Ojukwu did not declare war on Nigeria –
Ex-Biafran veterans

BY TONY EDIKE, ENUGU

Ojukwu

BIAFRAN war veterans, Friday, disagreed with some Nigerians who claim that the former Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu declared war on Nigeria, saying that Ojukwu only fought in defense of the former Eastern region.

They maintained that Ojukwu declared the Biafran republic in response to the endless massacre of people from the former Eastern Nigeria, particularly the Igbo, by their northern counterparts.

Recalling what they regarded as the accurate history of the civil war, the veterans said that it was the then Nigeria Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon that declared war on the Eastern region in order to force the region back to Nigeria, which Ojukwu stoutly resisted.

The former Biafran soldiers further said that it was the people of the Eastern region who pressured Ojukwu to declare the state of Biafra principally due to the pogrom against the easterners living in the north.

Retired Col. Paul Udeh,  Commander of Biafran war veterans, who led the former Biafran soldiers on a condolence visit to Ojukwu’s residence  in Enugu, expressed regrets over the demise of the Ikemba Nnewi saying it was people like him who could not contain the injustice and blood letting against Ndigbo that compelled Ojukwu to declare the republic of Biafra, stressing that people should stop falsifying the facts of history.

After signing the register and conducted a brief military parade, the former military officers, declared that the demise of Ojukwu was a great loss to the Ndigbo and Africa in general, stressing that the vacuum created by the late Igbo leader would be difficult to fill.

While praying God to grant Ojukwu’s C soul eternal rest, Col. Udeh however, called on Ndigbo to use his death to unite themselves.

Also speaking after paying a condolence visit to Ojukwu’s residence yesterday, Chief Executive Officer of Capital Oil and Gas, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah said that the only honour Ndigbo would bestow on Ojukwu was to continue with the virtue and the dream he had for his people.

The oil magnate said: “I am saddened by the death of the icon and an iroko.  I can only promise that by the grace of God, we will uphold the virtues and the dream you have for our people and it shall manifest in our lifetime.”

In the same vein, a former member of the House of Representatives, Prince U.S.A Igwesi described Ojukwu’s death as a great loss for Ndigbo saying the vacuum he has left would be difficult to fill.

Igwesi who is also called Ikemba Enugu, told reporters that the passing on of the elder statesman has indeed created a wide gap in the leadership of the Igbo nation.

He noted that the contribution of the late Ikemba Nnewi towards the emancipation of Igbo race would remain indelible in the hearts of Ndigbo, calling on all to take active part in his funeral which is yet to be fixed.

Igwesi expressed support for the resolution of the National Assembly seeking the Federal Government’s immortalization of Ojukwu saying no honour would be too much for the ex-Biafran warlord.

He commiserated with Ndigbo all over the world over the death of Ojukwu just as he commended his widow, Mrs Bianca for her strong support for Ikemba throughout the trying period.
Source: Vanguard, 3rd December 2011.

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…Ojukwu’s Death, End of an Eventful Era, Says Imoke

Governor Liyel Imoke

Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State has described the demise of revered Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu – Ojukwu as marking the end of an eventful and exciting era in the history of Nigeria, and the West African Sub-region.

In a statement by his Special Assistant – Media and Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Omini Oden, Imoke, said " Ojukwu was one of the leading lights of his generation who helped in shaping the course of Nigerian history through his military career, and prominent role in the events leading to the Nigerian civil war.

Liyel praised the charismatic Igbo Leader for accepting the reality of one Nigeria at the end of the war.

Imoke noted that the late Dim demonstrated rare pragmatism, leadership, maturity and condor by returning from exile to join politics in the Second Republic following a Presidential pardon granted him by the then President Alhaji Shehu Shagari.

He stressed that Ojukwu fostered the quest for national unity, and healing of the wounds of the civil war by standing as a Presidential candidate for APGA in the Fourth Republic, and contributing to the resolution of national issues.

Imoke further observed that Ojukwu would be remembered as "a bold, charismatic, intelligent and principled leader who embraced, with deep conviction, the role forced on him by circumstances at different epochs in the annals of Nigeria."
Source: This Day, 3rd December 2011.

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Ojukwu’s demise: Igbo leadership succession talk premature –Obi

BY ODOGWU  EMEKA ODOGWU

The death of Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu, after a long-drawn illness in a London hospital puts Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State in the centre of activities preceding the erstwhile Igbo leader’s burial. Some newsmen includingODOGWU  EMEKA ODOGWU encountered the governor during the week briefly at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu where he fielded questions on late Ojukwu, his fresh innovations in health and education sectors and more. Excerpts: 

The Ikemba Nnewi, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu has finally passed on. What were your immediate thoughts at the news of his decease?

I  would say everybody feels sad. But for those who were very close to him, the feeling is even more so. I am one of those who were very close to our departed hero, but we can push on. I could not but think of his eventful life; our close association; his brave battle with ill health; and how our society would look without him. Sure, a number of things quickly ran through my mind. The truth is that there is no easy way to say goodbye. But as I said, we shall move on.   We pray God grants him eternal rest. We will give him a befitting burial and emulate those qualities like courage and love he had.

You talked about some of the privileged information he shared about those that gave him support morally. Please expatiate.

What I said is that I had the opportunity of talking to him about certain areas, certain things in Igbo land he was always fond of. Ojukwu was always concerned with how to improve the fortunes of our people and that of the country. But we don’t have to go into all that now.

You are a key voice in the Igbo political intelligentsia. Following the Ikemba’s demise, attention is now shifting to his successor. What are the options before Ndigbo?

Talks of succession for now are premature. The core issue now is to organise a befitting burial for Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. To indulge now in the kind of speculation you are alluding to is for me disrespectful of our fallen hero. We will like to use this major milestone in Igboland to reunite our people. In grief, new meanings can arise; new imperatives, new dreams, new hope and a deepened sense of unity and common destiny. I want to use this occasion to urge everybody that we should love each other more. To do him the best honour is to emulate the depth, scope and strength of his vision. We should also emulate his sheer courage. There is a time for everything.

You talked about wonderful and befitting burial. Did Ikemba leave any instruction about his burial?

At this point in time, I have no such information. But like I said, we have not fixed the burial date.

What will Ndigbo miss most about the late Ikemba Nnewi?

His wisdom and courage; the confidence that flowed from his leadership. And it is not just the Ndigbo that are affected by his exit. Ojukwu was a national leader. His strong voice on national issues will be missed.

Putting you in the second term was one of his last wish to you. How do you feel?

Well, to me, it’s been a great challenge. I see that as appreciation of our efforts in governance and invitation to do more. By God’s grace, we will get there. But we should discuss all that after the burial.

Where would he be buried?

Of course, in Igboland.

Are you discussing the associated issues with your colleagues, like other South East governors?

We will all come together at his village. As you know, it is not a burial of just any person. He was an outstanding figure in Igboland and an important national leader. All of us, both politicians, governors and all stakeholders will be there.

Are you canvassing a national burial?

The Igbo nation is naturally taking the initiative. As they say, charity begins at home. We have a duty towards our son. But in giving honour to whom it is due, we are not restricting participation. It is open to all Nigerians, institutions and governments.

We have been talking about late Ojukwu. Recently, you said something about a revolution going on in Anambra State. What informed the key innovations in the education and health sectors you are spear-heading in your state?

What we are trying to do in Anambra State is to take no decision out of hand. I had said in the past that at the time we came into office, Anambra was on the verge of becoming a failed state but people would unfortunately try to politicise that home truth. There are critical indices of development to look at and these critical institutions like education had collapsed. And you ask yourself, why would the education sector collapse? We drove the missionaries out without a replacement model, that was the beginning of the collapse. In the area of healthcare, we used to give them support and suggestion. Later we abandoned them and the institutions collapsed. For example, Iyienu Hospital produced the first and best midwife in Nigeria. By the time we came into power, that school was closed down and then you wonder why such good school was closed down.

This was a school which trained our professional nurses, which should be a premier iconic institution; yet it was closed down. Iyienu trained most of our medical doctors. That was where they did their house jobs. As I speak to you, the place is no more functioning. Before we built state and national hospitals, these hospitals were servicing our own people. So, we are now going back. As of last week, we paid non-academic staffs N3 billion and we are giving all these back to the Churches that run these institutions. Today, we have commenced subvention to the Federal schools. We are spending N6 billion in that regard. We gave over N1 billion to different schools of nursing including Iyienu, as well as Lourdes, Ihiala.

Is the church still what it used to be to manage moral upbringing?

Yes, of course, at least, they are far better than we are (laughs) but we challenge them.

You talked about giving out the different institutions for them to manage - really without any interference?

I don’t really interfere. I don’t interfere but of course, there are policy guidelines. The relevant government ministries monitor the disbursement of these funds. The benefiting schools and hospitals submit action plans before they receive the money and the implementation of the projects are supervised by us.

You are in effect evolving a new, innovative development model. Are you selling this to the South-east zone or you are just doing it only in Anambra State?

Before selling out things to outsiders, you try it inside first. When the vision behind the policy course is clearly seen to work out, it will be easier to sell them region-wide.

Your health plans for the state contrasts sharply with flying the late Ikemba Ojukwu abroad for treatment?

That is a challenge. We started from going to Europe, Egypt and South Africa. When you get there, you would observe that the hospitals are not run by government. Why don’t we do what is happening there here. We can do the same. We have taken up the challenge. The process of upgrading our healthcare system has started. We will continue to improve the standards until they attain acceptable global standards.
Source: Daily Champion, 3rd December 2011.

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Ojukwu: Igbo Yet To Ascend Political High Table In Nigeria —Uwechue

Ambassador Ralph Uweche, Ohanaeze President

Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, the current President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo was a former Nigerian career diplomat in various capacities in Cameroun, Pakistan and Mali.

In 1966, he opened the Nigerian embassy in France and later became Biafra’s representative in that country. Succintly put, Uwechue was very close to the Biafra’s warlord and late Ikemba of Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu.

He was also a presidential aspirant of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, minister and of late, Ambassador Plenipotentiary on Conflict Resolution during the Obasanjo regime. Though from Ogwashi Uku in Delta State, the diplomat had always been on the vanguard for the Igbo cause.

In his book, Reflection on the Nigeria Civil War, he said of the late warlord:
“Lt. Col. Ojukwu for his part, in the face of the overwhelming tragedy that befell his people, had told Easterners to come home to their own region where he hoped to provide for them the security that had so evidently eluded them in most parts of the federation, since the riots of May 1966. In his hopes to comfort and reassure his tragedy-stricken charge, Ojukwu had promised that he would see to their security to the extent that “No Power In Black Africa” could dare hurt them again.”

That explains, in this interview with ALPHONSUS AGBORH, his views on Ojukwu’s passion, the anormaly that had relegated the South East in the nation’s political equation as well as the unity question among Ndigbo.

How do you see late Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu? 
The passing on of Ojukwu is like the passing of an age in the chequered history of the Igbo nation.

As a leader, he represented the very best in terms of a courageous defender of the Igbo cause when in 1967 the Igbo nation was faced with a choice of submitting to subjection.

Ojukwu rallied round Ndigbo to fight in defence of their dignity and security. The overwhelming support he received from Ndigbo in the struggle for survival, that is the civil war, is an indisputable evidence of the confidence reposed in him as a leader by the Igbo nation. Of course, the war ended on a note that was different from what Ndigbo hoped for.

What actually did they hope for?
What caused the war was their determination to resist subjugation within Nigeria. We will recall that 1966 witnessed a successive massacre of Ndigbo and the tearful exodus back to the East from Northern Nigeria; so the struggle was aimed at securing for Ndigbo, the rightful place as a people and the preservation of their lives and adequate security since that security eluded them in parts of Nigeria before the civil war.

Before the outbreak of conflict, Ndigbo people of the former Eastern Nigeria were ready for dialogue and a settlement through peaceful means that would secure the objective mentioned earlier.

In fact, the agreement reached by the contending parties in Aburi, Ghana, under the chairmanship of late General Thomas Sankara was deemed to have secured that objective and the Igbo were ready to remain in Nigeria once the secruity was guaranteed as clearly spelt out in the Aburi Accord.

It was when the then Federal Government reneged on the agreement that they said they could no longer trust the Federal Goverment to provide the security that eluded the Igbo after the massacre in Nigeria.

You fully supported Ojukwu in his Biafra cause?
During the war, many of us supported the cause of Ndigbo, led  courageously by Dim Ojukwu. I resigned my appointment as a Nigerian envoy to France to support the cause of Ndigbo in defence of their security within the country. I was not alone in this. Other colleagues like me from the Midwest region such as late Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu did the same. He died in Nsukka front for the cause of the defence of Ndigbo.

Can we say Ndigbo have achieved their political aspiration as anticipated  by Ojukwu?
The position of Ndigbo today in Nigeria could be much better in terms of acquiring their legitimate political right in Nigeria.

For example, the masterplan on which Nigeria was founded at Independence was specific on a federal structure,  in which the existing three regions formed the federating units.
All the three regions were constitutionally equal in status. A forth region, Midwest, was created by regular constitutional amendments in 1963. Later on, the six  zonal arrangements that emerged was informed by the need to better accommodate the interest of the smaller ethnic groups so that the six zones are controlled, by the three majority ethnic groups - Ibo, Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba, while to balance them out, the other three zones were controlled by a conglomerate of the smaller ethnic groups.

Since independence, and now with the presidency of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, five of the six zones have had their terms of the presidential slot, leaving out the South-East zone as the only one that is yet to exercise that political responsibility for our country.

So, politically, Ndigbo, who are predominately indegenes of the South East, are yet to be admitted into the Nigerian political high table and until they are so admitted, her good cause to feel unfairly marginalised politically remains.

Does it mean the Igbo are relaxing, hoping for power to be transferred to them?
I don’t think the Igbo have not chosen their interest to get their turn at the presidency. Our great father, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, presented himself two times for that position in 1979 and 1983. Since then, other Igbo political personalities  have shown interest at one stage or  the other, but they have not achieved their ambitions, not because they do not have people qualified to get there and manage the position effectively, maybe they have not shown enough unity to tackle that subject.
Power is not handed to any people on a silver platter. It is achieved through a determined struggle. The aphorism that ‘unity is strength’ is what the Igbo should adopt to get to the presidency.

Why do you think the Igbo can’t agree to unite?
The Igbo, who need unity today, have  never been disunited.  You know what they were before the war under the direction of Igbo Union led by Zachaeus Obi, the long-time leader of the Igbo state Union. The Igbo were united and gained the political backing that supported the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons (NCNC) that was led by Nmandi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara  and Dennis Osadebay.

It was the civil war that bruised their confidence. But Ohaneze Ndigbo has been encouraging Ndigbo to get back to the level of unity that helped them to sustain the political right before the civil war. For example, the Yoruba had their differences, but Chief Obafemi Awolowo was able to ignite them with the spirit of unity via the Egbe Omo Oduduwa.
Similarly in the North, the Hausa/Fulani found unity under the Jamaa Mutanin Arewa led by Sir Ahmadu Bello. So, Ndigbo were not behind any other group and we hope they will soon recover from the trauma inflicted on them by the  civil war.

Your Advice to Igbo on Unity
I advise them to regain confidence and come together to focus on a legitimate agenda that will project and promote their cause. Ndigbo should not seek to have one square inch more than their fair share of the Nigeria political space, but they must not take one square space less.

As a media guru, what is your assessement of today’s media in Nigeria?
As a former publisher and journalist, I have special interest in the media in  this country. As far as the media in Nigeria is concerned, I think on the whole, the media, both the electronic and print, are doing a good job.

For example, during the controversy over the third-term issue, the media did well, but there is still  room for improvement; they have my respect.
Source: Tribune, 3rd December 2011.

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The house that tested Ojukwu’s fighting spirit

By Ugochukwu EKE, Umuahia

A visitor to Villaska Lodge, the Lagos home of the late Igbo leader, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, at No 29, Oyinkan Abayomi Street (formally Queen’s Drive), Ikoyi, is confronted with an unusual warning: beware of snakes! 

But contrary to the warning at the entrance, there were no snakes in sight when our correspondent visited the house on Tuesday to see one of the valued possessions left behind by the ex-Biafran warlord. 

‘You wan snakes?’ a guard asked our reporter when he sought to clarify the warning about the snakes. 
‘No, I’m only curious about the warning,’ the reporter returned. 

The guard replied: ‘We have snakes, we kill snakes just like they kill dogs. There is a section of the house where we rear snakes. It is not as if they crawl about the compound. But there is a particular place where they walk around in the grass’. 

The environment was neat when the reporter visited the place. The mango and the almond trees provided a shade for the building. The lawn was lush green, while his domestic servants tendered the flowers and cleaned the surroundings. 

Although the guard at the house said the place used to be the ‘Mecca’ of Igbo leaders who came to pay homage to the late Igbo leader, the house was devoid of such traffic of people on Tuesday. 

According to the guard, some Igbo leaders in Lagos had come to sign the condolence register opened at the house in honour of the late Igbo leader. 

Bequeathed to him by his wealthy father, Sir Louis Ojukwu, who died in 1966, the house became a bone of contention between the Lagos State Government and the ex-Biafran leader when he returned from exile in Cote D’Ivoire and made the place his abode even though the government had confiscated it and labelled it an abandoned property on account of the rebellion that Ojukwu led against the state. 

On August 12, 1985, a Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Government wrote to Ojukwu and asked him to vacate the house or face eviction. Ojukwu headed for the Lagos High Court to challenge the action of the state government to eject him from his residence.  He sought an interim injunction restraining the Military Governor of Lagos State, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General of Lagos State from ejecting him and members of his family from the house.

He swore to an affidavit that the house belonged to his father after whose death he became the owner of the property. He also deposed that during the period of the civil war between 1967 and 1970, the house was not occupied by anyone. He also claimed that for its pains in keeping the house while he was on exile, he had paid the Lagos State Government the sum of N90,000.

The trial judge, Justice Roseline Omotosho, granted the interim injunction on the grounds of Ojukwu’s ownership of the house and impending threat to evict him. But while the matter was pending in court, the state government deployed about 150 armed men to evict Ojukwu, and throw him into the streets.

But Ojukwu’s spirit was not dampened. He stayed in his vehicle in front of the house, defying rain and sunshine as he continued the legal battle up to the Supreme Court and eventually triumphed and reclaimed his property from the state government.

That, however, is not to say that the battles he fought over the house were restricted to the Lagos State government. Early this year, the house also became a bone of contention between him and his younger brother. Lotanna Ojukwu, the aggrieved younger brother, insisted that the house was not a personal property of the late Ikemba Nnewi but one left behind by their father as part of the assets of Ojukwu Transport Limited, their late father’s business outfit. 

The controversy has since abated if the situation at the house last Tuesday was anything to go by. The Chief Security Officer of Villaska Lodge, Mr. Ikechukwu Umunnakwe, told our correspondent that all that was in the past. “There is nothing like somebody trying to take over the property. The property belongs to Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu,” he said. 

Umunnakwe also disclosed that a lot of people had come to the house on condolence visits, particularly prominent Igbo indigenes. Appraising the late Igbo leader, he said he would serve him again if he had the opportunity. 
He said: “I’ve been with him for 15 years. He treated me like his son. He never saw me as an employee. My relationship with him was good. I’ve read so many authors, so many books but Ikemba was a good teacher to me. If I am to come back to this world, I will prefer to be a servant to Ikemba.” 

He said unlike many leaders of Ojukwu’s status who go about with security details, he was a man who cherished freedom and preferred to move about alone. Recalling a recent incident, he said: “During the celebration of his birthday at Alimosho Local Government by the Ndigbo in Lagos, I expected him as an elderly man and Ndigbo elder to just move quietly into the place that had been prepared for him. But he came down from the car, went into the crowd and started shaking hands with everybody. I was shocked that the man did not care that something could happen to him in the crowd. People were shouting Dim! Dim! He was very free with the crowd.” 

He said until about four years ago, Ojukwu was always coming to the house. According to the chief security officer, “He was coming in regularly. I think it wasn’t long before he stopped coming. He was a man that would not sleep in a hotel. I found that in him. He preferred to sleep in his house. 

“I would describe him as a saint sent by God for people to look up to and learn from him just like a philosopher. Being Dim’s servant does not take the energy and power I have. Rather, it gave me wisdom.”

Source: The Nation, 3rd December 2011.

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Ex-Biafran commander, MASSOB defend Ojukwu’s civil war role

By Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation and Vincent Ikuomola, Abuja

Former Biafran commander, Col. Paul Ude Okonkwo (rtd) and the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike have defended Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu for his role in the civil war, saying that the former Biafran leader never declared war on Nigeria.

Both condemned the opinion some people have advanced, that Ojukwu declared war on Nigeria. They insisted that it was the other way round, while Ojukwu rose to the challenge to defend his people, who faced extinction threat.

Speaking in separate interviews with The Nation, both of them held that the issue that sparked off the war was the 1966 pogrom in the North, where Igbo people were massacred and the subsequent declaration of the Republic of Biafra to give the Igbo a sovereign country of their own “since they were forced out of Nigeria.”

Okonkwo, who is the leader of veteran Biafran Army officers, said: “We the Ndigbo were the ones who asked Ojukwu to declare the Biafran Republic. It was Nigeria that forced us into war. There was never a time Ojukwu asked us to rise against Nigeria. We only defended ourselves against extinction since they wanted to extend the pogrom to our land.

“We were pursued out of Nigeria. And it was after seeing our people coming back humiliated that we prevailed on Ojukwu to lead us into freedom. If he had not declared the Republic of Biafra, we would have lynched him. He warned us against the consequences of war, telling us that war is not a child’s play. But we urged him to go on and give us the Republic of Biafra.

Okonkwo, who said he was in the war front throughout the duration of the war alongside the late Col. Timothy Onwuatuegwu, prayed that God would receive the great soul of Ojukwu who he described as a “great man, an Iroko and the only field marshal from Africa.”
MASSOB leader, Uwazuruike, said: “Ojukwu did not declare any war against Nigeria, unless those who do not understand history want to make some mischief. 

‘’Remember that there was the Aburi Accord in Ghana where certain terms were agreed on, which Ojukwu came home to uphold. But unfortunately, Gowon jettisoned it on the advice of his permanent secretaries then.

“Not only did Nigeria turn down the Aburi Accord, they went on to divide the former Eastern Region into Rivers, South Eastern and East Central States. At the end of the exercise, it was frustrating to Ojukwu that the Nigerian government should come to divide us. 

‘’Because of this, the 400-member Eastern Consultative Assembly empowered Ojukwu to make declaration for their own self determination because our people were being killed in the North. And there was no stopping the killing of Ndigbo in the North then.

“Ojukwu, being the military governor of Eastern Nigeria then, couldn’t have folded his arms and watch his people being massacred in the North. It was the people that persuaded him to declare the entire Eastern Region their own territory so that they would have a safe place for themselves because they were not protected under the Nigerian government.

Uwazuruike also fired a salvo at former President Olusegun Obasanjo who berated Ojukwu for not showing remorse.
Said he: “It is an insult for Obasanjo to say that Ojukwu did not show remorse for his role in the civil war. Ojukwu couldn’t have shown any remorse. Remorse for what? If what happened to Ndigbo had happened to his people, Obasanjo would have taken the position Ojukwu took or even a worse one. Unless he does not love his people. 

“Should Ojukwu show remorse for protecting the lives and property of his people? Or didn’t Obasanjo see the pogrom in the North? There was even a point when Ojukwu persuded those who ran back from the North to go back; that every thing was under control, only for them to go back and got massacred.

“How do you make up all these and say that Ojukwu should show remorse? What he did in the first place was logical, legal and advisable. And that was what all other persons could have done under normal circumstances.”
Source: The Nation, 3rd December 2011.

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Ojukwu was in death throes for 3 hours – Uwazuruike

BY FRED IWENJORA

Ralph Uwazuruike is the founder of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra,MASSOB, a secessionist movement with the aim of securing the resurgence of the defunct state of Biafra from Nigeria.

It was the Aburi declaration by the then Col. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu that led to the three-year Biafra-Nigeria war. MASSOB is led by an Indian-trained lawyer Ralph Uwazuruike, with headquarters in Okwe, in the Okigwe district of Imo State.

Several times in the past, the Nigerian government has accused MASSOB of violence and the MASSOB leader was arrested on several occasions and detained on treason charges. He was recently released after another detention.

With the demise of Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the future of MASSOB appears precarious but Uwazuruike thinks otherwise, believing instead that Ojukwu’s death would strengthen the movement.

How did you get the news of Ojukwu’s death?

The news was very devastating to me and shocking indeed, even though hours before his death, I had been in touch with his wife who had called me at about 12 midnight to tell me of his struggles with death. The battle eventually ended at 3:15a.m.

When did you see him last?

I saw him last on the day he travelled for treatment. We had all been around when he was being taken to the airport for the trip. That was the last time I saw him physically. But I never felt he was going to die on that trip. I thought he was going to recover but God knows best.

What would be the future of MASSOB now that Ojukwu is no more?

MASSOB was formed by me from the inspiration of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and has been under me ever since. But he has always been my adviser and mentor. I often tell people that my favourite sister died during the civil war caused by agitation for a better treatment for Biafrans and Ndigbo in general, an agitation led by Ojukwu. I have to tell you here and now that the advice of Ezeigbo Gburugburu has helped in the nurturing MASSOB and has propelled me farther than I envisaged. Now that he has joined his ancestors, I am sure that his advice had made me strong. It would also lead me on and I can stand on my own. However, I would miss him dearly.

What specifically would you miss by his death?

I can’t count to what extent I would miss him. I will miss so many things. He was very good to me. He was a confidant, a comforter when the persecution of being Igbo overwhelms me. Any time I was arrested, it was the Ikemba that took care of my family. He would call my wife and provide for my family. He would provide assistance monetary and otherwise for their upkeep till I return.

You ask me what I will miss.

Plenty , really. It was the people’s General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who gave me the name Okenwa which I am still called by many who know me. In his presence, I was called by that name. I can’t really express how I feel and what I miss.

What do you think would be the future of MASSOB now Ojukwu is dead?

I strongly feel that Ojukwu’s demise would bring about the desired unity which the Igbo have been looking for in a long time.

On his last birthday, I organized a party and thanksgiving in Enugu for him and most young breed politicians of Igbo extraction attended. I saw that party as the beginning of unity amongst Ndigbo. Even if we are not thinking about that, we should all see Ojukwu’s death as the uniting force for all to speak with one voice.

What about his funeral? What do you plan?

Ojukwu’s burial will not be rushed at all. Even though I can’t speak for the family, I know his burial would be one of the best in Africa for any human being that ever lived. Do you know the kind of man we are talking about here? The very articulate, very sensitive, very brave and highly educated nation builder? I can’t describe the funeral until the time comes. MASSOB will play its own part. We have mobilized all formations to be on stand by.

Source: Vanguard, 3rd December 2011.

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OJUKWU: Uneasy calm at his country home

By Vincent  Ujumadu

WHEN the news came Saturday last week that the Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had passed on in a London hospital after suffering prolonged effect of stroke, it was as if everything in Igboland had turned upside down. Many people discussed openly what would be the fate of Igbos without Ojukwu who, many believed, provided the required leadership that made it possible for the Igbo nation to remain together despite the effects of creation of states in the country.

Since Ojukwu was flown to London when his condition became critical, there was no church in Igbo land that did not offer prayers for his recovery on a weekly basis. Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State and the national chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh visited London regularly where they ensured that Ojukwu never lacked anything. Even when the rumour mill had it that Ojukwu had passed on some months ago, both Obi and Umeh kept assuring Nigerians that Ojukwu was recovering and would return to the country as soon as possible. As the saying goes, men propose, but God disposes.

In the past one week, tributes paid to Ojukwu by people from all walks of life showed the great man he was in life and even in death. It was gathered that leaders of the countries that recognized Biafra as a sovereign nation during the war had requested that his body be brought to their countries on its way from London to Nigeria before burial.

Ojukwu's compound
Ojukwu's compound

Four countries namely, Gabon, Tanzania, Ivory Coast and Haiti recognized Biafra during the war and they would appreciate his body touching their countries before his burial in Nigeria.

The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, which declared seven days mourning for Ojukwu on Monday, had virtually taken over Ojukwu’s residences in Enugu and Nnewi. MASSOB leader, Chief Ralph Uwazurike had relocated from Imo State to Enugu where he is virtually in charge of things.

At Nnewi, another group, the Biafra Zionist Movement, has been moving around the town with Ojukwu’s photographs and Biafran flags as part of their mourning exercise. Though they had a brush with the police in the town on Wednesday while distributing leaflets to the people at the popular Nkwo Nnewi market, leader of the group, Mr. Benjamin Onwuka said they would not be deterred because their intention is to mourn their leader who ensured that Igbos were not wiped out from the face of the earth.

He announced that government activities have been scaled down as a mark of respect to Ojukwu, adding that only very necessary activities would be taking place in the state.

Meanwhile, condolence registers have been opened in various places in Anambra State for people to record their feelings about the late Ikemba.

An announcement in Awka named the places as the Government House, the state secretariat, the judiciary headquarters, the House of Assembly complex and all the 21 local government headquarters of the state.

The group took off from Ojukwu’s gate in Nnewi and moved around the town before retiring to their various businesses. Onwuka had told Saturday Vanguard that his group was opposed to what he termed the one – man show of the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, adding that in addition to the mourning of the late Biafran leader, the group would intensify the struggle for the actualization of the state of Biafra by ensuring that world powers, especially the United States of America, USA, supported the struggle.

At the various places where condolence registers have been opened for the late Ikemba in Anambra State, long queues have been the order of the day as they scramble to be part of the exercise. When Saturday Vanguard visited some of the places where condolence registers were displayed, namely, the State Secretariat, House of Assembly Complex and the Government House, the queue was long, but the people were orderly.

Some of the condolences written read: “The death of Ojukwu was the singular most devastating news in recent times, especially for the Igbos.We should not question God, but if his opinion was sought, I would have respectfully suggested to God to grant people like Dim Chukwu Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu the gift of immortality”. A trader, Mr. Emeka Ogechukwu said he had to close his shops to sign the condolence as the last respect he could pay to Ojukwu and appealed to the Government to open registers in markets all over the state for the exercise. Barely one day after the registers were opened, most of them were filled and replaced with new ones.

Obi to repair roads to Ojukwu home

Though no date has been fixed for the burial, preparations are in earnest to ensure that roads leading to Ojukwu’s country home at Uruagu Nnewi were are motorable before the burial. Special adviser to Governor Peter Obi on projects and chief executive of the state road maintenance agency, Mr. Nwanne Ejike said all the roads that were in the area would be rehabilitated before the burial.

Residents design Ojukwu souvenirs, silence at home

At Nnewi, it was discovered that many people were already planning ahead as the designs for various souvenirs bearing Ojukwu’s photographs to be sold on the day of the burial are being designed. Such souvenirs include caps, scarf, T –shirts, etc. Some hotels in the town are also undergoing renovation in readiness for the burial.

Nothing is happening in the massive Ojukwu compound as everything meeting concerning the burial was taking place either in Awka, Enugu, Abuja or Lagos. Even many days after the death of Ojukwu was announced, some people in the town still feel that newspapers were only using his name to sell their papers. They argue that nobody has formally come to Nnewi to inform members of his kindred that Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had died. “We are still waiting for the formal announcement to be made. But if they think that his relations at home should not be informed of the death as it is usually done in Igboland, so be it. ” In the meantime, the gate to the massive compound is still under lock and there was no sign as at Wednesday that any renovation was taking place inside the house.

Igbo without Ojukwu

As the burial of the great man was being awaited, some people have been asking the question about the impact of his death on the politics of Anambra State in particular and the South East in general. Some people have seized the opportunity of Ojukwu’s absence since he became ill to stir the peace in APGA, which he led, but the national chairman of the parety, Chief Victor Umeh was optimistic that the party would even be greater because Ojukwu made it a rallying point for all Igbos.

“We made Ojukwu life leader of the party. He was the life wire of our party; he was the stabilizing force of our party. In fact, he was responsible for the goodwil APGA has in Nigeria. But you now ask – now that he is gone will APGA die? APGA will never die. I tell you, I am the Chairman of APGA today.

“I worked for Ojukwu, I also worked with him; I understudied him; we had several strategic sessions over challenges facing APGA when he was alive and we were able to pull through all of them.

“I knew his mind set and what he wanted for the party. The spirit with which he led APGA is still with us, therefore APGA will never die,” Umeh said.

“Ojukwu will remain in the heart of every Igbo man or woman and even those yet to be born and that is the greatest immortalization anybody can live for. Monuments can’t make anybody’s memory eternal but what that person stands for.

The Bible says, to live in the heart of those who love you is not to die. So, Ojukwu has not suffered death in the hearts and minds of Igbo people. In a hundred years, in two hundred years, the Igbo people will continue to feel a sense of loss because Ojukwu lived and died an Igbo man,” Umeh said.

Source: Vanguard, 3rd December 2011.

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Why Ojukwu was misunderstood – Ejike Asiegbu

BY BENJAMIN NJOKU

The name Asiegbu Ejike rings a bell in Nollywood. But unknown to many, this accomplished actor cum director who has acted in over a 100 movies was the former Personal Assistant to the late Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu at the 1994 National Constitutional Conference in Abuja.

In the event of the recent demise of his former boss and mentor, Asiegbu in this encounter with BENJAMIN NJOKU recounts his relationship with the former Biafran leader, his beliefs and why he was misunderstood.

How did you receive the news of the death of your mentor and former boss, Ojukwu?

Ejike Asiegbu, former PA to the late Biafran warlord
Ejike Asiegbu, former PA to the late Biafran warlord

First and foremost, I was devastated. The news of his death came as a rude shock to me. Earlier before he finally passed on, it was rumoured that he was no more. Late Zik of Africa also suffered the same fate when it was rumoured that he had died even though he was alive then.

It was unfortunate that Ikemba eventually did not survive from the stroke. He died when many of us thought that he was recuperating and would soon return to the country. Everybody was full of expectation that my idol would return to the country, especially during the day of his birthday, which was marked on the 4th of November. He celebrated his birthday in his sickbed in London, with his family.

Ikemba was a father to me, my mentor and former boss. I’m worried and devastated not because, one, we are not unaware that death is a path that everybody must toe, but because the Igbo nation has lost one of its brightest and perhaps, very best leaders. A man who lived and sacrificed his life and happiness for the well-being of the Igbo nation. Many people described his death as the “end of an era” but I tend to disagree with them. It all depends where they are coming from.

This is because some of us who are his pupils and students have learnt a lot of things from him. We are bound to ensure that his beliefs and ideals of the common man outlive him. We also hope to continue from where he stopped; to propagate his beliefs in the collective interest of the Igbo nation.

What did it take to work with Ikemba?

For me, working with Ikemba was the best thing that ever happened to my life. I have worked with so many people in the past, but I do appreciate working with Ikemba added impetus to my growth in politics. I must acknowledge here that I learnt so much from one of my political fathers, Professor Julius Ihonvbere, former Special Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. But working with Ikemba expanded my horizon and theory as a young promising man and a leader of tomorrow. I feel happy and humbled that I had a stake with him. Working with Ikemeba had a lot of advantage which I’m not ready to share now, but would such experience put into use in future.

To work with Ikemba, you must be up and doing. There was no room for laziness, you need to be smart and always on guard, putting on your thinking cap. You must be prepared to do so many things at the same time and you are also, required to be time conscious. Even in your speech, or writing skill, you needed to be careful, because Ikemba would not take it lightly with you, if dare make a mistake. Ikemba was a man that had his ears on the ground and it only took him a second to point out your mistake.

While you are talking, he would listen attentively, and if need be, point out your mistakes and later he would confront you by saying “what kind of English was that.” If you are not quick enough to correct yourself, he would embarrass you further as he adds, “I thought you are my student.’ That was Ikemba for you.

Ikemba’s belief in the Biafran struggle

He was a man of many parts, one of the finest orators I have ever met and worked with, in my life. Ikemba was a true nationalist, he spoke fluently the three major languages of the country; Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba. It is also understandable why he was most feared by Nigerians. He stood and caught the figure of a colossus and so many people hold the feeling that when Ikemba sneezed, Nigerian nation would shake and tremble. You give it to him all, because he had all those qualities embedded in him, judging from the way he was created by his maker.

He was also one man who never gave up his beliefs and ideas of life; whatever he believed in, he fought for; whatever he knew was right, he stood by it without any apologies to anybody. He believed in the Biafran struggle and he fought for its actualisation. He also believed in the unity of the Nigerian nation.

Some people had labelled it as an attempt to divide the country, and I don’t see it that way, because at any point in time, globally, people of the same origin must agree to disagree before they can understand themselves properly. But then, Ikemba Nnewi fought for everything about the Igbos, he fought for justice, equity and fair play in Nigeria. He believed that for Nigeria to work as a nation, there must be equality of all humans and also, there must be justice. He equally believed that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. And that is where he was misunderstood by the people. He raised alarm that the Igbos were marginalised in the Nigerian project and it was as a result of the desire of some sections of the country to eclipse or decapitate the entire Igbo nation. I do not wish to continue, because doing so will only bring back the sad memories of the incidences of history.

Though it is painful that until his death, the government did not consider it important to confer National Honours on Ikemba, even after he was granted state pardon, and the civil war declared no victor, no vanquish by then General Gowon led military regime. If the government could resolve to give Dangote the award of GCON, why did they not equally give the same honour to Ikemba who contributed more to the unity of this country than anyone else.

How did you come to work with Ikemba?

As a child, I loved everything I read about Ikemba. I was also privileged to have been on the same Zodiac signs. We were born a special people. He was born on November 4 and my birthday falls on November 8. Zik of Africa was a scorpion and the same thing goes to Emeka Anayoku and the late Murtala Muhammed.

I want to see myself as belonging to this category of special people.

I see Ikemba as a hero of the people, he was a man I fell in love with, as a child. I read much about him, monitor and followed him throughout the civil war era. I was about 8 year old when the war broke out , while we were sojourning in the northern part of the country. I came to meet Ikemba in the 80s, when he returned to this country. I was the only Nigerian artiste that performed at his reception held at the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu.

Then, I was an undergraduate at the University of Port-Harcourt. During that performance, I took a dramatic trip into the historic ‘Aburi accord” . As an actor in the making then, I recited some of his war speeches to his delight and the delight of the great Nigerians that graced the reception. From that day onwards, I developed an attachment with him. He took me specially after the event and I went with me to where he was staying. I had a lot of talks with me, as he gave me his telephone numbers .

I asked him severally including why he did what he did. I knew the answers he gave to me. I bear his cause in my mind, and take humility for one to work with Ikemba. When I graduated from the university, I never knew that Ikemba was looking for me to come and work for him. Through one of my aunties, he contacted me and the rest is history.
Source: Vanguard, 3rd December 2011.

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What Ojukwu told me before, during and after the war —Sam Aluko

By DURO ADESEKO

This interview is the most intimate account of the thoughts and actions of Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu before, during and after the Nigerian civil war. The account is coming from Professor Sam Aluko, the respected Nigerian economist, who has revealed that he was the most trusted friend Ojukwu had. That friendship started immediately the Ikemba Nnewi assumed the governorship position of the Eastern Region. Since then and through the period of the war, Ojukwu’s exile in Cote d’Ivoire and his return to Nigeria, that friendship had sustained.

More profoundly, in that relationship, was the trust and the confidentiality with which Ojukwu dealt with the economist. It was such that, for every major decision Ojukwu made, he must first test-run it on Prof. Aluko. It was Aluko that he first told of his plans to pull the East out of Nigeria. Ojukwu would have attacked and wiped out a whole village in the Benue area, to teach Nigeria a lesson during the pogrom in Northern Nigeria in 1966, but Prof. Aluko stopped him. 

Aluko also said he forced Ojukwu to agree on a conference as well as suggested and perfected the Aburi meeting that produced the famous Aburi Accord. 
When the war overwhelmed Ojukwu, Aluko said, he contemplated either to stay put or wait for the Federal Government troops to capture him or to “abdicate.” Again, it was Prof. Aluko who advised him to take the latter option and go to Cote d’Ivoire, instead of some other places.
Excerpts:

How close were you to the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu?
I will say that I was very close to him till his death. Immediately, he became governor of the former Eastern Region, when I was a senior lecturer in Economics in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he called me the third day he became governor. He said he wanted to come and see me in my university. I never met him before. How can the military governor come and see me? I said no. I told him I would come and see him, instead. I told the person he sent that he should tell the governor that I was the one who should come and see him and not him coming to see me. That was on January 20, 1966. So, when I said I was going to see him, my wife said she would go with me. She said we didn’t know the man and therefore she wanted to be present at the meeting. She reasoned that we couldn’t predict a soldier who just came. When we got to the military governor’s house, Ojukwu said: ‘Madam, I know you would come because you thought that I will do something to your husband.’ He said he had never met me before, but those in the military had been reading so much about me and they venerated me. According to him, that was why he wanted to see me. He said he wanted me to help him to run the government of the Eastern Region. 

We discussed and he asked what role I would like to play and I said I would remain in the university because I didn’t want to leave. I promised to do whatever I could do to help him. The first cabinet that he formed, we both sat down and looked at the names of those from the Eastern Region to be cabinet members. He did not know them because he was not living in the Eastern Region. He was outside, in Kaduna and in Lagos. He spoke Yoruba better than I. So, we were speaking in Yoruba most of the time. That’s how the relationship began and we became very close. It was through him that I knew Adekunle Fajuyi, the governor of the Western Region. We continued until after the counter-coup in July. I was very sad. They killed many Igbo. Many who were not killed had cuts in the head and other parts of the body. He called me and said what could he do? What was going on in his mind was to go to a place in Benue and sack a village there. He wanted to kill as many people as possible. I said no. I said as a Christian, Christianity doesn’t allow for vengeance. As a Christian, I said he should not do that.

Was that when the killings in the North started?
Yes. That was the period the pogrom started. I said he should get in touch with the Head of State, but he said no because it was wrong for Yakubu Gowon to be Head of State because there was Ogundipe, who was a Brigadier and the most senior military officer at the time. He said when the coup happened in January, the most senior officer became the Head of State. So, he argued that when the counter-coup happened, the most senior should also become the Head of State. But the northerners will not take that at that time. Ogundipe himself did not want it because he said there were few Yoruba in the army. He said he will just be there without support and they would kill him. So, they made him High Commissioner in London. When the pogrom continued and the people were coming to the East from the North, Ojukwu said he was afraid that the easterners coming back might attack those who are non-easterners in the East. He then made a statement on the radio that all those who were non-easterners should leave the East. 

At the time, there was rumour that Professor Babatunde Fafunwa was killed because he was from the West. But Fafunwa was in Benin Republic attending a conference. Ojukwu said the rumour was a sign of what was to happen. He said they would be attacking the northerners and the westerners and claim easterners did. So, he will ask everybody to go. I went to see him in Enugu and I said: “well, Your Excellency, I will have to go back to the West.” He said no, emphasising that when he talked of westerners, it did not apply to me because I was one of them. Non-easterners in the East were scared. Fafunwa and I were the most senior in the place. Fafunwa was not around and I said: “I will have to take them to the West to make sure that they were safe.” He said it was OK and that he will give me soldiers to make sure that all the students and staff were safe. He said when I got to Benin, I should hand them over to the governor in Benin to take them to the West and I should return to my job in Nsukka.

What of your protection?
He said I needed not worry because I was one of them. Really, I was being integrated in the East because, at that time, Obafemi Awolowo was in the Calabar prison and I was the only one allowed to see him. Ojukwu used to give me protection to go and see him. So, I was enjoying myself. When I got to Benin, I did not return to the East. I got the people to Ibadan and then called him to say: “Your Excellency, I am here and I am no longer coming back to the East.” He said: “Doctor, don’t call me Your Excellency, call me Emeka. You are older than I and I adore you. Just call me Emeka and I will call you Sam.” I was talking to him every night from Ibadan. 

When the problem was brewing, General Adeyinka Adebayo was then the governor of the Western Region. He called me and said he understood that the easterners were planning a counter-coup and I would have to go to Enugu to see Ojukwu. He said that he had been trying to get him without success. I said I had his secret telephone number and I gave it to General Adebayo. But Ojukwu did not pick the phone from anybody. So, Adebayo asked the late Professor B. A. Oyenuga and I to go and see him. So, we went to Enugu and I delivered the letter. He told Professor Oyenuga that if he had not come with me, he would not have discussed with anybody. The only person he trusted was Dr. Aluko. I was not a Professor at that time. When we finished in the evening, we went to our hotel. Ojukwu came to me in my hotel room and said: “Doctor, I want to talk to you confidentially.” And he said: “Our plan in the East is that we are no longer safe in Nigeria. We want to secede.”

What date was this?
That was January 1967. I said: “Emeka, I don’t think you should think of secession. I said it was the Igbo that were killed in the North and not all easterners.” I said “from my living in the East and going round the East, I know that the Igbo were not very popular in the Rivers area and the Calabar area. I told him that if he declared secession, he would be fighting two wars. I told him he would be fighting internal war against people with him, who didn’t want to be ruled by the Igbo and he would be fighting Nigeria who didn’t want him to succeed. I told him not I didn’t think he could win the war. I think that made a great impression on him. He said: “Doctor, your analysis is perfect.” He said, “after all, why should I secede? “He said: “All my father’s property are in Lagos. I was brought up in Lagos. I came to the East on posting as a military governor. I have discovered that ruling the Igbo is like ruling a pack of wild horses. They are very difficult to rule. I will rather want to be away from here to another place. It is very difficult to persuade the Igbo against their will.” 

I told him he didn’t have to persuade them against their will, just be loyal to them. I went back to Adebayo. We had a reconciliation meeting. Awolowo, Onyia and myself were sent to meet Ojukwu in Enugu. Ojukwu insisted that if I did not come, he would not receive them. So, we went together. We discussed.

When was this?
That was March 1967. Awolowo was very frank with him. He told him: “Look, governor, you cannot secede. You cannot go alone. Just as you fear the North, the West also fears the North. The soldiers in the North are occupying the West. So, we have the same common interest. But don’t let us secede. Let us do whatever we can do together to unite and confront the North so that we can have a settlement on how we want to run this country.” Awolowo said, if the East left the federation, the Yoruba would have to leave the federation. That’s what some misconstrued to say that Awolowo assured Ojukwu that if he seceded, the Yoruba would join. What he meant was that the thing that makes Igbo leave the federation would also make the Yoruba leave the federation, but that he didn’t want to leave the federation. According to Awolowo, we want to enjoy and rule this federation because nobody has the monopoly to rule this federation; so, let us be in constant touch; let us unite and don’t do anything rash. When we left, I went to Nsukka and Ojukwu called me and said I should come back. I went back to him that evening.

Where was Awolowo?
He was in Enugu, at the Hotel Presidential. But I went to see my friends in Nsukka.

What of protection for you and Awolowo?
I didn’t need protection in the East, but Awolowo was protected. He was just released from prison. So, he didn’t need much protection. Ojukwu came in the evening to my hotel room and said he did not want to be very frank with us because he didn’t know Awolowo and Onyia. But he knew me. He said what he wanted is to make Rivers, Benue and Niger the boundary between the North and the South. He wanted a confederacy of the country so that the South will be Southern Nigeria versus Northern Nigeria and if Northern Nigeria wanted to go away, let them go away. I said: “look, I don’t think we should do that. I don’t think it would work. I have told you that the West has not suffered the way the East has suffered. How your people are angry is not the way and manner our people are angry. So, if you declare unilateral secession, you won’t get the whole West to follow you.” He said I had said so before and would not do it. So, I came back to the West and reported to Gowon what we discussed in Enugu.

You told Gowon all that Ojukwu told you confidentially?
Yes. I told Ojukwu I would brief Gowon. He liked Gowon and the only thing he had against Gowon was that he ought not to be Head of State. He said it was usurpation. I said but Gowon was already Head of State. That is how I became an intermediary between Gowon and Ojukwu. Gowon told me that he had been trying to get Ojukwu but he would not take the telephone. I said he had three secret telephones. There was one in Enugu, one in Onitsha and one in Nnewi, which he gave to me. At that time, it was the ground phone that was available. I gave them to Gowon. 
On the night before he was to declare secession, Adebayo called me that despite the assurances by Ojukwu, he learnt that he was going to declare secession tomorrow. I said I spoke to him last night and he did not tell me that he was going to declare secession. So, I called him and said: “Emeka, I have just learnt from the Head of State that you want to declare secession tomorrow.” He said, yes, that the people met and said if he wanted to continue to be military governor, he should either declare secession or quit. He said that to quit meant death. I said, “but you are a leader and a leader is not supposed to follow? People are supposed to follow the leader. Try and dissuade them from declaration. Let us see if we can do a number of things.” 

Anyway, he declared secession. Much later he said, “Sam, I have declared. I am sorry. We will continue to talk.” I said: “Look, this declaration is only declaration. The war has not started. We can still talk. If you want confederation, we can still talk. I said Canada has a confederal system.” We ended at that. So I told Gowon that Ojukwu was willing to talk if he could have a place to talk. Gowon said if Ojukwu would come to Lagos. I said Ojukwu would not come to Lagos. He said what of Benin? I said Ojukwu would not come to Benin. I said he regarded those as part of the enemy territory. That was how we settled for Aburi, in Ghana.

Who suggested Aburi?
I suggested Aburi to Ojukwu. He was first thinking of East Africa, like Tanzania. I said it was too far. I told him that if he was away Gowon was away in this turbulent time, they could plan coup against Gowon in Nigeria and plan coup against him in Biafra. I told him he should go to a place where he can go in the morning and come back in the evening. That was how we settled for Aburi. He also thought of Liberia. But I said Liberia was a bit far. At the Aburi meeting, you know Ojukwu is highly educated; so he prepared very well. Gowon went there with the hope that he was going to discuss with an old friend soldier and agree, like the Yoruba way of settling disputes, that, nobody is guilty, let us go on as we are doing.

He did not go with the Awolowos and Permanent Secretaries?
No. He went with a few people. And so, Ojukwu outwitted them there and got all he wanted as a confederal system.

Who went with him?
He went with soldiers. He went with officers of the army. So, when they returned and published the agreement, Ojukwu was very happy. It was published by Nigeria. But top civil servants, like Allison Ayida and others said this was disintegration of Nigeria. They said there was nothing left for Ojukwu to sever within one day. It was less than a confederation. It was virtually creating two countries. That was how Gowon developed cold feet to implement the Aburi agreement.

You did not go to Aburi?
No. I didn’t. Immediately he came from Aburi, he called me and said: “The agreement was fantastic. When we implement it, you will have to come back to your job in Nsukka.” He called me from Port Harcourt because he was then in Port Harcourt. When the Aburi agreement could not be implemented, he said Biafra Republic is indissoluble. No power in Africa can dissolve it. But I was going almost every month to Enugu, Nnewi or Onitsha to see him. What worried me, as I told him, was that whenever I was going from Onitsha to Enugu or Onitsha to Nnewi, soldiers who are eastern soldiers would say: “Doctor, please tell Governor we don’t want to fight. We have suffered enough. We don’t want to fight.” So, I will always tell him: “Emeka, the people you say no power in Africa can stop, are not willing to fight. They are not with you 100 per cent. This is what they tell me.” He said he knew but there was no going back and that he had secured the confidence of the French, British, the Americans and some African countries. I said: “Don’t rely on Western powers. They are talking to you now because you are controlling the oil. Immediately there is war and they take the oil from you, they will desert you. It is because the oil is in the East and you are military governor in the East. But with what I see, immediately those in Rivers and Cross Rivers desert you and they link with the Federal Government and the Federal Government take those places from you, Britain, America and France will leave you,” which is what they did.

What I like about Gowon was that throughout the period, he was always in touch with me and I was always in touch with him. But the soldiers were always coming to my house in Ife, saying that I was a saboteur and that I was linking with rebels and that I was the ambassador of Ojukwu in the West. They would come and search my house that I had arms and so on and so forth. They did that until Gowon told them not to worry me again. They didn’t know I was in touch with Gowon. Every night, I will call Ojukwu and he will call me even when he was in the bunker. I once asked where he was calling? He said he was calling from the bunker in Aba. I reminded him that he said he was in Enugu and he said Enugu meant hill and anywhere he was hill. When the war started and the Nigerian soldiers started getting upper hand, he still believed he could win.

What was he saying when Nigeria had upper hand? 
He believed after some time, they would collapse because he was also winning some skirmishes. He killed some soldiers in Awka. He killed some in Asaba. So, he was winning some small, small wars too. But I was a bit against him that there was no way he could win. About the end of 1968, I called him and said, “look, Emeka, try to make approach when Dr. Azikiwe defected.”

Why did Azikiwe leave him?
Ojukwu did not like Azikiwe.

Why?
Two masters cannot be in a boat. Azikiwe was so dominant in Nigeria and he was living in the East and Ojukwu was the military governor of the East. So, obviously, he would be looking over his shoulder because of Azikiwe. He might think he was more important than him (Azikiwe) as the military governor. It’s understandable. In fact, he told me once that he had a lot of people watching Azikiwe. Finally, Azikiwe defected and came back to Nigeria. I said; “Emeka, I told you there is no way you can win this war.” I said use Azikiwe as intermediary between Gowon and yourself and let us settle this matter. That was at the end of 1968. We were talking in Yoruba. We always talked in Yoruba. We continued talking like that until the eve of his departure to Ivory Coast. After sometimes, he believed there were a lot of saboteurs in the East, who were no longer willing to fight. The French, British, Americans and even the Russians did not support him.

Didn’t they support him from the beginning?
They supported him, to start with, when he was in control of the oil. Immediately the oil was taken away by the Nigerian government, they reneged.

What of Rivers and Cross Rivers?
They didn’t support him from the word go, because they knew that in an East dominated by the Igbo, they will always be subject to Igbo domination. We are a bit lucky in Yoruba land that there are not many ethnic groups. We are all Yoruba. But in the East, they fear the Igbo more than the Hausas. That is why they always vote for the Hausas. So, about two days before his departure, he called me and said: “Look, the game is up.” I asked him what he would do. He said he was thinking of two things: either to be captured by the Nigerian army or he would abdicate. I said: “From what I know, if you are captured by the Nigerian Army, there is no way they will not prosecute you for treason. He who runs away leaves to fight another day.” I said, “I will advise you to abdicate. He said where would he go? Tanzania recognised him, Ivory Coast recognised him. Haiti recognised him. He said he would go to Benin Republic. I said no because there were too many Yoruba in Benin Republic; they would hand him over to the Nigerian government. The French were playing hide-and-seek, but I felt it is safer. I asked him to go to a French territory, where there are many Igbo, like Cameroon or Ivory Coast. He said he would rather go to Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast had already recognised Biafra. So, he got in touch with their president, who sent a plane to him. It was Ivory Coast presidential plane that carried Ojukwu to Ivory Coast. 

When he was in Ivory Coast, we were communicating with each other until he came back. When he came back, we resumed our friendship till his death. When my young son senator was getting married in Lagos, we didn’t invite him and he came. I visited him several times in his Ikoyi residence, near the UNDP office. I have not visited him since he went back to Enugu..

When did he tell you his health was failing?
He didn’t tell me that his health was failing. I read it in the newspaper that his health was failing. I did not visit him in the last three years. I sent Christmas card to him and he sent Christmas card to me. After sometime, when the land phone was not working, I did not have his mobile phone until one day he saw my son in Enugu and gave him his two mobile phones and I was talking to him. When Shehu Shagari pardoned him, I thought it was great statesmanship on the part of Shagari. But when he came and joined NPN, I was very angry with him.

Are you saying he didn’t tell you before he joined the party?
No. I said: “Emeka, how can you go and join a reactionary party like NPN?” He said they gave him pardon and that was the understanding he had with them that whatever he could do he would do to assist government. I said: “You were Head of State before, I don’t think NPN will want you to get very far in the place. The day they say an easterner should be President, many will say it must be Ojukwu. I don’t think these people would want you to be president.” They put him up for Senate and defeated him. It was NPN that defeated him. Can you imagine that Ojukwu was defeated for the Senate? So, I said: “Emeka, I told you.” It was NPP, Azikiwe’s party, that defeated him and that was the only seat that NPN lost in the East. We shared a lot of things together and he was very loyal to me and I was very loyal to him. If not, he would not tell me his secret movements, his secret numbers and talking to me every time, even when he was in Ivory Coast.

Did he tell you when he married Bianca?
No. He didn’t invite me because he knew I wouldn’t come.

Why? 
What was wrong with the first wife? He knew I would question that. When I saw him, I said: “Emeka, how many women will go in your life?” He said: “Sam, I am a soldier. You told me once that Adebayo said he was a soldier and he owns this country only one bullet. So, when he wakes up and find himself there, he will enjoy himself that day as if it is the last day. That is how soldiers behave.” He said I should not query him, that he loved women. I never met Bianca. But I know C. C. Onoh, her father, very well. I used to stay by in Ugoh to see the father, even before he became governor. So, I know the father. I know Onoh.

When did you stop communicating with Ojukwu?
We were talking and he didn’t say he was ill and he didn’t show any sign of illness. I think it was a stroke. You know stroke comes suddenly. I don’t think it was a gradual deterioration. When you see what he has gone through during the civil war, it’s not easy. It takes tolls on people.

How did he maintain himself in Ivory Coast?
He was maintained by the president. He had no money at all. He didn’t take a single penny out of the East. He was also doing some lecturing and so on and so forth.

How true is it that Ojukwu spent part of his father’s wealth to finance the war?
Of course, he sold everything belonging to his father in the East. He wanted to sell those in Lagos, but he didn’t get people to buy. The East had no money at that time because they could not even exploit the oil. They tried. They built refineries and did a lot of things on their own. But it was not enough to finance the war. Of course, he was getting help from Caritas, that’s Catholic International or Catholic aide. In fact, when I went to the World Council of Churches in 1968 in Sweden, I was discussing with Dr. Akanu Ibiam who came and I said look, there is no way East can succeed. He was also assisted by France. France gave him some money. Ivory Coast gave some money. Tanzania couldn’t give because they didn’t have money and they were not too sure the way the war was going. Immediately the war wasn’t going the way they thought, they developed cold feet. Ojukwu tried. I praise the Igbo for holding Nigeria for 30 months.
Source: Sun, 3rd December 2011.

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OJUKWU

At 11, he assaulted a white British colonial teacher for humiliating a black woman at King’s College 

By The Sun Publishing 

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was a Nigerian military officer and politician. He served as the military governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1966, the leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra from 1967 to 1970 and a leading Nigerian politician from 1983 to 2011, when he died, aged 78.

Ojukwu came into national prominence upon his appointment as military governor in 1966 and his actions thereafter. A military coup against the civilian Nigerian Federal Government in January 1966 and a counter coup in July 1966 by different military factions, perceived to be ethnic coups, resulted in pogroms in Northern Nigeria in which Igbo were predominantly killed. 

Ojukwu, who was not an active participant in either coup, was appointed the military governor of Nigeria’s Eastern Region in January 1966 by General Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi. He led talks to seek an end to the hostilities by seeking peace with the then Nigerian military leadership, headed by General Yakubu Gowon (Nigeria’s head of state following the July 1966 counter coup). The military leadership met in Aburi Ghana (the Aburi Accord), but the agreement reached there was not implemented to all parties’ satisfaction upon their return to Nigeria. 

The failure to reach a suitable agreement, the decision of the Nigerian military leadership to establish new states in the Eastern Region and the continued pogrom in Northern Nigeria led Ojukwu to announce a breakaway of the Eastern Region under the new name Biafra Republic in 1967. These events sparked the Nigerian Civil War. Ojukwu led the Biafran forces and on the defeat of Biafra in January 1970, and after he had delegated instructions to Philip Effiong, he went into exile for 13 years, returning to Nigeria following a pardon.

Early life and education
Ojukwu was born on November 4, 1933 at Zungeru in northern Nigeria to Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu, a businessman from Nnewi in south-eastern Nigeria. Sir Louis was in the transport business; he took advantage of the business boom during the Second World War to become one of the richest men in Nigeria. He began his educational career in Lagos, southwestern Nigeria.

In 1944, he was briefly imprisoned for assaulting a white British colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman at King’s College in Lagos, an event, which generated widespread coverage in local newspapers. At 13, his father sent him overseas to study in the UK, first at Epsom College and later at Lincoln College, Oxford University, where he earned a master’s degree in history. He returned to colonial Nigeria in 1956.

Early career
He joined the civil service in Eastern Nigeria as an Administrative Officer at Udi, in present-day Enugu State. In 1957, within months of working with the colonial civil service, he left and joined the military as one of the first and few university graduates to join the army: O. Olutoye (1956); C. Odumegwu-Ojukwu (1957), E. A. Ifeajuna and C. O. Rotimi (1960), and A. Ademoyega (1962).

Ojukwu’s background and education guaranteed his promotion to higher ranks. At that time, the Nigerian Military Forces had 250 officers and only 15 were Nigerians. There were 6,400 other ranks, of which 336 were British. After serving in the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in the Congo, under Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, Ojukwu was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1964 and posted to Kano, where he was in charge of the 5th Battalion of the Nigerian Army.

1966 coups and events leading to Nigeria-Biafra civil war
Lieutenant-Colonel Ojukwu was in Kano, northern Nigeria, when Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu on January 15, 1966 executed and announced the bloody military coup in Kaduna, also in northern Nigeria. It is to Ojukwu’s credit that the coup lost much steam in the North, where it had succeeded. Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu supported the forces loyal to the Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi. Major Nzeogwu was in control of Kaduna, but the coup had failed in other parts of the country.

Aguiyi-Ironsi took over the leadership of the country and thus became the first military head of state. On Monday, 17 January 1966, he appointed military governors for the four regions. Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu was appointed Military Governor of Eastern Region. Others were: Lt.-Cols Hassan Usman Katsina (North), Francis Adekunle Fajuyi (West), and David Akpode Ejoor (Mid West). These men formed the Supreme Military Council with Brigadier B.A.O Ogundipe, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, Chief of Staff Army HQ, Commodore J. E. A. Wey, Head of Nigerian Navy, Lt. Col. George T. Kurubo, Head of Air Force.

By May 29, 1966, there was a pogrom in northern Nigeria during which Nigerians of South eastern Nigeria origin were targeted and killed. This presented problems for Odumegwu Ojukwu. He did everything in his power to prevent reprisals and even encouraged people to return, as assurances for their safety had been given by his supposed colleagues up North and out West. On July 29,1966, a group of officers, including Majors Murtala Ramat Rufai Muhammed, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, and Martin Adamu, led the majority Northern soldiers in a mutiny that was later tagged “counter-coup.” The Supreme Commander General Aguiyi-Ironsi and his host Colonel Fajuyi were abducted and killed in Ibadan. Ojukwu insisted that the military hierarchy must be preserved; in which case, Brigadier Ogundipe should take over leadership, not Colonel Gowon. However, the leaders of the counter-coup insisted that Colonel Gowon be made head of state.

Leader of Biafra
In January 1967, the Nigerian military leadership went to Aburi, Ghana for a peace conference hosted by General Joseph Ankrah. The implementation of the agreements reached at Aburi fell apart upon the leadership’s return to Nigeria and on May 30, 1967, as a result of this, Colonel Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared Eastern Nigeria a sovereign state to be known as BIAFRA: “Having mandated me to proclaim on your behalf, and in your name, that Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent Republic, now, therefore I, Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, by virtue of the authority, and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria together with her continental shelf and territorial waters, shall, henceforth, be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra.” (No Place To Hide Crises And Conflicts Inside Biafra, Benard Odogwu, 1985).
On July 6 1967, Gowon declared war and attacked Biafra. For 30 months, the war raged on. Now General Odumegwu-Ojukwu knew that the odds against the new republic were overwhelming. Most European states recognised the illegitimacy of the Nigerian military rule and banned all future supplies of arms, but the UK government substantially increased its supplies, even sending British Army and Royal Air Force advisors. 

After three years of non-stop fighting and starvation, a hole did appear in the Biafran front lines and this was exploited by the Nigerian military. As it became obvious that all was lost, Ojukwu was convinced to leave the country to avoid his certain assassination. On January 9, 1970, General Odumegwu-Ojukwu handed over power to his second in command, Chief of General Staff, Major-General Philip Effiong, and left for Cote d’Ivoire, where President Felix Houphöet-Biogny – who had recognised Biafra on May 14, 1968 — granted him political asylum.

After Biafra
After 13 years in exile, the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari granted an official pardon to Odumegwu-Ojukwu and opened the road for a triumphant return in 1982. The people of Nnewi gave him the now very famous chieftaincy title of Ikemba (Strength of the people), while the entire Igbo nation took to calling him Dikedioramma (“beloved hero of the masses”). His foray into politics was disappointing to many, who wanted him to stay above the fray. 

The ruling party, NPN, rigged him out of the Senate seat, which was purportedly lost to a relatively little known state commissioner in then Governor Jim Nwobodo’s cabinet called, Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe. The Second Republic was truncated on December 31, 1983 by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, supported by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and Brigadier Sani Abacha. The junta proceeded to arrest and to keep Ojukwu in Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison, Lagos, alongside most prominent politicians of that era. Without ever charged with any crimes, he was unconditionally released from detention on October 1, 1984, alongside 249 other politicians of that era. 

After the ordeal in Buhari’s prisons, Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu continued to play major roles in the advancement of the Igbo nation in a democracy because, according to him: “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.”

Death
On November 26, 2011, Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu died in the United Kingdom, aged 78.

– Courtesy: Wikipedia

Personal details

Born 
November 4, 1933 (1933-11-04) in Zungeru, Nigeria
Died 

November 26, 2011 (2011-11-26) (aged 78)
Nationality 
Nigerian
Political party 
National Party of Nigeria, APGA
Spouse(s) 
Njideka Onyekwelu, Bianca Ojukwu
Children 
Emeka (Jnr), Okigbo, Ebele
Alma mater 
Lincoln College, Oxford University
Profession 

Soldier, politician
Religion 
Christian
Source: Sun, 3rd December 2011.

 

Why we gave Ojukwu Ikemba Nnewi title – Igwe Orizu

By IJEOMA ONUORAH, Nnewi

Orizu

Since last Saturday, when the news filtered into town that Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu has died in a London hospital, Nigeria and the Igbo nation have been thrown into mourning. However, in his hometown, Nnewi, in Anambra State, his kinsmen are still waiting for the Ojukwu family to communicate to them officially that he has passed on, in accordance with their tradition and custom.

This is more so, as the late Ojukwu was a titled man. He held the Ikemba Nnewi title, said to be the highest title in Nnewi.
What is this Ikemba Nnewi title? Who gave it to Ojukwu? His Royal Highness, Igwe K.O.N Orizu III, who spoke through the Place Secretary of Nnewi Kingdom, Prince Joseph Ikeotuonye, explained, in this interview, why he gave Ojukwu the title.

When was the title of Ikemba given to Ojukwu and why did you give it to him?
Well, I gave him the chieftaincy title after the war. I’m not so sure of the date now, but it was as a result of his courage and other battle performances in the Nigerian-Biafran conflict. The name, translated literarily in Igbo language, means the ‘tool that the Igbo use to fight,’ for the benefit of Nnewi, but for the benefit of the entity known as Biafra then. But there’s more to the title than mere words can describe.

Did your kingdom equally give the ‘Dim’ title to him?
Yes and no. It is not a title that exclusively belonged to him, unlike the Ikemba. The truth is that ‘Dim’ is an Ozo title that can be taken by anybody in Nnewi, once you qualify. There are many ‘Dims’ here and there. The title is personalised because he came from Umudim, the third quarter of Nnewi. So, he took ‘Dim to represent his ancestors. His forefathers were notable warriors in our town.

What was expected of him from that title?
As I said before, it was as a result of his bravery and courage that he was bestowed with such high honour. Now, since another war was not envisaged, there were no expectations, in terms of another war. Remember, the title was meant to recognise his past exploits. It was a feather in his cap.

Did he touch the lives of the people of the town with the title?
The fact that he took the Ikemba title and later got another from the whole Igbo nation, means that he influenced everybody’s life. It was in anticipation of that Eze Igbo Gburugburu, that he was given the Ikemba. Because people expected that he will do more, and he lived up to expectation, because, before he died, he constantly expressed his views in the Nigerian arena. As you can see, everywhere is awash with eulogies for him. That portends clearly that he lived up to expectations concerning the unity of the country, and also fought against the marginalisation of the Igboman, and was still in until he died. You can see the position of the South-Easterners that the Igboman has remained in the background, so to say, in most appointments in Nigeria.

Have the youths of Nnewi emulated anything from his prowess?
Yes, there was this ‘Ikemba Front’ that was in the vanguard of his political pursuits. It was a youth vanguard that came into being, when he came back from exile. It was the youth wing of the NPN, then. So, even at that, everybody there wanted to die with him, and they were ready to fight, but clearly, during those post-war days. Gradually, the enthusiasm and excitement waned and dwindled with time, but you can see the replica of this organisation in Imo and Abia states, who are more prominent in pronouncing their followership.

It seems that the Ikemba is not duly recognised in his hometown, because there hasn’t been any visible reaction from this town since his demise?
If I may borrow the saying that a prophet is not recognised in his own vicinity, but then, we are awaiting instructions from the state government, as to what they are planning with the party and the Federal Government, so that we can organise a befitting mourning period for him.

How do you see the seven-day mourning declared by the South-East governors?
It is befitting of a hero that he is. In fact, seven days may not be enough. We might look at a 14-day period, because he did a lot for the Igboman, no sacrifice can be too much for him, because he lived up to expectations. We will blaze the trail in giving him honour, Nnewi is known for that, but that can only come when the family informs us officially.
Source: Sun, 3rd December 2011.

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Ojukwu is not dead – Nzeribe

By IKENNA EMEWU and IHEANACHO NWOSU, Abuja

Nzeribe
Nzeribe

Maverick politician, Senator Arthur Nzeribe, has listed many things he said Nigerians do not know about the late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.

Giving your vantage position and your relationship with the late Ikemba Nnewi, what would you say has not been captured about him by those who have commented on his death?
For me, I can say that I still have not recovered from the shock that he is dead. It is a big shock. Emeka was a good friend of mine, among others. He was a great patriot, a nationalist and a typical Igbo man. There is no Nigerian of our era that can say he did not see the impact of Ojukwu’s political activities. 

He was not just a politician; he was politics himself. By the time anyone reads a few of his books, he or she will know that we have lost someone we cannot replace. Some people have been asking who will replace him, who will replace him? But ask yourself who is that that will replace him? My answer to the question, regarding who will replace him, is who put him there? That machinery, that mystery that got him where he was will also throw up a successor.

Does the mystery you are talking about have anything to do with God?
It’s a mystery that goes with great men. The mystery that makes us not appreciate them in full until they are gone, like Emeka who is gone. It is now that the world is singing his praises.

What shapes that mystery?
It is the time they are born and what they do.

Many see Ojukwu as a radical and courageous man. Does this description fit into the personality of the man?
Was he really a radical? I don’t think so. I think the more appropriate word is that he was a pragmatist. I hate wanting to limit his influence to Igbo land. Ojukwu was a nationalist; his activities and role he played in all functions showed that he was a nationalist. Again, I come back to say that he was a mystery man. Unfortunately, he is gone.

Would you say the views of people about him showed that they have sufficient knowledge of the man?
No they have not; only Ojukwu could have captured who he was.

Did he do that before his death?
He did that; yes, he did that.

In what way?
Through the way he influenced our lives, our politics, our culture. He displayed who he was. In my opinion, he covered our history.

Some argued that Ojukwu’s influence in politics was exaggerated, that he never won an election. How do respond to this kind of expression?
You don’t have to win an election to be great. Ojukwu was politics himself; we are playing around him. You don’t have to win an election to be a great man.

What would you say caused his defeat in 1983 when he contested for Senate?
There was a package behind him. He didn’t lose the election. There is no genuine Nigerian politician that would tell you he lost that election. If he lost in 1983, why were they seeking him out in subsequent elections? There is no party that had not sought the hand of Ojukwu at one time or the other. I don’t think because he didn’t become senator his personality was in anyway diminished.

How best should the Igbo mourn Ojukwu?
They should honour him, emulate his politics and find out the true meaning of some of the things he said. He played a good politics; he showed true love to Ndigbo.

Why was it difficult for two of you to belong to the same political party?
This interview is supposed to be on Ikemba, not on Arthur Nzeribe. What I tell you is that he was truly a great man; let us not divert from the main issue. He lived a great life.

In death, what do you think Nigerians need to learn from him?
A lot. As I said, Ojukwu was more or less a life magician, nothing about Ikemba went out small, and nothing about him went out unnoticed. Ojukwu was one Igbo politician I encountered that was able to carry everybody along. You don’t find too many people wanting to confront him; you don’t find people complaining that he took their sons and daughters to war and lost them. As far as the Igboman was concerned, what Ojukwu said was right, where Ojukwu went was the road. No Igbo man has ever commanded that kind of respect and followership, except perhaps Zik.

Would you say Ojukwu realised his wishes for Ndigbo?
Ojukwu influenced awareness on the injustice in our political environment. He woke us from sleep. And helped to create unity among us.

Some years ago he did say that he will not die until the Igbo presidency project is realized. Is it not right to say that he died with some dreams unfulfilled?
It was a great dream. I know that the spirit of Ikemba will arise one day to actualise the aspiration. He did not lose the battle of fighting for the emergence of an Igbo man as president of Nigeria. One day his spirit shall arise and help in realising the dream.

By that you are saying that he is not dead yet?
No, he is not dead, his spirit lives. I never told you he was dead.
Source: Sun, 3rd December 2011.

 

War veterans ‘invade’ Ojukwu’s country home
 As MASSOB opens condolence register 
From IJEOMA ONUORAH, Nnewi

Country home of the late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, in Nnewi, Anambra State, was a beehive of activities as sympathisers and associates trooped in en mass to condole with his family and sign the condolence register.

The condolence register, which was kept in his ‘Obi,’ was opened at 4.30pm yesterday after a long and thorough cleaning, clearing and decoration by members of the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), who took up residence in the massive compound, earlier this week.

Addressing reporters, Comrade Uche Madu, MASSOB’s national director for information, who was the first to sign the register, said every Igbo person should have access to registers opened anywhere in Nigeria.
According to him, “the condolence register, which has been opened here today, at the directive of Uwazurike, is a symbol of love, loyalty and pride for our late leader, who we believe has gone to the next world to fight for us from there. We are filled with sorrow at his departure and would want to immortalise him as much as we can, so we call on all Igbo to state how they feel about Ojukwu’s death here.

“We equally ask the Federal Government to use the rehabilitation of the Onitsha-Okigwe express way, which is in shambles, as one way to immortalise him, as people will travel the road to Nnewi for his burial.”
The MASSOB leader pleaded with Igbo to wear Biafran bangles and black T-shirts, as a sign of mourning, during the seven-day mourning.
Madam Virginia Ubazuonu, a community leader from Nnewi, who was among the first to sign the register, said she came to identify with Ojukwu’s family.
Hear her: “Ojukwu is my father. I learnt so much from him. I was filled with grief when I learnt of his passage. As you can see, his death has not diminished his image, but rather brought his kingship to limelight. May his soul rest in peace.” 
Some Biafran veterans also signed the register in Ojukwu’s country home. Leading the delegation, Major Bernard Ndu, said that they came to condole with the bereaved family and identify with them at the time of grief.
Ndu, who described the late Ojukwu as a hero, said ex-Biafran soldiers loved him because he suffered with his men during the civil war.
Another veteran, Capt. Fidelis Ochiegbe, told Saturday Sun that Ojukwu’s death has inlicted a deep wound that may not heal in the hearts of his followers. He prayed that the warlord’s soul rests in peace.
Source: Sun, 3rd December 2011.

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Anybody in Ojukwu’s shoes in 1966 would’ve acted the same way –Shagaya
 

Written by  Jude Owuamanam

Brig.-Gen. John Shagaya
Brig.-Gen. John  Shagaya

Brig.-Gen. John  Shagaya, who commanded the ECOWAS Monitoring Group in Liberia as well as served as the Minister of Internal Affairs during the Gen. Sani Abacha regime, in this interview with JUDE OWUAMANAM, bares his mind on the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu

What type of soldier did you see in Ojukwu?

Ojukwu was a rebel with a cause who very much believed in a cause he was fighting. I will miss him. I have visited him on a number of occasions in Enugu and I saw in him a man of courage and perseverance. I can only describe him as a soldiers’ soldier. Ojukwu demonstrated sterling qualities, especially to the cause of Igbo emancipation. Ojukwu was a soldiers’ soldier and just like Gen. Yakubu Gowon, he took a tremendous risk. I respect him for his cause and his magnanimity in accepting the end of the war. I also admire him for his belief in one Nigeria

How would you describe  his action during those troubled days, especially his decision to pull the South-East out of Nigeria?

 Given Ojukwu’s position and disposition during the troubled days of the First Republic, anyone would have done what he did. Any soldier worth his salt would have acted the same way as the Ikemba did in 1966 when he ceded Biafra from Nigeria. Nobody in that position would stand aside and watch his people being killed because the situation in 1966 would have pushed anybody to do what he did, especially after the retaliatory coup of July 1966. Not many people would have had the courage to do the things that he did. He was a source of inspiration to many of us during those turbulent years.

What leadership qualities did you find in him?

Ojukwu demonstrated sterling leadership qualities so much so that he was admired by many. I very much value his Queens English and the way he comported himself. He was also quick to accept to surrender and since then his belief in one Nigeria remained unshaken till his death. I will miss him a lot because as a young officer just passing out of military school, I saw in him a model in the military. I admired his courage, tenacity of purpose and unalloyed commitment to the cause of his people.

You can see many sides of him depending on where you stand, but I can tell you that the circumstances he found himself in 1966 dictated that he could not have done otherwise.  It could have been me. Like a doctor, the first thing was to give people comfort. Most of the young officers who fought the war did not actually understood why they were fighting, especially on the federal side.  They were made to believe that they were quashing a rebellion. And they fought with that impression.

How close were you to him?

We worked closely, especially in setting up the war museum in Umuahia and I have collaborated with him on many projects as regards the war. As I told you, I have visited him on many occasions in Enugu and I found him an amiable person. I respect him for his cause.

No great quality of leadership could be more than that. His quality of leadership would amount to people following you and dying with you. Only a few demonstrated it like Adolf Hitler did. I enjoyed his cooperation when we were collecting artefacts for the war museum during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime. I was the chairman of that project and he cooperated. Without his cooperation, we would not have recovered such artefacts like Ogbunigwe, the Biafran Baby and the war ship that was captured by Biafran troops during the war. He was even present at the Concorde Hotel in Owerri when the inauguration and that showed his belief in one Nigeria.

What lesson can we learn from the civil war?

 The civil war should teach us that there is dignity in dialogue, but unfortunately we have not learnt from that. What is happening in Nigeria today is far greater than what happened before the civil war. I think we should try to avoid a repeat of that unfortunate incident because what is happening in Nigeria today could be worse than what Ojukwu saw in Nigeria of 1966.
Source: Punch, 29th November 2011.

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Ojukwu: Ndigbo to close markets, mourn for 7 days 

Written by  Ozioma Ubabukoh with agency reports

The Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra on Monday ordered Ndigbo across the country to commence a seven-day mourning for the late ex-Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.

The mourning period to commence December 1, MASSOB said, would involve all Ndigbo in the country and no Igbo woman or man would go to the market, work, farm or undertake any formal work during the mourning period ending December 7.

"All Igbo will start mourning our leader from December 1 to 7, 2011. No Igbo man or woman is expected to go to work, school, and trade or engage in any formal activity. We request churches, traders, market women, students to participate in mourning Ezeigbo," MASSOB President, Ralph Uwazuruike, told journalists at the Ojukwu residence in Enugu GRA on Monday.

Our correspondent reports that traders and businesses in the South East usually comply with directives given by MASSOB.

In attendance during the briefing were Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State and members of Ojukwu’s family, including the deceased’s elder brother, Mr. Ndubueze Ojukwu; and Chief of Staff to the deceased, Mr. Bob Onyem.

Nwazuruike who spoke for those present at the briefing appealed to the federal and state governments and the private sector to comply with the directive.

"Anything short of our demand that Igbo people be allowed to mourn Ojukwu during the national mourning period would be tantamount to provoking Ndigbo and disrespecting Ojukwu. I enjoin Igbo traders who pray every 12 noon daily to pray for the repose of the soul of our leader from now on, during the national mourning period and after," he said.

Uwazuruike listed four demands that must be met by the federal government before Ojukwu would be laid to rest.

He said, "The Federal Government should use the death of Ezeigbo to implement the ‘No victor, no vanquished’ policy of the post Nigeria/Biafra war.

"Two additional states for the South-East zone should be created now that Ezeigbo is dead. They should do this through a constitutional amendment. They should do this immediately. If two additional states are created, the number of local government areas in the South-East region will come up to what we have in other areas.

"The death of Ojukwu should prompt the declaration of the South-East as a disaster zone in terms of infrastructural decay and the erosion menace. They must do this now because the people of the South-East are not cowards. The boys are very angry.

"We know what is happening in Nigeria, that the people that the Federal Government listens to are those who carry arms. But what Nigerians do not know is that the issue of violence from MASSOB has been resisted by Ojukwu. They must remember that now that Ojukwu is dead we can do anything. They must remember that whenever the Igbos start anything, they cannot control us."

"The fourth thing we are requesting from the Federal Government is that they must immortalise Ojukwu."

Obi, who only spoke briefly, said "the seven days of prayers for Ojukwu was a must and every Igbo person should support that."

Meanwhile, the deceased elder brother, Ndubueze Ojukwu, said that the family was yet to fix a date for the final burial rites of the Ikemba Nnewi.

"We want to give him (Ojukwu) the best burial in Africa. For this reason, we shall consult widely. He showed us that he loved us, so we have to reciprocate the love by giving him a very befitting burial," Ndubueze said. He called on those he called the "fifth columnists" not to politicise Ojukwu’s death or burial.

In London, the widow of the late Ikemba, Bianca, told the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Dalhatu Tafida, that her husband survived some "very bad times".

Bianca spoke when she received Tafida, who led senior officials of the Nigerian mission on a condolence visit to the Ojukwu family.

She said, "Like other times, I will always say I have seen him through very bad times. When the doctors would tell us he wouldn’t make it to morning, but he would always struggle and in the morning he would still be there. But this time, he didn’t struggle, he went peacefully.’’

Recalling Ojukwu’s last days, Bianca said he had just been discharged from the hospital and was doing very well.

"I have never seen him look so well. He was interactive, very alert and aware, and we will sing him songs, crack jokes.

"Very surprisingly, his situation which we thought had improved remarkably, suddenly took a turn for the worse.

"I remember I was saying to him, it is getting very cold in this country and we must go home. Are we going to go home? He would nod very emphatically, but he never did make it home.

"Nobody asks God what his intentions are, but we would have preferred he stayed on. I cannot ask God why at this time."

Tafida had earlier described Ojukwu’s death as a great loss, not only to his family and the Igbo, but also to Nigeria as a country.

He said, "Ojukwu has helped to shape modern Nigeria, because it was through him that we were able to have states that we now call cells of development in Nigeria.

"His loss therefore should not be considered as a loss to just one section of the country. It is a loss to the whole country, hence we unanimously decided that we should be here today to commiserate with you.’’
Source: Punch, 29th November 2011.

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He saw the future of Nigeria –Chukwumerije

Written by  Friday Olokor and Simon Utebor

Senator Uche Chukwumerije
Senator Uche Chukwumerije

Senator Uche Chukwumerije on Monday described Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu as the "man who saw tomorrow and spoke about Nigeria so eloquently."

The Senator once served under Ojukwu as the director of propaganda during the civil war.

He said Ojukwu embraced the path to Nigeria’s greatness without fear.

Chukwumerijie in a statement entitled, ‘Our sun will never set,’ said Ojukwu saw the path to unity with the clarity of a child’s eye and the innocence of a saint.

Chukwumerijie, who said Ojukwu’s life was a dynamic definition of ‘Project Nigeria’, stressed that he believed in equity and justice.

He said, "Ojukwu saw the path to unity with the clarity of a child’s eye and the innocence of a saint. He passionately believed in equity and justice, diligence and merit, mutual trust and confraternal bond, as the veins and arteries of the federation.

"No citizen of this Republic ever lived Nigerian so fully, spoke Nigerian so eloquently and embraced so fearlessly the path to Nigeria’s greatness as Ojukwu.

"With iron will, he defended these prerequisites not as lingua of governance and political rule but as the practical irreplaceable hinges of federal union. Eloquent in Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and English, he personified the feasibility of this oneness. "That his path to Nigeria’s greatness met dead ends and diversions remains a continual reminder to mid-wives of Nigeria’s greatness of the necessity of healing the disconnect between precepts and practice."

Also, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, has described him as "a major watershed in the history of modern Nigeria."

The minister in a statement on Monday said, "There are indeed very few Nigerians that evoke the high emotion that has come to be associated with the affairs of the Ikemba.

"Chief Ojukwu will be remembered as the historian-soldier-politician who, not only studied History, but indeed created history and made history. He was all by himself a national institution."

He said his demise was a loss of monumental proportion but would forever remain a national monument.forever remain a ‘national monument."

Reacting to his demise, Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, said Ojukwu was indeed a great man.

He said, "Ojukwu was a true Nigerian, who though born with a silver spoon in his mouth, would rather submit himself to the discipline and tough trainings of the military.

‘‘As a true Nigerian, he was born in the North by his rich Igbo parents, while he schooled at Kings’ College, Lagos, where he also lived. From whichever angle one may look at him, the late Ojukwu was a great man indeed.’’

Ikuforiji submitted that Nigeria had lost yet another great and rare talent that the nation failed to make good use of like many of its departed great heroes such as the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who had long gone to the great beyond before him.
Source: Punch, 29th November 2011.

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South-East Govs, MASSOB Declare 7 Days of Mourning, Prayers for Ojukwu

 NNAMDI MBAWIKE

The South-East Governors’ Forum and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) have declared 7 days of prayers and mourning for late ex-Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.

Chairman of the South East Governors' Forum, Peter Obi , who spoke to newsmen yesterday at the residence of Ojukwu in GRA, Enugu, confirmed the development and advised Igbo persons all over the world to pray during the period.

Governor Obi, who returned from London yesterday morning, where he had gone to see Ojukwu’s widow, Bianca, stressed that the late icon needed the people’s prayers.

“Everybody is aware that Ezeigbo is dead, we are all in mourning mood, Igboland is in mourning mood, Nigeria is in mourning mood, we need prayers for our leader, we declared seven days of prayers,” he said.

Earlier, while announcing the seven-day mourning at the Enugu residence of Ojukwu, MASSOB leader, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike had thanked Ndigbo for their prayers and concern throughout the period Ojukwu was sick, adding that the late icon died peacefully.

He therefore urged Ndigbo at home and in the diaspora to observe the seven-day mourning as a mark of respect for the fallen hero.
Read more later.
Source: Leadership, 28th November 2011.

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IBB: Igbo president will gladden Ojukwu’s heart

By Yusuf Alli 

Obi urges patience on funeral plans

IBB2

FORMER military President Ibrahim Babangida knows how to make the late Biafran leader, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, happy in death: ensuring that the Igbo produce President.

Gen. Babangida yesterday joined a long row of prominent Nigerians eulogising the late Ojukwu, a fellow soldier, who died in London on Saturday. He described the late Biafran leader as a “wordsmith”, a “great orator” and a “courageous” Nigerian.

Gen. Babangida, in a tribute he paid through his spokesman, Prince Kassim Afegbua, said of the late Ojukwu: “He was a man who felt the Igbo nation deserves more than it is getting and did give me his word that he was going to support me on the assurance that I would take a Nigerian of Igbo extraction as my running mate in the presidential contest.

“I was going to do that before the aspiration petered out. Despite that, I still believe in the presidential aspiration of the Igbo in future elections and one thing that would gladden the mind of Dim, even in death, is to see an Igbo man becoming President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the spirit of unity and stability.”

He urged the Federal Government to immortalise Ojukwu by naming a monument after him.

Gen. Babangida added: “The Federal Government should immortalise this great Nigerian by naming a great institution or monument after him. That way, his name and history will forever be preserved for the good of humanity.”

The ex-Head of State also recalled how he related with the late Ojukwu and the kind of leader he was.

The statement said: “At last, a great Nigerian, an extra-ordinary Nigerian, a wordsmith and great orator, a cerebral soldier and very courageous Nigerian, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, has just snapped.

“He was a Nigerian who was driven by his convictions and pursued his goal in life, believing in his convictions. He was a rare gem, a strong advocate for better society and strong believer in the equitable distribution of power and political bargaining. 

“With Dim, my very senior colleague, there was no dull moment. I got really close to him during my regime and I remember vividly how we used to sit and discuss issues of nation-building and unity of our country after the civil war era.

“Even at old age, Dim still believed in the cause he fought for. He shared his sentiments about the country barely a year ago when I paid him a visit at his country home to inform him of my intention to run for the last 2011 presidential election. He was his vintage self, taking me down memory lane about the Nigerian situation.

“He could remember vividly also the role that my administration played in returning his seized property to him as well as those of several others as part of our modest contribution to healing the wounds of the civil war.

“He was his characteristic self, deploying anecdotes and wise sayings to underscore the import of our discourse.

“Dim Ojukwu’s patriotism about the oneness of the country was not in doubt. He believed that given the country’s diverse socio-political and cultural configurations, the nation-states within the nation must be given room to flourish in a mutually exclusive arrangement that would further the aspiration of the country.

“His understanding of the political dynamics in the country was extra-ordinary and, trust him, his rendition was usually in a class of his own.

“The nation will miss this solid voice from the East of the Niger, this leader of men who stood firmly by his people all through his journey in life. Dim was never given to prevarication nor was he the type that would genuflect on issues.

“It was easy for one to know where he truly belonged, and he would give convincing reasons why he would take such a position. Such a man should be immortalised and his history and entire humanity should be preserved for the present and future generations of Nigerians.

“My heart goes to his family, especially Bianca, his wife of many years, at this moment of grief and mourning of a departed dear husband, father, uncle and highly cerebral Nigerian. My condolences to the entire Igbo sons and daughters and Nigerians all over the world for the loss of a distinguished Nigerian who lived by his convictions till death separated us. May the spirit of the Almighty God grant him eternal rest in the hereafter. May He also provide the family the strength and fortitude to bear with this great loss.”

A former President of the Senate, Senator Adolphus Wabara, described the death of Ojukwu as a huge loss to the nation.

Wabara, in a condolence message to the Odumegwu-Ojukwu family, said the Igbo and indeed Nigerians at large are proud of the late Ojukwu’s contributions to Nigerian nationhood. 

Wabara described the late Ojukwu as a “tower of pride to generations unborn”.

He added: “We take solace in the fact that his legacies will abide by Nigeria forever. No one, not even his ardent critics, will overlook his monumental contributions to Nigerian nationhood, his love for the downtrodden and his passion for the development of his people.

“I urge the family he left behind and the entire Igbo community to take heart and continue to bask in the glory of his indelible and glorious legacies.”

Former Head of State Gen. Muhammadu Buhari described the late Ojukwu as a tireless, focused and frank negotiator who kept to his words.

Buhari, in a condolence message by his spokesman Yinka Odumakin, said Ojukwu and himself were partners in progress, searching assiduously for solutions to the problems confronting Nigeria.

“In the process of our friendship and quests in each other’ houses and in all our transitions and engagements on and off the political scene, I find Dim a most forthright and honourable players,” the former Presidential candidate said. 
Source: The Nation, 28th November 2011.

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...Igbo nation without him

By The Sun Publishing 

It is very hard to contemplate an Igbo nation without Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi and Eze Gburugburu of Igboland.
But death, the great leveller, had made such contemplation not only a possibility but also a reality. After all, the Holy Book said that there is time for every thing; a time to be born and a time to die. For Ikemba, it is time to exit the secular stage. This is, indeed, the last Ofala for the people’s General and leader of men. The type of Ojukwu comes once in a while for a race. The possibility of another Ojukwu in our time is very remote.

How did Ojukwu describe himself?
“I am a Nigerian. But I am also an Igbo. It is my being Igbo that guarantees my Nigerianness as long as I live. Consequently, my Nigerianness shall not be at the expense of my Igboness. The Nigerian nation must therefore work for all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.”

Ojukwu’s demise in a London Hospital following a cardiovascular accident otherwise known as stroke has robbed the Igbo nation one of its most idolized and cherished leaders. The Ikemba came into national reckoning following the January 15, 1966 military coup de tas that introduced the first military rule in Nigeria under the leadership of Major-Gen. JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi. As a result of that coup, Ojukwu, then a Lieutenant Colonel was appointed the Military Governor of Eastern Region, comprising the present South East and parts of the South South geo-political zones.
The coup came when the politicians failed to hold their acts together and acted in flagrant disregard of the laws of the land. The civilian regime was accused of corruption, nepotism and ineptitude amongst other ills by the coupists led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. The counter coup of July 29, 1966 which brought Lt-Col. Yakubu Gowon to power led to the death of Nigeria’s first military ruler Major-Gen. Aguiyi-Ironsi and many senior military officers of Igbo origin and mass massacre of Igbo civilian population in Northern Region thrust on Ojukwu’s shoulders the challenge of safeguarding his people in the East.

The sight of headless and disemboweled victims of the pogrom and genocide carried out by Northern officers and their civilian collaborators stirred rage and anger among the peoples of Eastern Region that most felt that their security cannot be guaranteed by government outside the Eastern Region.

Following the failure of diplomacy and some peace talks to settle the Nigerian crisis of 1966 between Ojukwu and Gowon and their followers, Gowon unilaterally divided the country into 12 states in May 1967 which Ojukwu followed some days later and declared Eastern Region an independent Republic of Biafra. Due to the impasse, Nigeria went into a thirty months bloody civil war with its debilitating consequences from 1967-1970. The rest is now history that it is needless recounting the entire grueling events here again. Over time, the eloquent and charismatic leader had risen to the Igbo consciousness by fate as well as by dint of hard work. He was like the proverbial child that had washed his hands clean and dined with the kings and elders of the land.

It was the war that brought out the sterling qualities in Ojukwu and it was the war that undeniably made him so popular and very important in Nigerian and Igbo history. No chronicler of Nigeria history can deny the Ikemba a chapter or more. He saw an opportunity and made good use of it. He stood by his people and fought for their cause. Ojukwu was one leader that the Igbos don’t joke with. Any attack on Ojukwu is an attack on all Igbos. To the Igbos, Ojukwu was a god, a superhuman, an enigma. No wonder, he was lionized by the Igbos. The numerous titles bestowed on him can testify to this assertion.

There is no doubt that Ojukwu was the quintessential leader of the Igbos. Before him were Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the foremost nationalist and first President of Nigeria, Dr. Michael Okpara, the former Premier of Eastern Region, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, former Governor of Eastern Region, and other notable Igbos.

At the end of the civil war, the Ikemba went on self exile in Ivory Coast. After 13 years, he was granted state pardon by former President Shehu Shagari. Ojukwu came back and plunged headlong into Nigerian politics and in the bid to bring the Igbos back to the mainstream of Nigerian politics. His outing then was not so impressive; he continued and finally founded the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and became its leader and presidential candidate.
All his life, the Ikemba championed the cause of the Igbos and defended them` whenever their rights are trampled upon by other Nigerians. He urged the Igbos to think home in their investments after witnessing the massive investments Igbos heaped outside Igboland.

When the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State wanted to force Andy Uba after the Supreme Court had nullified his election, through another ingenious means, Ojukwu rose to the occasion and warned of the danger ahead. According to the Ikemba, “In my mind what we are playing at is not anything short of playing with the possibilities of another civil war. I say this because whenever the term civil war is used everybody remembers me. Well, I am still alive. I don’t want to be part of a second civil war but sadly I see us playing this children’s game, ‘koso’ with our affairs in Anambra State.”

On Igbo marginalization, Ojukwu expounded thus: “Compounding the Igbo predicament are the after-effects of their post civil war political and economic emasculation by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Their shrill cries of marginalization were ignored by others and by the Nigerian government, and they have come to terms with the reality of their present position in Nigeria.”

But on a note of optimism, the Ikemba charged, “But we Ndigbo will never give up. It is not in our character to succumb to inequality. Being a very major ethnic group in Nigeria, we will not accept our present marginalized status as permanent and we shall continue to seek and struggle for justice, fairness and equity in the Nigerian politics.”
His mission: “My commitment, because I am seriously involved, is to work with all well-meaning Nigerians to bring about the Nigerian society as promised by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. When this happens, and all glass ceilings and other unwholesome practices designed to keep Ndigbo, or any other ethnic groups in Nigeria marginalized are dismantled, I shall feel fulfilled. When this happens, Ndigbo shall regain their political and economic relevance in a fair, just and egalitarian Nigerian society.”

During the last gubernatorial election in Anambra State, Ojukwu made one request to his people to return Governor Peter Obi to power for a second term. This he regarded as his last wish. And the people religiously complied because such came from the revered Ikemba.

Igboland without the Ikemba can hardly be the same but life must go on. Another Ikemba may come again in Igboland but I do not know when and how.
Let Igbos do a rethink on everything Ojukwu told them and make necessary amends. There is the urgent need for the Igbos to unite and pursue their common destiny within the Nigerian federation. It is time to bring Igbo wealth home so that the impact will be felt on the homestead. The greatest tribute the Igbos should pay the revered Ikemba is to imbibe all his virtues and his numerous words of exhortations on various issues and problems that plague the Igbo nation.
Source: Sun, 29th November 2011.

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FG Considers State Burial for Ojukwu

By Chuks Okocha and Christoper Isiguzo

The Federal Government is "seriously" considering holding a state burial for the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who died on Saturday in London, THISDAY has learnt.

Presidency sources said last night that although some hardliners might be opposed to the idea because Ojukwu led a rebel army that almost broke up the country, "the fact remains that at the end of the civil war in 1970, the Federal Government declared a 'No Victor, No Vanquished' stand".

The source revealed that President Goodluck Jonathan is further persuaded by the fact that President Shehu Shagari granted full pardon to Ojukwu which enabled him to return from exile and run for the Senate in the 1983 general election.

“After the unfortunate civil war and his return to Nigeria, Ojukwu clearly preached a message of one Nigeria for the rest of his life. He was a patriot till his death,” a presidential adviser said Sunday night.

A state burial entails full Federal Government presence at the ceremony while his coffin will be draped in the national flag. It is symbolically a celebration of how important a deceased person is in the nation’s history.

In his tribute last Saturday, Jonathan said Ojukwu’s place in history “is assured”, noting that he left behind “a record of very notable contributions to the evolution of modern Nigeria”.

He said 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 reintegration of his people into a united and progressive Nigeria in the aftermath of the war, will ensure that 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”.

Meanwhile, Ojukwu’s associates said he joined the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1983 because of his love for the Igbos and his desire to reintegrate them into the national politics after the war.

Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, who was then the Presidential Liaison Officer to the National Assembly, said Sunday: “We, the former Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, Igwe of Ogbunike, John Ume-Enyiora, myself and late Chief C.C. Onoh were instrumental in convincing Ojukwu to join the NPN when he returned to Nigeria after 13 years of self-exile.

“The basic aim of persuading him to join the NPN was to reintegrate the Igbo to the mainstream national politics after the civil war. Then the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) was the ruling party in the South-east states of Imo and Anambra and we believed that Ojukwu should no longer play regional politics. We met and went to him and convinced him to join the NPN, at least for the sake of the Igbos and it eventually paid off when the NPN won Anambra governorship election with Onoh as the governor.”

For this “singular love” for his people, Yakassai said, Ojukwu was a man of courage “because it was rare for anyone having declared war on his fatherland to turn round and canvass the unity of the same country that he fought against”.

There were indications Sunday night that the funeral ceremony would hold in February next year as the family members consider the options ahead of them.

A senior government source told THISDAY Sunday that “the burial cannot hold until February next year, although January is still a possibility. The family will eventually decide, but Ojukwu was an international figure so they will not take the decision in isolation of that fact”.

THISDAY gathered that Sunday, two South-east governors were locked in a meeting with the family members in London. At the meeting were Ojukwu’s son, Chukwuemeka; widow, Bianca; and the governors of Anambra and Imo States, Mr. Peter Obi and Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who were both elected on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Ojukwu was the national leader of the party and was its presidential flag bearer in 2003 and 2007. One of the major issues discussed at the meeting, according to a source, was when the remains of the departed Igbo leader would be returned to the country.

Bianca, who is the Presidential Adviser on Diaspora Affairs, had returned to London shortly after Ojukwu’s 78th birthday which was held at his GRA residence in Enugu and put together by the Leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, Chief Ralph Uwazurike.
Source: This Day, 29th November 2011.

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MASSOB declares 7-day mourning for Ojukwu

BY TONY EDIKE

ENUGU – Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, Monday declared a week long mourning period for the late former Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who passed on last weekend.

MASSOB leader, Chief Ralph Uwazurike, who made the declaration at a widely attended press briefing at Ojukwu’s GRA residence , Enugu, said the mourning period would commence December 1, during which Ndigbo all over the world were expected to offer prayers for the repose of Ojukwu’s soul in the bosom of the Lord.

He also declared that Ojukwu’s death should serve as a uniting force rather than that of disintegration of Igbo people, warning that those Igbo whose stock in trade was to betray Igbo cause in their own selfish interest should exercise restraint or face the dire consequence of their sabotage.

He said; “Ojukwu’s death should not be used for politics.  His death should be the basis for the unity of Ndigbo.  We have to start the unity of Ndigbo from somewhere.  ”With the death of Ojukwu the trouble of Ndigbo has come to an end. Let his death unite us rather that using it to play politics.”

He said that Ndigbo all over the world were expected to stay at home on the day of Ojukwu’s burial which is yet to be announced as a mark of honour for the former general, adding that Nigerians should use the death of Ojukwu to make amends and show evidence of “the popular No Victor, No Vanquished slogan” being used in Nigeria since the end of the civil war.

He said: “Now that Ojukwu is dead, we want that evidence of No Victor, No Vanquished shown. We want the Federal Government to give Ndigbo their rights as other areas and tribes are enjoying in their zones. The Federal Government should create two more states for the South East. They should do this through constitutional amendment.

“The Federal Government should also show evidence of No victor, No Vanquished by declaring the South East a disaster area in terms of infrastructure.  They should construct the second Niger Bridge, provide an International Airport for the South East and reconstruct our bad roads.  Ndigbo are entitled to this and we should be expected to beg for it.”

Acknowledging the contribution of Ojukwu to the political evolution of the country, the MASSOB leader said the Federal Government should also immortalize the Ezeigbo Gburugburu  by naming streets, roads, monuments and establishments in Abuja after him, saying it was not enough to pour encomiums on him now that he is dead.

“We want to give Ojukwu a befitting burial ever.  We want to show him that we love him even in death. All Igbo all over the world and indeed Nigerians should join hands to honour the departed hero,” he said.
Source: Vanguard, 29th November 2011.

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Ojukwu: MASSOB orders sit-at-home on burial day

By Chris Oji, Enugu and John Ofikhenua, Abuja 

Obi declares seven days mourning, prayers

THERE will be a sit-at-home in the Southeast when Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu will be buried, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) declared yesterday.

Besides, a seven-day mourning next week for the late Igbo leader, MASSOB leader Ralph Uwazuruike told a news conference in Enugu at Ojukwu’s Casablanca Lodge home. 

Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, who showed up at the news conference, said prayers should be held during the mourning.

No date has been fixed for Ojukwu’s funeral but it was gathered that it might not take place before the end of the year because the custom of Nnewi, Ojukwu’s hometown, forbids burial in December.

The Igbo are urged to observe the seven-day mourning and prayers which will be observed between December 1 and 7. Other Nigerians, who are willing to participate, should also do, the governor said.

“On the day Ezeigbo will be buried, there will be a sit-at-home throughout Igboland. Nobody should come out. Everybody should stay at home as a mark of respect for the Ezeigbo. No date has been fixed for the burial. But why I am saying it now is for Ndigbo to get ready and know that on that day, every Igbo man should stay at home.” Uwazuruike said.

The MASSOB chief said they want to give Ojukwu a befitting burial, “the best burial in Africa”.

Uwazuruike advised the government to use Ojukwu’s death to make amends and show the evidence of “no victor, no vanquished” as announced at the end of the Civil War in 1970.

He said: “We have not seen that evidence since the war ended. Now that the Ezeigbo is dead, the evidence should be shown by giving him a befitting memorial and honour by the Nigerian government.”

He said for Ojukwu’s soul to rest in peace, two additional states should be created in the Southeast to bring them at par with other sections of the country, adding that the creation of two more states should be augmented with the number of local councils in the zone. He said the government should do this through the constitutional amendment.

The MASSOB leader also asked for the declaration of the Southeast as a disaster area because of poor infrastructure, such as airports, seaports, Niger Bridge, roads and erosion, among others.

“People of the East are not cowards. Our boys are angry over this issue of lack of infrastructure. The position of MASSOB on non-violence should not be taken for granted. That position of non-violence was sustained by Ojukwu. Any time there was problem, he would invite me to remind me of the non-violence position,” Uwazuruike said.

The final expectation from the Federal Government, the MASSOB leader said, is the immortalisation of Ojukwu. “It has been an insult to Ndigbo that Ojukwu was not immortalised alongside his colleagues who were given that honour through naming of some barracks after them,” Uwazuruike said.

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday paid tribute to Ojukwu, saying he lived and died fighting for a better Nigeria.

In statement by the Head of Information and Public Relations Comrade Chris Uyot, the NLC said it received “with shock and sadness, the news of the death of one of Nigeria’s most revered patriots and statesmen, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu–Ojukwu, who died after a protracted ailment in a London hospital on Saturday”.

The NLC noted that although, the late Ojukwu took up arms against the Federal Government and was a principal actor in the Nigerian civil war, “he ranked as one of the best patriots and nationalists Nigeria ever produced. “The lessons from that war has certainly strengthened the Nigerian nation and the crave of its citizenry for national cohesiveness and unity.

“In ending the civil war, we must acknowledge Chief Ojukwu’s personal commitment and conviction for a better, stronger and healthier Nigeria.

Beyond the war, he was a brave, intelligent, and focused soldier and politician. He had been very active in civil politics since his return from Cote d’Ivoire where he went on exile after the war, and was a strong believer in participatory politics and credible elections.”

The NLC added: “We extend the condolences of all Nigerian workers to his entire family as we share in their moment of agony and pain. The late Chief Odumegwu – Ojukwu lived and died fighting for a better Nigeria and therefore the consequence of his death is a collective burden. We pray that God grants the family the fortitude to bear this national loss.”

Source: The Nation, 29th November 2011.

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His last moments, by wife

Bianca, wife of the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, has relived his last moments. 

She spoke in London when she received Dr Dalhatu Tafida, the Nigerian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, who led senior officials of the mission on a condolence visit to the family.

“Like other times, I will always say I have seen him through very bad times,” the Europe Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted Bianca as saying.

“When the doctors would tell us he wouldn’t make it to morning, but he would always struggle and in the morning he would still be there. But this time, he didn’t struggle; he went peacefully.”

Recalling Ojukwu’s last days, Bianca said he had just been discharged from the hospital and was doing very well.

“I have never seen him look so well. He was interactive, very alert and aware, and we will sing him songs, crack jokes.

“Very surprisingly, his situation which we thought had improved remarkably, suddenly took a turn for the worse.

“I remember I was saying to him, it is getting very cold in this country and we must go home. Are we going to go home? He would nod very emphatically, but he never did make it home.

“Nobody asks God what his intentions are, but we would have preferred he stayed on. I cannot ask God why at this time.”

She expressed gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan, the First Lady, Patience, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra, Tafida and Nigerians for their prayers and support.

Tafida had earlier described Ojukwu’s death as a great loss, not only to the family and Igbo race, but also to Nigeria as a country.

“Ojukwu has helped to shape modern Nigeria, because it was through him that we were able to have states that we now call cells of development in Nigeria.

“His loss therefore should not be considered as a loss to just one section of the country. It is a loss to the whole country, hence we unanimously decided that we should be here today to commiserate with you.”

The envoy prayed God to grant the repose of his soul eternal rest and comfort the family. 

Source: The Nation, 29th November 2011.

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Okorocha, Clark, Northern governors, others mourn

By Yusuf Alli and Emma Mgbeahurike, Owerri

Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha, former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark and the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) have paid glowing tributes to the late Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

 Okorocha, in a statement, said: “Ojukwu’s death has created a big vacuum in the Southeast and Nigeria, having fought against injustice and the emancipation of the Igbos. Ojukwu is a man of principle and a unique leader who, amidst all odds, remained steadfast with his people until death.”

 The Northern governors, speaking through their Chairman, Governor  Babangida Aliyu, said: “The people of the 19 states of the North and indeed the entire country have lost a courageous man who would be sorely missed for his immeasurable contributions to national development.

“Like most of our Igbo brothers and sisters who were born in Zungeru (former capital of Northern Nigeria), Ojukwu excelled in his sojourn on this side of the divide. He did well as a soldier and as a politician.” 

Clark, in a tribute, said the late Biafran leader was an activist and a foremost nationalist.

He said:  “The death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu came to me as a rude shock. This is another loss to the nation of a man who could be described as an activist and foremost nationalist, who hates oppression and injustice, the voice of the voiceless, a courageous and credible man whose ideologies transcends monumentally.

“By his death, a vacuum has been created which is difficult to fill. However, we cannot question the will of God, he alone gives and takes. 

“Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu despite his background and achievements, fought and defended the ordinary Ndigbo man when he felt there was no protection and sanctuary for his people hence it is not true to say that the Biafrans’ rebellion against their country was not without a cause!

“He was one of the few Nigerian leaders who believed that to be part of a united Nigeria, you must come from a section of the country, you must be ready to defend and protect your people against any discrimination or oppression from the other part of the country. It will therefore be difficult to have another Ojukwu in Igbo land.”

Also, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) and the Lagos State chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), have said Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was exemplary.

ARF, in a statement, said: “Odumegwu was one of the most highly educated individuals that ever came out of Africa, he was an orator, a technocrat per excellence and a good manager of resources. As a polyglot, he spoke fluent Yoruba using Yoruba proverbs more than some of us Yoruba are able. Our celebration of this man of intellect cannot be complete, without his objective statement on Chief Obafemi Awolowo.”

In a release by its Publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe, ACN said the death of Ojukwu should serve as a reminder to the nation of unresolved question of true federalism.

The party said: “We were saddened that Ojukwu left at a time he did, when the issues that led him to take up arms against the Nigerian nation are yet to be resolved. We would have loved Ojukwu to live to witness the evolution of a Nigeria where justice and fairplay reign. But we are sad that the Nigeria at the time Ojukwu died has worsened from what it used to be at the time he decided to fight for his people. We are sad that the Nigeria at the time Ojukwu died has regressed into a quagmire where true federalism is alien and where freedom, justice and good governance have been banished, to the consternation of the people.

“Ojukwu was a brilliant historian, a quintessential military man, a great politician and a proven leader who understands the heartbeat of his people and was ever ready to defend his people against any oppression and acts of injustice. He was a believer in true federalism and equitable distribution of power and resources, which is the cornerstone of ACN’s objectives in Nigeria’s politics. He was a firm believer in the rights of every Nigerian to enjoy the fruits of a working nationhood. It was a violation of this sacred right that led him to take up arms in 1967. It is sad and regrettable that the conditions that made him to go to war have deepened and the Nigerian is living to witness a callous affront on true federalism and individual rights of Nigerians today.

“We call on Nigerians to intensify the fight for true and equitable federalism, from where Ojukwu left it.”

Source: The Nation, 29th November 2011.

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Ojukwu was misunderstood by many – Achuzia

By CHARLES KUMOLU
TO a lot of people the name Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu means different things.

Joe Achuzia
Joe Achuzia

While some see him a national hero, it would be hard to convince others that he was not a tribal god.

He was also regarded as  a reluctant rebel, who led his people into an unnecessary thirty-month civil war.

The sports-car-driving son of one of Nigeria’s richest men, an urbane student of history,  who read voraciously, wrote poetry, played tennis and, with his wealth and connections.

However, whichever he is viewed, Ojukwu, even in death remains a defining figure in Nigeria’s journey to nationhood.

Perhaps, this is why, ignoring, his place in history, would be at the detriment of any historian.

One man, who aptly described the late Biafran War Lord, is a Former Secretary General of Ohaneze Col Joe Achuzia.

Achuzia, who is a personal friend of Ojukwu in an exclusive chat with Vanguard described the late Head of the defunct, Republic of Biafra, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, as a national hero, who was misunderstood by a lot of people.

The civil war hero,  who was the most dreaded commander in the Biafran Army, also noted that Ojukwu’s death does not mean the end of Biafra, saying that Biafra still exist in the mind of every Igbo person.

According to the former Oheneze scribe, “It will be very difficult to forget a man like him. I am still very sad. We were very close. People think that he created controversies, he did not.  Controversies trailed  him. Ojukwu so much loved Nigeria and he wanted the best for this country.”

He further noted that Ojukwu’s kind of person would never be found in Igbo land, adding that Ojukwu was a colossus. “That kind of colossus would never be found anywhere in Igbo land, He wanted the best for his people,  we schooled together at Kings College and also in England, I am still trying to digest the shock of his death, like I said, I should be left to mourn my friend.

He was a national champion, it was people who thought he was an ethnic leader.” Continuing, he said, “ No! Ojukwu’s dreams for better Nigeria would never die. This nation has lost a great man and that vacuum will be difficult to feel. Men like Ojuwkuwu are rare to come across. I am still coming to terms with his death.”

Source: Vanguard, 29th November 2011.

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Andy Uba eulogises Ojukwu

Tributes have continued to pour in torrents for the late Biafran leader, Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, with the senator representing Anambra South senatorial zone, Dr Andy Uba, expressing shock over the demise of the Ikemba Nnewi who hailed from his zone.

Senator Uba, in a statement issued yesterday, described Ikemba’s death as a great loss to Nigeria.

He said: “He was a great patriot and embodiment of unity among the Igbo and a rallying point for all committed patriots. We would continue to remember him for his valuable contribution to the country.”

Uba said the country had lost an illustrious son, whose contributions to Igbo cause was immeasurable.He lamented that Ikemba died at a time his wise  counsel would have  assisted to build a new and prosperous nation.

“His place is assured in the history of our great nation,  he would be remembered for his forthrightness, zeal, and undying support for the Igbo cause.

“Above all, he was a great patriot and one with uncommon interllectual bent which the younger generation should draw from.

“He would be sourly missed by all men of goodwill. Happily, he left his mark in the sands of time.”

It would be recalled that the former Biafran warlord died in a London hospital over the weekend after a protracted battle against  stroke. He was aged 78

Source: Vanguard, 29th November 2011.

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Ojukwu’s death marks the end of an era in Nigeria – Obasanjo

Abuja – Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed sadness at the death of Ikemba Nnewi Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

“It is with deep sadness that I received the news of the demise of my friend and colleague.

“He and I were subalterns in the army at Nigeria’s independence in 1960.

“In a way, his death marks the end of an era in Nigeria.

Obasanjo also reminisced over discussions he had with Ojukwu before the latter’s demise.

In an interview in London, Obasanjo recalled particularly that at several times, he discussed the possibility of an expression of remorse from Ojukwu “on the Nigerian civil war which in itself was a culmination of actions and reactions’’.

“I condole with his family and pray for the repose of his soul.’’

Odumegwu Ojukwu died in a London hospital last Saturday at the age of 78. He was born on Nov. 4, 1933 in Zungeru, Niger State.

Ojukwu served in the Nigerian Army alongside Obasanjo until the civil war of 1967 to 1970 put them on different sides of the divide.

In his struggle to preserve the independence of the then Eastern Region where he was military governor, Ojukwu declared a sovereign Republic of Biafra also in a secessionist bid to carve the then Eastern Region as a separate entity from Nigeria.

In the declaration and during his public address to the people of Biafra, he said: “Having mandated me to proclaim on your behalf, and in your name, that Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent republic, now, therefore I, Lt.-Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, by virtue of the authority, and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria together with her continental shelf and territorial waters, shall, henceforth, be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra.’’

On July 6, 1967, the then military Head of State, Col. Yakubu Gowon declared war and attacked Biafra in a bid to stop Ojukwu’s secessionist attempt.

The war which ensued lasted for 30 months as the Nigerian side insisted that the country would not be polarised.

The war ended in January 15, 1970, after the then Lt.-Col. Phillip Effiong, leading the Biafran side, surrendered to Obasanjo.

Before the surrender, Ojukwu had gone on exile in Cote d’Ivoire. (NAN)

Source: Vanguard, 29th November 2011.

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I saw Ojukwu through bad times, says Bianca

London – Bianca, wife of the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, says she is grateful to God to have been able to see her husband through “his very bad times and life challenges”.

She spoke in London when she received Dr Dalhatu Tafida, the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK, who led senior officials of the mission on a condolence visit to the family.

“Like other times, I will always say I have seen him through very bad times.’

“When the doctors would tell us he wouldn’t make it to morning, but he would always struggle and in the morning he would still be there. But this time, he didn’t struggle; he went peacefully.” she said

Recalling Ojukwu’s last days, Bianca said he had just been discharged from the hospital and was doing very well.

“I have never seen him look so well. He was interactive, very alert and aware, and we will sing him songs, cracked jokes.

“Very surprisingly, his situation which we thought had improved remarkably, suddenly took a turn for the worse.

“I remember I was saying to him, it is getting very cold in this country and we must go home. Are we going to go home? He would nod very emphatically, but he never did make it home.

“Nobody asks God what his intentions are, but we would have preferred he stayed on. I cannot ask God why at this time.”

She expressed gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan, the First Lady, Patience, Gov. Peter Obi of Anambra, Tafida and Nigerians for their prayers and support.

Tafida had earlier described Ojukwu’s death as a great loss, not only to the family and Igbo race, but also to Nigeria as a country.

“Ojukwu has helped to shape modern Nigeria, because it was through him that we were able to have states that we now call cells of development in Nigeria.

“His loss therefore should not be considered as a loss to just one section of the country. It is a loss to the whole country, hence we unanimously decided that we should be here today to commiserate with you.”

The envoy prayed God to grant the repose of his soul eternal rest and comfort the family. (NAN)

Source: Vanguard, 29th November 2011.

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Ojukwu was a courageous leader -- CPC

The CPC Rotimi Fashakin, has said that the party received the news of the demise of former Biafran leader, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu with ``unquestionable sadness''.

A statement on Sunday by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Rotimi Fashakin, said the life of the respected statesman was marked with exemplary courage and self-denial.

It said Ojukwu was counted in the ``rarefied specie of humans with enviable traits of nobility and humility firmly embedded in their persona''.

It added that Ojukwu started with a noble educational attainment to seeking military training through the lowest ladder, saying he laid an unparalleled example in humility.

Fashakin said Ojukwu was a worthy Nigerian patriot.

``However, we are comforted that his legacy of exemplary leadership in courage and compassion shall continue to guide the succeeding generations.'
Source: Next, 29
th November 2011.

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Former Nigerian Leader Pays Tribute to Late Secessionist Ojukwu

Yakubo Gowon, who was head of state during the Biafran war, says he and Ojukwu became reconciled friends to move Nigeria forward

Former Nigerian head of state General Yakubo Gowon, in power during the three-year civil war in Biafra, has expressed sadness over the death of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, leader of the secessionist state.

Ojukwu died Saturday in a London hospital after a protracted illness.  He was 78.  Ojukwu led the Igbo secession effort between 1967 and 1970.

Gowon, who was head of state during the civil war, said he and Ojukwu became reconciled friends committed to move Nigeria forward after the civil war.

“Let me say how sorry and sad I am to hear the passing away of my old colleague and friend and aspirant partner during the period of our crisis. But, both of us were reconciled friends in the end.  He certainly will be missed by all, especially the family and partisans and friends and other well-wishers.  I pray for the repose of his soul and may God grant his soul everlasting rest,” he said.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, in a statement praised the late Ojukwu for his “immense love for his people, justice, equity and fairness which forced him into the leading role he played in the civil war.”

Gowon said, while the treatment of the Igbos at the time was undesirable, he does not think it was necessary for the region to secede.

“Let us say that the civil was for the unity of the country.  If there was no secession, there would not have been a civil war.  Although all men of good will to Nigeria will admit that, yes, what happened to the Igbos in Nigeria at the time, it was really bad enough, but I do not think that it should get [to] the stage whereby any leader of a people would wish to take his people out of nation,” Gowon said.

He said he was happy that, in the end, there was no clear victor.

Despite today’s militant agitation in the Niger Delta and the Islamist sect Boko Haram in the north, Gowon said he does not think Nigeria is on the brink of another insurrection like the Biafran civil war.

“I think these are some of the problems that any nation, or many nations, goes through before they have the total peace and stability that they want.  I don’t think that these problems are going to lead to any secession,” Gowon said.

He said, even if  today’s problems in Nigeria would lead to another insurrection like the Biafran civil war, he believes “there are enough men and women of good will who would be able to negotiate a solution that is fair and just to all concerned,” Gowon said.
Source: Voice of America, 29th November 2011.

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Okorocha, Annie Okonkwo, Onyeneke lament Ojukwu’s passage

BY CHIDI NKWOPARA

OWERRI— Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has said the demise of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu has created a huge vacuum that would be very difficult to fill.

Chairman, Imo State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Chief Fidel Onyeneke, also described Ojukwu’s death as “a big blow to Nigeria and a total loss to Igbo race, especially as he brought honour and dignity to the Igboman.”

Okorocha and Onyeneke, who were reacting to the news of Ojukwu’s death, were also of the view that Igbos and Nigeria had lost a true leader.

Okorocha said: “Ojukwu’s death has created a big vacuum in the South-East and Nigeria, having fought for the emancipation of Ndigbo, as well as against injustice wherever it reared its ugly head.”

Onyeneke was of the view that journalists will eternally miss Ojukwu because he was a veritable source of news any day and anywhere, adding that he was fearless in speaking against societal vices.

Senator Annie Okonkwo described news of Ojukwu’s passage  as a sad national tragedy and a personal trauma.

A statement, weekend, by Mr. Collins Ugwu, Special Assistant, Media, to the senator, said it was human for every Igbo man to expect that their authentic hero who was born into exceptional affluence and equipped with the finest brilliance should live much longer for them.

He said: “This unrivalled soldier of courage and sacrifice led his people easily with a rare evocative stamina and a spellbinding charisma defined in equity and fairness for a better Nigeria.”

“He was a true soldier who survived a war and exile, triumphed in politics and above all conquered love in its purest form and shape.

Nigeria has lost a nationalist and Ndigbo has lost their best and bravest. The Iroko has indeed fallen and the forest is without shadows.”

Source: Vanguard, 27th November 2011.

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Ojukwu’s burial, a collective decision -Gov Obi As IBB, Buhari, Anyim, PDP, others pay tribute to late ex-Biafran leader

Written by Leon Usigbe and Clement Idoko, AbujaMonday, 28 November 2011

GOVERNOR Peter Obi of Anambra State has appealed to those seeking to know the details of ex-Biafran leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s burial

to be patient as, according to him, "it will be a collective decision in consultation with various stakeholders, with his immediate family taking the lead."

He said this in reaction to numerous calls from people volunteering to serve on Ojukwu’s burial committee.

Governor Obi, who came back from France via London on Saturday, but had to travel back to London the same day with Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Jnr on hearing the news of Ojukwu’s death, said that Ojukwu deserved the best in view of his sacrifices and that Igbos and Nigerians of goodwill were determined to give him the best.

Sources close to the governor said that he might arrive in the country tomorrow morning to officially inform the President Goodluck Jonathan of Ojukwu’s death.

Investigations revealed that his remains had since been deposited in a mortuary through the combined effort of Mrs Bianca Ojukwu and Governor Obi’s wife, Margaret, whom Bianca phoned immediately Ojukwu’s condition became critical, before the governor and others arrived in London.

Meanwhile, Ojukwu’s son, Emeka, has thanked Nigerians for the wonderful solidarity and love shown to his father even in death.

Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has extolled the virtues of the deceased national leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, who passed away on Saturday, saying that he helped to shape the history of Nigeria.

A statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, in Abuja, on Sunday, expressed PDP’s deep sorrow and utter regret over the passing of Ojukwu.

According to the statement issued on behalf of the acting national chairman of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, “Ikemba Nnewi was in every way a lead character, whose roles in the premiere chapters of  independent Nigeria significantly shaped the history and the course of our nationhood.

“He was bold, courageous, stern, disciplined and  possessed an indomitable spirit, which  he deployed in the service of his people.”

On behalf of the National Working Commitee (NWC) and the entire members of the PDP, Baraje  commiserated with  the government and people of Anambra State, people of the South-East, members of the Ojukwu family and all Nigerians over the loss of “one of the most colourful citizens of our dear country.”

The PDP added that "Nigeria will no doubt miss his doggedness and his great lessons in uncommon service to the people “and prayed that the Almighty God will grant his vibrant soul eternal rest.”

In another development, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, has described the death of Ojukwu as a huge loss to the nation.

Anyim also described the late Ojukwu as a man of rare courage that would be greatly missed.

Anyim, in a statement signed by his Special Assistant (Media), Mr Sam Nwaobasi, on Sunday, said he received with a deep sense of loss the sad news of the passing away of Ojukwu.

The SGF said he was praying and looking forward to receiving the good news that Ojukwu had recovered fully and would soon return home to the warm embrace of his family, Ndigbo and indeed all to whom he meant a lot, but the news of his demise shattered that expectation.

“Dim Odumegwu Oju-kwu was a man of rare courage and wisdom who inspired confidence in all who encountered him,” he said.

Senator Anyim added that “Ojukwu loved Ndigbo with all his heart and was ready at all times to do anything within his powers to contribute to the development of Igboland and our dear country.

“Ndigbo will miss him very dearly. His death really is one loss we all will need the grace of God to bear.”

He encouraged his wife, children, Ndigbo and all his friends and associates to take solace in his outstanding accomplishments, while he prayed that God would give the bereaved the fortitude to bear the loss.

Source: Vanguard, 28th November 2011.

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Yakowa, ACF mourn

By Tony Akowe, Kaduna

GOVERNOR Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa of Kaduna State and the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said the death of Ojukwu was a great national loss.

Also, the former governor of the state, Abubakar Dangiwa Umar described the late Ojukwu as a great soldier and patriot who stood for fairness and justice.

In a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Media and Publicity, Reuben Buhari, he expressed shock over the demise of the former Biafran warlord.

According to him, Ojukwu’s “love for equity, justice and fairness will always stand him out as one of the greatest personalities in modern Nigeria.”  While commiserating with the family and all Nigerians on the loss, Yakowa called on the late Ojukwu’s family to celebrate his life in view of his numerous achievements and the fact that he lived a fulfilled life.

On its part, the northern socio-political organisation, ACF said it received the news of the death of the death with heavy heart and pray God to grant his family, his friends and people and government of Anambra State the strength and courage to bear this heavy loss.

According to the ACF, Chief Ojukwu was a seminal figure in Nigeria. To some,he was a symbol of patriotic courage who went as far as efforts could go to fight for his people who wanted their burden lifted and barriers to realizing their rights broken.

Col Umar described him as a great man, saying “I had a lot of respect for the late Ikemba . I remember in 1986, I invited him to Kaduna as one of the important guests at the launching of Kaduna State peoples reorientation campaign. This goes a long way to show the kind of respect I have for the late Ikemba”

Also, the former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa said “Nigeria has lost somebody who could unite the country. Ojukwu played a noble role in putting rebellion against Nigeria aside when he returned from exile. Instead of reviving the Biafra grievances, he decided to steer clear. “

Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi said,  “He (Ojukwu) had remained symbol of reconciliation and accommodation until his death. May his soul rest in peace”.
Source: The Nation, 27
th November 2011.

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My life in exile, by Ojukwu

The late Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, in his book, Because I am Involved, gave a moving account of his years in exile. Excerpts:

The day had nothing special. The sun rose from the east and was wending its way westwards and surely into sunset. I had got up from bed in the usual hour of half past seven, taken my bath and completed my toilet by eight o’ clock. This morning ritual had not changed for many years: the fact of exile had not changed my daily routine—I go to bed very late and wake up late. For years, I had been content with five to six hours sleep every day. During the war, I made do with three hours sleep every night and on exceptionally calm nights, I managed a four-hour spell. As a habit, I do not take breakfast: a cup of coffee, a glass of freshly squeezed orange-juice. I drove down-town from Bingerville, where I had lived for seven years since I moved down from Yamoussoukro. I drove down-town to Cocody where I had my office. The short trip, the lagoon breeze, the lush green of the various plantations right and left, the sweet smell of ripening pineapple, the intoxicating odour of palmwine from the fallen palm tree trees along the way- the Ivorians only tapped wine from fallen palm trees- all these had the effect of completing my waking-up ritual. The day had begun as any other, the office had been the same: the sullen ‘good morning’ from the watchman, the reluctant grunts of my staff that passed for a good morning, the exhilarating and smile-full ‘good morning’ of my secretary. She was Beninoise. I thought for the umpteenth time that she deserved an increase in salary if not for her immaculate and devoted presentation of her work and herself, then for her charm.

Work consisted of checking the previous day’s production figures, then the accounts, the various ledgers: work in hand and work in prospect. For years since I decided to engage myself in some productive enterprise rather than sit, vegetate and wallow in the self-pity, which was the normal fare of an exile, I dug up, washed and calibrated gravel, I dug laterite, I exploded granite rock, I calibrated granite gravel; I dug up and dredged up sand and delivered all to construction sites all around Abidjan. Sometimes, I would drive out to one or two sites. In the office, I met and discussed extensively with the international exile community, with Ghanaians, with the Voltaic, the Togolese, the Beninois, with exiles from Niger. I met with curious journalists, some diplomats and members of the various international organisations. In Abidjan, we maintained most scrupulously the fiction of my enmity with Nigeria – the Nigerian embassy avoided me like the plague. If by chance we met at any social occasions, we pretended total ignorance of each other’s presence. Sometimes, we might speak to each other through a third party as interlocutor.

This, however, did not cut off my contact with Nigeria. I had, over the years, established a courier system between Abidjan and Lagos. I had also established a few telephone links with any part of Nigeria that had international telephone links. This is through contacts in the United States who cross-connected my calls. I h ad, in my service, offices in Lagos and Enugu. There was a constant relay of visitors from home: family, friends and colleagues. I was never short of news from home. I had become aware, since late 1980, that efforts had begun to crystallise and that sooner or later, I and my return to Nigeria would become a political issue. I had heard of Dr. Chuba Okadigbo but had never had the opportunity of meeting him. I was aware that he had taken it upon himself to spearhead the issues of my return home. I had followed from a distance his initially single-handed efforts to sow the seeds of discussion. I had become aware of his courageous and single-minded mobilisation of opinion both within his political party and without – amongst the Igbos and their friends. I was aware, for sometime, that for sometime this brilliant political tactician had raised the issue of my continued exile from the status of the unmentionable to a subject of open national debate. So, it was that on this nondescript day, lacking in any distinction whatsoever, I got home from work to be informed that a certain Dr. Okadigbo had arrived from Lagos, was at the Hotel Ivoire and was anxious to meet with me.

I turned right back and drove past my office once more, into the Hotel Ivoire. At the reception, I found a gentleman, I later recognised as Dr. George Obiozor. He was manoeuvering the French language with each of his five senses, his four limbs and anything that could move on his body. He recognised me with relief, abandoned his conversation with the reception and took me to see Dr. Okadigbo. The first meeting was polite and very restrained and not until some two hours later in my sitting-room in Bingerville did the atmosphere relax. The drive home had been full of platitudes and probing questions. He divulged his mission over lunch and by the time coffee was served, Chuba and I had become as childhood friends-we spoke with joy without inhibitions. On that unauspicious, yet memorable day, I learnt for the first time that the President of my country had decided to put an end to the agony of my exile. When Chuba left many hours later-for we talked deep into the night – I decided to become once again a practising Christian.

So it came that after that first visit, the speck in the desert that was so far away and that seemed so unattainable now began to move again – towards me.

After many more visits to me from Lagos on the same subject of my homecoming, the speck moved faster-towards me. First, it became the size of a moth, a ping-pong ball, a cricketball, and just as I was going to reach out, feel and finally cuddle it, it disappeared.

After thorough negotiations, the Federal Government agreed to announce that I could come home by December, 1981. That week, between Christians and New Year, 1982, was the longest week in my life. Then it happened. There was a coup in Ghana on the 31st of December. Now, don’t say: but what has that got to do with it? Plenty. Ghana and Nigeria have their history intertwined. They did two things one after their history: Independence and coups. Check the records since 1960. The first coup in Ghana took place in December, 1965, in Nigeria it was January, 1966 (cross-check).

Ever since, it had seemed a tacit understanding between the two countries to outdo one another. So, this coup happened and naturally, the Shagari administration, beleaguered by opponents within and a barely containable economic crisis, decided not to rock the political boat in whaever form. A wise thing to do, but where does that leave me? In the cold embrace of a lonely exile: I was happy that my young friend Jerry Rawlings had made it. I sent him a congratulatory message. Then I began to review my own situation – what had I done wrong? I reviewed the negotiations which ended in such an anticlimax.

First, it was the visits to Abidjan by emissaries of the Shagari government. To me, the talks were at first mere ideas. Then, the ideas concretised into viable projects, and much later still, the project hardened into full-scale negotiations. I met and discussed with Alhaji Shinkafi, the boss of the Nigerian Security Organisation (NSO) in London. The final details were presented to President Houphouet-Boigny who took particular interest in the proceedings.

The Nigerian government, by this time, was warming up to the political advantage which my freedom could shower on it. The politicians, never a group to miss an opportunity to score political points leaked it to the press that I was to return to Nigeria a free citizen with no impediments whatsoever, and all my family assets held by the government since that concerned my homecoming was treated with utmost deliberation. At the final meeting, which was at the instance of President Houphouet-Boigny, the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Alhaji Ali Baba, was also present. The Nigerian government did consider announcing the freedom of Gowon and myself, to come back home, in one fell swoop! Government later changed its mind thinking it would be imprudent to make the two announcements at the same time for security reasons.

At this point, I was actually asked whether or not I had any objectives. How could I raise objections? Gowon and I were not twins, in fact nor in deed. An eventual return home was infinitely better than no return at all. I, of course, answered that I had no objections. All indications had then shifted to an end of 1981 announcement for me. New year came and went in Nigeria and the expected announcement did not take place. So I waited. Finally, in May 1982, it happened. It was announced that I was free to return home.

Was my ‘pardon’ conditional? Were there any conditions at all? No, nothing could be further from the truth; it is easy to say I would not have accepted such a condition, but this point was never in issue. The real reason for my ‘pardon’, as I see it, was not so much partisan and not so much a party affair. It was Shagari’s wish to be remembered as an active participant in the national reconciliation process. He wanted to go down in history as the President who closed the chapter on a painful national episode.

By Shagari’s announcement, I was no more an exile. By that announcement, I became, in fact, a tourist in Cote D’Ivoire where I had spent thirteen most-hospitable years of my life. I prepared slowly for my home return. The preparations developed their own momentum and very soon, it became more a period of frienzied activity both physical and mental.
Source: The Nation, 29
th November 2011.

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His last moments, by wife

Bianca, wife of the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, has relived his last moments.

She spoke in London when she received Dr Dalhatu Tafida, the Nigerian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, who led senior officials of the mission on a condolence visit to the family.

“Like other times, I will always say I have seen him through very bad times,” the Europe Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted Bianca as saying.

“When the doctors would tell us he wouldn’t make it to morning, but he would always struggle and in the morning he would still be there. But this time, he didn’t struggle; he went peacefully.”

Recalling Ojukwu’s last days, Bianca said he had just been discharged from the hospital and was doing very well.

“I have never seen him look so well. He was interactive, very alert and aware, and we will sing him songs, crack jokes.

“Very surprisingly, his situation which we thought had improved remarkably, suddenly took a turn for the worse.

“I remember I was saying to him, it is getting very cold in this country and we must go home. Are we going to go home? He would nod very emphatically, but he never did make it home.

“Nobody asks God what his intentions are, but we would have preferred he stayed on. I cannot ask God why at this time.”

She expressed gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan, the First Lady, Patience, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra, Tafida and Nigerians for their prayers and support.

Tafida had earlier described Ojukwu’s death as a great loss, not only to the family and Igbo race, but also to Nigeria as a country.

“Ojukwu has helped to shape modern Nigeria, because it was through him that we were able to have states that we now call cells of development in Nigeria.

“His loss therefore should not be considered as a loss to just one section of the country. It is a loss to the whole country, hence we unanimously decided that we should be here today to commiserate with you.”

The envoy prayed God to grant the repose of his soul eternal rest and comfort the family.

Source: The Nation, 29th November 2011.

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‘How I brought him into Army’

By TAJUDEEN ADEBANJO

The first Nigerian Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to the then Governor-General, Sir James Robertson and former Governor of the old Western Region, Maj-Gen Adeyinka Adebayo relived how he advised the late Biafran warlord, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, to join the Army, reports TAJUDEEN ADEBANJO

His father did not want him to join the military. He did not even want him to work for anybody. As a millionaire, Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu wanted his son, Emeka, to work for himself. He gave him all he needed to achieve this. But his son had other plans. First he joined the colonial service. He later joined the Army.

Yesterday, former governor of the Old Western Region, Maj.-Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo (rtd) recounted his role in getting the late Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu to quit the civil service for the army.

Adebayo said: “I met Chief Ojukwu for the first time at a cocktail party organised for the Acting Governor-General, Sir Ralph Grey who was the official Deputy Governor-General of the Federation who represented Sir James Robertson, the Governor-General at an official occasion at Umuahia when he was in England for an official duty in late 1957. I was the first Nigerian Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to the Governor-General. Chief Ojukwu was Assistant District Officer then in Umuahia Eastern Region. I had a long discussion with Chief Emeka Ojukwu at the party about the Nigerian Army and I advised him to join the Nigerian Army. He kept his contact with me and later became one of the first set of young Nigerian graduates to join the Army as Cadet. He started his cadet training with others from Nigeria and Ghana in Teshie and Cadet School, Eaton Hall, in England. He later attended the School of Infantry at Warminster and Small Arms School at Hythe and finally Joint Service Staff College (JSSC) at Latimer, Buckinghamshire, England. He served in various units in Nigeria and as an Instructor at the Royal West African Frontier Force Training School, Teshie, Ghana.”

Maj.-Gen. Adebayo added: “He was a good and hardworking officer who rose rapidly to the rank of Lt. Col in 1964. He worked as Quarter Master General (QMG) in the Army Headquarters while Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon was Adjutant General (AG) and I was the first Chief of Staff (COS) with the rank of full Colonel in the Nigerian Army Headquartres under the command of the British General Officer Commanding (GOC) Sir Welby Evarald.

“When the military coup of January, 1960 took place, he was appointed the military governor of Eastern Region, with headquartres in Enugu.

“When the last British General Officer Commanding was about to go, Major-General Aguiyi Ironsi was appointed to take over from him being the most senior Nigerian Army officer and I continued to be the Chief of Staff, Army Headquarters until November, 1965 when I handed over to Colonel Kur Mohammed and I went on course to the Imperial Defence College in England. Few weeks after I left, the first coup took place and all the most senior Nigerian Army Officers were killed but General Ironsi was lucky to be alive and was made the Head of State.

“Political tension mounted and the second coup took place on July 29, 1966 when Ironsi was visiting Western Region and he was killed with Lt. Col Fajuyi his host in Ibadan.

“Fortunately or unfortunately I came home on consultation with the Head of State but could not see him and the coup plotters did not know that I was in town.”

He said of the second coup: “The second coup of July 1966 weighed heavily on the Easterners and unfortunately Emeka proclaimed himself the Head of State and Commander-In-Chief of the Republic of Biafra. The declaration led to the civil war in the country which lasted for three years.”

Maj.-Gen. Adebayo said Ojukwu lived a fulfilled life. He said: “We all must be comforted that Ojukwu lived a most fulfilled life and has left behind a record of very great contributions to the future notable modern Nigeria which for life will assure him a place in the history of our great country Nigeria. I will personally miss him because he was a great loyal officer from the date I met him.”
Source: The Nation, 29
th November 2011.

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CJN pays tribute to Ikemba

By Kamarudeen Ogundele, Abuja

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Dahiru Musdapher has commiserated with Nigerians over the death of the Ikemba of Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu.

In a statement by his Media Adviser, Muhamadu Adamu, the CJN said he has written two letters to the bereaved family and the government of Anambra State.

The statement reads: “Justice Musdapher observed that the demise of one of Nigeria’s longest surviving illustrious sons right at the turn of its golden age is as momentous an event as it is a colossal loss.

“The late Ojukwu, he said shall be missed by Nigerians not only for his love of country and for his pride in the tradition, culture and heritage of his people, but he shall also be remembered for his exemplary course of conduct as a youth when, even as a scion of the noblest aristocracy of his days and to whom joining the military was an aberration, the young Ojukwu selflessly put his life on the line by joining the Nigerian Army to serve his country.

“He said that although the collapse of military esprit de corps and the failure of geo-politics regrettably resulted in Ojukwu taking up arms against his fatherland, his rebellion was no less motivated by patriotism than the action of patriots who rose to quell it was. Thus, he said the post-war declaration of ‘no victor no vanquished’ was equally an affirmation of ‘no hero, no villain’.

“He observed that Ojukwu’s tenacity in the pursuit of his late father’s estate under the Abandoned Property cases exemplified his respect for the judicial process.”
Source: The Nation, 29
th November 2011.

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Ojukwu: The Unfulfilled Dreams of a National Hero

By Eddy Odivwri

He lived a life of battles. Many battles. He won some and lost some. The last battle, it seems, was for life. It took a year for Ojukwu to know the outcome of his final battle. He had taken ill in November last year. For days and even weeks, the battle to awaken him from his coma raged at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu.

Then he regained some consciousness and pronto, he got flown to the United Kingdom, chiefly by the Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, where many believed, he would receive better medical attention. And he did. And for 11 months (December 23 –November 26), he was battling to stay away from the cold hands of death.

Finally, the sting came last Saturday. And that was after Ojukwu had been discharged from the hospital, looking well. “I have never seen him that well”, Bianca, the wife said, with a tinge of surprise that her husband who was warming up to return to Nigeria, suddenly relapsed and even died. The relapse may have meant nothing frightful to her. She had seen worse states, but Ojukwu managed to overcome and bounced back the next day with his bushy beards looking even silkier. But not this time.

According to her, “Like other times, like I always say, I have seen him through very bad times when the doctors will tell us he wouldn’t make it to morning, but he would always struggle and in the morning, he would still be there. But this time, he didn’t struggle, he went peacefully.” The warlord, at 78, went peacefully!

It was a freedom from all the worries of life. But he may have had some unfulfilled dreams.

He had, in 1967, declared a sovereign Republic of Biafra, which according to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was “a culmination of several actions and reactions”.

And for 30 months, the dream to realise the Biafran Republic was in the balance, claiming incalculable human and material losses. At the end, Gen. Philip Effiong, on the Biafran side, surrendered; after Ojukwu himself had “stepped out” to Cote d’Ivoire, having read correctly the balance sheet of the war. To make it less hurting, the war was closed on the chapter of “No Victor, No vanquished”. And that dimmed that dream. The Biafran dream.

And in 1981 when Ojukwu returned to Nigeria, with so much pomp and ceremony, he began to dream yet another dream. Rather than use the jackboot to gain power control, he sought, first to go to the Nigerian Senate under the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). With all the mystique that heralded his person and return, asking for a seat in the Senate would have been considered modest and a request that would be granted peremptorily by his people.

But again, the dream failed, essentially because Ojukwu joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), perhaps to appreciate the Shagari government which granted him the state pardon and organised a wild fanfare at his return. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) was the party to beat in the South-east at the time. Ojukwu’s choice of a “wrong party” once more, bungled his senatorial dream.

Not even his presidential ambition fared any better. Even with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which he formed, Ojukwu’s presidential worth had lost so much steam so much that his presidential bid did not gain more than a clannish support. And that perished that dream.

Yet another dream Ojukwu would have been glad to fulfil is his memoir on the Nigerian Civil War. When he wrote Because I am Involved, published in 1989, he kept making reference to “this book, but not that book”. “This book” being the Because I am Involved while “That Book” being the memoir on the Nigerian civil war. The latter book never got written. He was to explain in latter years that he was too involved in the civil war, in a way that his account is hardly going to be dispassionate. So the book never got written.

Perhaps one of the greatest dreams of Ojukwu was his passionate desire to die on January 22. But he died 57 days earlier. He had reasoned that dying on January 22, the day the Biafran army surrendered (in 1970), thus marking the end of the Nigerian civil war, would make him glad, because on that day, the bond of a united and unbreakable (?) Nigeria was reinforced. But he died last Saturday, all to prove emphatically that the power of life and death lies with God and God alone.

But the non-fulfilment of these dreams have not diminished Dim Chukwuemeka Ogumegwu Ojukwu. Not even in death. Indeed, his image and persona has expectedly loomed large, what with kingly tributes pouring in from all corners, from friends and foes alike.

In fact, the tonnes of adulatory tributes on Ojukwu have seemed to deify him, as he is profiled in attributes of greatness, valour, courage, heroism, forthrightness and even visionary power.

Some have dared to describe him as the Nostradamus of Nigeria. Hon Patrick Obahiagbon, former member of the House of Representatives, in his usual grandiloquent renditions said: “I do hope however that we take immutable cognition of the fact that the fundamental issues which Ikemba confronted has now even coagulated and ossified into gorgon medusa."

Many are agreed that what Ojukwu saw over 44 years ago, are still the challenges confronting us as a nation today. All things considered, Ojukwu can be said to have lived a full back-to-back life. And like a true hero, he came, he saw and he conquered.

It is, however, remarkable that in all his glory and reign, not once was there ever a scandal of corruption or undue self-enrichment about Ojukwu. Not even during the war.

With his sparse but quaint commentary on national issues, Ojukwu helped to raise the ante of his national stature beyond reproach. That probably explains the avalanche of accolades now being poured on the inimitable Ikemba of Nnewi. Dim, soldier on!
Source: This Day, 29th November 2011.

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Obasanjo: I Talked with Ojukwu on His Possibly Expressing Remorse on Biafra

By Omololu Ogunmade, with agency reports

Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo has said in his several telephone calls with the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu, he had discussed the possibility of expression of remorse on the Nigerian civil war from the former Biafran leader, who passed on over the weekend..

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) from London, Obasanjo recalled particularly that at several times, he discussed the possibility of an expression of remorse from Ojukwu ``on the Nigerian civil war which in itself was a culmination of actions and reactions’’.

``I condole with his family and pray for the repose of his soul.’’ According to the former president, "In a way, his death marks the end of an era in Nigeria.” In his condolence message to the Ojukwu family, Obasanjo recalled that they were both junior –ranked officers in the Nigerian army at independence in 1960, adding that the news of Ojukwu’s death was received with sadness.

“It is with deep sadness that I received the news of the demise of my friend and colleague. “He and I were subalterns (low-ranked army officer below a captain) in the army at Nigeria’s independence in 1960. I condole with his family and pray for the repose of his soul,” he said.

“I was the first Nigerian Aide de Camp (ADC) to the governor general. Chief Ojukwu was Assistant District Officer then in Umuahia, Eastern Region. I had a long discussion with Chief Emeka Ojukwu at the party about the Nigerian Army and advised him to come and join the Nigerian Army. He kept his contact with me and later became one of the first set of Nigerian graduates to join the Army as a cadet,” Adebayo said.

Meanwhile, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) has lamented the demise of Ojukwu, saying his death “at this crucial time of national development,” was disturbing.

In a statement signed Monday by YCE President, Gen. Adebayo (rtd.), and its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Oluyemi Falade, YCE described the late Ojukwu as one leader who devoted his life to the fight against injustice and oppression and held on to his principles to the very end.

“Chief Ojukwu was a leader who devoted all his life to fight against injustices and oppressions. He was a man of strong principle who remained dedicated to his convictions until his last breath. He was a political icon and a man greatly needed by many people to build and enhance their respective political influences. He was forthright, courageous, outspoken and a true patriot. Nigeria will surely miss a man of this magnitude at this critical time of social, economic and political development of our nation,” the statement said.

Ojukwu died in a London hospital last Saturday at the age of 78. He was born on Nov. 4, 1933 in Zungeru, Niger State.

Ojukwu served in the Nigerian Army alongside Obasanjo until the civil war of 1967 to 1970 put them on different sides of the divide.

In his struggle to preserve the independence of the then Eastern Region where he was military governor, Ojukwu declared a sovereign Republic of Biafra also in a secessionist bid to carve the then Eastern Region as a separate entity from Nigeria.

In the declaration and during his public address to the people of Biafra, he said: “Having mandated me to proclaim on your behalf, and in your name, that Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent republic, now, therefore I, Lt.-Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, by virtue of the authority, and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria together with her continental shelf and territorial waters, shall, henceforth, be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra.”

On July 6, 1967, the then military Head of State, Col. Yakubu Gowon, declared war and attacked Biafra in a bid to stop Ojukwu’s secessionist attempt.

The war, which ensued, lasted for 30 months as the Nigerian side insisted that the country would not be polarised.

The war ended in January 15, 1970, after the then Lt.-Col. Phillip Effiong, leading the Biafran side, surrendered to Obasanjo.

Before the surrender, Ojukwu had gone on exile in Cote d’Ivoire.
Source: This Day, 29th November 2011.

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Ojukwu’s body to tour 4 countries before burial

Ojukwu Biafra Flag

BY OUR REPORTERS

STATESMEN are usually given state burial but former Biafran Leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, will get more than that. His body will be flown to three African countries and one American country before the final burial in his Nnewi country home, according to his will.

Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, who gave the indication, yesterday, in Awka said that Odumegwu-Ojukwu listed where his body would be taken to before burial.

The countries are nations that supported the Biafran struggle and recognised Biafra as an independent state. They are Gabon, Tanzania, Ivory Coast and Haiti.

At the end of the civil war, Ojukwu sought asylum in Ivory Coast from where he returned to Nigeria in 1982 when he was granted state pardon by former President Shehu Shagari

Obi who reiterated the determination of Nigerians to give the leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, a befitting burial, added that arrangements for the burial would soon be announced.

He said that government activities had been scaled down as a mark of respect for Ojukwu, adding that only very necessary activities would be taking place in the state.

Meanwhile, condolence registers have been opened in various places in Anambra State for people to record their feelings about the late Ikemba. An announcement in Awka named the places as the Government House, the state secretariat, the judiciary headquarters, the House of Assembly complex and all the 21 local government headquarters in the state.

This came as the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, declared seven-day mourning and rain of tributes for the late Ikemba Nnewi continued to pour yesterday. Among those, who eulogised Ojukwu were General Olusegun Obasanjo, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, Chief Edwin Clark, Major-General Adeyinka Adebayo, Alhaji Yusuf Ali, Governor Gabriel Suswam, Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC.

Ojukwu’s death marks the end of an era – Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who went down memory lane on his relationship with Ojukwu, said: “It is with deep sadness that I received the news of the demise of my friend and colleague. He and I were sub-lieutnants in the army at Nigeria’s independence in 1960. In a way, his death marks the end of an era in Nigeria.”

Obasanjo also reminisced over discussions he had with Ojukwu before the latter’s demise, noting that at several times, he discussed the possibility of an expression of remorse from Ojukwu “on the Nigerian civil war which in itself was a culmination of actions and reactions. I condole with his family and pray for the repose of his soul.”

MASSOB declares 7-day mourning

Declaring a seven-day mourning for Ojukwu, MASSOB Leader, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, said the mourning period would commence on December 1 during which Ndigbo all over the world were expected to offer prayers for the repose of Ojukwu’s soul in the bosom of the Lord.

He said: “Ojukwu’s death should not be used for politics. His death should be the basis for the unity of Ndigbo. We have to start the unity of Ndigbo from somewhere. With the death of Ojukwu the trouble of Ndigbo has come to an end. Let his death unite us rather that using it to play politics.”

I did not expect him to die now – Obi

Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi has said that he did not expect Ojukwu’s death on Saturday, noting that he was with the legendary Igbo leader the previous day. Obi, who was on President Goodluck Jonathan’s entourage to France for an investors’ forum said he had asked the president to permit him to break protocol so that he could go to London to see Ojukwu.

He said: “I spoke with him, he was fine. And I boarded a plane back to Nigeria. I was about boarding a plane to Enugu on arrival in Nigeria when I got a text message to the effect that Ojukwu had passed on. I now had to go in search of a flight back to London. I was not so lucky with BA but Virgin Atlantic did well although I had to pay a commission. So I got on that flight back to London. I just got back today.”

Our sun will never set—Chukwumerije

Senator Uche Chukwumerije in a tribute entitled ‘Our Sun Will Never Set’, said that Dim Ojukwu passionately believed in equity and justice, diligence and merit, mutual trust and con fraternal bond, as the veins and arteries of the Federation. He said: “No citizen of this Republic ever lived Nigerian so fully, spoke Nigerian so eloquently and embraced so fearlessly the path to Nigeria ’s greatness as Ojukwu. With iron will he defended these prerequisites not as lingua of governance and political rule but as the practical irreplaceable hinges of federal union. Eloquent in Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and English he personified the feasibility of this oneness.”

He was a hero and father figure for Igbo – Okonjo-Iweala

The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, described Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a symbol of the Igbo struggle for a better Nigeria and a revered father figure to his people who would be dearly missed. Noting that Ojukwu was a man who had the courage of his convictions, she said his example should serve as an inspiration for Nigerians to stand for what they believe in.

**An advocate of distributive equity – Oshiomhole

Governor Oshiomhole described Ojukwu as an advocate of distributive equity in the governance of the nation, lamenting that Nigeria had lost a major personality.

Oshiomhole said: “On behalf of the people and Government of Edo State, I wish to commiserate with you and the good people of Anambra State over the death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Given your personal and political proximity to the Ikemba, I can appreciate how much pain his demise has caused you and several others, who found inspiration in his aversion to the opportunistic politics of the “mainstream”.

He demonstrated uncommon statesmanship – Suswam

Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State said the death of Dim Odimegwu Ojukwu was coming at a time when Nigeria needed his wise counsel and wealth of experience in its journey to a full-fledged democracy.

He was a patriot — CJN

Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, yesterday, extended his condolence to the family of the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Ojukwu, describing him as a genuine patriot.

The CJN said: “Although the collapse of military esprit de corps and the failure of geo-politics regrettably resulted in Ojukwu taking up arms against his fatherland, his rebellion was no less motivated by patriotism than the action of patriots who rose to quell it was. Thus the post-war declaration of ‘no victor no vanquished’ was equally an affirmation of ‘no hero, no villain.”

He was voice for the voiceless—Clark

Also, former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark said the late Ojukwu was the voice for the voiceless who hated oppression and injustice. He also stated with Ojukwu’s demise, a vacuum which will be difficult to fill has been created.

Clark who described Ojukwu as a fine top military strategist noted that “by his death, a vacuum has been created which is difficult to fill.”

One of the best patriots Nigeria ever produced— NLC

Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, described the late Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, as one of the best patriots and nationalists Nigeria ever produced. The congress said in a statement by its Head of Information and Public Relations, Comrade Chris Uyot, that the late Odumegwu – Ojukwu lived and died fighting for a better Nigeria. It said: “The NLC received with shock and sadness, the news of the death of one of Nigeria’s most revered patriots, and statesmen, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu – Ojukwu who died after a protracted ailment in a London hospital on Saturday.”

His death has created a vacuum, says TUC

Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, said in Lagos that the death of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, had created a vacuum that nobody could fill in Nigeria.

In a statement by its President and Secretary, Comrade Peter Esele and Chief John Kolawole, TUC said in Ojukwu’s death, Nigeria has lost another icon a week after the death of Alex Ibru with both statesmen affecting lives in different ways. It said: “By his death Nigeria has lost yet another icon a week after the death of Alex Ibru with both statesmen affecting lives in different ways. ”

He fought against injustice and oppression — YCE

The Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, has described the late Chief Emeka Ojukwu as a man who fought against injustice and oppression of the people. Addressing a press conference in Lagos, yesterday, president of YCE, Major-General Adeyinka Adebayo (rtd) expressed sadness saying Nigeria lost Ojukwu at “this crucial time of our national development.”

Adebayo said: “Chief Ojukwu was a leader who devoted all his life to fight against injustices and oppressions. He was a man of strong principle who remained dedicated to his convictions until his last breadth. He was a political icon and a man greatly needed by many people to build and enhance their respective political influences.”

He was courageous— Akinyele

Former Minister of Information, Chief Alex Akinyele, described the late Ojukwu as courageous man who laid the foundation for the agitation of the minority interests in Nigeria. He told Vanguard yesterday, that contrary to the views of some people, Ojukwu was a true Nigerian who had the interest of the nation at heart.

He was a wonderful man — Yusuf Ali, former NFA boss

Similarly, former chairman of the Nigerian Football Association, NFA, Mr. Yusuf Ali described the late Biafran warlord, Chief Ojuwku as a man who always thought of how to better the lot of Nigerians. Ali who described Ojukwu as a wonderful man said: “I had so many interactions with Ojukwu and I found him a wonderful man, a man who loved Nigeria so much. He loved his people and always thinking about how Nigerians can prosper.”
Source: Vanguard, 29th November 2011.

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What future for APGA without Ojukwu?

Ojukwu APGA

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

THE death of Dim Emeka Ojukwu is in the view of Mr.Sylvester Alor, Special Adviser to the Governor of Anambra State an opportunity for the restructuring of the Ikemba’s political legacy, the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA.

“Now that he has gone finally, I think it would be an opportunity for us to do something of honour so that the party that he helped to create cannot disappear into thin air. That is why we are now more hell-bent that the party survives as one of the legacies he left for us,” Alor, told Vanguard in a telephone interview.

It was a dig at the Victor Umeh national leadership by Alor who is special adviser on Motor Parks.

The assertion follows Alor’s recent castigation of the Umeh leadership which he had accused of a number of infractions and incapacity to translate the party’s large dose of goodwill into political success in the Southeast during the last general election.

Given its feat in winning back the governorship of Anambra State last year, APGA had been expected to consolidate on that victory to make a sweep of the National Assembly and state assembly seats during the 2011 general elections.

The party, however, was not able to translate that victory into a momentum as it could not pick any of the three Senate seats and managed only five out of eleven federal constituency seats and fifteen of the thirty state constituency seats in Anambra State.

Though it is unarguably the dominant party with the majority in the House of Assembly and in control of the governorship, the perception that the party could have done better was a general feeling among the party faithful across the country, especially in the Southeast.

The party’s standing as a one state party was nevertheless lifted with the remarkable victory in Imo where the party won the governorship and a Senate seat.

There is, however, the feeling that the party’s victory in Imo was largely credited to the effort of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the party’s successful gubernatorial flag bearer in the state who waged a trenchant campaign against the PDP’s then incumbent, Ikedi Ohakim.

It was based on the assumptions of not too successful outing that Alor perhaps mounted his campaign to oust the Umeh leadership.
Source: Vanguard, 29th November 2011.

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