don’t want to know. And the rule in the writing of will is that the beneficiary should not be there and should not know what was written. But I knew what he was doing. In his magnanimity, I don’t know why he said I should come and sit. Even though I know the lawyer who wrote it, I am hardly on talking terms with him.
There is another son of his who is well known, in fact many Nigerians have come to believe that he is the first son. Why is it so? Why is the family not properly organised to bring up somebody that should act as the first son?
Well, in the history book we were reading before, there was this story of the six wise men, six of them went to see the elephant. One touched the trunk and said “oh my God, it is like a wall. “Another one touched the trumpet and said the elephant is like a trumpet. My father is very big.
Ideally, you should not be talking about two sons, but many sons in many facets of society. What determines the first son is age. Nothing more. Nothing less. Here and now, I tell you, he is my junior brother and he is Ojukwu’s son. Because when you put two of us side by side, I am senior. If he goes about claiming first son, all well and good. We might even go towards the burial and another son comes, who is older than me, what do I do? Will I still say I am the first son?
That is the way, it is. In man’s affairs, until it ends, you cannot really put a finger about what is going on.
You are talking about the will, the will might come out and all of us-even myself may not be there. He might be groping in the political world. Some people might say I am groping in the business world. We might go to read the will and somebody else emerges. If that person is older than me, I will be very foolish to say I am the first son. Because first son by Igbo culture is determined by age. It is not determined by clamour. It is not a political appointment.
You are older than him by how many years.
I think by eight years. I was born on third of August, 1956. He (Ikemba) was ADO (Assistant District Officer) in Udi in 1955.
Talking about burial rites, Nnewi people, the other day said they were not aware he is dead. I guess they were speaking in parables. What is the family doing about that?
All those things will be taken care of. When I learnt of his exit, I did what I felt was the natural thing, which was to touch the land where he left, because the last time I was in England, he was alive. We prayed together and he even concurred amen. We had even felt that he had turned the bend. What happened on the 26th could be aptly described as an anti-climax. So the natural thing to do is not to speculate or sit in Nigeria or read newspapers. It is to go back to that place in London and confirm if that is the exact position of things. I did on the 28th and came back last Saturday.
Have you informed your “umunna” formally?
I will be leaving for Nnewi tomorrow Wednesday. Apart from the Umunna, there are many people. The president of Nigeria, we have not involved him.
Anambra state governor has informed him.
Anambra state government is not the nuclear family of Dim Chukwuemneka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Even if the state governor goes there 20 times, the nuclear family must make a move to tell this people. He has friends everywhere, those friends, the ones we can have access to, and we will let them know.
Are you satisfied with the arrangement so far put in place by the Southeast governors for his burial, especially with the conclusion that most of the rites will be done in Enugu not Nnewi.
Thank you for your question. I like that question so much. Arrangement for his burial. And not arrangement for his being cast away. It is the arrangement for his burial, putting him inside the ground, which is what should happen to any mortal. As long as any arrangement is geared towards peacefully putting him into his final place, I am in support of it.
It is alien to Igbo culture that somebody comes to give you a helping hand and you push them away. All of them, everybody, I doff my hat for them. I congratulate them. I thank them for their various efforts. It goes back to the example I gave. Some people see him as a man who should be buried in Enugu. Some see him as a man who should be buried in Nnewi. But we have to accommodate all those things provided he is peacefully buried.
I was telling somebody even if the coffin, the cottage is carrying him, you know when a cottage is going to the grave, one side is lower and the other side upper. So when he is going down into the grave and somebody there suddenly starts somersaulting in front of the cottage, I will advice that we exercise patience and as soon as he finishes summersulting, we will continue on the journey until he rests finally.
What is your relationship with the wife, Bianca?
I will say cordial.
Are you carrying her along in the burial rites?
She should be carried along. There is no problem about that. She is back from England and there is no question of being carried along. The family is very much together, there are no perceived problems.
Traditionally have you been able to inform her family and the family of your mother?
I have informed the family of my mother which is my own responsibility, because I am their grandson. I have informed them. When she comes back she’ll do hers. Informing in-laws can never be done in isolation. You will do it with the directly affected person.
What role did you play during the civil war in the fight against Nigeria?
Then I was a small boy. Then like every person my age will tell you, we all joined what was called Boys Company. I was in the Boys Company and I played my role very well. I was moving with most of the commanders like Onwuatuegwu, Egbiko and the rest of them. Major Egbiko was the head of the Biafran Artillery. Onwuatuegwu was an infantry soldier who proved his worth on the field. Their bravery at war inspired me a lot.
How many children does your father have?
In African tradition, we don’t count children (laughter). And he is a chief. Not only that he is a chief, he has graduated to being a Dim. When he was alive, if you call him a chief, he will be annoyed with you. There are two inflexions that I have always known that he hated. That is chief and power. During the war they were calling him “power”. When he moves, people will be screaming power, power, power. Suddenly he said he doesn’t like that. That at times you might be misled into believing that they were praising you, but actually they are calling you powder, powder, powder. Then the other one is chief. That somebody will be hailing you chief, but you will not know that the person is actually saying thief.
Talking about his political life, when he returned to the country, he forayed into politics which actually cost him some friends. How do you look at that? What prompted him into moving head on into politics?
Well, I think it is his appreciation of the situation. Remember he was a head of state and he knew at what level, he left his people. And he knew where he wanted his people to be. We might be seeing it that we have been fully integrated into Nigeria. But to him, he might be seeing some lacuna, which was not too obvious. So, I believe that his instant foray into politics was a way of acting as a veritable engine, of taking his people back into the centre or the mainstream of Nigerian politics.
But he never won any elective position until he died in spite of several attempts. Are you satisfied with his journey in politics?
Journey in politics. Trajectory in politics. Movement in politics. The way I see it is like the common mammy wagon, an ordinary bole kaja in Yoruba, or some people call them tuketuke, some of them they ply the road and they have a simple maxim. They say “no venture, no success.” He tried his bit. We all know that the results were written. We all know that the results were manipulated. For one reason or the other, in law they tell us that intention is not capable of positive proof, but can only be inferred by overt act. He had the intention of taking his people into the mainstream of Nigerian politics. Some people may have misconstrued it and felt that maybe he was trying to garner or engineer another so called civil war. And for that, they went all out to make sure that he didn’t get there. But something surprisingly happened.
And what was that?
The last convocation we have in this country was the constitutional conference. And he participated in it. And everybody who attended attested to the fact that he was a stirring member of that Assembly. And that Assembly was the one that gave us six geopolitical zones which we are all clinging to today.
If somebody could be perceived rightly or wrongly as enemy of Nigeria, yet he was a member of an august Assembly that fashioned a near panacea to the problems we have in this country, I don’t know why people will think twice about giving him his deserved honour.
From a son’s eyes, do you think he died a fulfilled man?
I believe he did. I will throw myself back to the bible. The bible says God gave us seventy –three scores and ten. Anything beyond is an addition by the grace of God. He died 22 days into his seventy- ninth year on earth.
What about his dreams. Maybe he was not fulfilled.
He had children. He had grand children by the grace of God. About his dreams, dreams are in a continuum. Nobody conceives an idea and carries it to the very end. He had his dreams and those dreams are still ongoing. A dream for an egalitarian society-a society where the rich and the poor will be the same under the law. He tried his best to fashion it out the way he deemed fit. If Nigeria had not attained that status due to certain problems here and there, it is not his fault. But he has set the ball rolling.
I am very happy today; the youths are imbibing that culture. And that is reflective in the outpouring of sentiments since he left us.
If you were to live your life again, what would you adopt from him?
He is very special to me. There is one thing he does to me which nobody has ever done. People meet me; they believe that I know it all. People sit with me they don’t correct me. He is the only person that sits down and corrects me. He would correct me. That is why in most of my write ups, I call him my teacher. He doesn’t spare me. You see when you don’t spare somebody, it is out of love. Because he knows that one day, he will leave me to the larger society. He would be engrossed, busy with an assignment, even publicly. And if there is anything I do wrong, he will leave that thing he is doing and make sure he corrects me. That is one thing I enjoy about him. He does this everywhere, any time.
Finally, how do you say good bye to your father
I can’t say goodbye to him because he will always be a part of me.
Even in death?
Yes. He will always be a part of me.
Spiritually, he relates with me. He had made up his mind that he will not leave me alone. So, it is not even possible that I will say goodbye to him. The only thing I will say is that he has been a wonderful father. A very compassionate loving father. The only thing that I can do for him is to make him a pledge and the pledge is that what he was doing, his ideas, I will defend with the last pint of my blood. That is the only way I can feel happy. That was why I told you I cannot say good bye to him. I told you at the beginning of the interview that I am his clone. I am reiterating it in another form by telling you that his ideas I will defend with the last pint of my blood. That was why when he told me about Phoenix, I didn’t know whether he was referring to me. But I determined I will not be visible while he was on the stage. And I thank God that I did that.
Most of the people that knew me in the university will perhaps believe that I will have burst into the political firmament. But, surprisingly because the big masquerade was on stage, I deferred to him that is his promise and I believe it would come to pass. That is his promise. I wrote him once and I said as an avatar. When he was launching his book, my father, wonderful man, he invited me as a special guest. I said what? I should be there serving your friends? Sitting by him was Alhaji Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano. He invited Obasanjo, who was represented by his son. On that particular day, coincidentally, I was being conferred with an honorary doctorate degree and I went to receive it, and I penned him my apology. The apology was read by the now chairman of APGA, Victor Umeh. And everybody knew what happened when the apology was read.
I wasn’t there. You will go back and ask those who were there, the reaction he had with Ado Bayero.
But you heard what happened.
I heard but it is not for me to tell. In law hearsay evidence is never admissible. In law, preference is given to direct evidence. If I am telling you now it will be hearsay evidence. Which I wouldn’t want to be involved in.
Source: Sun, 9th December 2011.
Ojukwu: The hero of Nigeria’s minorities
Okey C. Iheduru
General Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu died penultimate Saturday in London at age 78, after almost a year’s battle with stroke. Condolences and reminiscences have continued to pour in like August rains. Unfortunately, some of the messages are downright insulting to the person of Ojukwu and the cause for which he gave everything he had so selflessly. He was clearly ahead of his generation in figuring out ‘where the rain began to beat us.’
More astonishing has been the silent voice of Nigeria’s ethnic minorities and their identity brokers, especially in the present day South-South geopolitical zone. Ironically, these minorities are the real beneficiaries of the fallout from Ojukwu’s tragic but patriotic and indefatigable fight for equity, justice and peaceful co-existence in Nigeria and the ill-fated Republic of Biafra.
Without Ojukwu and Biafra, it would have taken much longer, if at all, for most ethnic minorities to be ‘liberated’ from the clutches of the Big Three—the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, years after their petitions to the Sir Henry Willinks Minorities Commission of 1955. The 12 states created by General Yakubu Gowon in 1967 was not about justice, but a cynical ploy to set the minorities against Ojukwu and Biafra. What Isaac Adaka Boro tried to achieve in 12 days but failed miserably in 1966, minorities now got by fiat as Rivers and Southeastern/Cross River states, later joined by Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa. Minorities in Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Adamawa, Gongola, and Niger states, etc., similarly gained.
The saddest irony, of course, is that each erstwhile minority has spawned its own marginalized minorities chanting the ‘liberation’ chorus. Ojukwu would have egged every one of them on, because, like the French philosopher Voltaire, he would rather die than see any Nigerian suffer injustice because of their inherited identities. Yet, there are no eulogies or dirges for the arrow of god that made possible the status and power that Nigerian ethnic minorities bask in today.
Few Nigerians, including me, can write about Ojukwu and Biafra with neutrality. I saw Ojukwu for the first time, probably in 1969, when an uncle whom we called ‘Radio Biafra’ announced that ‘the People’s General’ would be passing through our home town on his way back from ‘wiping out the vandals’ at the Umuahia sector.
We trooped to the old Umuahia-Okigwe-Orlu road in Mbeke in today’s Isiala-Mbano in Imo State, and sure enough after about two hours, the hitherto mythical Ojukwu stopped his convoy, stepped out of his car, waved, bowed and jumped right back in as the convoy sped off. I was charmed; I wanted to wear that camouflage of his with the brightest half of a yellow sun, but I was too young, not even eligible for the Boys’ Company which had just been disbanded.
Although it was joyous to see my 21-year old brother back from the war front at Aguleri, near Awka, I was totally unprepared for the events of January 12, 1970. I ran to the local hospital, amidst a large jubilant crowd. There I saw looters overturn wounded Biafran soldiers and carry away their beds. A lad about my age stepped on a dead man to pluck an unripe pawpaw fruit. The man had been killed a few hours earlier by the ‘vandals’ for refusing to remove his ‘Ojukwu soldier’ uniform. A group of boys, some younger than me, surrounded a middle-aged woman as she picked up rice granules that had been scattered in the sand in a fierce scuffle by looters. Her yellowed plastic sheeting ‘wrapper’ was no barrier for her genitals which displayed so brazenly as she bent down, unperturbed by the movie she was so generously showing the boys.
Saddened by what I had just witnessed, I went straight to the bunker in the centre of the hospital and picked up a trampled Biafran army fez cap and three bullets from the mountain of bullets strewn all around, and headed home. How could Ojukwu and Biafra be defeated?
The shock on my father’s face upon sighting me in my Biafran outfit was indescribable. Before he could open his mouth I had thrown the cap and the bullets into the bush near our house and disappeared. Two months later, three loud explosions sounded from that very bush just as my mother was walking into the kitchen. She had just cleared and set the brush on fire in preparation for the first rains of the year. Today, my family will learn, for the very first time, that my three choice bullets could have killed my mother, instead of ‘the vandals.’
On 13 January 1970, Mom earned the family’s first one Nigerian shilling from selling fuel wood to the ‘vandals’ who had now occupied our home town. My father survived the war, but never fully recovered from the untold humiliations, losses and disappointment until his death at 60 in 1974. Mother outlived him by 33 years!
In his eulogy last week, General Gowon stated that Ojukwu should not have led ‘his people’ to secede from Nigeria. I hope that when Gowon meets his creator, like Ojukwu, he will tell God why little kids like me had to experience the horrors and the trauma of a war he started and could have stopped much earlier. My generation has since moved on with remarkable success, as Ojukwu told us to do upon his return in 1982, but I doubt if our contemporaries who today are now powerful minorities in Nigeria can relate to the horrific events I’ve described above. If not, why are they not thanking Ojukwu and Biafra?
Source: Business Day, 8th December 2011.
‘Immortalise Ojukwu by stamping out injustice’
By HENRY UMAHI
Lagos lawyer and public affairs analyst, Sir Chukwuanugo Ejikeme has called for the reinvention of the country as a last respect to late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. According to him, the best way to immotalise the fallen hero is to entrench equity, justice and fair play in the spolity.
He also urged President Goodluck Jonathan to stop playing Russian roulette with the wellbeing of Nigerians as they have been pushed to the wall to a breaking point. He opined that any attempt to withdraw the subsidy on petroleum products, if any, at this point in time will not augur well for the country. He added that revolution may not be far away if the paradox of a rich country with poor citizentry abides.
Maintaining that the tranformation agenda of the present administration will be meaningless without solid infrastructure, Ejikeme regretted that in spite of the nation’s stupendous riches there is little or nothing to cheer in terms social amenities.
The man Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu
Whether you like the role Ojukwu played in the history of Nigeria or not, he was, indeed, a remarkable fellow. He was a special breed whose ideals cannot be washed away by the ocean of time. His desire was a Nigeria of equal treatment and opportunities. The passage of Ojukwu is the end of an era and one hopes that lessons have been learnt from the mistakes of the past.
The proposed withdrawal of fuel subsidy?
I wouldn’t want to say that I am completely against it or that I like the idea. However, my worry about this country is that our leaders have never, in execution, carried out what they have told us in the past. If what they mean by oil subsidy is allowing market forces to operate wherein individual oil companies buy and sell, that is removing the money they put and probably transferring the money into development of infrastructure, then it is good. But we know that they will definitely not implement it. By the way things are going in this country, they are simply trying to put more money into their pockets.
When you remove subsidy, initially, Nigerians will suffer because the price per litre will go up to N300, but with time, many companies will come and start refining crude oil because they would have made the industry attractive and, invariably, the price will come down. But my worry and that of many people I have come across is that government has never been sincere. They tell you they will remove subsidy and probably use the money to develop infrastructure, but we don’t believe them. To that extent, I will say that they should leave the subsidy for now because removing it will be adding more troubles to already impoverished Nigerians. If you walk the streets of Nigeria, you will see how poor Nigerians are.
It’s only that we can endure hardship. We are not like people from North Africa, or people from other parts of the world. Nigeria is the only country where if you go to the fuel station every evening, you will see women, men and children queuing up to buy fuel with kegs to power their generators at home. Nobody seems to be worried; it is like that has become the norm. So, you can see how we accept, tolerate and endure hardship.
These are things you don’t see in other developed countries of the world. What I am saying in effect is that if our leaders can stick to their words, it will be a good thing to Nigerians in the long run but because of the kind of leaders we have, subsidy should not be removed at least for now. If you ask me I will tell you that the present administration is not fighting corruption; they are more in the newspaper pages. Corruption is not being fought headlong and to that extent, nothing has changed. It is the same old story.
I believe you are talking about the Boko Haram. Actually, the insurgence of the sect and the killings and destruction of property all over the northern parts of Nigeria is a bad omen. Lets go back to the era of militancy in the Niger Delta. Looking at what happened in the Niger Delta, they appeared to have fought a good cause, which was agitating to benefit from what God gave them as natural resources. Though somewhere along the line, some criminal elements came in but, generally, the idea made benefit from what they have.
But the Boko Haram appears to be a bit confusing. I really don’t know how to place them because I don’t know what they want. They said that they want to islamize the north, that they don’t like western education. But there are schools of thoughts that have said it is not that they don’t like western education but they want the northern part of Nigeria to be an Islamic zone. To that extent, if that is what they stand for, the way they go about it is inconsistent; there is no relationship.
If you want a state to practice Islam, you preach Islam to those who profess other religions. We are trying to make Nigeria one of these Middle-East countries where terrorism is prevalent; people are killed at the drop of a hat just to pass a message. You know that majority of people in the northern Nigeria are Muslims and they use of force is their natural way of expressing themselves. So, if you are question is: The way people are being killed by the action of the Boko Haram Islamic sect in the north; is it not trying to make Nigeria an unsafe state? Yes, it is trying to drive away our foreign investors because people are afraid to stay in the north.
There is fear in the mind of the people. In that sense, I will say there is a problem. And the security agencies in Nigeria are not living up to expectations. A few days ago, there was a kind of revelation whereby Senator Ali Ndume was alleged to be sponsoring the Boko Haram.
This is the most dangerous dimension and from the revelation of the sect’s spokesman to the SSS, it is obvious that Boko Haram is clearly for politics. It is alleged to have emanated from the former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sherrif. In his confessional statement, the Boko Haram spokesman said that Ndume gave them telephone numbers of his political enemies.
Source: Sun, 7th December 2011.
Honour Ojukwu with another state in S’East -Okorocha
By GEOFFREY ANYANWU, Awka
Imo State Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha has urged the Federal Government to immortalize Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu with additional state for the South-East to bring the zone at par with others.
Speaking while opening a condolence register in the state for the Ikemba Nnewi at the Heroes Square, Owerri, Gov. Okorocha maintained that the additional state is long overdue as it remained the only zone that has only five states.
The governor also urged the Federal Government to address the issues of marginalization and neglect of Ndigbo which the late Igbo leader clamoured for until death.
Governor Okorocha extolled Ikemba Ojukwu’s quality leadership, principles, initiatives and love for Ndigbo, pointing out that he lived a selfless life that represented the interest of an ordinary Igbo man in all his earthly endeavours.
He explained that the condolence registers will enable Imo people express their feelings over the death of their great leader whose exit has kept the entire state in sorrow.
The governor expressed optimism that Ojukwu’s death has marked the end of civil war in Nigeria and further urged Igbos to seize the mourning period for reconciliation with one another for peace and unity to reign in the region.
Gov. Okorocha regretted that the Ikemba did not live to witness the completion of Heroes Square and Ikemba Ojukwu Centre that were built in his honour by the state government.
In his remarks, the Deputy Governor, Sir. Jude Agbaso hoped that the late Ikemba left behind a brother in the person of Gov. Okorocha, who shares the same selfless service to common Igbo man. “There is no vacuum in vision pursuit, freedom does not die”, the Deputy Governor added.
The Bishop of Zion Church of United States of America (USA), Bishop Samuel Ekemam, urged Igbos to console themselves, adding that Ojukwu did not die in vain but left behind legacies that shall continue to speak for him.
Also speaking, the state Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Cletus Nwaka, lamented that the party lost its Chairman, Board of Trustees, when the party has taken leadership position among all other political parties in the South East.
Chief Nwaka said that Igbos has confidence in Governor Okorocha and urged him not to let Igbos and party down.
Source: Sun, 7th December 2011.
Ojukwu: Any phoenix amongst Igbo politicians?
By NNEDI OGAZIECHI
In the death of Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu, the moon has merely set, it has not died, the sun and moon merely set, they do not die! The moon illuminates an otherwise dark firmament. It attempts to ‘expose’ what the darkness would provide cover for.
Dim Ojukwu might not have the divine powers of a risen Jesus but his human diligence at making his mark imbues him with the legendary space in the human hall of fame reserved for only those with the will to make a positive difference for humanity irrespective of colour, creed, gender and race.
In Nigeria, a death of any politically or economically visible person provides a needed platform for most people to hug the headlines. With the death of the great Ojukwu, tributes have been pouring in from all corners of the earth. It has been quite interesting reading all the tributes so far. It has been a pot pourri of comments, accolades and ‘I follow talk’ diatribes by some who want to seize the political moment provided by the demise of the Ikemba Nnewi.
However, no matter how individuals wish that history must be written according to their wishes, it is an eternal truth that writers of history do not sit in a common classroom. From one end of the earth to another, human actions and inactions especially by the politically visible are documented in ways that generations are able to read and make up their minds.
The man, Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu having gone the way of all mortals is not presently in a situation to either commend or condemn any comment about his person or character as a person whose life odyssey has been on the public space owing to his parentage, learning, profession or even professional choices.
It is therefore very interesting to observe that people are falling over themselves to pay tribute to the late Ikemba. Curiously, some of the comments have been brazenly laced with mischievous innuendoes, some are coming from people who derided him when he was alive and saw him as a villain.
The man, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu to many people was a synonym for the Nigeria-Biafran war that lasted for about thirty months leaving in its wake deaths and destruction. He has been derogatorily referred to as a war lord. But when a man is fighting for justice and equity, he cares little about the semantic implications of the titles he is given.
The man Ojukwu like all other heroes in history seem to have been a victim of jaundiced political interpretations by people who feel that they have a superior sense of judgement when it comes to the human quest for justice and equity.
The fact that he read, History at the prestigious Oxford university ought to be instructive to his often self conceited critics. It is not in doubt that his course choice wa deliberate and well thought out. In reading the course, he must have been well educated on world history and development, human roles in national growth across the world and the value of intellectual input in the growth of individual nations.
The man’s courage, education and eloquence always came in handy in defence of the choices he made in life. His sense of commitment to the causes he believed in was evident in the choices he made even before he became a teenager. The story of how he slapped a British colonial teacher who humiliated a Nigerian woman at King’s College at age eleven speaks eloquently about when his pursuit of freedom and justice took roots.
His reaction at the time might have been rated a juvenile sense of justice but then, the morning shows the day. It is therefore laughable that some commentators about the life and times of an Ojukwu would have the effrontery to accuse him of going into the army in pursuit of political power.
He did not pursue power for its own sake as we have with most politicians especially of the ‘Abuja’ hue. His background already predisposed him to privileges but he looked beyond himself. Unlike what we have today, he like the Mandelas, the Martin-Luther’s, the Ghandis etc. made suicidal choices on behalf of the voiceless with the voice the had in abundance.
His path is not often taken by most politicians who strut the turf feigning to be leaders. They are more objects of disunity as against the protective streak that ran through the veins of the late Ikemba not just for the Igbo nation but for all ethnic groups in this nation.
Given his privileged background, he had no business enlisting in the army. He could have sat back and enjoyed the luxury that his millionaire father was willing to give him. Like all great men and women, he chose the road less travelled and through the road pointed an eternal torch to the problems of ethnicity in a country strung together with very weak links.
As he goes the way of all mortals, the truth he spent his life exposing still resonates in the life of this seemingly young nation. The cry for the zoning of political offices, the quest for regional development, the pursuit of federal character in establishments, the emphasis on creed as it affects political appointments in Nigeria are all variants of the single observation that made the late Ikemba take the steps he took to preserve the integrity of the Igbo man. To him, the parts must be strong enough to stand as a whole.
No matter how some puritans decide to interpret his leadership of the Igbo nation during the civil war years, the late Ikemba would go down as a man who like all great men showed that service to humanity has no boundaries.
He might not be pencilled down for sainthood but what percentage of humanity achieves such ecclesiastical listing? He had his flaws as all humans but his contributions to his world towers above average and there lies the greatness he is being (and would eternally be ) celebrated for.
Sadly, as the Ikemba sleeps, it is worrisome that Ndigbo might not enjoy the type of selfless leadership of people like the Ikemba and other great sons and daughters of Igbo extraction that have answered the mortal call. Look around, there seem to be too few sparks that can inflame such regional awakening as the fire he lighted which can evidently be noticed with other regions of this country.
As one watches the activities of our present day politicians from the South Eastern states, it is amazing to notice the level of selfishness that is being exhibited by those who like mother hen ought to provide a level of succour to the people. The grand pursuit of self aggrandisement by those who are in leadership positions explains the level of political strife in the South East at the moment.
While most people tend to blame outsiders for the underdevelopment of the region, it is an attempt to stand truth on its head for anyone to documenting same for posterity. According to the late M.K.O Abiola, ‘no one can shave your hair in your absence’. Most Igbo political elite in their quest for individual economic and political growth ensure the subjugation of the greater good.
The so called ‘outsiders’ having noticed this tend to lend a hand to these individuals with stunted vision and invariably diminish their national relevance. The gradual relegation of the region to a somewhat political anonymity nationally is a direct product of self inflicted defeatism achieved through selfish political wrangling.
It is on record that most of the political leaders fall prey to the dangling of political carrots by people who use them to achieve their own ends. Flash back to the conflicts between state governors and the ‘Abuja politicians’, between National Assembly members and Ministers of the zone since 1999. The musical chair game of the Senate Presidency between 1999 and 2007 was possible because of the individual pursuit of ‘greatness’ that has dwarfed the region’s growth.
The underdevelopment of the region at the moment is due mainly to internal sabotage and the lack of cohesion amongst those who ought to lead the people. It is regrettable that the cohesion that was noticed during the civil war amidst abject poverty and death is absent in this time of seeming peace of the graveyard. The ‘igwe bu ike’ social mantra that inspired the invention of ‘ogbunigwe’ for regional defence against a well-armed federal force seem to have been subsumed under the crassly selfish individualism amongst most of our politicians. We have the underdevelopment of our people to show for it.
An Ojukwu put his Ivy League training to the best possible use. His intellectual endowment was put to an optimal use. That is why he saw everything reprehensible with the political empowerment of individuals without political address and equally regretted that many intellectuals feel happy to be subordinated to the minions barely for political reasons.
No matter what politically twisted interpretations Ikemba and his odyssey are subjected to, history will be kind to him. He showed leadership, he made sacrifices, justified his education, showed unusual charisma, courage and commitment to the greater good.
The challenge for the living is for those in positions of authority to take the baton where the Ikemba dropped it. Can there be a regenerative force to be the ultimate phoenix?
Adieu Ikemba, you will be remembered and as Chimamada Ngozi Adichie wrote, you did not keep quiet while we died. The ethnicity problem you pointed out as the major problem of this nation and the need for equity to all still stare us in the face no matter how we play the Ostrich. Naa n’udo, Ikemba Ndigbo. When comet another?
Source: Sun, 7th December 2011.
Why I love Odumegwu-Ojukwu
By Ikeogu Oke
Sometimes the loss that accompanies some deaths is too great to call for mourning. No mourning, however long or deep, can suffice. Nor would we rather celebrate the merits of the life that expired with such death, for we would prefer that it lasted forever, and had the exceptional privilege of enjoying physical immortality in full health of body, mind and spirit, eternally glowing in the ambience of our love and reverence, and those of our offspring across generations, when we ourselves might have ceased to live.
At such times, mourning becomes a gesture of stunned resignation in the face of the inevitable, in respect of the departed soul who would seem to have received a concession from dying, having been so much larger than life that he had come to seem greater than death.
And his death becomes the ultimate act of deprivation by fate for those who love him, and always will.
I have wallowed in such stunned resignation since I learnt of the death, on November 26, 2011, of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Dike Di Ora Nma and Eze Igbo Gburugburu of Igboland, whose great and positive aura pervaded my consciousness for as long as I knew about him as a thinking adult, beginning around the time of his return from exile in Côte d’Ivoire in 1982, and probably will till the end of my days.
Like all great men, different people – particularly among the Igbo – would have different reasons for loving Ikemba, as he is fondly called by the multitudes who admire him, for being emotionally and inextricably attached to him. I have heard some, men and women, confess to being irresistibly drawn to the seemingly all-powerful loadstone of his charisma. So strong was his personality, his psycho-somatic gift for compelling obedience, that I once heard a trader in Aba say that if he walked into any market in that city and asked the traders to follow him, you were sure to find the market deserted in seconds, with the traders marching behind him to wherever he wished to lead them, and without first inquiring about the destination.
The significance of the scenario painted by the trader – for Ojukwu’s stature, that is – did not strike home until I pondered it in the light of the almost superlative attachment of Aba traders to the marketplace. That they could unhesitatingly ignore that attachment, however briefly, and follow him unquestioningly to any destination of his choice, as I know they did on one occasion when I lived in that city, would be a mark of the highest possible concession from a people known to be averse to the herd mentality. It would also be a mark of instinctive love and loyalty for a man whose unstinting sacrifice for the good of his people had earned him their eternal love and gratitude, especially at the grassroots.
Some love him for the effortless ease with which his strong but gentle nature fused elite refinement and popular appeal, a fact captured somewhat by his title of Dike Di Ora Nma, The Hero Loved by All. This trait explains why, in spite of his elitist education – he graduated from Epsom College and Oxford University – and his being veritably blue blood by birth – his father, Sir Louis Phillippe Odumegwu Ojukwu, was one of the wealthiest Nigerian aristocrats of his time – he never lost the common touch, nor did the common people ever cease to regard him as one of them.
Some love him for being an African exemplar of the Platonic ideal of the philosopher-king. For, as the Head of State of the defunct Biafra, he proved himself to be not just a charming and brave soldier but also a man of ideas, in the mould of Fidel Castro, as evidenced by the sublime articulation of the qualities of a true leader in “The Ahiara Declaration”, one of his more famous speeches, to wit: “He must have physical and moral courage and must be able to inspire the people out of despondency.
He should never strive towards the perpetuation of his office or devise means to cling to office beyond the clear mandate of the people. He should resist the temptation to erect memorials to himself in his life-time, to have his head embossed on the coin, name streets and institutions after himself or convert government into a family business. A leader who serves his people well will be enshrined in their hearts and minds. This is all the reward he can expect in his lifetime.”
That and other speeches by him were sterling examples of the intellect prodding the heart towards the noblest of human aspirations even under the severest privations that could be imposed by war. In the same speech, delivered on June 1, 1969, he inveighed against the racist responses of the “civilised” world to war and the immense suffering it can bring to humans, especially women, children, the aged and other non-combatants, and was arguably the first leader in history to identify and draw attention to such responses, which we were to witness decades later in places like Rwanda and Sudan.
His courage for speaking truth to power, especially overbearing power, was exceptional, as in: “…Britain is a country whose history is replete with instances of genocide.” His humanity and willingness to risk his life to protect the weak (including women) was all-encompassing and manifest even at the very young age of 11 when, in 1944, he was imprisoned for restraining a white British colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman at King’s College in Lagos.
I love him for all such reasons for which others love him. But more importantly I love him because, being born into privilege, and having the choice to pursue a life of comfort at home or in foreign lands, he preferred to sacrifice his imponderably huge patrimony and bear the burden of leading us, his people, at the most difficult of times, through a strangulating war that threatened our collective existence and in which over two million of us lost their lives.
He chose to risk death so we could live, to become poor so we could be rich, and to bear in him wounds that were meant for us and our descendants. I love him because he represents to me the quintessence of a leader as a willing sacrificial victim for his people, such that Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. should, I think, eternally represent to mankind. I love him because he stood for a just world in which no man is oppressed.
Ojukwu’s life was so deeply interwoven with the lives of his people, the Igbo, that he can be said to have had their hearts in him while they all had him in their hearts. The love they shared was at once real, mystical, profound and imperishable, the type of love any leader worth the name would aspire to share with his followers, his people. And I believe this earned him the envy of some less endowed individuals who could not comprehend such love – “in spite of his having led them to a futile war!” – and who made desperate but altogether fruitless efforts to diminish his olympian stature.
He had his flaws, but they were insignificant compared with his great virtues; and whatever he might have done wrong becomes easily forgivable to his people in the light of the numerous things he did right for them, shielding them to the end of his days with his towering and enigmatic presence.
Odumegwu, The Awesome Lion, may have gone into the long night, but his eternal dwelling place will be in the ever bright and warm dawn and daylight of the memories of those who love him for sacrificing his life and comfort for their survival, I inclusive!
Oke writes from Abuja.
Source: Sun, 7th December 2011.
Jonathan, S-East govs to take part in Ojukwu’s burial – Umeh
BY TONY EDIKE
ENUGU- PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan and governors of the old Eastern region have indicated interest to participate fully in the burial of the former Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
The burial date for the late Ikemba Nnewi has been fixed for February 2, according to Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, Mr Peter Obi.
Speaking with newsmen shortly after arriving the Akanu Ibiam airport, Enugu with Ojukwu’s widow, Bianca yesterday, the National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, said the burial of the elder statesman had generated a lot of interests across the country and beyond.
Umeh said that the burial date was chosen in conjunction with Ojukwu’s family, adding that with the return of Ojukwu’s widow from London, all necessary arrangements for the funeral would commence.
He said: “The governor of Anambra State was mandated to meet with the President on two possible dates, 27th of January or 2nd of February; from the consultation we had with the president, he chose 2nd February. When the President chose 2nd of February, the Governors Forum then announced it.
”The President has shown tremendous interest in the affairs of our leader since the past 18 months, so we have to consult him before this date was officially announced, the date was chosen in conjunction with the family after the short meeting we had in London.
“All the governors from the old Eastern region have indicated interest to participate fully in the burial so also is the Federal Government. As soon as the arrangements are concluded, detailed programmes for mourning will be announced, people will continue to mourn until we inter him”.
“We just returned from Abuja; from the Airport we are taking her home and from there the family of Ojukwu will take over the arrangements for the burial in consultation with all the interested stakeholder. Now that the widow has returned all arrangements will start with the family.”
Source: Vanguard, 7th December 2011.
Last of the titans?
By Rotimi Fasan
THE last couple of weeks have been period of obituaries in Nigeria. Two prominent Nigerians who had in their different ways transformed the political and professional landscape of the country passed on.
The passing of former leader of Biafra and Igbo scion, the Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had been reported severally in the press and might have not been totally unanticipated. His protracted battle with stroke had been front page news for months following his hurried transfer abroad for medical attention.
So long was the Ikemba’s battle with ill-health that in the course of it his wife, Bianca, had to return home to take up a political appointment in the Jonathan administration.
Other than just staying idly in the UK while her husband remained under close medical watch there was, perhaps, little else Mrs. Ojukwu cold have done. A prominent beauty queen, her forte couldn’t possible be medical science. Thus when the end finally came for the famous face of Biafra, she would apparently get the news second hand like the rest of Nigerians. Since the exit of Dim Ojukwu the eulogies have not ceased and there appears now what seems like a struggle for the crown of the best crafter of epithet for the deceased.
The Ikemba was distinguished for his very deliberate manner of speech, a precision in language usage that was marked by careful observance of the rules of elocution which, perhaps, is what some Nigerians call his ‘Queen’s English’. Whether Queens English or something else we cannot yet put a name to, the point is that the Ikemba had a way with words.
And even as more eulogists emerge to cloud the airwaves with their rain of praises, there is none yet to match in degree of preciseness the Ikemba’s own description of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, way back in 1987, as the ‘best president Nigeria never had’. Some people thought this was a tongue in cheek praise of the philosopher-statesman but I cannot be persuaded of the truth of such claim.
Even though they had both belong on different sides of the struggle to define the direction Nigeria should go in the wake of the Civil War crisis, I’m inclined to read Dim Ojukwu’s comment as genuine words of praise, even admiration, from one political actor on another.
But, alas, not one of the heaps of eulogies that have been poured on the memory of Chief Ojukwu in this age of philistines rises beyond the level of verbiage. The common denominator by way of praise of this Nigerian leader is the claim that he would be sorely missed and that he died just when he was most needed. Drab, drab! I hope some of us won’t begin to throw up soon upon hearing the cloying words that have become a regular fare on occasions like these when a prominent face passes.
No doubt a highly polarising figure, especially in the wake of his role as the leader of Biafra between 1966 and 1970 when the War ended, through his period of exile in Ivory Coast and eventual return, dangerously, to politics in 1982, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu elicited the extremes of emotions even though he somewhat lived down his war time reputation in a post- Civil War Nigeria.
Maybe it was for the way he was able to reintegrate himself into the Nigerian system that Yakubu Gowon, the one Chief Ojukwu liked to call by his not well-known name, Jack said he died a Nigerian. But while the Ikemba was passionately loved by many, many also spoke of him with passionate distancing, if one could put the point finely. As a little boy growing up, even before one came to understand the intricate details of the events that had given Chief Ojukwu his name in the annals of Nigeria, a lot of myths surrounded his person. He was described in the most frightening terms. Sometimes scurrilous remarks were made about his bald pate. But not one description failed to take the Chief seriously. With his wide, prominent eyeballs and heavy beards, he could match Achebe’s description of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart and he commanded both attention and respect from friends and foes alike.
A revolutionary, if ever there was one, his prominent background did not stop him from taking to the military at a time when the profession was the refuge of those with no certain future. He was certainly the last of those Igbo leaders with a commanding hold on the imagination, not only of the Igbo but also of Nigerians of other ethnic backgrounds.
If the passing of the Ikemba was anticipated, the same cannot be said of Chief Alex Ibru, publisher of The Guardian.
There was no news that he had been ill. Never one on the loud side, he mellowed even further after the unfortunate attempt on his life by goons of a regime in which he served Nigerians as Minister of Internal Affairs. The gospel of a transformed Nigeria that he had preached through the pulpit of The Guardian was one he would take to the ecumenical centre he founded after leaving government.
There had been prominent media houses in Nigeria before 1983 when The Guardian joined the fray but the influx of Nigerian academics, in a way that was to give Nigerian journalism a prominent intellectual bent, occurred at The Guardian and this could be traced to the foresight of Chief Ibru in hiring an intellectual in the mold of Stanley Macebuh. Several of those who joined Macebuh at The Guardian never went back to the academia, others did after many years. And people familiar with Chief Ibru have attributed the leading role that the paper has played and will, hopefully, continue to play to the liberal cast of its founder’s mind. The face of Nigerian journalism was in a sense changed by The Guardian and there is another sense in which it could be said that we have closed the page on that era of print journalism brought to its apogee at The Guardian. The world over the future of print journalism looks uncertain and, although, Nigeria appears to present a peculiar case in which more papers appear on the newsstand there is every reason to believe that The Guardian era cannot be repeated twice just as no newspaper has been able to replicate the magic spawned at the Daily Times under Babatunde Jose.
When Nigerians talk of journalism in many years to come they would certainly remember there once lived a businessman, although lacking the reputed power and ruthlessness of a Rupert Murdoch, nevertheless commanded the attention of Nigerians, kings and plebeians alike, in a manner that calls to mind the legendary status of the erstwhile publisher of News of the World.
Source: Vanguard, 7th December 2011.
Ojukwu: The Death Of Biafra
Nigeria is not a nation – state but an empire of major ethnic groups disgned to satisfy the major claims of competing overlords–Late S.G. Ikoku, a nationalist and politician of Igbo extraction.
Like the demise of the state of Biafra which Ojukwu had declared at the onset of the civil war in 1967, his death recently in the United Kingdom signals in historical perspective, the final death of the Biafran revolution, Biafran vision and, perhaps, political separatism and hatred in Nigeria.
Odumegwu Ojukwu, son of billionaire merchant, Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu was born in 1933 in Dungurum (Zungeru), Northern Nigeria. He became a trained military officer and had occupied the post of military governor of the then Eastern Nigeria, under the then military government of then Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon.
Ojukwu was at various times in his life, a brilliant scholar, fine military officer, fugitive, nationalist, politician, parliamentarian, chieftaincy title holder and political activist in that order, as well as a national commentator and, at a point later in his life, a believer in one great indivisible sovereign Nigeria. With his death on Saturday, November 27, 2011, the ghost of Biafra can be said to have finally died.
The following, is by the way a tribute to Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi, and Eze Igbo Guburugburu was his “Ahiara Declaration” of 1967, in the wake of leading Biafra away from mother Nigeria.
To what extent has his fears and beliefs enhanced or altered peace and practical federalism and unity in the larger Nigerian State since independence in 1960, but more since the declaration of Biafra (1967) and the subsequent surrender to federal Nigeria (1970) must remain debatable especially that Ojukwu died at a time Nigeria is experiencing multi-partisan thuggery, political division, rascalism and the use of unauthorised explosives to intimidate governance. It is however, remarkable that Ojukwu died to the warm embrace of Nigerians.
The Ahiara Declaration
“The revolution does not wait for the indolent, inefficient and corrupt reactionaries. He either joins the band-wagon of the revolution, or the revolution will catch up with him.
Revolution means change – the change for better. It is always a forward moving force, very spontaneous, rapid and altruistic. Revolution improves the living conditions of the people politically for the better; economically via material possession, and socially and morally raises and purifies human love, dignity and uproots any stump of progress.
A revolution and a revolutionary go together; in the bearing of a new social order - sacred by patriotism, love and devotion to the common cause of the defence of mother country—all forms of disabilities and inequalities which reduce the dignity of the individual or destroy his sense of person have no place in the new Biafra social order.
The Biafran revolution upholds the dignity of man—Biafran revolution stand against social disorder—any attempt to destroy a people, its security, its right to life, property and progress—to deprive a community of its identity is abhorrent to the Biafra people
Every true Biafran must love Biafra, must have faith in Biafra and its people and must strive for its greater unity. He must find his salvation here in Biafra. He must be prepared to work for Biafra. He must be prepared to defend the sovereignty of Biafra wherever and by whomsoever it is challenged.
The young man who sneaks about in the village, avoiding service in his country’s armed forces is unpatriotic; that young able – bodied school teacher who prefers to distribute relief (materials) when he should be fighting his country’s war is not only unpatriotic but is doing a woman’s job --- All Biafrans are brothers and sisters bound together by ties of geography, trade, inter-marriage and culture, and by their common misfortune in (larger) Nigeria and their present (former) experience of the armed struggle.
Biafrans are even more united by the desire to create a new and better order of society which will satisfy their needs and aspirations. In the new Biafran social order, sovereignty and power belongs to the people. Those who exercise power do so on behalf of the people. Those who govern must not tyrannise the people. They carry a sacred trust of the people and must use their authority strictly in accordance with the will of the people. The true test of success in public life is that the people – who are the real masters—are contented and happy. The rulers must satisfy the people at all times.
But it is no use saying that power belongs to the people unless we are prepared to make it work in practice—The Biafra revolution will constantly and honestly seek methods of making this concept a fact rather than a pious fiction.
Arising out of Biafra’s belief that power belongs to the people is the principle of public accountability. Those who exercise power are accountable to the people for the way they use that power. The people retain the right to renew or terminate their mandate …“
All said, is larger Nigeria better off today in line with Ojukwu’s submission? Did Ojukwu die a true democrat in the real sense of the Greek philosophers Plato, Aristotle, etc who first theorised that democracy is only possible in a small closely – knitted group of people before embracing America’s bogus definition of the same in an heterogeneous federal entity where “representative” democracy has remained “the dictatorship of the few”?
—Yarwa is an editorial staff of The LEADERSHIP newspapers
Source: Leadership, 6th December 2011.
Why Ojukwu Took up Arms against Nigeria
By Emeka Osondu
President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mr. Raph Uwechue, has explained that the real reason late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, decided to take up arms against Nigeria in 1967 was in the interest of justice, saying it was not primarily to divide Nigeria.
Uwechue, who led past and present leaders of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to the country home of Ojukwu in Umudim, Nnewi in Anambra State last Sunday, said it was the injustice of the Nigerian State against the people of South-eastern Nigeria that propelled Ojukwu’s action.
“I was then the Nigerian Ambassador to France, but I had to resign my appointment from Nigeria to join the Biafran side in the war because I was convinced that what was being meted out to the Igbos was injustice.
“The Igbos are happy to be Nigerians, and we were seeking the opportunity to be recognised as Nigerians, but our oppressors refused, and when we wanted to go our own way, they still refused. That is the reason Ojukwu went to war,” Uwechue said.
He spoke further that if Ojukwu was desirous of causing problem in the country, he would not have accepted to fly to Ghana for the Aburi accord.
“Ojukwu only resolved to correct the injustice by going to war when Nigeria reneged on the agreements reached at Aburi. That will show you that Ojukwu was not a man of war but peace,” he said.
Uwechue, who was received by the family of Ojukwu led by Mr. Sunday Ojukwu, and members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), mounting guard at Ojukwu’s residence, said he decided to lead the delegation to Ojukwu’s country home in line with Igbo culture and a sign of respect to Nnewi people who begot him.
The group also visited the palace of the traditional ruler of Nnewi, Igwe Kenneth Orizu and the Nzuko Ora Nnewi to condole them.
Source: This Day, 6th December 2011.
Ojukwu: when someone you love dies
With Dan Onwukwe (08023022170 firstname.lastname@example.org|)
When someone you love dies, someone much bigger than you, someone you have profound respect and admiration for, a few things rush into your subconscious: you suddenly realize how ‘small’ you are, and how ‘big’ death seem to be and how it can deal with even the toughest as nail kind of personality. No wonder death has been described as the last ‘enemy’ to be destroyed.
Waking up penultimate Saturday morning to hear the death of one of Nigeria’s most genuine, remarkable and colourful personalities, Dim Chukwuemkea Odumegwu Ojukwu, brought closer this reality to me. Although we all know that Ojukwu’s death took it’s fateful turn last year when he was rushed to a London hospital, by a chartered aircraft from the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) that he died when we were told by family members that he was recovering and could return home ‘soon’, further drives the point that death could also be a thief at night. It can strike anytime.
My admiration for Ojukwu developed not as a result of personal encounter with him, it was the consequence of my eldest brother, Charles, narration of the man. My brother had abandoned his studies at Holy Ghost College Owerri where he had a vision to pursue a course in Engineering in the university. He had majored in sciences. But something happened. My brother had left the dormitory for Ahiara in Mbaise, where Ojukwu was billed to make the famous Ahiara declaration, speech. He was taken in, indeed ‘wowed’ by Ojukwu’s gift of oratory.
The eloquence and substance of Ojukwu’s speech my brother told me years later, was a self- awakening. He said he has never seen anybody then who had spoken with such camdour and clarity of purpose as Ojukwu did that blustery day at Ahiara. I asked him was that enough reason for him to abandon his studies and ‘drafted’ him to the Biafran army? He retorted, “you won’t understand”. Thank God my two elder brothers came back from the civil war alive.
The Nigerian civil war was an incredibly, terrifying period that lasted for three years. It can never be forgotten. History is shaped by defining moments. Individuals become heroes and leaders depending on how they seize the moment in such remarkable, heart-wrenching period. Ojukwu soared in it. He was like a lightening in our hearts, in our subconscious. I never saw him until my secondary school days. A political rally was going on at Aba Township Stadium. Ikemba was in town to formally declare for the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Even with the poisonous hatred many in the South East had for the NPN, I went for the man: Ojukwu. I was too young then, to risk going to Aba unaccompanied. It was my second visit there. My interest was to catch a glimpse of the man and see whether what my elder told me was truly the speck of the man called Ojukwu. Somebody ‘smuggled me’ into the stadium.
The impression I had that fateful day still remains with me. I saw a man with an overwhelming belief in himself, a man with a stunning self-confidence and incomparable breadth of vision and a sheer tenacity, persistence and if you like, a willingness to fail. It was a self confidence etched in incredible risk. Ojukwu has always had this commanding presence and the look-at-me swagger. For what is indisputable, Ojukwu was a mesmerizing speaker. You must listen to him, unless you have already made up your mind not to ‘tune in’. He had the charisma of a revolutionary. His arguments were always ideological, methodical and grounded in historical logic. When he speaks, he takes his audience along with facts, perhaps not the whole truth.
He was by all standards, a tough and popular leader, loved by many. He was also a lady’s man because some ladies, I hear, love men with sheer nerves. Ojukwu had unmatched capacity to persuade anyone, one-on-one, in small or in large groups. He was not only charismatic, his aura has influence enough to impose his own will. A few times I came close to him as a journalist, I observed a man who had a disdain for anyone who lacks intellectual fecundity. He liked making a distinction between doers and thinkers, between a contemplative person and an activist. But, those who dislike his guts claim he was an embodiment of an urgent dreamer.
The nuanced explanation as to whether the civil war was necessary and now realistic, the Biafran nation would continue to be given different versions by historians. It is so because historians are often in a rush to make conclusion, but history does not. In that respect, I do not think, it is true, as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo claimed the other day that Ojukwu told him he had ‘remorse’ over the civil war. A man with Ojukwu’s quality of mind that is nimble, and an intellectual prowess guided by history, would not say he regretted his involvement in the war.
On the country, the rigour and righteous fury which Ojukwu used in justifying the war in his speeches at Aburi (Ghana) and Abiara, have been vindicated in the events of our nation decades after he made those declarations. Consider of his statements at Aburi where he said matter-of-factly, “ I did not go to Aburi as an easterner. I came here as a Nigerian seeking a satisfactory solution to a Nigerian problem. I did not go to Aburi to seek power for myself nor did I go there for picnic. I went to work in order to save Nigeria from disintegration.” He noted that no nation will have peace amid deep-seated suspicion of its citizens or ethnic groups against the other.
Different authors who have written on the civil war and the Ojukwu factor had painted him with a brush of stubborn arrogance and proud pathos, haven’t all these fears become some of our fault-lines as a nation? What did the restiveness in the Niger Delta teach us? What lesson does the arrogant Boko Haram challenge teach us? A nation on a pressure cooker. That was the essence of Biafra. It was a rebellion triggered by heartrending tears from the oppressed and dissatisfied Igbo. Ojukwu was the symbol of that self-awakening. Other ethnic groups are up against the Nigerian state because of the same dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs of the nation. Is Nigeria at ‘war’ with its people? Aren’t bribery, corrupt and greed which Ojukwu so tellingly decried in his Aburi and Aburi speeches Nigeria’s heels?
Undoubtedly, his death has removed one of the greatest figures of our time. History will be kind to him.
He called attention he believed was were hurtful to his people. That what leadership entails. If there was any regrets, it was the fact that he did not fulfill his political ambition. It was so because in his first try after his return from exile, he was deceived to believe he had been anointed and sanctified by the powers that be in NPN. That he painfully discovered that later was instrumental to his sticking to the provincial political party, APGA. His death will undeniably, create a vacuum in Igbo land. The worry is that politics in Igbo land is, if anything, in even greater disarray. All manner of character will strut the stage to claim they are the “anointed” Igbo leader by Ojukwu before the man died. Truly before Ojukwu, Ndigbo have had authentic leaders like the great Zik of Africa, Dr Micheal Okpara, Dr Akanu Ibiam, and to a small measure, Dr Chuba Okadigbo and Dr K.O.Mbadiwe. After them, no commanding figure that can call a meeting and Ndigbo will oblige, as Ojukwu did.
Without Ojukwu, hope will darken yet again. The enemies of Ndigbo “invading army” will try to run rings around our people and create disunity. Ojukwu was an incandescent density whose prowess dwarfed the rest. He must be happy even in grave that his last political wish was granted him by the Anambra electorate. His last wish was for Peter Obi to be re-elected for a second term in office. He had told the people. “This is my last wish, vote him (Obi) for four more years! That’s the sinking feeling when someone you love passes on.
Source: Sun, 6th December 2011.