21-gun salute as Nigeria bids farewell to Ojukwu
ENUGU (AFP) – Soldiers fired a 21-gun salute at the funeral of Odumegwu Ojukwu on Thursday as Nigerian leaders paid final respects to the man whose 1967 declaration of Biafran independence sparked a civil war.
Forty-five years after he tried to split Nigeria asunder by proclaiming the Republic of Biafra, Ojukwu’s coffin was draped in the national colours of white and green at the funeral service in the city of Enugu, attended by thousands.
Ojukwu died in November in Britain at the age of 78 but his body was only flown back on Monday.
Hundreds of armed police and security forces were deployed on the streets of Enugu during the funeral in a reminder of the continuing sensitivities around the cause for which Ojukwu became famous.
Around a million people died in Africa’s most populous country during the 1967-70 conflict, mainly from disease and starvation. The images of starved children made Biafra a by-word for famine.
Ojukwu, then military governor of the eastern region, had accused the federal government of marginalisation and killing of thousands of Igbos.
Ojukwu went into exile in Ivory Coast after the Biafrans surrendered in 1970, and did not return until after a presidential pardon 13 years later. He ran for president several times following his return.
He remained a revered figure in eastern Nigeria, where the Igbo people dominate. His declaration of independence for Biafra came largely in response to the killing of large numbers of Igbos in the country’s north.
President Goodluck Jonathan was represented at the funeral by his deputy, Namadi Sambo.
Other mourners in attendance included the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, ex-Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings and former Commonwealth secretary general Emeka Anyaoku.
Jonathan is expected to participate in Ojukwu’s burial in his native southeastern hometown of Nnewi on Friday, according to his spokesman.
Ojukwu’s body was greeted on arrival at the service in Enugu with a 21-gun military salute. The Catholic Bishop of Enugu, Callistus Onaga, presided over the service.
Soyinka was expected to deliver a funeral oration titled “My friend” at the ceremony, attended by about 2,500 people.
The writer and playwright was detained during the civil war by the government of General Yakubu Gowon over his alleged support for the Biafran cause.
Hundreds of participants in the ceremony wore traditional dresses or tee-shirts on which Ojukwu’s portrait was emblazoned with inscriptions such as “You Live In Our Heart,” “Great Leader” and “National Hero”.
“Ojukwu was a great leader who stood with and fought for Ndigbo (Igbo people). His contributions will not be forgotten,” Professor Alphonsus Nwosu, a former minister and ethnic Igbo told AFP at the funeral.
A spokesman of a group that seeks to keep alive the spirit of “Biafra”, Uchenna Madu, said “Ojukwu lived and died for the emancipation of Igbos”.
“We shall continue the struggle. This is the only way he will be happy that all he stood and fought for was not in vain,” he said.
Authorities in Enugu state declared Thursday a public holiday in honour of Ojukwu. The Oxford-educated colonel died on November 26 in London where he had been receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
Ojukwu’s body was flown from Britain to Nigeria with full military honours on Monday.
“Today’s event is a national one and we are not leaving anything to chance security wise,” said Enugu police spokesman Ebere Amaraizu as he gave details of the security operation for the funeral.
“We have deployed hundreds of security personnel, including police anti-bomb squad and men of the state security service,” he added.
Nigeria has seen a string of deadly bomb and gun attacks in recent months, claimed by the Islamist Boko Haram sect, in which hundreds of people have been killed in Abuja and some states in the north.
Source: Vanguard, 1st March 2012.
Farewell, the people’s General
The Igbo icon and leader of the defunct Republic of Biafra, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, is being committed to mother Earth today. Since his death on November 26, 2011, no moment has been spared by the Igbo nation in particular and Nigeria in general in ensuring that he is given a burial that befits his gargantuan status. From the activities lined up by the burial committee, it is evident that no Nigerian in living history had, in death, enjoyed as much preeminence and reverence as Ojukwu.
Beyond his legendary image and stature in life, death has even conferred him with a more awesome status. Since his demise, he has been celebrated in major cities of the world, especially in Europe and America. Back home in Nigeria, his journey to the grave has been most momentous. The entire Eastern Nigeria has been pulsating with breath-taking activities associated with his burial. Wherever his remains touched down, ecstasy and deep-seated emotion had ruled the day. His interment today may be the climax of the burial activities, but his funeral ceremonies will go way beyond today.
Undoubtedly, his death has robbed Ndi Igbo, Nigeria and Africa of a forthright leader, a patriot, a dogged fighter of human rights hue and a humanist. Emeka, as he was fondly called by friends, peers and admirers, was a fine soldier, a brilliant historian, an orator, a politician, a charismatic leader of men and an astute manager of resources.
His demise at the age of 78 has elicited an overwhelming outpouring of eulogies in honour and praise of the revered Ikemba Nnewi and Ezeigbo Gburugburu. Eminent Nigerians have described the deceased in superlative epithets and colourful and elegant prose that amply capture his life and times.
In his tribute to the departed iconic and charismatic leader, President Goodluck Jonathan rightly observed that “Ojukwu’s immense love for his people, justice, equity and fairness, which forced him into the leading role he played in the Nigerian Civil War, as well as his commitment to reconciliation and the full integration of his people into a united and progressive Nigeria in the aftermath of the war, will ensure he is remembered forever as one of the great personalities of his time, who stood out easily as a brave, courageous, fearless, erudite and charismatic leader.”
Like Jonathan, most Nigerians have, in their various tributes, depicted the essential Ojukwu mystique and enigma. In fact, all of them are in agreement that his death is a monumental loss to the entire nation. Nigerians will surely miss his political thoughts, actions and influence on the polity.
Born on November 4, 1933 in Zungeru, Niger State, to the late Sir Louis Philippe Odumegwu-Ojukwu, a multi-millionaire business mogul from Nnewi, Anambra State, Ojukwu had an affluent background but he never allowed his father’s wealth to get into his head. Instead, he preferred a life of hard work, integrity, truth, justice and fairness. Ojukwu wanted to carve a niche for himself and make an impact rather than live in his father’s shadow. All this he did by deploying his talents and virtues for the good of the society.
Ojukwu had his early education at St. Patrick’s Primary School, Idumagbo, Lagos; Church Missionary Society Grammar School, Lagos and King’s College, Lagos, before he left Nigeria for Epsom College, Surrey, England at the age of 13. In 1952, he gained admission into Lincoln College, University of Oxford, England, where he bagged his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Modern History. He returned to the country in 1956.
Ojukwu worked as an Administrative Officer in the former Eastern Nigeria Public Service from 1956-1957. He, against his father’s advice, enlisted in the Nigerian Army and was posted to Nigerian Army Depot, Zaria in 1957. Ojukwu was posted to 5th Battalion, Nigerian Army in 1958. He was instructor, Royal West African Frontier Training School, Teshie, Ghana, 1958-1961: returned to 5th Battalion, Nigerian Army, 1961 and promoted Major in 1961. He was the Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster-General, Kaduna Brigade Headquarters, 1961 and served in Congo (Zaire) with the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces, 1962. He attended military courses at Teshie, Ghana, and later at Officers Cadet School at Etom Hall and Infantry School Warminster, England; and Small Arms School at Hythe and Joint Service Staff College, Camberly, England 1962.
He was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel and appointed Quartermaster-General, Nigerian Army 1963-1964; Commander 5th Battalion, Kano, 1964-1966; Military Governor, Eastern Region, 1966-1967, proclaimed Head of State and Commmander-in-Chief, Republic of Biafra, 1967; dismissed from Nigerian Army, 1967; promoted General, Biafran Army, 1968. Some years after his state pardon, his pre-war status in the Nigerian Army was restored.
As a student of modern history, Ojukwu had anticipated the role the military would play in an emerging independent country just fresh from colonialism and wanted to be part of that piece of action. He was among the first few graduates that joined the army, then a preserve of barely educated people. Following the first military coup d’etat of January 15, 1966 that brought Major-Gen. J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi to power, Lt-Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was appointed the military Governor of Eastern Region.
The appointment placed a great historical challenge upon his shoulders. That became clearer with the bloody counter coup of July 29, 1966 that witnessed mass killings of officers of Eastern Nigeria origin in the Nigerian Army and brutal massacre of civilians of the region in Northern and other parts of Nigeria. As a result of that ethnic cleansing and the horrors of headless and mutilated bodies of Igbo killed in Northern Nigeria, Ojukwu was mandated by the people of the region to declare it independent in the bid to protect its people and ward off the pogrom.
In order to reduce the force of a cohesive Eastern Region becoming independent of Nigeria, Yakubu Gowon, the then military leader of Nigeria, unilaterally divided the country into 12 states. That notwithstanding, Ojukwu responded by declaring Eastern Region an independent Republic of Biafra in May 1967.
Consequently, the nation was plunged into a 30-month gruesome and fratricidal war with unprecedented loss of human lives. With bare hands, Ojukwu took his destiny in his own hands and rose to the occasion in defence of his people against all odds after several peace talks on the future political structure of Nigeria failed to placate both sides to the conflict.
He mobilised the people with his oratory and charm and moved them into action. He fought bravely and withstood Nigerian challenge and blockade for three years without assured supply of food and ammunition. In spite of the superior fire power of the federal side and huge support from their foreign backers, Biafra under Ojukwu braved all odds and prolonged the war to almost three years, a war the federal side initially dubbed a “police action.”
Though Biafra lost the war, it was able to make scientific breakthroughs that marveled the international community. The war led to the invention of rockets and other weapons of mass destruction by Biafrans. Ojukwu Bunker at Umuahia and the Uli Airport were among the innovations recorded in war-time Biafra.
It has become a historial fact that Ojukwu took to arms because of the injustices and inequities that were prevalent in Nigeria at that time. He rose in defence of the lives and rights of his people which were trampled upon by Nigerian authorities. He could not watch his people being hounded like rats in Nigeria and refuse to do something. Any other person in Ojukwu’s shoes would have done the same. He demonstrated beyond doubt that leadership is about service to the people. Ojukwu fought and died an Igbo man of the first order. He was the quintessential Igbo leader. He had risen to the pantheon of Igbo deities and future generations will deify him and his resounding impact on the Igbo psyche.
Owing to his mythical image among the Igbo, he was given various traditional titles in almost every part of Igbo land in recognition and appreciation of his selfless service to his people. The most memorable ones remain the Ikemba Nnewi, Ezeigbo Gburugburu, Dike Di Ora Nma, and Odezuligbo. He authored Because I Am Involved. His inimitable biography, Emeka, was written by his friend, Frederick Forsyth. His speeches in Biafra were contained in his compilation, Biafra: Selected Speeches with Journal of Events. His historic Ahiara Declaration (Principles of the Biafran Revolution) remains one of the best political speeches and manifestoes ever made in this part of the world.
In all his public life, Ojukwu led by examples worthy of emulation. He did not go after wealth or acquisitive tendencies common with the Nigerian political elite. He shunned ostentation and interacted with ordinary folks. Ojukwu represented the epitome of Igbo spirit, strength, dynamism and enterprise and his name will forever be etched in Igbo thoughts and philosophy.
It is much more so considering the fact that Ojukwu’s death seems to have returned Nigeria to its darkest days. Ever since the war ended, Nigeria has never witnessed the level of cataclysm being perpetrated by a murderous Islamic group known as Boko Haram. In their action, Nigerians have rudely been reminded of those incongruities and inequities that led to the civil war.
His death at this point in time tells a story. Through his death and the story being woven around him, the ugly facts of Nigerian history have come alive. But as Ojukwu is buried, Nigeria and Nigerians may do well to also put their ugly past behind them and imbibe the timeless truths contained in some of his war declarations.
There are people who suffer today because they fought on the side of Biafra. If the war was actually fought to “keep Nigeria one” and there was “no victor, no vanquished,” nobody or group should be made to suffer on account of the war. Similarly, all the causes of the war should be frontally addressed so that they will not rear their ugly heads again and plunge the nation into another war. We say this bearing in mind that no nation survives two civil wars.
It is a pity that the issues raised by the war are still with us 42 years after. Let us, therefore, use Ojukwu’s death to revisit these and other issues that confront us as a nation.
That is one of the best ways to immortalise him. Although some people misunderstood him and called him a rebel, history has vindicated him and his stand on the war and other national issues. Though dead, Ojukwu lives on in the minds of millions of his people. Let the Igbo use his death to become more united and seek pragmatic solutions to problems plaguing them. While we commiserate with his family, friends and relations, the political class, Ndi Igbo and Nigerians for the irreparable loss, we pray that the Lord will grant his soul eternal rest. Goodnight, Eze Igbo.
Source: Sun, 2nd March 2012.
Odumegwu-Ojukwu comes alive ahead of burial today
LAWRENCE NJOKU, SAMSON EZEA, AND CHIJOKE IREMEKA (ENUGU) AND UZOMA NZEAGWU (AWKA)
Jonathan: He sacrificed all for Nigeria’s unity
Rawlings: Nation still faces what he opposed
Soyinka: We need Ikemba’s spirit
LIFE anew. Those two words best captured the mood in Enugu yesterday as Nigerians from all walks of life and foreign leaders gathered to honour the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Indeed, the man himself seemed to have risen as his enigmatic presence was palpable in the festive occasion to herald his interment today.
For the second time since the burial rites for the late hero started last week, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday eulogised the late Biafran leader, describing him as a “rare patriot and humanist.”
He said the Federal Government was committed to addressing the inequalities of the past to build a healthy and virile nation.
Jonathan had at the Namdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja, where Odumegwu-Ojukwu was given military honour, said he was a sincere leader.
Jonathan spoke yesterday as former Ghanaian President, Jerry John Rawlings, lamented that the unfortunate circumstances that made Odumegwu-Ojukwu lead his Igbo kinsmen to the civil war in 1966 were still prevalent in various shapes in the country and causing pains for the people.
He listed the circumstances as inequality, corruption, injustice and disregard for the basic rights of Nigerians.
At an event at the Okpara Square, Enugu marking the continuation of the national funeral rites of Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Jonathan said his administration was determined to overcome the vices that had drawn the country backward by ensuring true reconciliation among the diverse ethnic groups.
Represented by Vice President Namadi Sambo, the President described Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a “selfless Nigerian,” who sacrificed personal and family wealth for the unity and peace of the country, stressing that his life affected humanity in several positive ways.
“I have no hesitation describing him as a rare patriot and humanist; a rare patriot because his life epitomised real love for the country, a relentless and committed Nigerian, a special breed; and a patriot who wanted the best for his country, a prosperous great nation where no one is oppressed,” he said.
Jonathan added that the late Nigerian leader was a man whose eulogies have been adequately expressed across the country and the global community, stressing that they were indicative of the kind of life he lived as an extra-ordinary Nigerian.
Drawing from the words of American statesman, Benjamin Frankline, the President added that Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s virtues would continue to live as “he not only write things worth reading but did things worth writing about as evidenced by the number of things that have been published and written from within and outside Nigeria.”
Wishing him farewell to the great beyond, the President said the country had lost a rare gem, whose contributions to the progress of the country would remain unmatched for a long time.
Rawlings, who charged Nigerian leaders to promote the virtues that would ensure unity and sustained development, further asked African leaders to promote and protect integrity, stressing that it was what was required in the political and social interaction of the people.
Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, who was represented by Prof. Benjamin Marire, said Odumegwu-Ojukwu loved Nigeria and his people.
“He opted to fight the perceived injustices against his people. May his gentle soul rest in peace,” Gowon, who led the Federal Government to prosecute the Nigerian Civil War form 1967 to 1970, said.
Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, said Odumegwu-Ojukwu started his struggle early in life especially as it concerned the freedom of his people from injustice.
“He was a courageous leader that was able to promote unity among the Igbo tribe. He fought for equity, peace and justice in the country. Today, the question still remains whether Nigeria has taken decisive steps to address these issues,” he said
According to Soyinka, “such strong will and character is required for inhabitable environment and positive principles that would encourage productivity and development of nationhood. We require this spirit to move forward. We celebrate the fact that this is a time in man’s life when his page will be closed but his legacy will remember him. Odumegwu-Ojukwu has left us but his works live with us.”
The chairman of the event, Navy Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd) urged Nigerians to emulate the spirit of selfless services of the late hero, adding that he was a fearless man, who in the midst of abundance chose to fight for the common man in his country.
“He spent his own money to empower the people. This is what we have to emulate and fight for our existence,” he noted.
Also, former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, urged the people to use the death of Odumegwu-Ojukwu to positively affect human lives, especially those of his generation, saying that he was like a proverb of truth spoken before its time, which should also serve as a lesson to all and sundry.
National Chairman of the Burial Committee, retired Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, urged Ndigbo not to allow the spirit of Odumegwu-Ojukwu and the virtues he lived for to die by imbibing selfless services for the unity and development of the country.
River State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Amaechi, said the history of Nigeria would not be complete without the Nigeria/Biafra civil war and the role Odumegwu-Ojukwu played, stressing that the nation must remain steadfast in his legacies and build a country where all would smile.
His Anambra State counterpart, Peter Obi said that there were so many lessons that need to be learnt from the death of Odumegwu-Ojukwu and called on Ndigbo to be united and continue to be their brother’s keepers, saying such would gladden the heart of the late Ikemba.
Enugu State Governor Sullivan Chime in his tributes, said the state would continue to mourn the Ikemba for the giant strides he performed, declaring that Enugu obliged to host the event leading to his final burial because he made the state his abode as well as its prime position in the old Eastern Region.
The body arrived in a military helicopter, which touched down at about 4.30 p.m. at the Ekwueme Park, where it was received by eight military officers. Obi led the procession accompanied by the widow, Odinaka Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu, National Chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, Mrs. Margaret Obi and members of Ojukwu’s family.
The eigth militarypall-bearers conveyed the casket decorated in national colours, with a boot and cap through an arcade to a raised platform where they rested the casket. The military band played the national anthem.
Rev. Alex Ibezim, the Anglican Bishop of Awka, led the clergy to conduct a prayer, asking God to use this opportunity to unite the Igbo race, bind Nigeria together, “while our labour may not be in vain.”
The body later departed for his hometown, Nnewi in a military helicopter for a scheduled wake last night.
The ceremony was attended by Secretary to Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, ministers, members of the National Assembly, Senator Ben Obi, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) chairman, Ogbonnaya Onu, Chief Jim Nwobodo and Prof. Laz Ekwueme.
There were also Governors of Ebonyi State, Martin Elechi, Cross River’s Liyel Imoke, Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Theodore Orji (Abia) and Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Anglican Bishop of Enugu, Revd. Emmanuel Chukwuma, Archbishop of Methodist Church, Enugu, SKC Ugo, Bishop Obi Onubugo of the Throne of Grace and Catholic Bishop Callistus Onaga, among others.
Ojukwu’s remains had arrived the Okpara Sqaure venue of the programme in a long convoy at about 10.50 a.m. amid shouts of Ezeigbogburugburu by thousands of sympathizers, who had thronged the venue as early as 7.00 a.m.
It was followed by an interdenominational service led by Bishop Onaga after the pall bearers had brought down the brown colour casket from a military ambulance.
Masses at the event wore different colours of T-shirt with various inscriptions to mourn Ojukwu.
Source, The Guardian, 2nd March 2012.
Ojukwu: Tributes galore
By Chris Oji, Enugu
THERE seems to be no doubt he died a hero and a “man of the people”, considering the array of dignitaries who came to wave a final bye to him.
Going by the moving tributes, the late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwumeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, deserved it all.
Enugu, the Coal City from where he once governed the now defunct Southeast Region, was throbbing with visitors. The ceremony at the Okpara
Square is a prelude to the interment, which will take place today in his home town, Nnewi, Anambra State.
The Square, named after the premier of the now defunct Eastern Region, Chief Michael Okpara, had been filled to capacity as early as 7am. The crowd came from every part of the country.
Vice President Namadi Sambo represented President Goodluck Jonathan. He led the tributes.
Former Ghanaian President Jerry John Rawlings and Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, who described Ojukwu as “bosom friend”, received a long-drawn ovation when they were called to deliver their tributes.
Former Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon was absent, attending an “important engagement in the United States”. He sent a representative who read his tribute.
Others at the ceremony include Ojukwu’s childhood friend, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero; former Chief of General Staff Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe; President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Amb. Ralph Uwaechue; Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Anyim Pius Anyim; National Chairman of ANPP Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; former Commonwealth scribe, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Justice Chukwudifu Oputa.
Also there were Governors Sullivan Chime (Enugu); Isa Yuguda (Bauchi); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Liyel Imoke (Cross River); Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Peter Obi (Anambra); Theodore Orji (Abia) and Martin Elechi (Ebonyi).
There were also Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and FCT, Bala Mohammed, House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha; former Foreign Affairs Minister Ike Nwachukwu; former president, World Igbo Congress, Dr. Kalu Kalu Diogu; Senator Jim Nwobodo; Senators Chris Ngige, Andy Uba, Ayogu Eze and Gilbert Nnaji; Minister of Power Barth Nnaji and former governor of Anambra State Chukwuemeka Ezeife.
Several other members of the National Assembly and ministers were also there.
Before the tributes, an inter-denominational service was led by the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Bishop Callistus Onaga, who was assisted by the Anglican Bishop of Enugu, Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma.
The sermon was read by the Methodist Archbishop of Enugu, Bishop Samuel Uche. The first lesson of the service, taken from Isaiah 41 verses 10-20 was read by little Chineme Odumegwu-Ojukwu. The second lesson, which was taken from 2 Corinthians 5 verses 1-10 was read by Senator Ben Obi.
In a homily which was visibly appreciated by Soyinka, Monsignor Obiora Ike said Ojukwu was “vilified, dishonoured but today he is dead and being celebrated”. He then queried, “Why must somebody die before his greatness is recognised?”
President Jonathan said Ojukwu’s life epitomised sacrifice and love, adding that his achievements made him a great man.
Jonathan said the late Igbo leader did things worth reading and writing.
He recalled how Ojukwu accepted a leadership role that most critically defined his place in the history of the country.
According to him, Ojukwu’s love for his people made him to become an advocate of a united Nigeria after the end of hostilities in the country.
Jonathan said the contribution of the late Igbo hero in the political sphere of Nigeria could never be overlooked.
Gen. Gowon said the late Ojukwu would be remembered for his courage and unwavering desire to fight for justice and fair play for his people.
He said Ojukwu loved Nigeria so much, adding that he wanted to opt out over perceived injustice to his people.
The former head of state, who was represented by Prof. Ben Mareiere, the Southeast Co-ordinator of Nigeria Prays, said Gen. Gowon would visit Ojukwu’s family on his return from the United States.
Rawlings regretted that those things that led to the Nigerian Civil War are still with us, causing pains and hardship for the people.
He regretted that Gen. Gowon could not be physically present to read his tribute, saying he told Jonathan when they met abroad to advise the ex-Head of State to attend the funeral rites of the late Igbo leader.
He said there was need to digest Gowon’s tribute.
Soyinka said, “He who lived to embrace, share bread and salt with his once implacable enemies, is no longer with us, yet he remains among us. We celebrate the fact that in his lifetime, bitterness did turn several pages towards the chapter of reconciliation but – has it truly brought mutual understanding? Let us reflect on that question carefully today – yes, a full half century later – as we bid goodbye to one who did not flinch from the burden of choice, but boldly answered the summons of history. As the saying goes, the rest is also history.”
Chief Anyaoku described the death of Ojukwu as a low point for everybody who graced the occasion.
The late Ojukwu, he said, was dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. He described him as a lone star who will remain so for a long time.
Anyaoku said the late Ojukwu would continue to dwell in the hearts and minds of Igbo and Nigerians, adding that death only took his flesh, not his ideas.
Chairman of Governors Forum and River State Governor Rotimi Ameachi said the history of Nigeria could never be complete without a chapter being dedicated to the late Ojukwu.
According to him, though the adversaries of Ojukwu won the Civil War, the ex-Biafran leader and his people won politically as Igbo are no longer taken for granted.
The late Ojukwu, Amaechi added, was a freedom fighter who ended up creating history.
To Rawlings, the late Ojukwu was a man who stood for equity, peace and justice.
“General Ojukwu, who in the midst of adverse circumstances chose reconciliation as a first option,” he added.
The former Ghanaian leader spoke as guest speaker at the night of tributes organised by the members of the Sports Club, Enugu.
“As a young respected leader of his people, he had to lead sacrificial war that eventually brought to reality to all Nigerians and sowed the seed of unity in Africa’s most populous and ethnically diverse country,” Rawlings said.
He said some of the events that caused the Biafra War are similarities to today’s socio-economic disparities in Nigeria, emphasising that it was only when Nigerians appreciated the “sacrifices persons like Gen. Ojukwu and Gen. Yakubu Gowon had to make in securing peace and unity that would put in place a proper conciliatory posture for Nigeria”.
He noted that while Gen. Gowon fought on one side of the war to save Nigeria’s unity, Ojukwu fought on the other side to protect his people.
Rawlings recalled that as a young boy growing up in those days, the people in Ghana never seemed to understand the seriousness of the Biafra-Nigeria war, until they heard the news that the boxing legend, Dick Tiger, was to be conscripted into the armed forces to fight on the side of his people.
Source, The Nation, 2nd March 2012.
Jonathan, Rawlings, Soyinka, others for Ojukwu’s funeral
By Chris Oji, Enugu
Enugu, the capital of the old Eastern Region where the late Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu presided as governor, will today bid him a final farewell.
President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to lead the tributes at the requiem mass for the repose of his soul.
Today’s event will be the major activity of the funeral programme before the body is taken to Nnewi, Anambra State, for burial tomorrow.
Tomorrow has been declared a work-free day by Governor Sullivan Chime.
It was in Enugu that Ojukwu declared the still-born Republic of Biafra. He lived in the ‘Coal City’ on his return from exile in 1982, until he took ill and was flown abroad on December 22, 2010.
Major hotels have been fully booked as visitors converge on the city which has been given a facelift by the state government.
More security men have been deployed. President Jonathan may also be in Nnewi for tomorrow’s funeral. Also expected are former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Heads of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. Former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings and Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka were also seen in Enugu yesterday.
Also for the funeral are the governors of Abia, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states. Other governors are also expected. The newly re-elected governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke, will attend not only as a governor, but as a direct in-law of Ojukwu. His wife, Obioma, is Ojukwu’s niece.
Delegations from Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon and Tanzania are in Enugu. These countries were pro-Biafran nations during the Civil War.
Yesterday, the Catholic Church, where Ojukwu worshipped, held a concelebrated requiem mass for the departed Igbo leader. Ojukwu never missed the daily morning mass and the mid-day angelus of the church.
The mass witnessed a large turnout of people. It was held at an open ground at the headquarters of the Enugu Diocese, the Holy Ghost Cathedral.
Although Ojukwu’s body was not brought to the service, his widow, Bianca and other dignitaries were there. The dignitaries include Anambra State Governor Peter Obi and his wife, the deputy governor of Enugu state, Sunday Onyebuchi, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Chairman Victor Umeh, Prof. A. B. C. Nwosu, Prof. Ukwu I. Ukwu and Speaker, Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon. Eugene Odoh.
Also at the mass were the Anglican Bishop of Enugu, Emmanuel Chukwuma, the Methodist Archbishop of Enugu, Bishop Samuel Uche and the leader of the Pentecostal churches in Enugu, Obi Onubogu.
At the service was a big crowd of Biafran War veterans aged between 70 and 90 years. They performed some military manouvres and rendered some war-time Biafran songs.
The Diocesan Vicar General, Monsignor Luke Obi, officiated at the mass, assisted by over 200 Catholic priests. The homily was delivered by Rev. Fr. John Nwafor, the Cathedral Administrator.
Fr. Nwafor described the late Ojukwu as “a man of great ideas and philosopher, a man of intelligence and humility and a man who saw tomorrow many years back”, adding that the mass symbolised the celebration of the overthrow of evil by God’s blessings.
He said the late Ojukwu dreamt of one Nigeria where there will be no oppression or subjugation. “A Nigeria where the Hausa can live peacefully in Igbo land and vice versa. A Nigeria where the Igbo man can live in Yoruba land as his home and vice versa.”
The late Ojukwu, he said, lived with the conviction of an egalitarian society where everybody is equal and a level - playing ground where everyone could attain his or her life aspiration.
The clergy said throughout his life time, the late Biafran leader was never accused of corruption. He challenged anybody who thought otherwise to come forward.
He reminded the people that the late Ojukwu was wrongly being accused of fighting a war of secession. According to him, he fought a war to protect his people from extinction.
“He did not lead Igbo to war but he led Igbo in war for self defence,” he said.
Governor Obi said the late Ojukwu’s life was a challenge to Nigerians, especially those holding public trust on the virtues of being selfless in service. He spoke during a symposium in honour of Ojukwu by Anioma people of Delta State at the Grand Hotel, Asaba.
Obi travelled to Asaba from Enugu with Senator Uche Chukwumerije and Prof. ABC Nwosu and left for Nnewi to inspect the final work at the Ojukwu Mausoleum.
The governor said he was overwhelmed by the type of honour Nigerians had accorded Ojukwu.
Insisting that Ojukwu’s name has become a byword for justice, he asked rhetorically how many Nigerians today would support such an ideal without asking what material benefit would come out of it?
Chairman of the occasion Chief Sunny Odogwu said the late Ojukwu was admired by everybody, including his military colleagues for his courage and gallantry. He urged Nigerians, especially the leaders, to correct what he called “structural deficiencies and social injustices” against which the late Ojukwu fought.
The lecturer, Prof. BIC Ijeomah, described the late Ojukwu as “the only nationalist”.
As Governor of Eastern Region, he had the responsibility to protect his people. That was not a rebellion, he said. Ijeomah decried as ‘unacceptable’, a situation where Igbo would always be made the sacrificial lamb for Nigeria’s unity.
Source: Punch, 1st March 2012.
Nigeria as Ojukwu departs
By Gabriel Amalu
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu surely experienced the best and the worst times as a Nigerian in his life time. One can even say that he personified this extreme dynamics; as the debate rages whether Nigeria could become a great nation, under the present structure. As expected the Eze Igbo Gburugburu is departing in a blaze of glory. From Zungeru, Niger State where he was born to Lagos, to Port Harcourt, to Abuja, to Enugu, to Owerri, to Awka, and finally to Nnewi where he will rest among his ancestors, nothing short of iconic adulations is going on.
Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Ikemba’s father was a quintessential entrepreneur, representing hope for a prosperous new Nigeria at her Independence in 1960. The younger Ojukwu epitomised burning nationalism when despite receiving a world class university education from Oxford he resisted the offer to take over a flourishing business empire and rather enlisted as a non commissioned officer in the Nigerian Army. Ojukwu also showed discipline and love for a united Nigeria when during the first military putsch in January 1966, Ojukwu isolated his military command in Kano from the military take over, and provided protection for politically exposed public figures, including the Emir of Kano.
But by May 1967, the quintessential nationalism and patriotism in Ojukwu had been forced by the systemic contradictions in our country to retreat; such that as the military/political leader of the old South-Eastern Nigeria, he was forced by grave circumstances to defend a war waged against his people by the Nigerian state. While accusations and counter accusations as to who the culprits of the events that culminated into the Nigerian civil war continues to vary depending on who is rendering the story; Nigerians have since been faced with the grim reality that Nigeria needs restructuring for it to make progress.
At the height of the efforts to save the country from an imminent civil war in 1967, was the famous Aburi accord in Ghana; where African leaders tried to mediate among the then top military and political leaders of Nigeria on ways to restructure the country. Unfortunately the accord was discarded as soon as the protagonists came back to Nigeria, leading to a civil war in which about three million Nigerians, mainly Igbos were slaughtered or died from starvation; as the dominant mantra in Nigeria changed from "there is no basis for a united Nigeria" to "the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable".
For many years after reclaiming the geographical space occupied by the Igbo, the resurgent Nigerian army had a field day pillaging the country’s resources as war booty; while intermittently allowing their political class a look in. Of course the international arena has since changed, and coup d’état in Africa has become very unfashionable, with serious consequences on the financial and material well being of that ancien regime. As they mourn their loss, and as if to add salt to the injury, some strange outsiders from the oil bearing states have by a stroke of chance chanced on power and are obviously making a kill out of that opportunity. Now there is a dilemma over how to handle these strange times.
As Ikemba departs, maybe it is time to have a second look on the agreements hammered out at Aburi. While those outside the power calculus could see clearly and are insisting on a sovereign national conference; those swimming in the petro dollars can only see rainbow in the sky; and of course are not willing to talk with their mouths full. The national assembly leadership and the presidency have called the calls for a sovereign conference, an unpatriotic idle talk; with the Senate President predicting that Nigeria would soon become a great nation.
As things stand President Goodluck Jonathan may not realise that nothing has changed in his native Niger Delta; except perhaps the creation of a few rich men and patches of development here and there. His kinsmen are also so far gone in their dressing up to their new found status that they would not appreciate that unless Nigeria is restructured, they may return to their former status once the Abuja parade comes to an end. The Speaker of the national assembly from the born to rule state, Sokoto, luckily dose not have the compulsion to explain to his people how despite their political ascendency since the civil war years; the state is at present ranked among the least in the human capital development index of states in Nigeria.
There are similar contradictions everywhere; yet the present pretenders propagate that all is well with Nigeria as is. One such old sore point is how "the abandoned property saga" has been treated under our democracy. I am not away that after 42 years, those affected has received a citizen’s treatment after the so called no victor no vanquished civil war. Indeed I am surprised that a quality law suit has not been started to test the laws on that. But Governor Rotimi Amaechi may also show sagacity by politically bringing that injustice to a close as a fitting gesture to the memory of Ikemb Nnewi.
Source: The Nation, 1st March 2012.
Atiku describes Ojukwu as a legend of all times
By Augustine Ehikioya, Abuja
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has described the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a legend of all times.
In a tribute to the National Burial Committee, Atiku said words such as “warlord,” “rebel leader,” “secessionist”, which have been used to described Ojukwu, do not really capture his achievements.
He said: “Among the several stories that have been written about Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the piece I found particularly compelling was an archive interview republished after his unfortunate death on November 26, 2011.
“Asked how he would like to be remembered, Ojukwu’s reply was poignant: ‘I would like to be remembered as a statesman; not just as a rebel leader.
“Indeed, in a world increasingly obsessed with labels, we could so easily become defined by a single action that is by no means a true reflection of our outlook. So, it was common to find Ojukwu’s name almost always preceded by words such as “warlord,” “rebel leader,” or “secessionist.”
He went on: “These words do little justice to a man who was the first Quartermaster-General of the Nigerian Army, a man who distinguished himself as a member of the Nigerian contingent to the United Nations peace-keeping effort in Congo, a man born into immense wealth and privilege but who never allowed that to dull his humanity and his appetite for service.
“Those unflattering labels are products of a gross misunderstanding of the core values that define Ojukwu’s personality. The values were forged in humility, the sort that led the young Oxford alumnus to take up the job of an administrative officer in the colonial government – a rather humbling career start for the son of a millionaire!
“Another value that resonates in Ojukwu’s remarkable life is the virtue of selflessness, a philosophy that recognises the imperative of service. That is the essential statesmanship; the capacity to place the common good above self, the capacity to stay dignified even in the face of adversity, the capacity for compromise and bipartisanship.
“Above all, statesmanship requires an understanding that idealism and pragmatism are not mutually-exclusive. It is indeed difficult to say these of anyone else without tongue-in-cheek. But these values were embodied by the late Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, Dikedioramma (beloved hero of the masses).
“Given the very fickle nature of humans and often unrealistic expectations, remaining a hero in the eyes of one’s people, for a lifetime, especially in our clime, is a near impossibility. It’s, however, gratifying to note that Ojukwu did not only draw accolades in death; he was just as well loved and idolised even more while he was alive.
“But he didn’t achieve that feat by being eternally politically-correct. In fact, I doubt there was any conscious effort on his part to be seen as an icon; he emerged a hero by living by his convictions and demonstrating sufficient empathy for the people.
“His foray into politics upon his return to the country in 1982 may have fallen short of the expectations of those who wanted him to stay out of politics, but his contributions to the rebirth of democracy and its sustenance cannot be contradicted.
“His belief and commitment in the capacity of Nigerians to grow their own democracy without let and hindrance was underscored by his irritation at the military intervention that toppled the Shehu Shagari government in 1983 and led to his brief incarceration.
“As a committed democrat, every single day under an un-elected government hurts me. The citizens of this country are mature enough to make their own choices, just as they have the right to make their own mistakes.
“Today, the imperative of the handshake across the Niger he spoke so eloquently about still strike a resonant chord across the country. It’s a call that evidently repudiates all those hurtful stereotypes, which some tend to readily invoke when discussing the larger-than-life personality of Ojukwu.
“The handshake across the Niger was a call to peace, a call to dialogue and a denunciation of hubris in all its form. We owe it as a duty to his memory to strive to enthrone those values that unite us. But, ultimately, this should not be at the expense of justice. It is a right to which we are all entitled.”
Source: The Nation, 1st March 2012.
Ojukwu and the True Nigerian Spirit
Guest Columnist By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
One of the best things about the passing of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is the kind of tributes which the news of his passing has elicited across the country. The former leader of Biafra has enjoyed the distinction of being eulogised across the political, ethnic and religious spectrum. From every part of Nigeria, Nigerians, high and low, prominent and ordinary, old and young have stepped forward to honour him with moving tributes. For a man whose life was defined by the role he played in the turbulent three years of the Nigerian Civil War, a man for whom the prefix “rebel” was once de rigeur, this was quite an achievement. The praise is also very well deserved because the life of Ojukwu exemplifies what can happen when principled courage meets patriotism. Here was a man who went to war out of conviction but who also, out of conviction, decided to stop fighting and come home to contribute to achieving the purposes for which he went to war, this time through civil and democratic means. The Eze Igbo Gburugburu was indeed a rare man who without giving up his principles, made peace with his enemies and joined hands with other patriots to seek solutions to the challenges of nationhood.
For me, and I am sure many other Nigerians of my generation on the Biafran side who are old enough to remember the cataclysmic events of the Civil War which largely defined our youth, the wave of tributes triggered by Chief Ojukwu’s passing has evoked a sense that things have come full circle. Many young Nigerians do not know that the Nigerian Civil War was one of the most tragic landmarks of the 20th century, a conflict whose horrendous human suffering inspired the founding of one of the most important humanitarian organisations in the world, Medecins san Frontierres (Doctors without Frontiers). In all, an estimated one million persons perished in the war; some estimates cite double that figure.
The response to Ojukwu’s passing has, simultaneously, recalled the nightmare years of war and also acted as a balm of healing for those deep pains of yesterday. The memories are many. I remember helping my mother and a collective of other women in Port Harcourt cook for Biafran soldiers, making “dry packs” of preserved foods to feed soldiers at the war front. I remember my father, a Brigadier in the Biafran Army and head of the Biafran Organisation of Freedom Fighters (BOFF) in his uniform. I remember young men relatives, friends, and neighbours – who waved goodbye as they went off to war – and never came back.
It is against this background that one can best appreciate the balm the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Ojukwu’s death. The man whose name some saw as a symbol of division has, in death, done so much to unite Nigerians. That is the spirit that I want us to celebrate and share with our children. It is the positive spirit of renascent Nigeria, a spirit that acknowledges the problems and the pain, yet refuses to give up on the shining possibilities of a brighter future. It is the spirit that refuses to be defined by glib negatives, a spirit that insists on doing the difficult but necessary work of building a strong foundation for a better future, even as we learn from the mistakes of the past. It is this kind of spirit that inspires hope for Nigeria. It is the spirit of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Thank you, Ikemba, Eze Igbo Gburugburu, thank you for sharing your strong but resilient spirit with us. Thank you for teaching us how to fight and how to make peace while standing strong. Thank you, Bianca for being there till the end, thank you Odumegwu-Ojukwu family for your great gift to Nigeria. And thank you Nigeria for celebrating and honouring our remarkable brother and son.
Source: This Day, 1st March 2012.
Ojukwu’s death’ll not be in vain – Udenwa
Etiaba reminisces, as Ojukwu Ezeigbo Gburugburu goes home
From CHIDI NNADI
`Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was born at Zungeru now Niger State on the 14th of November, 1933 and died on the 26th day of November, 2011 at the age of 78 years.
He was born well into the family of the late Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the late business mogul (from Nnewi, Anambra State) whose wealth touched many Nigerians, including my late father, Barrister B.M.C Etiaba of blessed memory. His benevolence was extended to my father, who came from a poor family and needed financial support to become the lawyer he was destined to be. Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s source of wealth was not shrouded in secrecy as one observes of today’s millionaires. He was a transporter, produce merchant and did invest so much in real estate with several houses still standing in his company’s name in Ikoyi, Lagos and other parts of the world.
This little digression is necessary for one to appreciate the background the man Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu came from. His pedigree was great and he was exposed to a life of comfort, hardwork, focus, sincerity and love for people around him.
The young Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu had his early education in Lagos. As a little boy, Ojukwu had begun to show signs of a revolutionary. In 1944, while at King’s College, he assaulted a white British colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman. He felt the white teacher had no business intimidating the woman because she was black and Nigeria.
In 1946, at the age of 13 years, his father packaged him out of the country to the United Kingdom to continue his studies first at Epsom College and then Lincoln College, Oxford University where he bagged his Masters Degree in History and timeously returned to the country in 1956. It is worth to note that his father wanted him to be a lawyer like men of his stature would wish for their children but the young Ojukwu had a different progremme for himself . On his return, he joined the civil service and was posted to Udi, now Enugu State as the District Officer. He then joined the military in 1957 and the rest is history.
In his life time, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu did not leave any person in doubt as to his convictions, beliefs and biases. He was the people’s general. He lived a life of sacrifice not just for the Igbos but every oppressed people. He was not afraid to confront issues and the people behind the issues. He was bold, fearless and was never intimidated.
I remember vividly during the Abacha days when the State Security Service declared him wanted at Abuja for some ‘Political sins’ he was said to have committed.
As the announcement was being aired in N.T.A network news, I happened to be in his house in Enugu and he had a good laugh. He said his bags were already packed but that he would never leave his home in Enugu without a return flight ticket as a Chief. Of course the men of State Security Service never came for him and he never bothered.
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was a very humorous man. He could make a joke out of any situation. I once confronted him with the Nigeria saying that if you really want to know whether an Igboman was dead or not, you should wave money on his face and if he does not reach out for the money, then the man must be dead. He laughed and waved the saying aside insisting that every body likes money. Do the same to a Yoruba or Hausa person and if he is alife, he will jump up and reach out for it. He said that that saying was what had been foisted on the Igboman and the Igboman seems to have accepted it a true.
He had his belief and was never in doubt as to whether the problem of the Nigerian State was corruption or not. He could so easily tell you why we as a Nation remain under-developed. He accused the elite for their un-controlled greed which has destroyed the fabric of the Society and severally economy.
Even at the height of military Rule in Nigeria, he bemoaned the fact of the Country remaining under the military and he spoke out against it. Infact in one of his interviews, he noted that he regrets each day he lived under an undemocratic Government. Of course, this is not about Federal Government alone but all tiers of Government including our ever raped Local Government Councils where Governors undemocratically decide to appoint Caretaker Committees and still claim to be Democrats.
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu – Ojukwu hated to see the Igbos humiliated. His obsession was to see a united, fairly respected and treated Igbo nation under the entity called Nigeria. In 1983 for example, he ran for the Presidential Election under his beloved All Progressives Grand Alliance and he campaigned vigorously. One evening, I asked him whether he sincerely believed he could win the election and he retorted and answered, winning is not as important as participation. What is important is that an Igbo person participated seriously in the Presidential Election as we are not second class but full blooded Nigerians. It is on record that Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu – Ojukwu is one Igboman who will not compromise the interest of the Igbos even after a visit to Aso Rock. He demonstrated this in so may ways.
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu – Ojukwu means so many things to so many people. To a discerning Nigeria, he was a fearless patriot, to an Igbo person, he was a leader and to Ndi-Nnewi, he was a worthy Ambassador. He was married to her Excellency, Iyom Bianca Odumegwu – Ojukwu and they are blessed with children. I know he found love in the arms of Iyom and he flaunted that fact to the admiration and hatred of money. He placed the fact of his love for Iyom on record when he wrote “Because I am involved”. His marriage to Iyom was a divine arrangement which he savoured until he died.
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu – Ojukwu has gone the way of all mortals and will be greatly remembered and missed by all. To all of us that morn him, I pray that the God of comfort shall comfort us. My leader, I bid you farewell.
Source: Sun, 1st March 2012.
He was a great man, say Ekwueme, Obi, others
By Nwanosike Onu, Awka, Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, Nnewi and Okodili Ndidi, Onitsha
The body of the late Ojukwu was moved to Anambra State yesterday from Enugu ahead of burial today. At the Alex Ekwueme Square, Awka, the state capital, it was another opportunity for another round of tributes.
Former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, former Governor of Anambra State Chukwuemeka Ezeife and former Chairman of Police Service Commission, Chief Simon Okeke were there to receive Ojukwu’s body which arrived at 4:12p.m in a NAF 570 helicopter.
Atop the casket, draped in the green-white-green national colours, were military boots. Seven ball bearers bore the casket.
It was a riot of colours as various groups wore different colours of Ojukwu’s mourning dress. Anambra State Governor Peter Obi and his deputy, Emeka Sibeudu, led the pack.
Thousands of mourners, mainly youths, MASSOB members and school pupils waited for hours to receive the remains which left Awka around 6:45 pm in the helicopter for Nnewi.
Ekwueme, said the late Ojukwu was his personal friend of 67 years, adding: “When the call is sounded, all must hear, and for him, the call has been sounded.
“Among his legacies was his request for justice and equity in Nigeria, the search for a Nigeria where every citizen will have a sense of belonging, where no citizen will feel that he is unequal before the law.”
Like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was President of Nigeria, the late Ojukwu was born in Zungeru, grew up in Lagos where his father lived and had his secondary education there, therefore he has a combination of Northern birth, Western up bringing and Eastern parentage.
Ekwueme urged the late Ojukwu’s family to take heart, adding that Ikemba lived a good life and was a man of history. “They should be comforted, as the Bible says. As Christians, they should not grieve like people without hope.”
Literary icon and the traditional ruler of Ndikelionwu, Eze Chukwuemeka Ike said: “Ojukwu offered leadership at a time we were in a greatest state of despair. When we were coming back to the East, there were broken hopes and the people were poor and we came together to defend our people and Ojukwu provided leadership. We came here to honour him because he made the Igbo man a character that you cannot ignore anywhere in the world.”
Governor Obi said: “Ojukwu was a complete and great Igbo man. He was a maker of history. Ojukwu came, saw and conquered, leaving behind legacies that are unparallel by pettiness.”
Anambra Deputy Governor Emeka Sibeudu, former Minister Oby Ezekwesili and Dozie Nwanna, among others also spoke in Awka.
Commercial activities and vehicular movements were grounded in the commercial city of Onitsha as members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) enforced a sit-at-home order in honour of the late Ojukwu.
Source, The Nation, 2nd March 2012.
Pro-Biafran countries send reps to burial
BY EMMANUEL OBE AND OZIOMA UBABUKOH
Representatives of countries that recognised Biafra during the Nigeria Civil War – Gabon, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, and Zambia – arrived Enugu on Wednesday for Thursday’s (today) funeral activities and Friday’s interment programme for the late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State on Wednesday also made a cash donation to Biafra war veterans at a Requiem Mass organised for the repose of the soul of late Ikemba Nnewi in Enugu.
Obi did not disclose the amount of money for security reasons, but assured the ex-Biafran soldiers that each of them would go home with a huge sum of money.
At the Requiem Mass held at the Holy Ghost Catholic Cathedral, Rev. Obiora Ike also announced Obi’s donation of vests and caps with Ojukwu’s insignia and picture to the war veterans.
The governor’s donation followed a rendition of gospel hymns and Biafra war songs by the veterans, a development that drew ovation from the congregation and other members of the public who had besieged the premises to see the casket bearing Ojukwu’s remains.
In his sermon, the Administrator of Holy Ghost Catholic Cathedral, Rev. John Nwafor, anchored on the need for unity in diversity, saying, “Unless Nigeria embraced true federalism with a weak centre, which Ojukwu proposed many years ago, the country would know no peace.”
Nwafor said although he wanted Nigeria to remain one, there was need for everybody to come together and dialogue.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State Government raided the streets of Awka and Nnewi to clear them of beggars, lunatics and the homeless ahead of the burial.
More than a thousand destitutes had been taken out of the streets as at Wednesday and dumped at a rehabilitation centre at Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area.
Some of the beggars, however, escaped, abandoning their begging bowls as the security agents and government officials approached their bases.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Dr. Ego Uzoezie, who supervised the operation, said the raid was in accordance with the wish of Ojukwu while alive.
She said those evacuated would be taken to the state government rehabilitation centre at Nteje for rehabilitation and later on, reunited with their families.
She also said those in stable condition would be sent to the 21 skill acquisition centres in the state for training.
Uzoezie said the raid would extend to other cities after the burial of Ojukwu. Nnewi and Awka are two cities where Ojukwu’s remains will be taken during the burial ceremonies.
She said, “The late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, did not believe in Ndigbo begging for anything and his wish was that no beggar would litter the streets of the capital city and environs on the day of his motorcade to Nnewi for his state burial in Awka.
“He believed in hard work and had encouraged our people to work hard. Hence, we are striving to ensure his wish is carried out.”
The commissioner said apart from clearing the streets of beggars for the burial of Ojukwu, the state would use the opportunity to know the number of beggars in the state that are actually indigenes and those who are non-indigenes.
The Deputy Director on Social Welfare and enforcement officer, Mrs. Rose Udeagbala said the raid was an annual event to clear the state of beggars, but the current raid was special because it was in keeping with the request of late Ojukwu that Igbo, especially Anambra people, should not be seen begging along the streets.
Source: Punch, 1st March 2012.
No, Ojukwu Did Not Cause The War Of Secession —Lasisi Lajunwon
By Lajunwon – PM News
It was wrong and belated for anybody to conclude that the late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu caused the secession war in 1967. Let us tell Yakubu Gowon that it was the senseless way the political crisis of that era was handled by his northern oligarchy that caused the civil war. But the major contributory factor was the utter denial of the truth of the Aburi agreement, leading to the denial of justice, fair-play, and lack of moral rectitude, exhibited by the same set of feudal rulers from 29 July, 1966 upwards.
It was not a matter of joke when Dim Ojukwu declared that “on Aburi we stand”. This was a peace agreement brokered by the two sides at Aburi, Ghana, through the effort of the then Ghana president, Roy Ankrah, who helped to broker the accord, in order to bring peace and harmony to the people of Nigeria.
However, when Gowon returned to Nigeria, he was forced to reverse the peace accord, which the northern hegemony described as a sell-out to Ojukwu, even though they knew full well that the Igbo, as a race, suffered most, under the army interregnum, leading to a well-planned consistent pogrom and systematic extermination of the people of Igbo tribe in the north. Gowon government became more harsh on Ojukwu and his people. Nevertheless, what measure of condolence would you express to a man whose mother was eaten up by hyena? That was the awkward position, the man Ojukwu was, when he was forced to declare secession in 1967.
Unfortunately, Ojukwu was not fully on ground militarily when he declared Biafran Republic, and that was why he lost the struggle. As a student of history (of which he was), he would have studied how America fought and won independence from British rule, and also about the 7 day war between the Israeli and Arab nations. In three months, he would have ordered for military training of Igbo youths while many others would have been sent abroad for training in tactical and strategic guerilla warfare. Also other Igbo boys would have been sent overseas to train as pilot specialists in reconnaissance flights. With adequate military equipment, and human and other resources, Ojukwu would have been on ground to confront the military might of the then military government successfully. Ojukwu would have adopted the tactical strategy of the Israeli army during the 7-day war with Arab nations in 1967. Israel had very small number of army, compared with the number of the desert rats of the Arab countries involved in the struggle. 30 minutes to the commencement of the hostilities by the Arab armies, Israeli air force bombarded the air military formations throughout the Arab countries involved in the idea of elimination of the Jewish nation from the Middle East. The air incendiary attacks were made consistent to be carried out at 30 minutes intervals. In a short period of time, all the Arab military and commercial planes were virtually destroyed. And within 7 days of hostilities, Arab countries, led by Egypt, were forced to ask for a ceasefire.
Nevertheless, Dim Emeka Ojukwu was a fine and disciplined soldier who tried to see that sanity was maintained in the military hierarchy when the retaliatory counter-coup of Gowon boys took place. He advised that Brigadier Ogundipe be allowed to take over the mantle of leadership as was done after the first coup when he made sure that General Aguiyi Ironsi took over the government. This was rejected by the northern junta because Gowon and his boys had their own plan to make sure that the north ruled Nigeria for a long time, under one form of coups, and counter-coups.
The counter-coup of July 29, 1966, was a retaliatory coup which led to the ethnic cleansing of the Igbo race. Virtually all Nigerians of Ibo extraction were decimated in the north. The blood-letting was extended to Lagos where many Igbo military officers were fished out and slaughtered after the coup. Even the civilian Ibo were not left out of the macabre dance of death. This inhumanity to man of the northern soldiers, forced the majority of Igbos to flee to Lagos after selling their buildings and other properties at give-away prices. Some cursed the day they were born as Igbo. Others died of fear and shock, to tell you that Nigeria was at war against herself. Some even quoted the scripture “that all days are evil because they are controlled by satan, and that the evil sides of the evil days are now the portion of the Igbo”. Therefore the remnants of the northern holocaust of the coup and counter-coup had no alternative but to run back to their ancestral region.
Ojukwu then faced a pathetic and grave situation. Apart from God, the Igbo looked up to him as their avatar to deliver them from the deadly clutches of the northern oligarchy. At that juncture, he was forced to declare secession from inhuman set of people who didn’t value human lives. In order to find an amicable settlement to the political crisis, the then Ghana president hosted the two warring groups. At the end of the meeting, a peaceful accord was reached. When they got to Nigeria, Gowon reneged on the Aburi declaration.
However, declaration of secession did not mean declaration of war. There was still room for negotiation which was not explored, because the Gowon military government was bent on teaching the Igbo a bitter lesion. It was the Gowon junta that made the first move on mere declaration of intention by starting the civil war on May 27, 1967. There was still room to resolve the contending issues by the federal military government which failed to toe the path of rectitude instead of ordering the police to capture Ojukwu, the military governor of the then Eastern Region.
I was a pupil teacher at Taku Baptist primary school Oyo, in August 1968 when Ojukwu was reviewing the war situation in a rhetoric version around 4pm. He praised the Biafran soldiers for their gallantry, and great commitment to the war effort, and fighting the northern vandals with self-determination to drive them away from Biafran soil. At a stage, Ojukwu affirmed that he did not cause the war which Gowon used to murder the Igbo in cold blood. “And I wept” at that statement. In his final reminiscence on the Biafra struggle. I concluded that the battle had been lost. That the civil war lasted till 30th January, 1970, was a surprise to me.
By the end of the struggle to emancipate the Biafrans, more than two and halve million Nigerians of Igbo extraction were annihilated by Gowon’s soldiers. May their souls rest in peace as a supreme sacrifice to build a better Nigeria.
Please note that during the period of struggle to free the Igbo from total destruction, many notable Igbo politicians, regarded as nation builders ran away for safety, and left Ojukwu, a few respectable ones, and the masses to continue the military campaign until the Efik-born general, Philip Effiong, surrendered, on behalf of Ojukwu on January 30, 1970 to end the Gowon holocaust. Now, the man died, and the only way to commiserate with Nigeria by Yakubu Gowon, was to accuse the dead for causing the secession war. Gowon should be told that:
1. He caused the civil war which led to the death of more than 2 ˝ million Igbo;
2. Gowon, Danjuma, Murtala Muhammed, and other northern soldiers of note, made sure that the sane advice of Ojukwu to see that seniority was allowed to prevail when choosing their leaders was discarded to clear the way for northern soldiers to rule Nigeria at any point in time;
3. No wonder, the June 12, 1993 election, which was adjudged the freest and fairest election was annulled by IB Babangida, simply because the winner, Abiola, was not a northerner, therefore he could not be allowed to be the president of Nigeria;
4. The 2011 presidential election did not go down well with northern political leaders and they out-rightly declared that the north should be allowed to produce the president because it was their turn, regardless of the decades they held on to power in the country without meaningful achievements,
5. Also to note that the formation of Nigerian Al-Qaeda Boko Haram, is not for fun; that the north would make Nigeria ungovernable for Goodluck was not an empty threat by the Northern elders. Recently a northern senator was discovered to be one of the sponsors of Boko Haram, the religious/political weapon of destruction; and as long as they are not allowed to govern the country, they don’t mind if the country disintegrates by using Boko Haram to intensify their horrendous activities.
In the final analysis, even in death, Ojukwu looms larger than Gowon who is alive. His praying crusade which he spreads all over the country, has fail to save his Plateau State from intermittent tribal killings which started some years ago. Gowon should intensify his praying prowess. Who knows whether the bloody treatment meted out to the Igbo race 45 years ago is now taking its toll on his people in Plateau State, and some other states in Northern Nigeria. Their fathers ate sour fruits and the mouths of their children have become sour.
And for the great soldier, and leader of men, Ojukwu, if the so-called notable Igbo men had joined you in the struggle, like the German soldiers used to do, instead of scampering for their personal safety, perhaps, the unnecessary war would have been nipped in the bud. Nevertheless, Nigerian nation has learnt a lot from your purposeful leadership. The fact that you were determined to lead your people to the promised land was a success in itself. Giving you state burial is belated, but praise your creator that you are in the heart of all Igbo people and the good people of Nigeria, that is the ultimate recognition by mankind, and forever shall it be.
Lajunwon wrote from Lagos.