Nigerians in diaspora eulogise Odumegwu-Ojukwu

Odumegwu-Ojukwu

Nigerians in the UK have described the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a rare and committed leader.

Odumegwu-Ojukwu,who was the National leader of All Progressive Grand Alliance, died on Saturday in a London hospital.

Bimbo Folayan, Chairman of the Central Association of Nigerians in the UK (CANUK) said in London on Saturday that Odimegwu-Ojukwu was a committed leader.

``We, here in London, are devastated by his death given the fact that he breathed his last here: It is the will of God for him. May his soul rest in peace,'' Folayan said.

Also, Ms Enewan Ebong, President, Akwa Ibom State Association (UK & Ireland), said his death had left a great vacuum in the political space of Nigeria.

Ebong described Odimegwu-Ojukwu as a ``crowd puller'' and added that his ideals would continue to shape Nigeria's political processes.

``The history of Nigeria can never be complete without Ojukwu,'' she said.

Mr Gabriel Agunwa, a London-based media consultant, said with the demise of Odimegwu-Ojukwu, Nigeria had lost an enigma.

`` Ikemba meant so much to many people, he was a unifying factor.

``Pray that the good Lord will grant him eternal rest and comfort the family.''

Mr AdeseyiSijuade, the Managing Director of Nigerian Railway Corporation, described Odimegwu-Ojukwu as an icon in the politics of Nigeria.

``He was an icon in the politics of Nigeria; it is indeed a great loss to the nation.

``I know he has been ill for a while but you know we have been full of prayers for his full recovery; in such situation, God knows best,'' Sijuade said.

Mr Chris Meregini based in the U.S said the demise of Odimegwu-Ojukwu was a great loss to Igbonation, adding: ``we are going to miss him really.''

``It is unfortunate now that the Igbo nation need clear leadership and direction. We surely are going to miss him. We appreciate his contributions towards the Igbo nation.

``May his soul rest in peace. We extend our sincerely heartfelt sorrow to his family and I believe they come through in flying colours. God will bless them and protect them,'' Meregini said.

Deba Uwadiae said the death should be seen as a unifying path for Nigeria because of the issues he fought for, namely freedom of association, expression and oppression.

``He wanted a Nigeria where everyone should belong whether north, west, east or south. That is the kind of Nigeria he had in mind, may his soul rest in peace.
Source: Next, 27th November 2011.

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Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is dead

By Ifedayo Adebayo

The Nigeria's High Commissioner to the UK, Dalhatu Tafida, on Saturday confirmed in London that Ikemba Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, is dead.

Ikemba Nnewi

``A member of the family just called to tell me,'' Mr. Tafida told the local Press in a telephone and claim that the commission will give the family every necessary support to move the late national icon back to the country.

One of the early sympathizer, the Former President Olusegun Obasanjo while reacting to the news on a telephone interview from London, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that ``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. I condole with his family and pray for the repose of his soul.'' He said.

Visiting the `Cassabianca Lodge'', the residence of the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in Enugu was in a state of mourning as it was deserted except for the presence of two security men. The News of his death had earlier in the day thrown the entire country into a confused state.

However, a condolence register was opened in the compound around midday, but there were no visitors on sight to sign it, while family sources resports that Bianca, Ojukwu's wife, is reported to be with him in London where he had been bed-ridden for months.

Amongst the numerous Nigerians that mourns the late nationalist, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev John Onaiyekan said on Saturday that late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu would be most remembered for his uncompromising stand on national issues and his contributions to the development of the country.

``May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace. ``Though he had been sick for some time, his death is still a shock to me and I believe to many Nigerians.

``He has made his contributions to the development of this country and would be remembered for his firm stand on many issues of national importance."he said.

In the same vein, The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) has commiserated with the Ndigbo and Nigerians over the death of the Ikemba of Nnewi.

A statement by the Imo ANNP Chairman Vitalis Ajumbe stated that members of the party received the news of Ojukwu's death with shock, "Ikemba saw and conquered. He will be remembered as a committed patriot who fought for the recognition of the Ndigbo in Nigeria and was seen as the rallying point of the Igbo race, whose interest he struggled to promote and protect.

``We are consoled that he left indelible legacies behind, including the anointing of Chief Ralph Uwazuruike whose vision and mission Ralph is now championing."

Loss of treasure

Gov. Peter Obi of Anambra has described the death as a loss of treasure not only to the Igbo race but to Nigeria and Africa in general.

Mr. Obi, who reacted to the passage of Ojukwu through his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Valentine Obienyem, noted that Ojukwu was one of the most forthright personalities Nigeria ever had.

"He believed in a Nigeria where justice and equity should reign and devoted his life to the pursuit of that ideal as if he was under a spell." He said.

Another Governor, Sullivan Chime of Enugu In a statement signed by Chukwudi Achife, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, in Enugu on Saturday, said Odumegwu-Ojukwu's passage had robbed the country of one its most notable historical and political figures.

He further described the deceased as a symbol of the struggle against injustice, segregation and oppression against any group of people in the country.

Also reacting, the former Minister of Information and Communications, Dora Akunyili, expressed sadness over the loss, describing him as a leader, father, brother and friend, while a member of the House of Representatives, Uche Ekwunife, stressed that the country had lost one of its finest men of Igbo extraction.

An Iroko tree has fallen

Igwe Kenneth Orizu III, the traditional ruler of Nnewi, where late Ojukwu hailed from, described his death as shocking, saying: "we did not expect it to happen now. "

"An iroko tree has fallen, especially in my town. I am dumb-founded," Orizu bemoaned.

A community leader, Chief Dan Maduka, also described the death of Ojukwu as a terrible loss and tragedy to the nation, noting that the Igbo race and the entire country would miss Ojukwu's commitment to the emancipation of the people of Nigeria.

According to the, Senator Hanga led NEC of the CPC "some called him a warlord while others called him a leader. But we refer to him as a Nationalist whose secessionist drives raised the awareness amongst all the ethnic groups on the values of being together as a nation. Though he is no more his legacies will continue to be."

Late Odumegwu-Ojukwu was born on Nov. 4, 1933 at Zungeru, Niger State to Sir Louis Phillippe Odumegwu Ojukwu, a businessman from Nnewi

The leader of the defunct Republic of Biafra began his educational career in Lagos, but was briefly imprisoned for assaulting a white British colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman at King's College, Lagos.

His father sent him to Britain at the age of 13 to study, first at Epsom College in Surrey from where he thereafter bagged a Master's degree in history at Lincoln College, Oxford University.

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu returned to Nigeria in 1956 and joined the civil service in the defunct 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 Nigerian army.

After serving in the UN peacekeeping force in the then Congo under Maj.-Gen. Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, Ojuwkwu was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1964 and was posted to Kano, where he was in charge of the 5 Battalion of the Nigerian Army.

Aguiyi-Ironsi appointed Odumegwu-Ojukwu military governor of the defunct Easter Region on Jan. 17, 1966.

After the first military coup of 1966 and the counter coup that followed, Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared the defunct Eastern Region a sovereign state to be known as Biafra.

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 lasted 30 months and ended on Jan. 15, 1970.

As the war was wearing out, Ojukwu went on exile and stayed away for 13 years. He was granted state pardon by President Shehu Shagari, a decision which was trailed by the deceased's triumphant return in 1982.

Odumegwu-Ojukwu was married to Miss Intercontinental 1989 Bianca Onoh. They have children.

Until his death, Ojukwu was the undisputed leader of the All Peoples Grand Alliance.

Source: Next, 27th November 2011.

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Nnewi, his ancestral home mourns

By Nwanosike Onu, Awka 

Ngige, Obi, Etiaba, Ekwunife, others weep

Ikemba Nnewi 1

Anambra State and indeed, the commercial city of Nnewi were thrown into deep mourning yesterday, when the death of the former Biafran warlord and Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu filtered in.

Initially, many people were not aware of his death but some who had heard the news were not forthcoming to confirm it.

The expansive compound of Ojukwu was like a grave yard as only the security man, Mr. Denis Okoye was around. The 68-year old Okoye, who claimed to have worked for the Ojukwus for over 15 years told The Nation that he had no authority to talk on the issue until the family members allowed him to do so.

He reacted thus, in Igbo, "why are you people disturbing us? You carried a similar rumour last year, and you have come again this year. Nobody has told us that Dim Ojukwu is dead and until we hear from the family, I will not say anything".

However, people in the vicinity were busy going about their normal businesses. The Nation was told that virtually all members of the Ojukwu family live in Enugu including the eldest son of the late Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu (Dr Ojukwu). 

At the palace of the traditional ruler of Nnewi, Igwe Kenneth Orizu, only a few people were seen while the monarch was said to have gone to Amichi, a nearby community to attend a ceremony.

But the secretary of the palace, Prince Joseph Ikeotuonye (known as Azubuenyi) confirmed Ojukwu’s death.

According to him, "when I called Igwe, he told me that he was overwhelmed by shock that he has no comment at least for now I called him again, and he repeated same.

"The news is shocking. Unfortunately, the family has not informed the Igwe as tradition demands but all the same since the world has heard it through international media, we have no option than to take it like that.

"We heard the news about 11am and being an icon and a symbol of Igbo nation (Ezeigbo gburugburu), we are going to sit, deliberate on it and decide what to be done and that is all for now" he said.

Former Deputy Governor of Anambra State , Dame Virgy Etiaba who was weeping while talking to The Nation said the people of Nnewi, Anambra, Igboland and the entire Nigeria have lost a gem and a leader.

Etiaba said the news of Ojukwu’s death was received with shock 

adding that since he was flown to London , Ndigbo had been praying for him.

"We are sad that he has finally left us, everywhere in Nnewi is quiet, Igboland will not be the same again without Ojukwu" Etiaba said.

Former President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr Dozie Ikedife though, did not confirm or deny the death of Ojukwu, adding that the family has not said anything yet but all we know is that he has been sick.

However, he described Ojukwu as an Igbo leader adding that a vacuum has been created in Igboland.

Ojukwu’s younger brother who runs an eatery business in Nnewi, Emmanuel Somto Ojukwu, said "God giveth and God taketh" adding that it was a sad news.

Also, the member representing Anaocha, Njikoka, Dunukofia federal constituency in Anambra State , Chief Uche Ekwunife said that the people of Anambra State had lost the finest of Igbo extraction.

According to her "A rare gem, a selfless and patriotic Nigerian, a nationalist whose principles are unequalled, Dim Ojukwu would be remembered for his brevity, commitment, sincerity of purpose and most importantly his undiluted love for his people".

Senator Chris Ngige of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) representing Anambra Central, said he was short of words.

He described Ojukwu as the leader of all leaders whose love for Ndigbo was unquantifiable.

Ngige, who was moody over the demise of the Igbo icon, said that the people of South East have lost another person in the mould of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

The Senator said that Ojukwu would be hard to be replaced not only in Igboland but the entire Nigeria.
Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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Ojukwu: His last 24 hours

By Our Reporter

CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU-OJUKWU (1933 -- 2011)

For a 78 year old man who had been bed-ridden for 11 months by stroke, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s last 24 hours on earth could not have been more eventful.

As he lay in his bed at Bupa Nursing Home in Kessington, London on Friday hoping for the best, his political son and governor of Anambra state,Ojukwu’s home state, Mr.Peter Obi walked in to see how he was fearing. It was the governor’s ninth visit to the Ikemba since he was evacuated to London in December, last year for treatment.

The governor, according to his media aide, Valentine Obienyem, met Ojukwu in a ‘stable condition.’

He was on his way from Paris, France, as a member of President Goodluck Jonathan’s delegation to the Honorary Investiture Council of Nigeria’s meeting. The governor had taken the opportunity to propose to the president the naming of the approach to the Niger Bridge in Onitsha after the Ikemba Nnewi to which the president was said to be favourably disposed although he said that could only be possible after the Federal Government would have rehabilitated the road.

The President was also said to have excused his Senior Special Assistant on Diaspora Matters, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu from the Paris meeting to enable her attend to her husband and feed him (Jonathan) back on his condition.

Meanwhile, Obi departed for Nigeria on Friday night and arrived home at about 5.30am yesterday only to receive a text message from Ojukwu’s son, Okigbo, that the Ikemba had passed on.

At his bed side as took his last breath were wife Bianca, daughter Ebere and Okigbo.

Obi, accompanied by Ojukwu’s son, Emeka, immediately left for London

He later formally broke the news in what he called the Igbo tradition.

The statement entitled ‘Our Father has gone’ reads:

Amuma na Egbeigwe edelu juuuu; Udo eji akpu Agu agbabie; Odenigbo Ngwo anabago; Ikemba Nnewi a gaba goo; Dikedioranmma nweru ka osi noru kitaa, Ezeigbo Gburugburu, enwooooo! Obu inaba ka anyi mezie gini? Onye ga na-ekwuru anyi? Onye ga abamba ka Agu ma oburu na ana emegbu anyi? Enwoooooooo! Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, enwoooooo!

"In the traditional Igbo society, the death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu would be announced by the famous Ikoro Drum, reserved for outstanding people in the society once in a century.

"This is what I have just done in the foregoing. We hereby, in consultation with the immediate family of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, announce his death which occurred in the early hours of today (yesterday), November 26, 2011.

"With Ojukwu’s death, the entire Igbo race, at home and in the Diaspora as well as Nigerians have lost a treasure.

"He was one of the most forthright personalities Nigeria has ever had. He believed in a Nigeria where justice and equity should reign and devoted his life to their pursuit of that ideal as if he was under a spell.

"While alive Ezeigbo Gburugburu was such a subject of history that it makes little sense to start contemplating how history will remember him.

"He is worthy of Ceaser’s own summary of his victory in Pontus (former Asia Minor), Veni, vedi, vici, (I came, I saw, I conquered). Ojukwu came, saw and conquered, leaving for us vital lessons in patriotism and nationalism.

"With his death, part of every Igbo man has also died. We shall continue to remember him in our prayers as we work out further details in consultation with his family and other stakeholders."

Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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Nigeria mourns death of civil war leader

By Anamesere Igboeroteonwu

ONITSHA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Chukwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the military leader of the breakaway state of Biafra during Nigeria's 1967-70 civil war, died on Saturday after a long fight for health following a stroke, his family said.

More than 1 million people are estimated to have died during the conflict which followed a failed coup attempt in 1966 by army officers from the Igbo ethnic group in southeast Nigeria.

A counter-coup a year later brought a military government to power under Colonel Yakubu Gowon.

Nigeria's first 30 years of independence from Britain in 1960 were punctuated by a series of coups and military rule only came to an end in 1999.

Nigeria still suffers from almost daily violence in the north which stems from ethnic and religious tensions among a population of some 150 million split roughly equally between Muslims and Christians.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan praised Ojukwu, who was 78, as "one of the great personalities of his time who stood out easily as a brave, courageous, fearless, erudite and charismatic leader."

Igbo youths in Ojukwu's southeast homeland flooded the streets chanting "our friend is gone."

"This is a very, very painful loss to me, the Igbo and Nigeria," said Chibuzo Anyanwu, an industry worker in Abia state in the southeast.  

"It marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new one for all. His death calls for sober reflections by Igbo and Nigerians on the disadvantaged position of people in the Nigerian nation."

Ojukwu, the son of a wealthy businessman, lost the battle to maintain southeast Nigeria as independent Biafra in a conflict which brought some of the first images of Africans starving to death to Western television screens.

Although Biafrans gained sympathy globally, few countries recognised it as a separate nation and the civil war dragged on until early 1970, mostly as a stalemate.

Nigeria's south-east had recently discovered vast oil wealth and was considered a key region for the unity and development of the West African state.

Ojukwu fled into exile in the Ivory Coast after the civil war but was later pardoned and in 1999 formed the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) party, which he led until his death.
Source: Reuters Africa, 27th November 2011.

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Ojukwu excelled in the north – North govs

The Northern Governors Forum (NGF) commiserated with the Ojukwu family, lamenting that the nation has lost a great man.

Chairman of the forum and governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu 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.

The condolence message of the forum was contained in a statement signed by Aliyu’s Chief Press Secretary, Malam Danladi Ndayebo. According to the governors, though Ojukwu died at a ripe age of 78, after a prolonged illness, the forum was deeply pained by his passage.

“Like most of our Igbo brothers and sisters 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”, they said.
The governor recalled Ojukwu’s leading role in the struggle for the nation’s return to civil rule at a time when many pro-democracy elements were afraid to speak up against the military.

The statement said Ojukwu would be remembered for playing a prominent role in the 1995 constitutional conference which gave birth to the current geopolitical structure.

Ojukwu irreplaceable – Atiku

FORMER Vice President Atiku Abubakar, described the death of Ojukwu as a great loss to the country and Africa in general. Atiku, who noted that his death was another colossal loss to Nigeria at a time of strenuous efforts for unity and reconciliation, recalled that the Ikemba Nnewi’s role as a key actor in Nigeria’s political development cannot be easily forgotten.

According to Atiku, Ojukwu was a tremendously respected and influential politician whose endorsement was frequently needed by others to build their political careers, adding that history had cast the late Ojukwu into a role and he played that part to the best of his abilities.

Immortalize him – Reps

THE House of Representatives said the demise of Ikemba Nnewi, has left a deep hole in Nigeria’s quest for transformational leadership.

In a statement by the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Rep Zakari Mohammed , the House described his passage as a colossal loss that is irreplaceable. “Ojukwu was the first Nigerian graduate to have enlisted in the Nigerian army and added intellectual dimension to the force while in service of his fatherland”, it stated.

“While alive, Ojukwu displayed rare courage on principled stand on sensitive national matters, we in the Seventh Assembly regret his death but we are consoled by the fact that we will continue to uphold his principle, ideals and uncommon courage that Ojukwu lived and died for.” “We are calling on the President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to immortalize this gentleman officer, courageous, successful politician and a leader’s leader.”

Igbo have lost a treasure – Obi

ANAMBRA State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, said with the demise of the Ikemba Nnewi, Igbo have lost a great treasure.

In a statement in Awka, entitled, “Our father is gone”, Obi eulogised Ojukwu in Igbo, saying: “Amuma na Egbeigwe edelu juuuu; Udo eji akpu Agu agbabie; Odenigbo Ngwo anabago; Ikemba Nnewi a gaba goo; Dikedioranmma nweru ka osi noru kitaa, Ezeigbo Gburugburu, enwooooo! Obu inaba ka anyi mezie gini? Onye ga na-ekwuru anyi? Onye ga abamba ka Agu ma oburu na ana emegbu anyi? Enwoooooooo! Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, enwoooooo!”

The statement said further: “In the traditional Igbo society, the death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu would be announced by the famous Ikoro Drum, reserved for outstanding people in the society once in a century. This is what I have just done in the foregoing. We hereby, in consultation with the immediate family of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, announce his death which occurred in the early hours of today, November 26, 2011.

“With Ojukwu’s death, the entire Igbo race, at home and in the Diaspora as well as Nigerians have lost a treasure. He was one of the most forthright personalities Nigeria has ever had. He believed in a Nigeria where justice and equity should reign and devoted his life to the pursuit of that ideal as if he was under a spell.

“While alive, Ezeigbo Gburugburu was such a subject of history that it makes little sense to start contemplating how history will remember him. Ojukwu came, saw and conquered, leaving for us vital lessons in patriotism and nationalism.

“With his death, part of every Igbo man has also died. We shall continue to remember him in our prayers as we work out further details in consultation with his family and other stakeholders.”

He was an iconic national figure–Amaechi

Rivers State governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, expressed sadness over the death of Ojukwu. In a statement by his spokesman, David Iyofor, Amaechi described the former Biafran leader as an iconic national figure, a man full of courage whose contributions to the nation in spite of the civil war cannot be overemphasized.

“Ojukwu had strong leadership skills, a fighter with the heart of the people, and his opinions kept the nation on its feet. In politics, he was a key player and would definitely be missed by many”, the statement added.

Ojukwu’s death is a national tragedy — Elechi

GOVERNOR Martin Elechi of Ebonyi State described the death of Ojukwu as a national tragedy

which would be difficult to be erased from the minds of Nigerians especially those from the south east.

Elechi, who spoke through his chief press secretary, Dr. Onyekachi Eni, lamented that the nation, as a result of the death, had lost a dynamic leader and a protagonist of positive change, adding that the

accomplishments of former Biafra soldier possessed the capacity to transcend mortality, which, according to him, represented the demise of era that may never resurface in the history of the nation.

“The death of the Ikemba is a national tragedy of immense proportion. It represents the demise of an era. Nigeria has lost a dynamic leader and a protagonist of positive change. Though death is a debt which all mortals must pay, Ojukwu’s accomplishments transcend mortality. May his soul rest in peace”, the governor said.

Ojukwu was fearless – Jang

Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State said the history of the country will be incomplete without mentioning Ojukwu’s contribution to her development.

Jang, in a statement by the Director of Press Affairs in his office, Mr. James Mannok, described the late elder statesman as a great Nigerian who was never afraid to pursue the cause he believed in.

He described the death as a great loss, adding, “Chief Ojukwu has played his role in the development of Nigeria as the history of the nation will not be complete without acknowledging his contribution.”

Mimiko: Vacuum will be difficult to fill

Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, described Ojukwu’s death as a big loss to Nigeria. Mimiko, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Eni Akinsola, noted that the bravery displayed by the Ikemba Nnewi during the civil war really helped the country to address certain fundamental national issues which united all the ethnic groups in the country, many years after the incident. According to him, the vacuum, which Ojukwu’s death has created, will be difficult to fill “because he was a great man, who had a dream for a great nation where there will be justice, equity and fairness”.

He was a national icon -Chime

Governor Sullivan Chime expressed profound shock and sorrow over the death of the former Biafran leader, saying that his passage has robbed the country of one her most notable historical and political figures.

The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Chukwudi Achife, described Ojukwu as a foremost nationalist and activist whose contributions to the political and constitutional development of the country are not only indelible but in some ways inimitable.

He described the deceased as a symbol of the struggle against injustice, segregation and oppression against any group of people in the country adding that his epic efforts had helped to lay the foundation for national integration and the sense of equality and unity that prevails in the country today.

Chime noted that as a politician, Ojukwu had fought fearlessly for the survival and sustenance of democracy in the country, waging a relentless war against electoral fraud and insisting on the establishment of a level play ground for all participants in electoral processes.

He said Ojukwu was an icon who, despite his affluent background, was never afraid to speak out on critical national issues or challenge policies that tended to infringe upon the rights of the people adding that this disposition had helped him remain a highly influential and charismatic political figure in his lifetime.

Why Ojukwu was revered – Fayemi

Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, condoled with the family of Ojukwu and the entire people and governments of the south east.

Fayemi, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olayinka Oyebode, in Ado-Ekiti, described the late Ikemba Nnewi as a leader who loved his people and defended their interests till he breathed his last.

He said it was for this reason that the late leader was revered by his people.

The governor said the late Biafran leader would be remembered as a person who never shied away from making his stand known on any issue, especially those that directly affected the interest of his people.

Nigeria has lost a great hero – Sylva

Bayelsa State governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, said was a great Nigerian who devoted his life to the fight against injustice and promotion of equality among Nigerians.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Doifie Ola, Sylva said, “Chief Odumegwu-Ojukwu was a man of principle, a great Nigerian who remained dedicated to his convictions until death.

“Even when he was forced by the circumstances of his day to lead his people into a war, and later went into exile, he returned to the country after a national pardon to join other Nigerians in a broad political platform for nation-building.

” When another political opportunity called, he formed a platform through which he intended to accomplish his long-held dream for an egalitarian Nigeria. Though his presidential bid did not succeed, Odumegwu-Ojukwu stayed committed to his dream by helping in the emergence of governments and politicians that share his political ideals for the Igbo nation and Nigeria. He never gave up.”

Ojukwu fought for the oppressed – Umeh, APGA Chairman

APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, said Ojukwu was as a dogged fighter for the oppressed people.

“Remember that Ojukwu lived not just for the Igbo people; he lived for all the oppressed people all over the world. The news of his death will shake the newsrooms all over the world. He was somebody who stood for the less privileged; people who were oppressed; people whose personal liberties were taken away. This was the life he lived,” Umeh said.

“Anybody who has looked up to him for inspiration will see some void today; will see some emptiness today.”

Demise has created a vacuum – Hon. Ihedioha

The deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and other members of the House said the vacuum Ojukwu’s death has created would be difficult to fill. In a statement in Abuja, the deputy speaker, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, said the death is a “very grievous occurrence in the country’s history and leaves a huge vacuum in our collective quest towards nation-building, socio-political development and evolution of our statehood.”

Describing the late APGA leader as a fearless mobilizer, highly intelligent and resourceful personality who loomed larger than life wherever he found himself, Ihedioha regretted that Nigeria will surely miss this “bright eastern star that shone like a million comets in the galaxy of stars. Love him or hate him, his landmark contributions in making Nigeria what she is today cannot be dimmed by his passage to the great beyond.”

In his reaction, the chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Currency, Hon. Jones Onyereri, described the late Ikemba Nnewi as ‘a great leader with clarity of vision, a very courageous man full of strength. He was the pillar of the Igbo who will surely be missed. The question on the lips of Ndi Igbo is could there ever be another Ikemba?’

For the Minority Whip of the House, Hon. Samson Osagie, the late Ikemba Nnewi was ‘a brave soldier, a fighter and a committed patriot to the Igbo nation. His death is a big loss to the country and Ndi Igbo in particular’.

The leader of the Anambra Caucus in the House of Representatives, Hon. Uche Ekwunife, described Ojukwu as “one of the finest of Igbo extraction”.

The biggest “iroko” in Igboland has fallen – Oni

Former governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni saw the death of the ex-Biafra warlord as the fall of “the biggest iroko tree in the forest of Igboland.”

Oni, who reacted to Ojukwu’s death through his media aide, Mr. Lere Olayinka, said: “With Ikemba’s death; there is nothing more to say other than ‘oke osisi di na nukwu ohia na ala igbo adawoo’ (the biggest iroko tree in d forest of Igboland has fallen).”

The former governor said Ojukwu will however be happy that the Igbo nation that he fought for has now taken its pride of place in the Nigeria polity, adding: “The lesson of the civil war has remained one of the unifying factors for Nigeria till date.”

Death devastating – Etiaba

Former Anambra State deputy governor, Dame Virgy Etiaba, saw Ojukwu’s death as a devastating one not only to the Igbo race in particular but Nigerians as a general.

“His exit at a time such as this is a depressing one considering the fact that the Nigeria of his dream where equality, equity, accountability and probity will be enthroned has not crystallised,”Etiaba said.

“As a leader, he touched lives and was frank to all. He will go down our history as a man who was most loved by his people. He represented the aspiration of his people and never compromised their interest.”

Other tributes

Ojukwu a symbol of Igbo unity – Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy President of the Senate

Ojukwu was a symbol of Igbo unity. He lived a life of service. As a young man and son of a millionaire, he joined the army amidst several non-risky options. He fought injustice, oppression, impunity and all such evils till his death. Though he is dead, he lives on in the consciousness of every Igbo man and all Nigerians who believe that this country belongs to all of us. May his soul rest in peace.

He fought for Ibo cause – Senator Joy Emodi, Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly

It is true that he has been sick, I am shocked. I remember him with nostalgia how he drove the Igbo cause. He will be highly missed and he was a brave man. The most important thing is that he left an important legacy as the undisputed Igbo leader and he was not corrupt at all. He fought for the Igbo cause selflessly. The space he left will be difficult to fill, in the politics of this country and in the politics of the south-east. It is a great loss to everybody and to Nigerians. He was a voice to the voiceless, very courageous and always speaking his mind.

It is a big loss – Nwadiala Emeka Wogu, Minister of Labour and Productivity

It is a big loss to the nation in general and the Igbo in particular. He was instrumental in reshaping Nigeria’s political structure from the regional to state structure. He was misunderstood but remained courageous even unto death. He will be surely missed by both friends and foes. May his soul rest in peace.

Symbol of leadership – Senator Effiong Bob

He was a symbol of qualitative leadership who fought for the upliftment of his people. He was highly intellectual and a great thinker of his time.

He was the only Ikemba – Kema Chikwe, former Minister of Aviation

It is a tragedy for the Igbo because there was only one Ikemba who had the charisma to mesmerize the entire Igbo nation and sustained it till death. Irrespective of political affiliation every Igbo man knows that he was the only Ikemba.

He was a great thinker – Senator Ben Obi, Special Adviser to the President, Inter Party Affairs.

One of the greatest, courageous and most focused sons of Africa has passed on. A soldier and a philosopher, a teacher and a thinker, a man who found comfort with both the mighty and the low, a man who at all times was honest, with undiluted ideas on any situation or suggestion on any situation. A lover of his people, indeed a great patriot!

Ex-warlord was a titan – Capt. Emmanuel Ihenacho, rtd., former minister

Very sad news indeed. We mourn the passing of a great and patriotic Nigerian, an absolute titan, hero of the Igbo nation. Our heartfelt sympathies and thoughts go out to his widow and immediate family. May his soul rest in peace.

He became a godfather in politics – Senator Ifeanyi Okowa

Yet another great Nigeria gone to the great beyond. A gallant soldier once he was. He brought in his academic prowess into the political arena and became a godfather in the politics of APGA in the South-East.

Ojukwu, a man of ideas – Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (retired), former governor of old Kaduna State

Ojukwu’s death is a very sad loss for not only Nigeria but humanity. I remember I invited him to Kaduna when I was governor for a re-orientation campaign. As he got the invitation, he said: “Colonel, I will be there,” and he came. He was a man with great ideas about how to advance the cause of Nigeria. The nation will sorely miss him. I pray that God will have mercy on his soul.

He lived a good life – Rep. Eseme Eyiboh

Odumegwu Ojukwu did not live long enough but he lived a good life which was long enough. He was a hero in life and in death.

Source: Vanguard, 27th November 2011.

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Former Biafra Leader Ojukwu Dies in Britain

A Nigerian colonel, politician and the leader of the former breakaway Republic of Biafra has died at the age of 78.

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu died in a hospital in London after a long fight to regain health following a stroke.

The office of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan issued a statement Saturday saying Ojukwu will be remembered as one of the great personalities of his time who stood out as a fearless, erudite and charismatic leader.

But internationally, he is better remembered for the late 1960s images of starving Biafran children with emaciated faces and stick-like arms.

A son of one of Nigeria’s richest men and educated in Britain, Ojukwu gained international prominence during the 1966 coup in Nigeria.  An estimated 1 million people were killed during the ensuing civil war.

A coup against the Igbo people in the mainly Muslim north led him to proclaim an independent Republic of Biafra in eastern Nigeria in 1967.   Despite international aid, the region long dependent on food from neighboring regions, suffered severe shortages during the next three years of continued fighting.

After being defeated in 1970, Ojukwu fled the country and spent the following 13 years in exile.

He returned to Nigeria after being pardoned in 1982 and subsequently ran in two presidential elections without success.

He is revered as a hero among his Igbo people who claim to suffer political isolation in

the country.

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu died in a hospital in London after a long fight to regain health following a stroke.

The office of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan issued a statement Saturday saying Ojukwu will be remembered as one of the great personalities of his time who stood out as a fearless, erudite and charismatic leader.

But internationally, he is better remembered for the late 1960s images of starving Biafran children with emaciated faces and stick-like arms.

A son of one of Nigeria’s richest men and educated in Britain, Ojukwu gained international prominence during the 1966 coup in Nigeria.  An estimated 1 million people were killed during the ensuing civil war.

A coup against the Igbo people in the mainly Muslim north led him to proclaim an independent Republic of Biafra in eastern Nigeria in 1967.  Despite international aid, the region long dependent on food from neighboring regions, suffered severe shortages during the next three years of continued fighting.

After being defeated in 1970, Ojukwu fled the country and spent the following 13 years in exile.

He returned to Nigeria after being pardoned in 1982 and subsequently ran in two presidential elections without success.

He is revered as a hero among his Igbo people who claim to suffer political isolation inthe country.

Source: Voice of America, 26th November 2011.

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It’s a big loss to Nigeria - Fashola

By Our Reporter

GOVERNOR Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has described the death of Odumegwu Ojukwu as a big loss to him personally and to Nigerians generally. 

He expressed his condolences during an interview with journalists at Lagos House, Marina. He said, “Though, we knew his health had been poor, one still expected a miracle from somebody whose image was as large as who he was as the Ikemba Nnewi”. 

He wished the family God’s guidance and protection and also sent his heartfelt sympathies to his wife and children adding: “We know it is painful at a time like this when our nation is in dire needs of leadership and it rankles very deep to see leadership icons like Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu exit the stage”. 

“These are very challenging times globally and for Nigeria. It is not a good time to lead as I have always said and this is the time for this generation to step up its game, step up its act and try to surpass the achievements of this great men who with courage and determination and a clear sense of purpose articulated what they thought was a very good vision for the prosperity of this nation”. 

The governor on behalf of the government and people of Lagos State expressed his very sincere condolences to the Ojukwu family, to the people of Nnewi, the government and people of Anambra and the Igbo nation at large.
Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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How Ojukwu’s health waned before his death

By Wale Adepoju

What experts say about stroke

IKEMBA Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu aged with grace and dignity. As a soldier in the Nigerian Army and as a Biafran warlord, he enjoyed a stable health.

However, his health began to wane in July 2007.  It was the major health scare he ever had. It happened at the thanksgiving mass of his god-son, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State at the Basillica of the Holy Trinity in Onitsha. During the service he collapsed. 

He was said to have slumped at about 11:30am.

It was one of the officiating ministers who delivered the homily, Justin Cardinal Regali of Philadelphia along with the Red Cross and other medical personnel at the premises that revived him. Rather than return home, he opted to remain in the church, insisting he had the strength tosit through the service. After the programme, he was taken to Waterside Hospital in Onitsha. Since then it as one visit or another to the hospital.

In 2010, he stayed in the hospital for about seven months receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.

Last December, Odumegwu-Ojukwu he was diagnosed with cerebral vascular accident which is commonly known as a stroke. 

He was flown out of the country to London in an air ambulance within days for advanced treatment in a world class medical facility.

It was clear that doctors at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu, where he received treatment for four days could no longer handle his case.

Odumegwu-Ojukwu was then being attended to by experts to save his life.

A reliable source, said the doctors at the hospital where he was flown to, identified his age as a barrier to his recovery.

After his discharge from the hospital, he was taken to a rehabilitation centre where he had physiotherapy and speech therapy sessions in readiness for his return to Nigeria.

But that was not to be, as he finally bowed to death yesterday at the age of 78.

Former Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Lagos State Branch, Dr Adedamola Dada identified hypertension, poorly controlled diabetes, obesity as predisposing factors that trigger strokes.

He said a stroke can be hemorrhagic or ischemic, with the former occuring when a weakened blood vessel ruptures while the latter occurs when a blood vessel is blocked usually by a blood clot. “The blood clot automatically stops blood from brain, and brain cells suffer from lack of nutrients and oxygen that they would normally get in ischemic stroke,” he added.

On age as a cause, he said: “Age is not part of the factors that cause stroke.”

A Senior Medical Officer and a General Practitioner (GP), Dr Tajudeen Salau said Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s age might not really be the predisposing factor. “Why? Younger people who are not of his age may come down with stroke,” he added.

Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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How Ojukwu died in London

By Our Reporters
22 days after his 78th birthday, former Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu succumbed to the cold hands of death.

The family said in a statement that their patriarch died of stroke in the Royal Berkshire Hospital, United Kingdom, in the early hours of yesterday.

The National Chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), the platform on which Ojukwu sought to become president in 2003 and 2007, and which Board of Trustees (BoT) he headed, Chief Victor Umeh, said the former warlord, passed on at about 2.30 a.m. yesterday.

Ojukwu had been flown to the London hospital almost one year ago, precisely December 23, 2010, after he suffered what doctors called “massive stroke” and went unconscious.

He was initially treated at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, before the trip abroad in an air ambulance.

Tributes poured in, in torrents, yesterday, as the death of the man who led the Igbo on a secessionist bid in the name of Biafra between 1966 and 1970 spread across the country.

President Goodluck Jonathan said the memory of the late Ojukwu would live forever, given the “uncommon qualitative leadership he gave to his people”.

General Yakubu Gowon, who was Head of State during the civil war, said Ojukwu, after Biafra, joined to move Nigeria forward.

The governor of his home state, Anambra, Mr. Peter Obi, in a statement, entitled, `Our father is gone’, said the Igbo and the nation have lost a treasure.

The family statement, announcing the man fondly called `Ikemba Nnewi’, his traditional title, was signed by his son, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

Entitled, “We thank God for Ikemba Ojukwu’s productive life on earth: Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is dead”, the statement read: “After a protracted and brave fight against stroke, the People’s General, Ikemba Nnewi, Dikedioranma Ndigbo, Odenigbo Ngwo, Ezeigbo Gburugburu, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu died in the early hours of today (yesterday) in London.

“We thank all those that showed concern in our period of difficulties, starting from the President of the country, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR. We thank, in a special way, the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi who went above and beyond the call of duty to look after him. Besides paying the hospital bills, he visited London on a monthly basis to see him. He was there yesterday and only came back this morning to receive the news, whereupon he entered the next available flight back to London. He even had to fly Economy Class since other classes were fully booked. We thank him for the sacrifices.

“We thank all Nigerians for their solidarity, especially those that continued to pray for him. May you continue to pray for the repose of his soul. Further details shall be made available”.

He was born on November 4, 1933 in Zungeru in today’s Niger State.

When Igbo leaders converged at the GRA, Enugu residence of Ojukwu on November 4, 2011 to mark his 78th birthday in his absence, little did they know that the funeral of Eze Igbo Gburugburu was coming so soon.

But what appeared to be a premonition of his death was made during the well-attended ceremony organized by the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, Chief Ralph Uwazurike, when it was announced that the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Valerian Okeke, would leave for London to pray for Ojukwu and anoint him.

Although several speakers, including the clergy, prayed fervently for his quick recovery and early return to his fatherland, the mood of the people that graced the occasion conveyed the impression that the ex-warlord may not return alive.

The National Chairman of Ojukwu’s All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, told the audience that the Catholic Archbishop would depart for London to pray for Ojukwu as other prominent members of the clergy including bishops from some orthodox churches had done since Ojukwu was flown to London on December 23, 2010 aboard a German Air Ambulance hired by Anambra State government.

Okeke actually traveled to London in the second week of November and anointed Ojukwu, prayed for him and returned to Nigeria, last week, but details of his trip to the hospital could not be ascertained. Sunday Vanguard learnt that when the former Biafran leader’s condition deteriorated, last weekend, Governor Peter Obi left for London to see him. He was said to be on his way back to Nigeria when he heard of Ojukwu’s death, yesterday morning, and returned to London where he joined the wife of the former warlord, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu, and others who had taken care of him in the hospital since the last one year.

Ojukwu was hit by what medical experts described as “massive stroke” on December 1, 2010. He was attended to by a team of medical experts who battled to resuscitate him at home before he was moved to the ICU of the UNTH, Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu.

From the time Ojukwu was attacked by stroke, up till the time he was moved to London, he was said to be under “generous support” by his wife, Bianca, the APGA and the governor of Anambra State “From the time he was attacked by stroke till the present day he has been under generous support by his wife, Bianca Ojukwu, the APGA and His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, Governor of Anambra State. When he first took ill on December 1, he was immediately looked after by two Professors of Medicine here in Enugu namely Professor Vincent Ike, a Consultant Cardiologists and Professor Augustine Nwabueze, a British-trained Consultant Neuro physician,”APGA National Chairman, Umeh, said while reacting to the allegation that Ojukwu had been abandoned by his associates on account of his ill-health. “Under their close watch, Dim Ojukwu was managed with excellent medical knowledge within the first two weeks and when he slipped into coma on December 19, 2010 he was immediately moved to the UNTH Enugu where he was taken in by the Intensive Care Unit of the Teaching Hospital.

“Before he slipped into coma efforts were initiated and intensified to fly him abroad.  We had to go through the process of getting visa and arranging Air Ambulance to evacuate him from Nigeria.  When the situation was deteriorating, efforts were intensified in all these directions and successfully on December 23, Dim Ojukwu was flown to London by a German Air Ambulance that came directly from France to Enugu to take him. He was accompanied on that trip under very critical condition by his dear wife, Bianca Ojukwu and his Chief of Staff, Prince Bob Onyema.  Two of them with the Ambulance Team left Enugu airport for London under very critical condition.

“In London, he was immediately admitted at the London Clinic where he was moved into the Intensive Care Unit, ICU. From December 2010 to March 2011, Ojukwu remained in the ICU of London Clinic. It was by the mercy of God that he went through that process and recovered consciousness and came out of ICU. There is no gainsaying that all the people he met at the ICU, I mean co-patients including those that came in after him all died except him to the Glory of God.

“When he recovered sufficiently at the London Clinic, he was moved to Wellington Hospital still in London where he stayed between March and May this year. There his recovery was intensely facilitated. When he improved substantially, he was again moved to Lydenhill Therapeutic Centre in Twyford which is very famous in the world for physiotherapy. All these three hospitals mentioned enjoy excellent facilities with very brilliant doctors and other professionals.

“At the Lynenhill centre, he had chest infection due to cough and he was quickly moved to Berkshire hospital that was nearby the Therapeutic Centre and he has since been there under excellent care and he is responding to treatment. All his medical bills from December 23 when he was moved to London and around these various hospitals, had been promptly paid by the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi till date.”

Umeh also explained that while in London, Bianca remained with Ojukwu except on the occasional times she visited Nigeria to see her children and take care of the few house needs before going back to London. He said: “Since Ojukwu’s movement to London I as the National Chairman of APGA and my wife have visited him in February and also visited him after the election in May where I went to brief him on the outcome of the elections. The governor of Anambra State had also visited him. When I was in London, our new Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha came on May 13 with his wife and I took them to the hospital where they saw Ojukwu.

“Other notable members of our party have also visited Ojukwu in London since then. The acting Nigerian High Commissioner to London, His Excellency, Ambassador Dozie Nwanna who hails from Awka, since Ojukwu’s arrival in London on December 23, became part of the daily routine for monitoring his health, first as the Nigerian High Commissioner to London and two, as an Igbo man including his wife.”

The APGA chief further said: “Former Health Minister, Dr. Tim Menakaya, Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and so many other Igbos had visited Ojukwu in London, adding that at the London Clinic and Wellington hospital “Ojukwu is known as a General and excellent and qualified professionals took special interest in him and they said they have never had such a patient in their history going by the way people had been coming to see him, that he must be a famous man.”

How Ojukwu left for UK in air ambulance

AT the Intensive Care Unit of UNTH, medical experts declared that Ojukwu had a cerebra-vascular accident otherwise called stroke. The hospital only tried to sustain him for few days and in the process prepared him for the critical journey to London.

On December 23, Ojukwu began his last journey to London, the United Kingdom aboard the German Air Ambulance. He was evacuated from the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu at 1.52 pm to United Kingdom by Flight Ambulance International of Germany hired by Anambra State government. The flight was said to be the first international aircraft to move from the airport which was granted an international status by the Jonathan-led Federal Government mid last year.

Being an international flight, four officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service were at the Enugu airport to stamp Ojukwu’s international passport, that of his wife, Bianca and his Chief of Staff, Prince Jonathan Bob Onyema, who accompanied him on the medical trip.

There was a mild drama at the UNTH while Ojukwu was being taken to the Enugu airport when his aides and family members at the hospital cordoned off the ICU to prevent journalists from taking pictures as he was being evacuated.

His movement into the Enugu State Emergency Management Response Team ambulance at 10.55 a.m. that fateful day was handled with caution as medical experts warned that the life supporting machine could stop functioning if mishandled. The former Biafran leader was brought to the airport at 11.40 am accompanied by Governor Obi, APGA chieftains and his family members among others.

He was driven to the Air Force Wing of the airport where the air ambulance was stationed. The Enugu Air Force Commander, Air Commodore Jacob Gbamwuan, had given approval for the use of the Air Force Wing as a mark of respect for the then ailing General.

The slow but steady journey from UNTH located at Ituku-Ozalla to the airport at Emene, Enugu was described as very smooth but the journey, which normally takes about 10 to 15 minutes, lasted for about 45 minutes as the ambulance driver drove with strict caution.

On arrival at the airport, Ojukwu was driven close to the side of the air Ambulance which had touched down at 10.45 am and headed straight to the Air Force Wing of the airport. The crew members immediately evacuated him into the white aircraft marked D-CSIX.

The air ambulance itself, according to an aviation expert, was an Intensive Care Unit with sophisticated medical facilities that could sustain a patient airborne for several hours like a normal ICU of a first class hospital.

The Ikemba’s aides confirmed on December 24, 2010 that Ojukwu arrived the London Hospital without hitches and was accorded first class treatment by medical experts there until he gave up the ghost in the early hours of yesterday.

78th birthday

When Ojukwu was celebrated by his associates at his 78th birthday in Enugu on November 4, 2011, the gathering was a carnival of sort. Igbo leaders who addressed the gathering, poured glorious tributes on him. Those in the gathering for his recovery believing that a miracle could happen for Ikemba to return alive.

Bianca, who returned from London a day before the event, was present and she stood firmly to collect the numerous tributes showered upon her spouse. Former Biafran officers, politicians, clergy men from different denominations and members of the Chief Ralph Uwazurike-led Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) attended the occasion en-masse.

Although Uwazurike said Ojukwu’s birthday celebration would continue even after his death, the manner in which the Ikemba was revered at that event gave the impression that he was indeed loved by Igbos and could be rightly described as an icon that would ever be remembered by all Igbo.

Gowon: After Biafra, he joined in moving Nigeria forward

Gowon, yesterday, described the demise of Ojukwu as a rude shock. According to him, the late Ikemba Nnewi was a reliable friend. “The passing away of this man of excellence is shocking. Whether we like it or not, Ojukwu will be remembered as a man who tried to have a country of his own but when he couldn’t succeed returned and joined in moving Nigeria forward. He tried to become president but unfortunately he couldn’t make it,” Gowon said in a tribute.

“Really it is sad he is gone. I wish his soul reposed in the Lord and pray that God will give his family and entire Nigerians the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss”, the Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria during the Ojukwu-led Igbo secession between 1967 – 70 said.

Former Minister of Communications, General Tajudeen Olanrewaju and foremost traditional ruler, Igwe Alex Nwokedi, in their reactions, described Ojukwu as a leader with a difference.

Ojukwu’s love for Ndigbo will live forever—Jonathan

Jonathan, in his own tribute, expressed sadness and a deep feeling of great national loss news of the passing away of Ojukwu.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, said the memory of the late ex-warlord would live forever, given, essentially, the uncommon qualitative leadership he gave to his people.

The statement said Jonathan joined Chief Ojukwu’s family, the government and people of his home state, Anambra, the entire Igbo people of Nigeria and his friends, associates and followers across the country in mourning him.

According to the statement, the president urged them to be comforted by the knowledge that the deceased Biafran warlord lived a most fulfilled life, and has, in passing on, left behind a record of very notable contributions to the evolution of modern Nigeria which will assure his place in the history of the country.

“President Jonathan believes that late Chief 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”, the statement said .

Jonathan called on Ojukwu’s family, his associates and followers to make his rites of passage a celebration of his most worthy and memorable life spent in the service of his people and the nation.

Ojukwu’s death, a reminder of Nigeria’s unfinished business – Tinubu

Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) national leader and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said Ojukwu’s death marked the passage of one of the movers of Nigerian history in the 20th century. But he added that Ojukwu’s death should remind everyone of Nigeria’s unfinished federal business and the urgency to fix the problem, once and for all.

“Ojukwu’s death once again reminds all of us of the unfinished business of Nigerian federalism.  If only for his memory, and to ensure that Nigeria never has to suffer again any crisis like the civil war, we must all rise as a people to fix Nigeria’s special challenges.  That is why Nigeria must, as a matter of urgency convoke a sovereign national conference, where all these issues would be resolved”, the ACN leader said.

He said that federal-related tensions still persisted, 31 years after the civil war (1967-1970), just proved the depth of the feeling  of marginalisation and perceived unfairness by critical stakeholders in the Nigerian union. The former governor said though Ojukwu was a controversial figure, he made his mark during the era of the titans of Nigerian politics and governance.

“Ojukwu, the Ikemba and Eze Igbo Gburugburu, meant many things to many people.  But his greatness was that he stood his own such that, even with the constellation of stars of his age and time, he still made his mark – and profoundly so.  You might love Ojukwu and you might hate him.  But you could never be indifferent about him nor could you ignore him,” Tinubu said.

He said the late Biafrian war leader was a revolutionary, almost from the womb.

A chapter has closed – Ogbulafor

A former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, who described him as a very close friend of his late father, Eze J.J. Ogbulafor, stressed that Ojukwu was a very great man who meant well for the people of Igbo, adding that with his death, a chapter of history has closed.

Ikemba’s death a rude shock- Nwodo

Another former national chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, described Ojukwu’s death as a rude shock. Nwodo, a former governor of Enugu State, said, “Here unfortunately is the end of an era. An era when men were men, who leaved and fought for what they believed in and were ready to pay the supreme sacrifice for their believe. Ikemba was a leader made in this mould”. The former PDP boss also noted that Ojukwu was blessed with great erudition and communication skills that assisted him greatly in prosecuting the Nigeria Biafra war, adding that the legendary ingenious Biafra Technology can be ascribed to his leadership.

Ojukwu was the issue — Senate

THE Senate said Ojukwu was the issue in Nigeria’s evolutionary process.

In a statement by the chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia Central, the Senate noted that the upper chambers and indeed  Nigeria as a nation will surely miss him.

According to him, “Dim Ojukwu was a visionary leader whose passion for a Nigeria where every federating unit would be proud of belonging to was unparalleled. He saw tomorrow and his action and passion for a truly united Nigeria shaped our socio-political environment of today.”
Source: Vanguard, 27th November 2011.

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Sylva, Uduaghan, Fayemi: He was a patriot, great leader

Our Reporter

Governors Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta),Rauf Aregbesola (Osun),Theodore Orji (Abia), Sullivan Chime (Enugu),Jonah Jang (Plateau) Martin Elechi (Ebonyi) yesterday described the late Chief Ojukwu as a patriot and a great Nigeria.

The governors, in separate statements extolled the virtues of the late former Biafra leader.

Sylva said Nigeria has lost a great leader, one “who devoted his life to the fight against injustice and promotion of equality among Nigerians.”

He added: “Chief Odumegwu-Ojukwu was a man of principle, a great Nigerian who remained dedicated to his convictions until death. Even when he was forced by the circumstances of his day to lead his people into a war, and later went into exile, he returned to the country after a national pardon to join other Nigerians in a broad political platform for nation-building.

“When another political opportunity called, he formed a platform through which he intended to accomplish his long-held dream for an egalitarian Nigeria. Though his presidential bid did not succeed, Odumegwu-Ojukwu stayed committed to his dream by helping in the emergence of governments and politicians that share his political ideals for the Igbo nation and Nigeria. He never gave up.”

Governor Uduaghan expressed shock at the “untimely death” of Ojukwu 

Uduaghan, in a statement lamented the death of Chief Ojukwu, as a sad loss to the country whose initial news of recovery from his hospital bed had gladdened his heart, only for the shock announcement of his demise.

Uduaghan in his condolence message to the family, the government and people of Anambra State over Ojukwu’s death, recalled that he was in his lifetime, a colossus who made significant contributions to the growth and development of the country. 

Chime expressed profound shock and sorrow over Ojukwu’s death, saying his passage has robbed the country of one of her most notable historical and political figures.

Chime described Ojukwu as “a foremost nationalist and activist whose contributions to the political and constitutional development of the country are not only indelible but in some ways inimitable.”

Ojukwu,according to him ,symbolised “ the struggle against injustice, segregation and oppression against any group of people in the country adding that his epic efforts had helped to lay the foundation for national integration and the sense of equality and unity that prevails in the country today.”

Chime noted that as a politician, Ojukwu had fought fearlessly for the survival and sustenance of democracy in the country, waging a relentless war against electoral fraud and insisting on the establishment of a level playing ground for all participants in electoral processes.

Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi also commiserated with the Ojukwu family, the entire people and governments of the Southeast geo-political zone on the passing on of the late leader.

Fayemi described the late Ikemba as a leader who loved his people and defended their interests till he breathed his last. 

The Governor said Ojukwu would be remembered as a leader who never shied away from making his stand known on any issue, especially those with direct effect on the interest of his people.

Ebonyi State Governor Martin Elechi has described the death Ojukwu as a national tragedy of immense proportion.

Elechi said:”that Ojukwu is dead remains an unconfirmed rumour.

But if it is true, the death of the Ikemba is a national tragedy of immense proportion. It represents the demise of an icon while his death is the end of an era. Nigeria has lost a dynamic leader and a protagonist of positive change”.

Elechi said Ojukwu’s accomplishments transcend mortality, and urged the family to take solace in his achievements while on earth.

Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary Eni Akinsola, described the death of the former Biafran leader as a big loss to Nigeria.

He said “the vacuum, which Ojukwu’s death has created, will be difficult to fill because he was a great man, who had a dream for a great nation where there will be justice, equity and fairness.”

Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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The man and his politics

By Bolade Omonijo,

All’s well that ends well. This could sum up the life and times of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the late Commander-in-Chief of the Biafran Armed Forces. He is remembered by many as the man who led the30-month Biafran secession bid.  The man cannot be reduced to the attempted breakaway. He was a military man, a military governor and a leader of the people. Towards the end of his life, Ojukwu tried to carve a niche for himself on the political field.

The political journey started in 1982. Following pardon by former President Shehu Shagari,  he was received in Lagos on June 18, 1982, about 12 and a half years after he fled Nigeria just before the civil war ended. Immediately he returned, Ojukwu plunged into the murky waters of partisan politics. He was enrolled in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and obtained the ticket to contest the 1983 senatorial election. 

Nnewi where he hails from was part of old Anambra State, a stronghold of the Nigerian Peoples Party, (NPP). In power in the state was Chief Jim Nwobodo, while the legendary Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, from Onitsha, was not just the leader but the moving spirit behind the party. Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe who was Nwobodo’s Commissioner for Health, was the NPP candidate, thus the man nominated to do political battle with Ojukwu.

A lot happened in the period between Ojukwu’s return from exile and the 1983 election. Efforts were made to build up his profile by the award of traditional titles. He was installed the Ikemba Nnewi by his immediate community. He acquired another title, Dikedioramma Ndigbo. The result of the election showed that polls are not won by the number of titles. Onwudiwe trounced the former warlord at the poll even when the NPN overran Anambra State in the general elections. Some political historians have said that NPN deliberately sacrificed Ojukwu because they could not fathom how to handle Ojukwu if he ended in the senate of the Second Republic.

Shortly after the Third Republic journey was terminated, Ojukwu emerged one of those sent to the General Abacha Constitutional Conference. There, he made his mark. He spoke for the Igbo, stood for restructuring of the federation. Alongside Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the Second Republic Vice President, Ojukwu sought a return of Nigeria to a true federation. He argued for restoration of the pride of Nigerians. His contributions were forthright, courageous and deep.

At the inception of the Fourth Republic, the late Chief Ojukwu teamed up with like-minded men to start the All peoples Party. He found in Dr. Olusola Saraki, Chief Tom Ikimi, the late Lamidi Adedibu, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu,  Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu, the late Chief Sam Mbakwe political soul mates who could change Nigeria along defined lines. The experiment failed when the party was defeated at the 1999 polls. Most of the men moved into the winning party.

But Ojukwu soldiered on. The first indication that the man who had been made the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the APP would be fighting an unorthodox battle came when he was purportedly expelled from the party by the Senator Mahmud Waziri-led National Executive Committe shortly after the 1999 election. He, saraki and IKimi were said to be involved in anti-party activities. Ojukwu merely had a hearty laughter since Waziri, by the APP constitution, lacked the power to do so. He tagged along until 2002 when he joined others to found the All progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He was rewarded with the presidential election ticket and ended up in the sixth position with a paltry 155,000 votes, trailing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) even in Igbo land.

However, in his Anambra State, his party won the governorship election. The General in Ojukwu came to the fore when he encouraged Obi to fight the injustice of being denied hard-won victory. It took three years to finally reclaim the seat, but it was sweet. The credit went to Obi, Ojukwu and APGA.

The old soldier, at 74 in 2007, was not tired. He was again presented with the party’s flag to fight the presidential election. At the time, it was obvious that APGA was not really in the race. Ojukwu’s health was already failing and his political voice was no more so audible. Predictably, he lost, thus finally sealing all hope that he could ever rule Nigeria. He, however, continued as the National Leader and Symbol of APGA. He retained his official position as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and signified that he would back Obi to the hilt in the 2010 governorship election. APGA won.

Giving reasons for the establishment of APGA, Ojukwu told a television audience in 2007: “If you are ever going to be the president of Nigeria and are an Igbo man, your chances would be better in an Igbo party. The point is that APGA was formed to protect Igbo interest and pursue it.”

History has not been kind to people who have such narrow conception of power or the path to the great office of the Chief Executive of Nigeria. The presidency can only be attained by partnership between at least two of the major ethnic groups. Even the formidable Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) of the First Republic was unable to form government all by itself. 

Before he took ill and was flown out in December last year, Ojukwu had entreated the Anambra electorate to do him the last favour of voting in Obi for a second term. He campaigned despite the debilitating factors of old age and ill health.

Yesterday, the curtains were drawn, Ojukwu’s deeds were frozen. The man, born in Zungeru, Niger State in 1933 bowed out of the earthly stage. Long after his death, his marks on the Nigerian political wall would remain indelible.

 Later, in 1996, he moved for another, Ezeigbo gburugburu. That was to stir controversy as other Igbo leaders kicked. It has always been said that Igbo nweze (that is the Igbo have no kings). The title had no precedence. It was custom made for the enigmatic Ojukwu. 

Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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Tinubu: His death reminder of Nigeria’s federalism problem

Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) national leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu yesterday said the death of Ojukwu marked the passage of one of the movers of Nigerian history in the 20th century.

The former governor of Lagos State described Ojukwu’s death as a reminder of “Nigeria’s unfinished federal business and the urgency to fix the problem, once and for all.”

“Ojukwu’s death once again reminds all of us of the unfinished business of Nigerian federalism.  If only for his memory, and to ensure that Nigeria never has to suffer again any crisis like the Civil War, we must all rise as a people to fix Nigeria’s special challenges.  That is why,” he insisted, “Nigeria must, as a matter of urgency convoke a sovereign national conference, where all these issues would be resolved.”

He said that federal-related tensions still persisted 31 years after the Civil War (1967-1970), underlined the depth of the feeling of marginalisation and perceived unfairness by critical stakeholders in the Nigerian union.

Tinubu extended his condolences and sympathies to Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, Mrs Bianca Ojukwu, the widow and the entire clan Ojukwu, as well as the entire Igbo race on behalf of who the Ikemba lived, fought and died, in the context of an equitable federal Nigeria.

The former governor said though Chief Odumegwu-Ojukwu was a controversial figure, he made his mark during the era of the titans of Nigerian politics and governance.

“Ojukwu, the Ikemba and Eze Igbo Gburugburu, meant many things to many people.  But his greatness was that he stood his own such that, even with the constellation of stars of his age and time, he still made his mark – and profoundly so.  You might love Ojukwu and you might hate him.  But you could never be indifferent about him nor could you ignore him,” Tinubu said.

He said the late Biafran war leader was a revolutionary, almost from the womb.

“While his father, the rich and the illustrious Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu insisted his son should go into the civil services as was fit for an Oxford graduate in history that his son was, the young man had other ideas.  He opted for military service, even offering to join as a recruit, when his way was blocked.  That decision,” Asiwaju Tinubu added, “not only made him the first graduate to enlist in the Nigerian Army, it also changed the course of Nigerian history.”

Asiwaju Tinubu said the Biafran episode, the civil war and Ojukwu’s role in the Second Republic when, fresh from exile when he dived head-long into the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to contest a senatorial seat, which he eventually lost, was still a subject of historical analysis. 

So, is his controversial stand on the June 12 question, when the late Ikemba campaigned against the mandate of Basorun MKO Abiola, when it was annulled by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.”

But Asiwaju Tinubu insisted all these actions were, in his opinion, not driven by any personal motives, but the need to give the Igbo fair representation in the Nigerian commonwealth.

“The Civil War was unfortunate.  Ojukwu was one of the young men at the helms who took one decision or the other, that led to the unfortunate war,” he said.  “But whatever the circumstances were, I don’t think Ojukwu’s actions were driven by  personal motives.  It would appear to me they were driven by efforts to give the Ndigbo fair representation in a federal Nigeria.”

Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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Ohanaeze, Nwodo mourn

President General of apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Ralph Uwaechue, in a statement on behalf of the organisation declared: “The passing away of Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu is like the passing of an age in the chequered history of the Igbo nation.

 “He is a leader that has left a most significant stamp in courageous defence of Igbo cause. He will be greatly missed by his family, the entire Igbo nation, our great country Nigeria and the peoples of Africa combined. May God Almighty grant his soul the eternal peace he richly deserves.”

Former Minister of Information Chief  Nnia John Nwodo Jnr said:

“It is a sad day. Nigeria has lost one of the most courageous, outspoken, truthful patriots. Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu

   Ojukwu suffered a lot of deprivations on acts of his own conviction. His deprivations did not deter him for the Igbo remained his commitment. Probably the only Igbo leader in post independence Nigeria.”

Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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Ojukwu is irreplaceable, says Atiku

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has described the death of Dim Ojukwu, as another colossal loss to Nigeria at a time of strenuous efforts for unity and reconciliation.

 In a condolence message issued in Abuja by his media office, Atiku said Ojukwu’s role as a key actor in Nigeria’s political development cannot be easily forgotten.

 He said Ojukwu was a tremendously respected and influential politician whose endorsement was frequently needed by others to build their political careers adding:”Because of his tremendous influence on the hearts and minds of the people, the late Ojukwu was an icon in every sense of the word. Even if you disagreed with the Ikemba, you cannot ignore his father-figure stature and colossal influence.”

Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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The general as ladies’ man

Despite his famed reputation as a nononsense man, Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was widely acknowledged as a ladies’ man. That he had a soft spot for women is like stating the obvious. As one of Nigeria’s most famous men, women got easily attracted to Ojukwu, as bees are attracted to honey. The late politician, in his lifetime, loved women, beautiful women. And they also loved him in return.

That many women wanted to have relationships with Ojukwu was understandable. He had many things going for him. First, he came from a wealthy background, with a father that was adjudged as one of Nigeria’s most richest man in the 50’s and 60’s; secondly, he was a highly polished man, whose impeccable manners was quite outstanding; thirdly, Ojukwu received the best education from the prestigious Oxford University, UK, and lastly, he was an officer of the Nigerian Army, an elite profession.

First married to Njideka, a native of Nawfia, a town near Awka in Anambra State in the late 50’s, the marriage collapsed shortly after the late Biafran leader relocated to the then Ivory Coast (now Cote de Ivoire) after the Biafran uprising was crushed by the Federal Government.

First married to a Ghanian, Dr. Brodi Mends, for whom she bore a child named Iriaku, Njideka attended St. Monika, Onitsha and later Archdeacon Crowder Memorial Girls School, Elelenwo, Port Harcourt in Rivers State, Njideka and Ojukwu met through their fathers who were friends and business partners.

 After their first encounter, they met again three years later at a tube station in London. A relationship ensued soon after wards and culminated in a marriage, which produced three children, two of whom were named Emeka (Jnr) and Okigbo.

In an extensive interview with THE NATION three years ago, Njideka had described Ojukwu thus: “He is just a very kind man, very polite, not intrusive. He cared less about what happens in the kitchen; he just settles for whatever you offered him. He respected me and my opinion a lot. Later when the children get across to him, he would ask them what my opinion was on issues and I loved him immensely in return.’’

Another woman in Ojukwu’s life was Victoria, whom he met during his sojourn in Cote de Ivoire.  They were married till the early 80’s when Ojukwu was granted a state pardon by the then Nigeria’s president, Alhaji Usman Aliyu Shehu Shagari.

 Then came the turn of another beautiful woman, Stella Onyeador, the elder sister of society woman, Angela Onyeador, who reportedly lived with Ojukwu for about 10 years before the union collapsed irretrievably in the mid-80’s.

But the most celebrated of Ojukwu’s liaisons with women was with former beauty queen, former Bianca Onoh. The duo met in 1988 at Bianca’s father, Chief Christian Onoh’s house in Enugu. According to reports, Ojukwu had paid a visit to Onoh in his country home during which he was struck by the young woman’s impeccable beauty.

Sometimes in 1992 when a soft sell magazine had published a scoop on the romance between Ojukwu and Bianca, the two concerned parties denied the story. But after the magazine came out with incontrovertible evidence of the romance, all hell broke loose. Bianca’s father, a former governor of old Anambra State allegedly severed ties with Ojukwu and threatened to disown his daughter. 

The consequences for Bianca came in torrents. First, she was stripped of her crown as the then reigning Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) in 1993.Worse still, she was ostracized by her immediate family. But Bianca stood her ground. Two years later, she got formally married to the man fondly called the Eze Gburugburu of Igboland by admirers in a society wedding that was the talk of town for several months. The marriage produced four children.
Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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Rebel, soldier, leader

At long last, after series of unfounded rumours and insinuations about his death, especially within the past one year, revered ex-warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi, finally bowed out of the earth yesterday. It was after eventful 78 years, 22 days.

It was without doubt, the end of an era in the annals of not only Nigeria in its entirety, but that of the Igbo people for whom he lived and toiled until the cold hands of death finally caught him pants down after a protracted illness.

The ex-warlord did not just rise one day to become an enigma. At a tender age of 11, he had begun to exude elements of a steely personality that later turned a template of his lifestyle. It was in 1944, when he reportedly gave one of his school masters, an English man, a dirty slap.

In 1952, his father, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, a Hope Waddell Institute educated-parliamentarian in Nigeria’s First Republic, who obviously wanted the best for him, sent him to Oxford University to study law. Of course, he must have chuckled within him. He left. But rather than heed his father’s instruction, he opted for History!

Not a few in his ilk would jump at an offer to take over his father’s vast businesses. But no; Ojukwu embraced administration in the Civil Defence. It was at Udi in the present Enugu State where he was District Officer. From there, in 1957, he sprang another surprise as he joined the Nigerian Army and was posted to the Army Depot, Zaria. Thus, he became the first graduate soldier in the country. Then, all his father could do was to siddon look, hoping that some day, young Ojukwu would come back to his senses.

However, he had barely spent four years when he scored another first. Having been promoted a Major, he became the first Nigerian soldier to attend the Joint Service Staff College (JSSC), England. And in 1964 as a Lieutenant Colonel, again he made history as the first indigenous Quarter Master-General of the Nigerian Army. His duty was to command the fifth Battalion in Kano till 1966 when he became the military governor of the old Eastern Region.

The patriotism in him came to the fore in the fallout of the January 15, 1966 coup de tat that consumed the former Premier of the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Prime Minister Sir Tafawa Balewa. Then the Ibos were being ruthlessly killed in the northern part of the country.

Naturally, the spirit of Ojukwu revolted against the development. He therefore asked his embattled people to leave the North for safety back home. Consequently, he declared a state of Biafra over the Eastern Region on July 30, 1967 and became the ‘Head of State and Commander-in-Chief.’

The evolving scenarios made finding urgent solution to the crisis a desideratum. Consequently, meetings were held upon meetings in and outside the country. Such efforts later led to what is now known as the Aburi Accord in Ghana. But Ojukwu, a man of principle, remained intransigent owing to a misconception by the federal government. “On Aburi we stand,” he had proclaimed.

Ensuing developments later precipitated the civil war that upset the entire nation between 1967 and 1970. At a point, Ojukwu could not stand the pressures being mounted by the federal troops who succeeded in capturing some areas in the Eastern region. Eventually, he fled to Cote d’ Ivoire where he was in hibernation for 13 years.

His sojourn in exile came to a close on June 18, 1982 when he returned into the country amid heroic welcome. It was after earning a state pardon from the Alhaji Shehu Shagari-led government.

Observers were quick to read political meanings to the pardon. Alas, they were proved right when Ojukwu joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Not a few who had thought he would pitch his tent with the Nnamdi Azikiwe-led Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) were shell-shocked. 

Those who had expected him to join the NPP to give the East an electoral advantage went indignant, pouring all sorts of vituperations on the warrior. To them, NPP was enjoying absolute loyalty of Igbo people. However, such virulent tongue-lashing meant nothing to him. He firmly stood his ground.

It did not take eternity for him to find himself in a maze of intrigues in the party. His enigmatic influence failed to work for him as he was rigged out in an election where he lost a senate seat to a relatively obscure Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe. Onwudiwe was then a commissioner in Governor Jim Nwobodo’s cabinet. 

Even back home, troubles continued to mount for him. For instance, he was not allowed access to his father’s house located at 25, Queens Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos. His offence: Waging a rebellion against the government. 

With unflinching support by Nigerians and the series of legal battles that followed, he got the property back. His military pension which was also among of the conditions for the state pardon he was given didn’t come until 41 years after the end of the civil war.

Ever since, on national issues, his voice had always been that of the entire Igbo people who saw in him a dependable leader. 

Spurred by his readiness to contribute his quota to national development, Ojukwu threw his hat into the nation’s political ring again in 2003 with the birth of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He became the party’s flag bearer and his bid was to become the president of the country through the presidential election held that year. He lost the bid.

Those that are close to the ex-Biafran leader are always quick to mention contentment as one of his cardinal virtues. When an interviewer once addressed him as Chief, he reportedly replied, emphasising: “I am not a Chief; it rhymes with thief.”

Ojukwu’s father, Sir Ojukwu, was not only a business mogul, he was reportedly the richest man in Nigeria while he lived. History has it that he was also pioneer president of the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE). 

Besides being the president of the African Continental Bank (ACB), Ojukwu senior was said to be on the boards of most of the big British companies in Nigeria in his time. But all that did not get into younger Ojukwu’s head because he believed in himself. as a Master‘s Degree in History. But Ojukwu would downplay these academic acquisitions, and tell you that “Education is not elitism, education actually, to me, is more a question of sharpening one’s choices and consciousness. The value in it is the effect one has on one’s people.” 

A multilingual, Ojukwu is a hugely talented being who can speak various Nigerian languages. Renowned English author Frederick Forsyth once recollected his encounter with him on air en route Nigeria that Ojukwu freely cracked jokes and interacted with all the delegations sent to receive him in Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo languages. He also reportedly interacted fluently in French language with the Ivorian delegation sent by his host, the late President Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Ivory Coast. Perhaps not many know that Ojukwu learnt how to speak Yoruba language first before his own native Igbo. 

How did little Ojukwu grow to the defender of the weak against injustice and oppression the like? Reports say it dates back to when he was only 11. He paid dearly for it as he was briefly imprisoned by the colonialists for assaulting a British colonial teacher, who had humiliated a black woman at King’s College, Lagos. Local newspapers fed fat on the incident. 

Again, at age of 13 at Epsom College in Surrey, United Kingdom, where a naughty white boy caused Ojukwu’s African accent to amuse his colleagues who burst into wild laughter. 

One day, he was on his way to the chapel when he heard one of them call him “monkey’. Another student shoved him, making his books to scatter on the floor. Little did the boy realise that he was scratching his nose with cobra’s head. Ojukwu beat him black and blue, forcing the boy into a three-day tenancy on the hospital bed. 

Quite unbelievably, Ojukwu was among his colleagues who were ultimately at the boy’s bedside to wish him quick recovery. Alas, they later became friends again! 

Ojukwu, who was born on November 4, 1933 in Zungeru, thus sharing the same month and home town with the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, first Nigerian president, tried unsuccessfully to ensure a better Nigeria, especially all in the interest of his kinsmen - the Igbo people. 

His delectable wife, Bianca, a University of Nigeria Nsukka-educated lawyer and daughter of a former Anambra State governor, the late Christian C. Onoh, once attested to his love for Igbo people in an interview.

“Ojukwu does nothing other than live and breathe the Igbo cause. Sometimes he would hear of some injustice somewhere and he would stay awake all night, trying to find how it can be redressed.... Any time an Igbo man suffers any form of injustice, it makes his blood boil, even in situations when he feels helpless,” Bianca, an ex-beauty queen was quoted as saying. 

Also, Anambra State Governor Peter Obi once described him as “a unique personality that will always advise on what will be for the good of the Igbos without seeking, as many other people do, his entitlements or any form of gratification.” 

“The last thing he said to me was to remain an Igbo man in all its ramifications and to continue to do whatever is possible for the ultimate good of Igbo people without expectation of payment, but out of love for the Igbos.” 

Before boarding the Biafran-built aircraft that took him to exile then, the American Newsweek quoted him to have sworn thus: “Whilst I live, Biafra lives.”

Now, the falcon has finally flown away, thus putting the lid on his eventful life which for long, will remain a human reference point for historians.

Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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He was an iconic figure - Amaechi

THE Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Rotimi Amaechi, has described Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, as an iconic national figure and a man full of courage.

He said the contributions of the Ikemba Nnewi to the nation, in spite of the civil war, could not be overemphasised.

Amaechi, who is also the Governor of Rivers State, expressed sadness over the death of the Biafran warlord.

The NGF chairman, in a statement by his spokesman, David Iyofor, stated that the Ikemba would be greatly missed.  He said: “Ojukwu had strong leadership skills, a fighter with the heart of the people and his opinions kept the nation on its feet. In politics, he was a key player and would definitely be missed by many.”

Source: The Nation, 27th November 2011.

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Ojukwu – A Hero Is Gone

By Ikeddy ISIGUZO, Chairman Editorial Board

IN BRIEF
“There are reports of Ojukwu’s brief imprisonment at 11, when he slapped a white British colonial teacher who humiliated a Nigerian woman at King’s College in Lagos, where Ojukwu was a student”.  This is just a breezy run through Ojukwu’s life.

I MAKE no apologies about what I consider the place of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, Dikedioranma, Eze Igbo Gburugburu in world history. Now that he is gone, I can share it without any of fears of being accused of currying Ojukwu’s favour.

At 33, he was the Head of State of Biafra, General of the Peoples Army, leading a war that saved the lives of millions of Ndigbo, who fled to the East, as Nigerians unleashed an unprecedented pogrom at them. The circumstances of the war may be garnished with controversy, but there have been no doubts about the facts that Ndigbo were massacred in the North, chased out of their holdings in nearby Port Harcourt, and made unsafe in most other parts of Nigeria.

Ojukwu, son of the wealthy and influential Sir Louis Philippe Odumegwu Ojukwu, a co-founder and pioneer President of the Lagos Stock Exchange (forbear of the Nigeria Stock Exchange), was one of the richest Africans of his time. Did the Stock Exchange say anything about Ojukwu when it turned 50 recently?

The younger Ojukwu was hero to others. There are reports of his brief imprisonment at 11, when he slapped a white British colonial teacher who humiliated a Nigerian woman at King’s College in Lagos, where Ojukwu was a student. On completion of his education in Oxford, he worked briefly in the civil service before joining the army in 1957.

Whatever anyone may say about Ojukwu’s service in the army, he resisted the extension of the 1966 coup to Kano, where he was in charge of the 5th Battalion. Ojukwu supported the forces loyal to the Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi.

Ironsi, the first military Head of State appointed Ojukwu one of the four regional Military Governors in January 1966. By 29 May, more Ndigbo were slaughtered in the North, the survivors fled to the East, putting lots of pressure on everything. Northern army officers in a counter coup two months later, killed Ironsi and chose Col Yakubu Gowon over Brigadier A. O. Ogundipe as Head of State.

Ojukwu resisted the appointment on two counts – nobody had given an account of what happened to Ironsi, hierarchy should be followed in replacing Ironsi. Ogundipe, Ojukwu argued, was the most senior officer and should be the Head of State. He refused to recognise Gowon’s leadership.

Several peace talks, the most important being the Aburi Declaration in January 1967 failed. Aburi proposed confederation, and more powers for the regions; terms acceptable to the East, Nigeria turned them down. Those promoting sovereign national conference should read the Aburi documents; Nigeria lost it then.

Ojukwu declared a sovereign state of Biafra on 30 May 1967. “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,” he said in the landmark speech.

By 6 July 1967, Gowon attacked Biafra. The war lasted 30 months. The East braved international gang up, starvation, blockade, surviving mostly on propaganda machinery that Nigeria could not match.

Ojukwu was my Head of State. My life was in his hands in my young years. He egged us on during the war. The mention of his name, the death of his half brother Tom Briggs in action in Omoba, minutes from Umuokegwu, my village, the military presence around us, were enough reasons to make my young war efforts.

After school under palm plantations, we gladly picked scrap metals, used batteries as contributions to the making of the dreaded ogbunigwe, Biafra’s locally produced arsenal. We fetched water for the soldiers. We lustfully sang Land of The Rising Sun (the Biafran anthem) without a clue what it was, except that our teachers told us it was an important song that made Ojukwu and our soldiers happy.

When young people from our villages were conscripted into the army and they died, we mourned them lightly. Our tears, if they run for too long, we reasoned, would please the enemy. We trusted Ojukwu to know what was best, in hunger and anger at the way, the rest of world treated Biafra.

Young as he was, Ojukwu managed an impossible situation; overcoming restrictions to get arms to defend Biafra, find medical help abroad (Gabon in particular) for child who went down with vitamin deficiencies. Kwashiorkor, seen these days as television images in Ethiopia and Somalia, was a reality in Biafra. We refused to surrender.

Ojukwu’s stirring speeches helped. Okoko Ndem (from today’s Akwa Ibom, he died in 2003 and received a heroic burial from Ndigbo) rendered these matters in emotion-filled Igbo on Radio Biafra, a mobile station, with its transmission run from equipment mounted on a jeep. We lived on Ojukwu’s words.

I cannot forget the injunction with which Okoko Ndem concluded the broadcasts. “Anyone surrounded by enemies must be vigilant. Biafrans you cannot afford to sleep.” We were so vigilant that when Aba fell (the euphemism for the vandals, as Radio Biafra called Nigerian troops, over running it), we lived for almost two years only 18 kilometres from the actions. We hung our lives on the fables of Ojukwu being in Aba, confronting the enemy. One of my uncles, Lawrence, died in action in Ngwa High School; it was part of the war. Another vibrant young Mike Onwueyi died in Ikot Ekpene, he was an only son of aged parents, we buried him proudly with full honours. Another of my uncles had a bullet wound in his biceps in 1968, 24 years after, the shrapnel that had lodged there dropped off harmlessly.

Every family has its war stories, somewhere Ojukwu is in it. Patrick, a beloved village never returned. We postponed mourning after tales that he went on exile with Ojukwu. On 9 January 1970, Ojukwu handed over to Chief of General Staff Major-General Philip Effiong, and left for exile in Côte d’Ivoire, where President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Biafra’s worthy ally since 14 May 1968, granted him political asylum. His opponents had a field day accusing him of cowardice, though some of them had advised this line of action to avoid annihilation of Ndigbo at the end of the war.

President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari granted Ojukwu an official pardon in 1982. His forays into politics remained unsuccessful, the first in 1983 suffering from a conspiracy by his own party members, who feared that his popularity might unsettle power calculations.

Where are his war memoirs? He kept promising to write one. “I do not misplace the need for memoirs… so I will not say I will not write any memoirs. In any case, how do you live out the boredom of old age if you are not writing memoirs?

Oh, I have been writing for the past twenty years. And anybody who knows me well will tell you that I am a wild note taker. Today, I do not see as clearly as I used to, but I assure you that when I leave you, I will sit down with my staff, and note a few things deriving from this conversation, enriched by my contact with you. Yes, I’ll do that,” he told Professor Nnaemeka Ikpeze and Nduka Otiono who interviewed him six years ago for the Chinua Achebe series Vanguard published.

Nigerians will have to live without those memoirs. If published, they will add to the blaze of controversies Ojukwu evoked and hopefully more understanding of what happened in Biafra which Because I was Involved, his 1987 book, did not cover.

We have lost a strong voice in the sustenance of debates that engender a sense of the possibilities of freedom. We have lost a major piece in the Nigerian puzzle. No denigration of Dikedioranma, a patriot, will diminish his role in Nigeria. Those who doubt his involvement live in denial and keep the realities of the Nigerian situation at bay.
Source: Vanguard, 27th November 2011.

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The meaning of Emeka

IN BRIEF
Chucks Iloegbunam examines the real essence of the man chukwuemeka and his contributions to true nationhood aftyer the war.

Death didn’t catch up with Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu like a thief in the night. People knew that, given his septuagenarian status and his long drawn-out battle with ill health, only one thing rang true – the inevitability of the fall of his final curtain.

Seventy-eight years of controversy has come full circle; a new vista of controversy is already launched into orbit like a satellite, to circle our lives in widening gyres, to define and confine the perimeters of our arguments, to shake with utter violence our very perception of things. Ojukwu lived in controversy. If he saw through to earth from the back of beyond, he would be mournful if his passing didn’t throw us all in unmitigated contention.

That is all that life is all about: a series of imponderables, a catalogue of inevitabilities. Yet, through time and in spite of the protestations of history, people have always tried to mediate the movement of transition. Life would lose its meaning if docility reigned on the understanding that destiny is writ large and fulminations are incapable of altering even an iota of the decided.

There were many of such “decided” realities that Ojukwu swarm against, like a powerful oarsman rowing his boat against high currents and gale-force winds. By the time he took a Masters degree in History from Oxford, primary education was not a fait accompli for most of his countrymen and women.

To then have the gradate son of a multimillionaire businessman turn his back on his spectacular pedigree in order to don the uniform of an Army recruit was an aberration beyond compare. He defeated his father’s vehement opposition to eventually become the first university graduate in the officer corps of the Nigerian Army then known as the Queens Own Nigerian Regiment.

Analysts have said that Ojukwu went military as a means of appropriating political power. But, if as the stories went, he had invited Majors David Ejoor and Yakubu Gowon to help in organizing a putsch, that would leave him somewhat in a nationalist mode. He would not be classed in the ranks of sectionalists who shot to power on blinkered, ethnic proclivities.

There are many like Ojukwu in the Igbo country – including Chinua Achebe, and Mbonu Ojike, who died in his prime. They are the true measure of the Igbo spirit which Ojukwu exemplified in 1966. Today, people will be hard put to find sterling characters like them. Today, the dangling of an oil block or the waving a fat dollar-denominated cheque or a ministerial appointment would send many a pretender to Igbo leadership into swearing that the anti-Igbo pogrom of 1966 had not taken place. It is eternally to Ojukwu’s credit that he never posted his conscience, nor was he ever enticed by filthy lucre; he continued to the very end with the insistence that no ethnic group deserved to be cannon fodder in the Nigerian polity; no Nigerian deserved to be a second-class citizen in his own country.

Chukwuemeka Odumegwo-Ojukwu believed that, to be a good Nigerian, one had to be a good representative of his ethnic group. A bad Hausa can hardly make a good Nigerian or a bad Yoruba an epitome of the exemplary Nigerian. No one represented his people properly, who sat twiddling his fingers in the face of a massacring spree against them. That was what led to Biafra – the inevitability of fighting against that which had been decided. On the Biafra experience, Ojukwu would now speak to Nigerians and the entire world from his grave, for there is no doubt at all that his memoirs on the civil war will follow as surely as dawn follows night. Had his resistance to pogrom ended in futility?

Ojukwu returned from exile in 1983, to rapturous reception by his kinsmen and women. In six months he went into partisan politics and would remain in it until he paid that price which all the living owe. Political partisanship has its attributes and tribulations. Ojukwu had entered a political party opposed by Nnamdi Azikiwe. A lot of hairsplitting ensued. A lot more followed, most of which showed so much fire but very little light. Yet only Azikiwe and Ojukwu are, in the truest sense, acclaimed Igbo leaders.

With the inception of the Fourth Republic, Ojukwu found himself in another political party not generally approved of by his people. When the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) was registered as a political party, Ojukwu joined his natural hearth by decamping to it. He became the soul of the party. He catapulted its fortunes to the skies. Had the general elections of 2003 not been a cruel joke on the citizens of Nigeria, APGA’s victories would have superseded the one state whose gubernatorial election it won. But Ojukwu’s main point was not electoral victory per se. He articulated his raison d’etre for joining APGA at the Grand Hotel in Asaba during the 2003 campaigns. A certain Peter Obi was in the audience as were scores of others including Joe Achuzia, Emmanuel Nwobosi, Ned Nwoko who was the APGA governorship candidate for Delta State and Chekwas Okorie who was then the APGA chairman.

Said Ojukwu at that memorable occasion: “I belonged to another party. But the moment APGA became a reality, I left my former party and joined it. Every people deserve a voice of their own. After all, the man sent thieving by his father uses his foot to shatter the door.” It all ties up to the Ojukwu worldview, to wit that tiny bits constitute the whole; wholeness cannot bear upon the whole unless its constituent parts are in good health. This raises a fundamental question. What did Ojukwu think was the outcome of his yeoman efforts to ensure that his people owned a voice of their won in the Nigerian entity? The man never betrayed his ethnic group. Yet, he was garlanded with betrayal by those Ndigbo who surrounded him in order to polish their puny images.

In a larger context Ojukwu had fought against the Nigerian nation. But he had celebrated Nigeria’s Independence in 1960 dressed in Hausa robes. When the war ended, he recommitted himself to the idea of one united Nigeria based on justice, equity and fair play. And he pursued that course with unwavering tenacity. Can unwavering tenacity be attributed to the Lilliputians under whose watch the Voice of Ndigbo is currently floundering?

I mourn a man who told me in his Enugu home and in the presence of his first-born son, Emeka, and Emmanuel Nwobosi, that I required neither visa nor appointment to visit. I never for once confused him for a saint. But there was a lot to learn from him as we often engaged in verbal jousts on the state of the nation. Here, I must mention two issues that continued to keep him unhappy. One is any report of another round of Igbo massacres anywhere in Nigeria. Second is the conversion of the Igbo country into one huge cantonment of military and paramilitary checkpoints aimed at perpetually subjugating the people. Did Ojukwu die believing that those trumpeting their followership of his ideals are minded to address these stupefying anomalies?

“AN OLD STAR departs, leaves us here on the shore

Gazing heavenward for a new star approaching;

The new star appears, foreshadows its going

Before a going and coming that goes on forever…” So wrote the late, great poet, Christopher Okigbo in “Elergy for Alto”, the final movement in Path of Thunder, his poems prophesying the Nigerian civil war. Because arrival and departure are two sides of the same coin, Ndigbo see life as a market peopled by all mortals, each carrying their own shopping basket. The moment one registers a basketful of shopping, they depart. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu has shopped his last. He has passed. To await all of us alive today, but whose passing will follow as a matter of course.

We have entered right now into the heart of the season with the contradictory qualities of verity and “let’s pretend”. Nnewi, Ojukwu’s hometown, will instantaneously metamorphose into a shrine. Devotees will troop in concurrent and interminable trains. Tributes will buckle under the deadweight of additional tributes. Eulogies will soar in eloquence to the highest heavens. Both the sprightly and the jaded will jostle for the photo-opportunity. All these will open up vistas of analysis and interpretations for some of us. As for others of us, there is much to chew about the meaning of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s life, which is this ideal that is worth fighting for: All Nigerians have the inalienable right to live in comfort and safety in this country.

 Iloegbunam is the author of Ironside, the biography of General Aguiyi-Ironsi, Nigeria’s first military Head of State.
Source: Vanguard, 27th November 2011.

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Ojukwu: The end His last moments in London hospital How death news was broken

DEATH, they say, is an acquired trait, and there is no mortal who will not taste of its bitter pill. When it will come, no mortal knows; but like an unrelenting

stalker, it shadows its victims and takes them away the way a hen plucks its feathers. 

And so, Chief Chukwuemeka  Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi and the undisputable leader of Igbo nation is dead. His death is, nonetheless, a sting in the tail for the former Biafran warlord, who fought with death on several occasions to remain alive, but eventually capitulated to its superior power as he bade the world farewell on Saturday, 26th November, 2011in a London hospital at the age of 78.

Ojukwu, a historian, soldier and politician, was hated and loved by many, depending on which side of  the divide one is looking at his life and times. For larger segment of Nigerians and beyond, he represented the soul of Nd’Igbo, even as some still have reservation on his leadership for leading the Igbo to the ill-fated Nigerian/ Biafran civil war in 1967.

His death marks a watershed, the end of yet another monumental epoch, in Nigeria’s turbulent history. As an Igbo nationalist, soldier, politician and thinker, Ojukwu is unarguably the greatest son of Igboland yet after Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first Head of State, a nationalist and pan-African thinker.

Son of Sir Louis Phillippe Odumegwu-Ojukwu, a businessman from Nnewi in South-Eastern Nigeria, who  died in 1966, Ojukwu was born on November 4, 1933 at Zungeru, Kaduna State, and attended the Lincoln College, Oxford University, United Kingdom, where he took a Masters degree in history.

He joined the civil service in Eastern Nigeria as an administrative officer at Udi in present-day Enugu State, but within months of working with the colonial civil service, he enlisted in the Nigerian Army together with some other young and brilliant university graduates, including O. Olutoye (1956); Emmanuel Ifeajuna and C. O. Rotimi (1960), and Adewale Ademoyega (1962). In accordance with the tempo of the times and given his academic qualifications as a first graduate in the Nigerian Army, Ojukwu had a rapid promotion in the Nigerian Army, eventually becoming its Quartermaster General.

He served under Major-General Johnson Thomas Umunakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi in the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in the Congo and was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel in 1964 and posted to Kano, where he commanded the 5th Battalion of the Nigerian Army. However, on January 15, 1966, radical soldier, Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, executed the first military coup in the country.

However, it was largely owing to the efforts of Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who supported the forces loyal to the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Aguiyi-Ironisi, that the coup suffered a reversal in the North, where it had recorded initial success, with Nzeogwu in firm control of Kaduna. The coup had flopped in other parts of the country, and trickled into the Supreme Headquarters in Lagos with assurance that he would be part of the new military government, Nzeogwu was arrested and jailed along with other mutineers.

General Aguiyi-Ironsi took over the leadership of the country and thus became the first military Head of State. On Monday, January 17, 1966, Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu was appointed military governor of Eastern Region, together with Lt.-Cols Hassan Usman Katsina (North), Francis Adekunle Fajuyi (West), and David Akpode Ejoor (Mid West), who formed the Supreme Military Council with Brigadier B.A.O Ogundipe, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters; Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, Chief of Staff Army Headquarters, Commodore J. E. A. Wey; Head of Nigerian Navy, and Lt. Col. George T. Kurubo, Head of Air Force.

Although the counter coup by a group of northern officers, including Majors Murtala Muhammed, Theophilus Danjuma on July 29, 1966, in which General Aguiyi-Ironsi and his host Colonel Fajuyi were abducted and killed in Ibadan, and in which officers of South-Eastern and Mid-western origin were targeted and systematically eliminated across the country, led to a pogrom which consumed the Igbo across the country, Ojukwu maintained that the crisis could be resolved peacefully.

However, his insistence that Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe should take over leadership of the country, in line with military hierarchy, did not appeal to his colleagues, and Colonel Gowon assumed leadership of the country. As he was to tell an interviewer, Chidi Nwangu, in 1999, “My problem in Nigeria is that my line has been a strategy of love and friendship. When Ironsi died, which is when I came out into the open politically, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu did not want to take over.I said that Ogundipe was the number-two, the rightful number two. Having signed for the army, you must accept death whenever and however it comes.”

Following the near breakdown of law and order engineered by his refusal to recognise Gowon as Commander-in-Chief, efforts were made to broker peace, particularly the meeting in Aburi, Ghana in January 1967 hosted by General Joseph Ankrah, where the contending parties signed what became known as the “Aburi Accord.”

Following Gowon’s splitting of the Eastern Region into three states on May 27, 1967,  Ojukwu, on May 30, 1967, arising from a resolution by the Eastern Nigerian Constituent Assembly, declared Eastern Nigeria a sovereign state henceforth to be known as Biafra. The civil war, which followed (1967-1970), remains the saddest part of Nigeria’s history, perhaps followed by the criminal annulment of the 1993 presidential elections won by Chief MKO Abiola and the subsequent despotic,  totalitarian regime of General Sani Abacha (1993-1998).

Speaking on the Nigerian Civil War, Ojukwu said: “I regret the disabilities of the war. The overall pattern and rationale was honest. It was a choice, it was either to become a slave of the Hausas at that time, or to do what we did. And up till tomorrow, whenever I’m given the opportunity to choose choice between slavery and … (of course), I’ll reject slavery.’’ However, Ojukwu’s contention is hotly disputed by many eminent Nigerians, including Professor Wole Soyinka, who felt that he could not have been blameless in the torrents of events that plagued the country prior to, during, and after the civil war.

After 13 years in exile, the Federal Government led by President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari granted Ojukwu an official pardon and he was given a hero’s welcome by his Nnewi people, who gave him  the title of “Ikemba,” while the entire Igbo nation named him “Dikedioramma” (Beloved hero).

Whatever his sins against the Nigerian nation, Ojukwu’s efforts at maintaining the country’s unity since his return from  exile  cannot be denied. And among his notable contributions to the political lexicon of the country was the description of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as “the greatest president Nigeria never had”’

Ojukwu was the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), a party which is still closely associated with the South-East geopolitical zone of the country, in the 2007 presidential election. On January 14, 2008 the Federal Government paid him his military pension, but he complained about the reference to him as a Lieutenant Colonel. “I am a four-star general of the Biafran Army,” he said, drawing attention to parallels from the American civil war.

On Africa’s economic relations with Western powers, particularly the USA, Ojukwu said: ‘’I think we need to get into a proper economic dialogue with the ones in America responsible for trade and economic relations. One thing worries me. We know that at least the cost of living and operating businesses is low in Africa, lower than in South-East Asia, I am worried that America, rather than work with Africa, and help Africa develop its infrastructure and work with the U.S., America goes to the South-East Asia.

“We are allowed to focus on primary, agricultural products, while other countries are supported to add value to other aspects of economic production. Africa also needs a secure atmosphere for production. If we do this, it will improve our linking our states/countries with American companies, and government. We should do these without being exploited.‘’

Perhaps an inroad into what many considered his iron personality is provided through his own self evaluation:” I don’t make any apologies for that (being seen and operating as stubborn). Many great leaders are also seen as stubborn. For example, Napoleon was very stubborn. Charles De Gaulle of France was very stubborn, General MacArthur, an American, too, was stubborn and arrogant.”

Chief Ojukwu spent his last days in Enugu, the Enugu State capital. Firstly, he lived in a bungalow at Isi-Uzo street, Independence Layout, Enugu, with his ex-beauty queen, Lady Bianca, and his children before packing into his Casabiaca palatial mansion at Government Reservation Area also in Enugu metropolis.

He was highly respected that meeting him at his residence was done through a stiff protocol as if he was a Military Head of State up to his last moment  in London.

Little wonder, his wife, Lady Bianca, while speaking in Enugu at Ikemba’s 78th birthday on November 11, this year, told a large crowd that her husband was addressed in far away London by his physicians as   “General”.“When I go back to London, I’ll tell my husband, “General, your people love you. General, your people remember you. General, your people are praying for you. General, your people are waiting for your return,” she told the crowd.

Ultimately, the former Biafran colossus would be remembered for his bravery, commitment, sincerity of purpose and most importantly his undiluted love for the Igbo nation.

Meanwhile Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu, is dead. He died at the age of 78 during a protracted illness in a London hospital.

According to a press release issued by the family of the former warlord, signed by the late Igbo leader’s son, Emeka Ojukwu (Jnr), Odumegwu-Ojukwu, had a fierce battle with stroke.

“After a protracted and brave fight against stroke, the People’s General,  Ikemba Nnewi, Dikedioranma Ndigbo,  Ezeigbo Gburugburu,  Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, died in the early hours of today in London.

“We thank all those who showed concern in our period of difficulties, starting from the president of country, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

“We thank, in a special way, the governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, who went above and beyond the call to duty to look after him. Besides paying the hospital bills, he visited London on a monthly basis to see him,” the statement read in part.

The son of the Biafran warlord, Ojukwu junior, sent a text to Governor Peter Obi, who was returning from France to Nigeria, where he accompanied President Goodluck Jonathan on an official visit to the country that his father had passed on. He shouted “Oh no, oh no!” ad infinitum, and the governor quickly contacted Bianca Ojukwu, who was in London. She confirmed the death of her husband. The governor also called his wife, who was in France and she quickly joined Bianca in London.

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His place in Nigeria’s history assured -Jonathan

Leon Usigbe, Abuja

The Presidency announced on Saturday that the news of the death of Chief Odumegwu-Ojukwu in the United Kingdom was received by President Goodluck Jonathan with much sadness and a deep feeling of great national loss.

A statement signed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, noted that Jonathan joined Chief Ojukwu’s family, the government and people of his home state, Anambra, the entire Igbo people of Nigeria and his friends, associates and followers across the country in mourning him.

Jonathan urged them to be comforted by the knowledge that Chief Ojukwu lived a most fulfilled life and has, in passing on, left behind a record of very notable contributions to the evolution of modern Nigeria which will assure his place in the history of the country.

President Jonathan expressed the belief that the late Chief 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.”

He called on Chief Ojukwu’s family, his associates and followers to make his rites of passage a celebration of his most worthy and memorable life spent in the service of his people and the nation.

The president prayed that God Almighty would  grant Chief Ojukwu’s soul eternal rest from his earthly labours.

He was a ‘heroes’ hero’ —Mark
Taiwo Adisa, Abuja

President of the Senate, David Mark, also lamented the demise of  Ojukwu, saying he fought   to liberate the oppressed till the end.

He described the late Ojukwu as a heroes’ hero, adding that he was a dogged fighter, whose contributions to the nation’s development cannot be underestimated.

He described the former Biafran leader as a hero.

Mark, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said “Ojukwu remains one of the greatest Nigerians that ever lived.

“No matter how much you love or hate him, Ojukwu was a man who loved his people and was ever prepared to lay down his life for them to have a better living.

“No matter the angle from which it is viewed, Ojukwu will be remembered as a man who stood up to be counted when it mattered most. He was a man who hated oppression and he did his best to liberate the downtrodden,” the statement read.

An Iroko has fallen -Ekweremadu
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, in a statement entitled ‘An Iroko Has Fallen,’ stated that the life of the Ikemba Nnewi “was like an interesting folktale which every well-meaning Nigerian would have naturally wished never to come to an end.”

He stated further that with Ojukwu’s death,  “a mighty Iroko has fallen and a big masquerade has touched the ground.

“Ojukwu was a legend, intellectual, patriot and a great statesman who contributed immensely to the development of the nation.”

He added that Ojukwu's wits, pieces of fatherly advice and wealth of experience would be utterly missed.

He was an issue in Nigeria’s evolution —Abaribe
Chairman, Media and Public Affairs Committee of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, also mourned the late Biafran leader.

Abaribe, in a statement issued in Abuja, said the Senate saw the late Ojukwu as “the issue in Nigeria's evolutionary process.”

He  stated in the condolence message that,  “Dim Ojukwu was a visionary leader whose passion for a Nigeria where every federating unit would be proud of belonging to was unparalleled.

“He saw tomorrow and his action and passion for a truly united Nigeria shaped our socio-political environment of today."

Abaribe said the Senate condoled with Nigerians, Nd’Igbo, the government and people of Anambra State as well as the deceased family over the loss of the elderstatesman.

He was a hero —Sylva
Oluwole Ige, Yenagoa

Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, described the death of  Chief Ojukwu as the loss of a renowned hero, who devoted his lifetime to the fight against injustice and promotion of equality among Nigerians.

In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Doifie Ola,  Sylva, “Chief Odimegwu-Ojukwu was a man of principle, a great Nigerian who remained dedicated to his convictions until death. Even when he was forced by the circumstances of his day to lead his people into a war, and later went into exile, he returned to the country after a national pardon to join other Nigerians in a broad political platform for nation-building.”

We lost a transformational leader —Reps
Jacob Olatunji and Kolawole Daniel, Abuja

The House of Representatives described the death Ojukwu as a rude shock, saying his demise left a deep hole in Nigeria’s quest for transformational leadership.

The House, in a statement issued and signed by its  Media and Public Affairs Committee chairman, Honourable Zakari Mohammed, noted that “Ojukwu was the first Nigerian graduate to have enlisted in the Nigerian army and added intellectual dimension to the force while in service of his fatherland.”

The statement added that, “while alive, Ojukwu displayed rare courage on principled stand on sensitive national matters. We in the Seventh Assembly regret his death, but we are consoled by the fact that we will continue to uphold his  principle, ideals and uncommon courage that Ojukwu lived and died for.

In his own reaction, chairman, House Committee on Banking and Currency, Honourable Jones Chukwudi Onyereri, described the deceased as “a great leader with clarity of vision very courageous and full of strength. The pillar of Ndi Igbo. Igbo bu Igbo will surely miss him. The question on the lips of Ndi Igbo is could there ever be another Ikemba. Adieu our great leader.”

Honourable Daniel Reyenieju, on his part said, “his death is unfortunate, though he is  just one amongst millions as he was a great man with a sound mind and brain.”

On his part, chairman House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Honourable Dakuku Peterside, described Ojukwu as a great patriot who provided leadership for his people at a very critical stage in Nigeria's history.

It’s a colossal loss —Atiku
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar described the death of Ojukwu as another colossal loss to Nigeria, “more so at a time Nigeria is in dire need of efforts by statesmen like him for unity and reconciliation of the country.”

In a condolence message issued in Abuja by his media aide, Atiku recalled that Ojukwu’s role as a key actor in Nigeria’s political development could not be easily forgotten.
He said Ojukwu was a tremendously respected and influential politician whose endorsement was frequently needed by others to build their political careers.

He loved his people —Fayemi
By Stephen Gbadamosi
 

Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, while commiserating with the family of the late Biafran leader “and the entire people and governments of the South-East geopolitical zone, said the Ikemba loved his people.

Fayemi, in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Olayinka Oyebode, and sent to Sunday Tribune from Ado-Ekiti, described “the late Ikemba Nnewi, who was also the National leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA),” as a leader who loved his people and defended their interests till he breathed his last.

He said it was for this reason that the late leader was reverred by his people.

The Ekiti State governor said Ojukwu would be remembered as a leader who never shied away from making his stand known on any issue, especially those that have directly affected the interest of his people.

“On behalf of my family and the entire people of Ekiti State, I commiserate with the entire family of the late Chief Ojukwu, the government and the people of Anambra State and, indeed, the governments and people of the states in the South-East geopolitical zone,” he said.

Nigeria lost a most forthright personality —Obi
In his reaction, Anambra State governor, Mr. Obi, lamented that with Ojukwu’s death, the entire Igbo race, at home and in the Diaspora, and the entire Nigerians have lost a treasure, describing him as one of the most forthright personalities Nigeria has ever had.

Obi further described Ojukwu as a symbol of justice and equity, having devoted his entire lifetime to the pursuit of a Nigeria where these ideals will obtain, adding that history will remember him.

“With his death, part of every Igbo man has also died. We shall continue to remember him in our prayers as we will work out further details in consultation with his family and other stakeholders,” Obi said.

It came to us as a rude shock —Uwazuruike
By Stephen Gbadamosi

Leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, said the death of Chief Ojukwu came as a rude shock.
"It came to us as a rude shock. But then, what do we do? We as a people in MASSOB will continue to keep his ideals; what he is known for, what he stands for and all that.
"We shall continue to fight for the cause of the Igbo nation as he did while alive," he said.

He was a man of principle —Fayose
By Stephen Gbadamosi

Former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, who responded to Chief Ojukwu death in a text message, said the deceased would remain a man of principle, adding that among his sterling qualities was that he was never an apologist.

"Ojukwu’s will remain a man of principle. He was never an apologist," he noted.

We lost the finest gem in Igboland —Ekwunife
Also bemoaning Ojukwu’s demise, the member representing Anaocha, Dunukofia/Njikoka Federal constituency, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, stated that, "we have lost the finest of Igbo extraction. A rare gem, a selfless and patriotic Nigerian. A nationalist whose principles are unequalled.

“Dim Ojukwu would be remembered for his bravery, commitment, sincerity of purpose, and most importantly, his undiluted love for his people.  We will greatly miss him. May God grant him eternal rest.”

It’s a shock —Ayogu Eze
Jude Ossai, Enugu

Chairman, Senate Committee on Works and representative of the Enugu-North Senatorial District at the Senate, Chief Ayogu Eze, said, “the news of the death in London of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, has come to me as a shock.

“He was a quintessential military officer who knew exactly when to draw the line between war and nation-building. He will be numbered among the few people in the world who after waging war against their nations turned round to become the most vocal crusaders for peace and unity within the same countries. His active participation in the affairs of the Nigerian nation after the civil war spoke volumes about his faith in the Nigerian project.

“His leadership of the All Nigeria Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) a platform perceived to be sympathetic to the Igbo cause, was in character with his determination to keep faith with his people. Nigeria will miss this nationalist who fought for a balanced Nigerian federation till he took his last breath. May God grant his soul eternal repose. Adieu, Ikemba Nnewi. Adieu, Eze Igbo Gburu Gburu.”

We are in deep mourning —Uko, IYM leader
President, Igbo Youths Movement (IYM), Evangelist Elliot Uko, said Nd’Igbo were in deep mourning for the passing on of Chief Ojukwu, adding that there was dark cloud over Igboland with the news of the death of Ikemba.

The activist stated that “inasmuch as we are mourning, we are consoled by his exemplary life. ”

A great loss to Nigeria —Babatope
Former Minsiter of Aviation and Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, also said the death of Ojukwu was a great loss to the entire nation.

He described the former Biafran leader as a patriotic leader whose invaluable efforts to unite Nigeria would never be confined to the urn of history.

The former minister added that Ojukwu, despite having a rich background, rejected his status and remained accessible to everyone, irrespective of age, religion, ethnic and political affiliation.

He was a hero —Amb Ebeyi
Former Nigerian Ambassador to Spain, Kingsley Ebeyi, said in exclamation; “Is he dead now? Oh my God!”

The PDP leader remarked that Chief Ojukwu was a hero and he lived a fulfilled life.

“He was the greatest Igbo man as he spent his entire life to change the cause of Igbo people for the better. May his soul rest in perfect peace,” he said.

He can’t be replaced—Ezeife
By Kunle Oderemi

Former Anambra State governor, Dr. Chukuemeka Ezeife, said “among the Igbo, Ojukwu is truly the irreplaceable leader. No Igbo leader has half of his charisma, half of his trust and love for his people. Among us, the Igbo, Ojukwu can do no wrong; he is the heart and soul of the Igbo.” Who would have assumed the title of EzeIgbo Gburugburu without protest? No  Ikemba cannot die.”

He was fulfilled —Nnaji
Chief Ray Nnaji, legal practitioner and one-time Commissioner for Youths and Sports in Enugu State said Chief Ojukwu, for reaching 78 years, had fulfilled the biblical saying of three scores and 10, “but we the Igbo would have needed him more, especially as Nd’Ibgo are seeking an exemplary leader like Chief Ojukwu to lead them.

“I wish the family of Ikemba the fortitude to bear the great loss. Nd’Igbo and Nigeria have lost a great son.”

We lost a rare gem —Igwe Ezeh
The traditional ruler of Amala in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State, popularly called Igwe Waziri , Igwe Patrick Ezeh, said he was shocked by the news of Chief Ojukwu’s death.

The royal father said Nd’Igbo had lost a rare gem and wished his family the fortitude to bear the loss.

It’s no shock -Rep
By Segun Adebayo

Member, House of Representatives, Kehinde Odeneye, stated Ojukwu’s death didn’t come as a shock  because he had been sick for sometime before he eventually gave up the fight.

“He was a true leader, he fought for what he believed in,” he said.

Source: Tribune, 27th November 2011.

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Ojukwu Would Have Defended Nigeria, If... - Gowon Speaks On Ojukwu's Death At 78

Leader of defunct Biafra Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who died early yesterday at the Hammers Field Hospital in London, would have defended Nigeria with comparable zeal, “if he were the one in my shoes”, Gen Yakubu Gowon, former head of state and contemporary of the late Ojukwu, stated yesterday.

“I have never regarded or called Ojukwu an enemy. He had been my friend for a very long time when we used to crack jokes at the officers’mess. It was unfortunate that he took up arms against Nigeria, but I believed very strongly that if he were the one in my shoes, he would have defended Nigeria with the same zeal,” Gowon told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY yesterday.

The former leader who prosecuted the 30-month-long Nigeria-Biafra civil war expressed gladness that Ojukwu died a committed Nigerian.

“I am also glad that he died as a very committed Nigerian who even tried to be president democratically; not once but twice. Now that he has ascended to glory, may his soul find peace. “It is a very sad news but it is a path everyone will tread once your time is up. I was glad to hear that he passed away peacefully.

“My condolence to his wife Bianca, children and grandchildren. My condolence also to his replica, Ojukwu Jnr. My condolence also to my young friend, the governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi,” he further added.

The family of the late ex-Biafran warlord yesterday confirmed his death. A statement signed by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu for the family, said he died after a protracted and brave fight against stroke.

“The People’s General,  Ikemba Nnewi, Dikedioranma Ndigbo, Odenigbo Ngwo,  Ezeigbo Gburugburu,  Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, died in the early hours of today in London.We thank all those that showed concern in our period of difficulties, starting from the President of the country, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR. We thank, in a special way, the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, who went above and beyond the call to duty to look after him.

“Besides paying the hospital bills, he visited London on a monthly basis to see him. He was there yesterday and only came back this morning to receive the news, whereupon he entered the next available flight back to London. He even had to fly Economy since other classes were fully booked.”

The death of Ojukwu, who was also leader of the opposition All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), after a long-drawn battle with stroke in London, has further depleted the ranks of foremost personalities that shaped post-independence Nigeria.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday described the late Ojukwu as a brave, courageous, fearless and charismatic leader whose outstanding contributions to the evolution of modern Nigeria had since assured his place in the history of the country.

Jonathan, who noted that it was with sadness and a deep feeling of great national loss that he received news of the death of Ojukwu in the United Kingdom,  prayed God to grant his soul eternal rest from his earthly labours.

According to him, “The late Chief 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”.

“President Jonathan joins Chief Ojukwu’s family, the government and people of his home state, Anambra, the entire Igbo people of Nigeria and his friends, associates and followers across the country in mourning him,” a statement by the president’s spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati stated.

Former head of state Gen Muhammadu Buhari stated that: “I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu and the Ojukwu extended family, the governments of the South-Eastern states, Ndigbo in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, and to the entirety of the people of Nigeria on this great loss.

“In his life, Dim Ojukwu had been many things to many people—a soldier, a leader, a rebel and a politician. It was in his role as rebel to the nation and a symbol to his people and fighter for their rights that he came to play a pivotal role in the tragic civil war in which we found ourselves in trenches facing each other as brother-enemies fighting to preserve the unity and territorial integrity of our fatherland. Later, we would still be fighting, this time together in the trenches of Nigeria’s politics, to finish the battle for unity and progress.”

For Senate President David Mark, the deceased Ikemba Nnewi was a dogged fighter who fought till the end to liberate the oppressed.

“No matter the angle it is viewed, Ojukwu will be remembered as a man who stood up to be counted when it mattered most. He was a man who hated oppression and he did his best to liberate the downtrodden.”

According to him, “Ojukwu deserved a prominent chapter in the history of Nigeria and no one can deny the fact the he played his role creditably according to the dictates of the time.”

He stressed that Ojukwu on return from exile after the ill-fated 30-month-old fratricidal Nigeria/Biafra civil strife organised his people on the need to fully reintegrate into the Nigerian nation state.

The northern governor in their reaction stated that Nigeria has lost a great man in the death of   Ojukwu.

Chairman of the forum and governor of Niger State Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu commiserated with the family of the late Ojukwu on behalf of the Northern Governors’ Forum saying that the people of Niger State, 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.

In a condolence message signed by his chief press secretary, Malam Danladi Ndayebo, the governor said though Ojukwu died at a ripe age of 78,after a prolonged illness, the forum is deeply pained by his passage.

“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,” the statement said.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, on his part, described the death of Ojukwu as another colossal loss to Nigeria at a time of strenuous efforts for unity and reconciliation.

In a condolence message issued in Abuja by his media office, Atiku Abubakar recalled that Ojukwu’s role as a key actor in Nigeria’s political development cannot be easily forgotten.

He said Ojukwu was a tremendously respected and influential politician whose endorsement was frequently needed by others to build their political careers. According to Atiku, history had cast the late Ojukwu into a role and he played that part to the best of his abilities.

Prominent Igbo leaders yesterday eulogized late ex-Biafran leader.

Ojukwu, according to his wife, Bianca,  died  in Hammers Field Hospital in London in the early hours of yesterday.

He died less than a month after his 78th birthday celebration organized for him by the leader of the Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike.

Reacting to the demise of Ojukwu, Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State expressed profound shock and sorrow over the death of the former Biafran leader.

Chime, in a release singed by his chief press secretary Chukwudi Achife, said that his passage had robbed the country of one her most notable historical and political figures.

He  described Ojukwu as  a foremost nationalist and activist whose contributions to the political and constitutional development of the country are not only indelible but in some ways inimitable.

The governor further described the deceased as a symbol of the struggle against injustice, segregation and oppression against any group of people in the countr, adding that his epic efforts had helped to lay the foundation for national integration and the sense of equality and unity that prevails in the country today.

Meanwhile, APGA in a statement which was signed by its national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, disclosed that Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu transited in the early hours of Saturday, at about 2.30am (London time).

“We lack words to describe our grief at this moment but we give all thanks to God for this rare gift of a human being who lived an uncommon life of selfless service to humanity.

“Our deep condolence go to his wife, children and other members of the great Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu family of Umudim Nnewi , Ndigbo and all Nigerians,” APGA mourned.

Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, in his reaction, said: “Amuma na Egbeigwe edelu juuuu; Udo eji akpu Agu agbabie; Odenigbo Ngwo anabago; Ikemba Nnewi  a gaba goo; Dikedioranmma nweru ka osi  noru kitaa, Ezeigbo Gburugburu , enwooooo! Obu inaba ka anyi mezie gini? Onye ga na-ekwuru anyi? Onye ga abamba  ka Agu ma oburu na ana emegbu anyi? Enwoooooooo! Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, enwoooooo!” Translation: “Lightning and thunder are silent; the rope used to control the lion has snapped; Odenigbo (famous abroad) of Ngwo is gone;

Beloved warrior (Dikedioramma) is not sitting properly now; King of Igbo worldwide (Ezeigbo gburugburu), enwooo! (lamentation); If you go, what shall we do? Who will be speaking for us?

Who will roar like a lion when we are persecuted? Enwooooo! (lamentation) Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, enwooo! (lamentation) ”

The president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Ralph Uwechue, who also reacted yesterday said: “The passing away of Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu is like, the passing of an age in the chequered history of Igbo nation. He is a leader that has left a most significant stamp in courageous defence of Igbo cause.”

Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola also described the death of Ojukwu as a big loss to him personally and to Nigerians generally.

Governor Fashola, who expressed his condolences in an interview with journalists  at Lagos House, Marina, said; “Though we knew his health has been poor, one still expected a miracle from somebody whose image was as  large as who he was as the Ikemba of Nnewi.”

Source: Leadership, 27th November 2011.

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Igbo Politics Without Ojukwu

MIKE UBANI

Ojukwu1

With Dim Chukwuemeka  Odumegwu Ojukwu out of the way, Ndigbo’s path to the realization of their political aspirations in the larger Nigerian political spectrum may be rough, writes MIKE UBANI.

When Dim Ojukwu, Eze Igbo gburugburu  (King of all Igbos), went to Aba, the commercial nerve-centre of Abia State, in February 2003, to flag off his presidential campaign on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, the entire city was completely shut down.  Almost all the traders in the legendary Ariaria and Ngwa Road markets refused to open their shops in solidarity with a man considered to be the heart and soul of Igbo politics.  Beyond that, primary and secondary school students in the area stayed at home, even when no public holiday was declared, apparently to catch a glimpse of Ojukwu.  Ironically, Abia was then a PDP-controlled state, yet support for Ojukwu’s presidential ambition was unprecedented.

Ojukwu and his party APGA came third in that election, obviously due to the massive rigging of that election. In the five  south-east  states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo,  the election was deliberately rigged to favour the candidate of the PDP, Olusegun Obasanjo.

In 2007, when APGA re-nominated him to contest that year’s presidential election, Ojukwu’s electoral performance was relatively worse, just as the conduct of the election.  A few senior party officials attributed the failure of the party’s presidential candidate to make an appreciable electoral impact to his falling health.  But even then, he remained the indisputable Igbo leader in the hearts of millions of his people who saw him as a veritable liberator of a marginalized and traumatized people.

As head of state of the defunct Republic of Biafra, Ojukwu remained steadfast in the prosecution of the civil war which followed his declaration of the former Eastern Region as an independent and sovereign state of Biafra.  A son of a multi-millionaire, Sir Phillip Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi reportedly deployed his father’s vast resources to the prosecution of the war.  A man of uncommon courage, Ojukwu went on exile in 1970, when it became obvious that Biafra would collapse.

Ojukwu came back to limelight when the former National Party of Nigeria, NPN, civilian administration led by  Alhaji Shehu Shagari granted him amnesty.  A native of Umudim, in the highly industrialized town of Nnewi, in the present-day Anambra State, Ojukwu lost the senatorial election in 1983 to a political neophyte, Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe, of the Nigeria Peoples Party, NPP, led by the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.

His electoral defeat was said to have been masterminded by the same party that brought him back to the country and gave him a ticket to contest the senatorial election on its platform.  It was gathered that some hawks in the then NPN felt that Ojukwu would constitute a threat to national unity and cohesion if allowed to go to the Senate.

Though his political rating dropped following his association with the conservative NPN government, Ojukwu came back to political reckoning after the military dismantled the civilian government of Alhaji Shagari on December 31, 1983.

And during the almost 16 years of military rule which culminated in the handover of power to a democratically elected government in 1999, Ojukwu remained a confidant of the military and a darling of his people.

His popularity among Ndigbo apparently explained why the founding national chairman of APGA, Dr. Chekwas Okorie, approached him to fly the party’s presidential flag during the 2003 presidential elections.  He proved his mettle during that widely controversial election, and has remained a rallying point of Ndigbo since then.

Until his death in a London hospital in the early hours of yesterday from complications arising from stroke, Ojukwu remained the official spokesman of Ndigbo.  He was unwavering in his support for the real re-integration of Ndigbo into the mainstream of Nigerian politics, economics and social life.

Following the announcement of his death, there was widespread fear that Igbo politics would never be the same again.  Essentially, the consensus on the major streets of Igboland is that  Igboland has literally become a fishing pond for all manner of political parties.

They may be correct.  Ojukwu’s party, APGA, has remained factionalized in the last six years, with Victor Umeh, former national treasurer of the party, leading one faction, and Dr. Okorie at the head of the other faction.  It is felt that Ojukwu’s inability to reconcile the warring factions before he fell to the cold hands of death would cause a bigger gulf in the party, which may ultimately lead to its extinction.

It was gathered that Ojukwu had handed over the baton of Igbo political leadership to Ralph Uwazuruike, leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, before his death yesterday. Some people say that Uwazuruike is yet to muster the charisma needed to lead Ndigbo.  Beyond that, the MASSOB which he leads is generally seen by outsiders and even several Igbo elites as a controversial, and even a secessionist, organization.

According to Hill Ezeugwu, a Biafran war veteran, it will take several years for Ndigbo to produce another  personality imbued with characteristic traits that  Ojukwu was known for  - a man who will muster the courage to speak fearlessly for the interest and welfare of Ndigbo, and who will not sacrifice the interests of his people after collecting crumbs from Abuja.

According to James Ndukwe, Enugu-based public affairs analysts, what happens to Igbo politics in future will depend on the ability of Igbo political elites who have the interests of Ndigbo at heart to reconcile Umeh and Okorie.  The thinking here is that since APGA was deliberately formed as a political vehicle to project the interests of Ndigbo in a larger Nigerian political spectrum, the surviving Igbo elites should put hands together to ensure the survival of the party.  And failure to do so could, according to Ndukwe, spell doom to Igbo politics without Ojukwu.

Source: Leadership, 27th November 2011.

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