Biafra will be realised without war – 73-year-old ‘war veteran’
From PETRUS OBI, Enugu

The war Veterans Social Welfare Association is the association of soldiers that fought the Biafra-Nigerian civil war under the command of the late Gen. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission and integrated with the Nigerian Legion, the association was inaugurated by Ojukwu himself after the war.

The General Commander of the veterans, Col. Emmanuel Ossai, who hails from Aboh, Nokwa East LGA, Delta State, took over from the first commander, Col. Professor Awamadu, after the latter’s death. In a memorable occasion, he was handed over the staff of office by Ojukwu himself on March 24, 2009.

In this interview in Enugu, Col. Ossai spoke on Ojukwu’s death and the future of Biafra. He remains optimistic that Biafra would be reality through a peaceful means rather than a civil war. He also asserted that the best way to immortalise Ojukwu was by ensuring the realisation of the “Republic of Biafra,” where he expects the portrait of Ojukwu to be used in the new Biafra currency.

Ossai recalled the exact words of Ojukwu the day he handed him over the staff of office in 2009. According to hi, Ojukwu said: ‘You have to use this opportunity to do good things; wherever you go, you shall remember me. Let nobody claim the rank that does not belong to him; if you people live, I am living; anything you do must be taken to remember me; it pleases me; I am a member; as you go out remember that you are my followers; wherever you go I am there. Nothing can separate you from me; don’t leave me; you are scattered because of greediness but if you are united nobody can scatter you; it’s not difficult for me to be seeing you as often as you wish but if I do it will generate anxiety to others outside; but let them fear you; you are the bone with which the easterners stand.’
He said: “Those were the words of a man of peace and unity for his people. Ojukwu never initiated war; he has never caused any problem in Nigeria but was forced to defend his people.”

What has been happening since you took the staff of office from Ojukwu?
He charged me with the initial responsibility of inaugurating commanders for the various zones within the old Eastern Region. I have been doing this and today we have people like Lt. Col Emmanuel Okpara commanding Owerri, Lt. Col Kalu Okam from Ebonyi State; also Lt. Col Elias Onah from Nsukka commanding the veterans from that area. Lt. Col Ambrose Ugwu is commanding Enugu. We have Lt. Col Simeon Ezepue for Nnewi; Lt Col Ukwuije, commanding veterans from Abia South and Lt Col Jim Mba, 85 Marine Obigbo, among others. Today, there is only one Biafra war veterans association and that is this one set up by Ikemba himself and which is led by my humble self. We are over 8, 000 and we are still mobilising our people.

Why are the veterans gathered here today?
The essence of the gathering is to mourn our leader; we have earlier completed seven-day mourning, but it continues until we get him buried. We want the world to know that he has left people behind, people he gave assignment; there are a few places that are yet to be inaugurated, but he is no more here to see the job completed. So, we are mourning him and we will continue to mourn him.

We keep organising ourselves. We talk to our follow veterans. We give them encouragement to take heart, assuring them that what God has promised us will eventually come to pass; because I have never seen a place where God promised something and failed to do it. He has promised us Biafra and surely we will get it. So, we keep on advising our fellow veterans, telling them that one day we will hear the name of Biafra being sung into our ears. Yes, Biafra has been given to us by God and it will eventually come. God revealed this to us and some prophets, that He has given us Biafra; that we should wait for it; and once God says something He must surely fulfill it. God doesn’t promise and fail, He must surely fulfill it.

Now that Ojukwu is dead what happens to the veterans?

With the encouragement and training he gave us I think we can go ahead from where he stopped; there is no going back.

Who do you think can step into the shoes left by Ojukwu?
Uwazuruike can continue from where Ojukwu stopped. Before he died, he introduced Uwazuruike and handed over everything to him; that boy is doing marvellously well; he is doing very well. We take Ojukwu so high; he is a very courageous man; if he tells you this is this, that is the way it is. So, we don’t joke with his words; whatever he tells us we uphold it.

Tell us about your war experience.
I started from Nsukka before they posted me to His Excellency’s (Ojukwu’s) Brigade; I fought there for some time before leaving for Calabar. When I got to Calabar, the moment the late Emeka Omeruah, the former governor, saw me he said ‘oh, Ossai, you are the most experienced’ and he sent me to Atana-Onoyon to replace Lt. Agbirigba; so I went there. I received special award from Ojukwu during the war. There was a wonderful operation I did in 1968 and Ojukwu ordered that I should be given honours award. Then, I was still a captain. It was at Nkana. 
My colleagues were detailed to go and re-capture Nkana Bridge; the bridge was destroyed, so they went inside and then stayed there for days; they couldn’t go there. It was on October 1, 1968 and I was just taking siesta when the spirit of God came to me and woke me up. When I got up, I asked my adjutant whether he called me he said no. I called Captain Ojoko of the Engineering unit attached to my battalion. I asked if he woke me up. He said no. I started thinking. I ordered the mortar officer to come and to tag digital targets immediately and then I asked the engineer to get me a ladder. I told them I must cross Nkana that afternoon. Within me I felt that it was God that woke me up that afternoon. I crossed that afternoon and I captured it. 
So, when the Divisional Commander, Col. Uwakwe came, he was very happy; he embraced me; he kissed me and he took the news to Ojukwu at Umuahia and they prepared the award for my gallantry.

Why did Biafra lose the war?
We didn’t have enough weapons and ammunition; we were patching up things; most times I normally sent most weapons I captured in the front to army headquarters. In the Nkana operation, the bombs I captured were sent to my division. Some were sent to my Brigade and we kept some for my battalion. The man in-charge of armoury then was Major Onyekwelu from Delta. He was in-charge of the armoury at Umuahia, and I handed those bombs to him. There were also saboteurs, who messed up our efforts; at times they would expose our plans to the enemy; that was why each time I planned my operation I was always successful because I didn’t reveal it to anybody, even my officers. I will call operational orders at the 11th hour. By the time you know about the operation you won’t have time to tell your girlfriend that you are going in for an operation.
There were also the economic blockades; all our borders were blocked, both land and sea. Most of the weapons we used were captured from the enemy. At times helicopter normally came to throw down ammunition for operation. What quantity do you think they can get?

Has the association received any form of support from the government of the defunct old Eastern Region?
No government in the east has shown us support. There has not been any aide from any government; the only time a governor came close to us was the day we went for Ojukwu’s 78th birthday on November 4; we went to Enugu to celebrate his birthday; it was there that Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State came to my table to inquire who the commander of the veterans was. He came to my table and presented kola to us and gave us a N100, 000.

How, in your view, should Ojukwu be immortalised?
I think this can be done by naming many places after his name as well as molding emoluments. Above all, the realization of Biafra would be his greatest immortalisation. Once we get Biafra, our money will bear his portrait; no doubt about that.

What are your plans towards Ojukwu’s burial?
We have discussed with the family and they have assured us that we would be invited to take part in the planning. Apart from that, we are going to put together a special parade for our General.

What’s your relationship with MASSOB?
We have cordial relationship with them; most of us registered with them; we don’t discriminate. Every easterner is a member of MASSOB because it is the Movement for the Actualization of a Sovereign State of Biafra, which we all believe in. So everybody born in the East is a MASSOB member. Their leader, Uwazuruike, is our son and we have maintained a cordial relationship over the years.

What was your worst experience of the war?
What I wouldn’t like to remember about the war was the sufferings of the boys; most of them were fighting without uniform and on empty stomach. There was no food and the boys were harvesting and eating raw cassava and so on. It was a really bad experience and one I don’t like to remember.

If there is cause for another war for Biafra, will you be part of it?
You man to fight war again?

Yes, maybe for the realization of Biafra?
We don’t hope to fight war again; we are not expecting another war; we have handled war during our time; now we want peaceful demonstration for Biafra and we shall get it without war, by the grace of God.
Source: Sun, 24th December 2011.

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Ojukwu personally fought to stop Nigerian soldiers from taking over Uli Airport – Emma Okocha
By GILBERT EKEZIE
Saturday December 24, 2011

Those who have read the book, Blood on the Niger, will certain remember Mr. Emma Okocha, renowned historian and scholar on conflict. He’s also a researcher, who covered events in Burundi, Congo, Somalia, Western Sudan and Dafur.
In this interview, Okocha spoke about Biafra, the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the new Igbo leadership and other issues.

How do you see the death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu?
We are very sad over his passage, but we have to take the history back to its perspective. Ojukwu was the Napoleon of our time and may be the last of the origin. He was a great military artist.

What do you mean by referring to Ojukwu as a military artist?

You know there are different people who just come to win the war because they are Generals. They want to accomplish their mission in the field. There are those who fight because they are professionals, who are trained to fight and they use a lot of technology and artistry. There are others, like Achuzia, Benjamin Adekunle, etc., who cannot do without war. If there is peace, they will be irrelevant. They like to fight if there will be acrimony. Achuzia was known during the war to carry boys to fight against armoured cars and sometimes he came back with 90 per cent casualties. Colonel Timothy Onwuatuegwu would go with four boys, accomplish his mission and return. But Colonel Ojukwu was ahead of the whole pack. Unknown to many, he was his own commander’s dream. I will refer you to a philosopher, Spinoza, who did not believe in praying too much, like Nigerians do these days. For instance, Egyptians do their prayers and at the same time, get their jobs done. 

Ojukwu, facing overwhelming Nigerian military machine, had no option to stop at the security. But he went further to declare a war because he believed in his will to succeed, like Napoleon, who was challenged by Russian unreceptive topography. He stood his ground and got enmeshed in the cold debris of Siberia. Napoleon was the man who went further than Spinoza, and prostrated, saying: “Nothing is impossible.” So, when you look at the military figures and antecedents, you know that Ojukwu needed a proper military perspective. He believed in the supremacy of his will.

What is your take on Biafran-Nigeria war?
Biafrans sustained the 30-month war by Ojukwu’s sheer will. There was a diplomatic advantage. There was also a human resources disadvantage. Ojukwu carried famished people, a Biafra that was depopulated, no food, no military arsenal and a Biafra that was an enclave. Eventually, major towns, like Nsukka and Enugu fell, with the exception of Nnewi, his own town. Ojukwu continued to fight war that was totally unmeasured and had no standards in the African conflict studies. So, we have been able to posit that Ojukwu’s greatness lay in his overwhelming will and I go forward to say that even though he was defeated in that war, in the history chronicle, you will see that at the end of the war, Biafra was not defeated. 

When Ojukwu returned from exile he became the issue. He was the brain behind the Biafran Research and Production (RAP). The Igbo that used to be loyal to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe turned to Ojukwu. If the Biafra was defeated, like Japan was, this won’t be so.

What sad experience would you say Biafrans had during the war?
Biafrans lost the provision to reintegrate their army into the Nigerian Army. They lost, abysmally, their economy, currency and their savings were reduced to mere N20. They were enmeshed in the argument of abandoned property. There were clauses of abject surrender, having engaged in a war that they lost almost everything. Ojukwu lost faith and face in diplomacy.

What unique strides would you say Ojukwu made?
When he came back from Cote d’Ivoire, it was a different issue on the table. He became leader of the Igbo that believed in Biafra (Uwazuruike group); the Igbo that believed in Nigeria and those that are Igbo just because they have the characteristics of Igbo, like some of us that came from the West Niger area, who are not in the Biafran map, but are the minorities of the former Eastern Nigeria, congregate whenever Ojukwu was the issue. He was the leader of all the groups. So, putting his life and time in perspective, we went back to my book, Jews of Africa, because we found out that he has no serious memoirs on hand; yet he was able to write his own history. Like Spinoza said, “a man becomes the consummate cause of his life when he is able to write his own history through sheer will power.”

Ojukwu did that in his landmark leadership of the Biafran entity. Throughout the 30-month war, from 1967 to 1970, he was able to claim a revolution for himself. He did that by behaving like Napoleon. He inspired his people and brought the armament to play. With stick and machete, he could face the Nigerian arsenal of modern equipment. So, from all the tributes paid to him, we are establishing that for the first time, the Biafran command recaptured Enugu using Biafran boys, soldiers who later metamorphosed to ‘Boys Company,’ which today operates all over the world. Doctors Without Borders” also started with Biafra under Ojukwu. There would not have been ‘Doctors Without Borders” without Biafra. The doctors decided to come together to give medical aids to the Biafrans and that was how the whole thing started. Ojukwu’s great strides are not only in the military operations, but also in science. I am saying that the Biafrans, through Ojukwu, reorganised agriculture, what Nigeria is now lacking. They were good in technology in the way of refining crude oil and transportation. Vehicles that were out of the road were also refurbished. In fact, Ojukwu moved into the field. 

From the portal of commander-in-chief, he went to fight physically in Oguta when Uli Airport was threatened in 1967 and through his inspiration and performance in the field, he became the commander’s dream and federal troops, marine, sea and land attackers on Oguta were reposed. The Nigerian Army Chronicle written by General Momoh, ‘How Ojukwu defended Oguta,’ has the detail. When we talk about Biafra and Ojukwu’s command, these are what we call the Biafran ingenuity.

Is it true that Ojukwu did not enter into alliance with other countries and that was why Biafrans were defeated? 
In history, we are being disturbed that Ojukwu did not enter into alliances, just like Nigeria did under Gowon, Awolowo and Enahoro during the war. They critically went into alliance with the Western powers, like Russia to subdue Biafrans. But the new reclassification of Nigeria-Biafran war memoirs have shown that Ojukwu really went into alliance with some European countries and that was why he was able to get some arms from Czechoslovakia. If not for the death of Duke of Czech in 1968, probably, more arms would have come in. The greatest and most productive alliance that Ojukwu did during the war was with Greece. According to memoir of Ojukwu’s roving Ambassador, Okechukwu Ikejiani, former chairman of Nigerian Railways, they went to Greece and had an agreement and Greek government trained special marine commandoes of Biafra and they were expected to return after the training through the Atlantic and Topedo NNS Nigeria. The trained Marine Commandoes arrived the NNS Nigeria on January 17, 1970, two days after the surrender of Biafra.

Could you comment on Ojukwu dynasty?
There is no way you can talk about Odumegwu Ojukwu without mentioning his father, Louis Ojukwu, who was the wealthiest black man by 1966. He had an argument with his son Odumegwu at the Government House, Enugu because he wanted him to delay the declaration of secession. He said: “The Igbo have never been defeated anywhere, anytime in memory. I am too proud. I do not want the Igbo to fight with sticks, machetes. I will buy them enough arms, give me time to settle with the marketing board.” Louis Ojukwu was the chairman of Nigeria Marketing Board; chairman of the Nigeria Shipping Supply Company; chairman, Coal Corporation and others. He had a Midas touch and his only partner then in the business world was John Holt Nigeria Limited. Due his fame, he visited Britain without papers. He had no time for visa or passport and on arriving Liverpool from Lagos, he was joined by John Holt and on being accosted by the officers at the Port, John Holt went down and approached them saying: “If I were you, I will leave the gentleman alone.” He was the only black man that swam in the ocean liner. He was ushered in from the boat to the business meetings after which, he returned immediately. Louis Ojukwu was the one who sponsored Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Nigeria before independence. In fact, he had enough money. He told Ojukwu that he would buy over liabilities of the refugees from the North. He also promised to provide his son, Odumegwu, with enough arms.

What is your reaction on secession of Biafra?

Men with will, like Napoleon, Khan and Ojukwu are not supposed to be given the benefit of making mistakes. It is risky arrangement to do that because it will lead to catastrophe. Ojukwu declared secession without his father’s blessing and that led to his father’s early death.

Do you think that Ojukwu fought a just cause? 
Yes and that was why all Igbo followed him. Our research proved that. When the Yoruba were tempted to do same on the annulment of June 12, election, they did not and till now, I do not know why. But I believe that they did not want to take the risk because there was no Ojukwu among them. You cannot evaluate a human except you go to his philosophical cord. The Yoruba did not go to war because of the great injustice done to Abiola. They were expected to fight. If it were the Igbo, they would have gone to war.

As a historian, what do you think that contributed to the loss of Biafra in the war?
Ojukwu appointing Banjo to lead his liberation was a mistake. Just as a man of will, it was an exercise that would change the face of the war, if it becomes calamity. The people of Midwest expected him to appoint them commanders of the Biafran army, but he did not and rather appointed Victor Banjo. Also, when OAU started, Biafra was to be given confederation but Ojukwu refused. That was really a mistake to his followers and a catastrophe to us historians.

What would you say about Igbo without Ojukwu?
The Igbo had really lost a great leader that will be difficult to be replaced. However, something is still going to be done. When Dr Nnamdi Azikwe died, you could talk about Ojukwu, Okadigbo and Okigbo, who were great leaders in their own stuff. Ojukwu represented those who believe in Biafra, those Nigerians who are Igbo and those who are just Igbo, while Zik represented only Igbo who were Nigerians, and those Nigerians who were Africans. Zik was a pan-Africanist and an Igbo man who was a Nigerian, probably, the best. He made major contributions to the Igbo ascendancy. He built the Onitsha market. He built the best citadel in Igbo land: University of Nigeria Nsukka. He left and Ojukwu became the overall leader of the Igbo and now that Ojukwu has left, there are people that could take his position.

Could you suggest who should step into Ojukwu’s shoes?
Leadership is not by appointment. It is all about who follows who. It is all about followership. You cannot claim to be a leader when you don’t have followers. In Igboland today, nobody is following anybody, except Ralph Uwazuruike. He is the only one that can come out and others will follow him; we cannot be blind to that. So, he is a leader. Besides, I see problems because he maintains that flanks of followership that believe in Biafra, while other countless Igbo, who don’t believe in Biafra do not succumb to Uwazuruike’s philosophy. Ojukwu succeeded because he was able to hold all sections of Igbo. He really dealt with Nigerians and had knowledge of Nigerians in his movements from independence till now. 

His exposure in Kings College, Lagos, ability to understand Nigeria and Nigerians helped him a lot. The only Igbo leader that has such characteristics is Justice Chukwuemeka Oputa, but he is not active anymore due to age. I see Dr. Walter Ofonagoro also not vibrant any more. I also see Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu.
So, what we are going to do is not to cry that Ojukwu’s shoes are too big to wear. The Igbo at this point in time of our history need a caucus of leadership that will be spearheaded by a younger person. Uwazuruike should be given the lead. He should be given the throne because it is Ojukwu’s will that Uwazuruike should take over from him. But, he has to be surrounded by the Igbo Nigerians, like Ndubuisi Kanu, Chinua Achebe and Arthur Nwankwo; so as to have a stronger leadership.

What kind of burial is the world expecting for Ojukwu?
Ojukwu’s burial would be that of a mankind because he was a symbol of Biafra. Ojukwu gave the Igbo a sense of belonging. So, nobody should be stopped from participating in his burial. The most important thing is that Nnewi, by tradition, supersedes everyone else. They will come with something different. Nnewi was the only town that was not touched during the war and every Nigerian commander wanted to enter Nnewi, but could not. So, Nnewi will bury. Ojukwu. Igbo and MASSOB will also bury him and nobody should try to stop them from burying their leader the way they want it. Finally, his political associates and international community will also participate in his burial.
Source: Sun, 24th December 2011.

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OUR AGONY –Veteran Biafran soldiers
From PETRUS OBI, Enugu

The burial of the late Biafra leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, may have been scheduled for February 2 but the burial rites and celebration of his life by his people have long started.
Recently, some Biafran soldiers, most of who are already aged, came together in Enugu, shortly after the seven-day mourning, in what they termed continuation of their last respects to their leader.

The veterans took their turns to pay tribute to their leader, urging the Federal Government to, as a mark of respect, use the death of Ojukwu to pay the long awaited compensation to soldiers who fought on the side of Biafra.

Major Edwin Nwora (lawyer and legal adviser to the Biafra war Veteran Association)

Ojukwu’s death is very painful to us because he is irreplaceable. You were asking of what we learnt from Ojukwu. First of all, what we will never forget about Ojukwu is truthfulness, doggedness and straightforwardness. You know the meeting with Gowon in Aburi and what was agreed? He said let us go back for confederation. Gowon came back and cancelled it, saying that Ojukwu spoke a lot of English and he didn’t understand what he was saying. Ojukwu was one of the best Nigerians. He wanted the best for Nigeria; but what he hated was injustice; he didn’t want injustice against anybody.

He was the best Nigeria will ever have; he wanted unity for Nigeria. He was a leader when his people were being killed, maimed and disgraced. They rushed back home like outcasts, as Soyinka would say. When people treat you as an outcast, when your country treats you as an outcast, you don’t just remain like that; the best option for Ojukwu was to declare Biafra. The nation we built with so much hard work treated us like outcasts. Azikwe was nationalist. Mbadiwe was a nationalist. They are among the people that made Nigeria what it is today. They are from this part of the country. For them to be pushed and killed and driven away from Nigeria was a big disgrace; if I were Ojukwu I would have done same. So we have to remember him for his doggedness, honesty, hard work, justice and integrity; that’s what we remember Ojukwu for. He is dead but he is in our mind.

Coming to the veterans, you have to pity us because we were denied our rights; remember the American civil war? The North and South fought. The north were the republicans and the business men. The South were purely Negros and farmers. To make peace, they were fully integrated; the leaders of the rebels, from the South, were integrated into the America armed forces and they were given all their benefits. Here we fought; no benefit was given to us; we have nothing. If I show you my wound today you will run away. Most of us had their taste of the baptism of fire. We had real baptism of fire. People don’t realise what we suffered, but we are hearing that the Federal Government has approved money for the veterans of Eastern Nigeria; if we are given that as compensation it will be good because we have no pension, no gratuity, nothing.

So, it will be good to at least appease the veterans; it is not too much if we are given that benefit; it is our right. In a civilian society. Nigeria has not treated us fairly. We didn’t fight a wrong war; we were trying to defend ourselves; we were pushed to the wall and we had to react. I have no regret for taking part in the civil war. We were pushed to the wall, our brothers and sisters were being killed for nothing. We believe in one Nigeria, but the Nigeria we believe in hates us. Are we to jump into the Atlantic Ocean and drown ourselves? No, we didn’t nee to do that and that is why I praise Ojukwu. He stood his ground to defend honesty, justice for everybody. That’s why Ojukwu is a big loss to every easterner.

Lt. Col. Elias Ona, former secretary of the veterans’ welfare association

We are united as an association because when the war ended Nigeria had four regions: East, West, North and Mid West. The United Nations had a resolution in 1890 that no people or race should be regarded as slaves or defeated people of war. Why is that the three regions that fought with us have been compensated, leaving the East? That forced us to unite to fight for a common cause. And of course, even if the government will compensate us, they will not go to individual houses; there has to be a platform; that’s why we came under this umbrella. That is why we are calling on other veterans, who have not registered with us, to do so before it become late. Now we are in one country but if you go to some parts you will be slaughtered. How then can somebody be in his own country and at the same time remain a stranger? We decided to unite because Igbo are Hebrews and you can never divide the Hebrews. So, we are for unity and we are working together with well thinking easterners.

Lt. Col. Mbina Mbina (from 
Cross River State)

The war was not fought only by the Igbo. I want to correct this impression in people’s minds that the war was an Igbo war; it was a war by easterners because when the massacre happened, they never killed only the Igbo. If we cast our minds back, we will remember that Captain Akpe, who is directly from Ogoni, in Ikom, was killed alongside the late Gen. Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi. That moved the people of former Ogoja province to join the war. We are also appealing to the Federal Government that they are duty bound to see that veterans are compensated, in line with the ‘no victor’ no vanquished’ declaration after the war. If that is not done, it then means that the government is biased against the soldiers who fought the war on the Biafra side. 
We have integrated ourselves, but there has been no rehabilitation, no settlement or compensation. We are appealing to them to use the death of our commander and give to his men who fought with him what is due to them. If they can give amnesty to the Niger Delta, those young boys who, because of one reason or the other, exercised their rights, why should it not go to a whole nation, like Biafra, who surrendered and laid down their arms and brought peace and development to the country?

Lt. Col. Nwafor Ukpo Johnson

The Federal Government should come to our aid. Former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, said after the war that there was ‘no victor’ and ‘no vanquished.’ It should have been assumed that we were in eastern command of Nigeria Army, not Biafran Army; we are in eastern command. The present president of Nigeria should come to our aid and give us our entitlement as Nigerian soldiers of eastern command.
Source: Sun, 24th December 2011.

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OJUKWU: Before another leader comes

By Tony Nwankwo
Tributes for Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, will be long lasting, he was larger than life. Even before his burial snippets of a challenge to the long dream of Ndigbo to aspire to the presidency of the country have come.

That resolve shows how lowly some from outside the Southeast rate the Igbo leadership to vie for the highest office in the land. To them, the Igbo can crown the king, but can never be king. The drama on Igbo leadership in the country, resides in the poor execution of a war, in which the opponent took advantage of poor preparation to defeat a universally acknowledged resourceful race.

After the first and second coups, none of which Igbo, as a people was mastermind, the enemy chose to eliminate a tribe they viewed as powerful and major threat to their dominion And the Igbo played into their hands.

After the Aburi, Ghana negotiations that failed, Ojukwu assembled prominent easterners through the Eastern Nigeria Constituent Assembly in Enugu. May, 27, 1967. At the occasion, he, as governor of the region, gave three options on the resolution of the crisis with Nigeria.

Ojukwu listed the options as follows: That the East remains in Nigeria, a painful option considering that mangled and dead bodies were being ferried by train to the East from the North, with pregnant women opened up and unborn babies slit in half.

The second option was that the East continues to drift in the Nigerian enterprise, irrespective of how long and how painful. A third and last option was to secede from Nigeria with a declaration of a sovereign state of Biafra. And there was a proviso: Should the Constituent Assembly accept the third and last option, “there is no power in Black Africa to subdue the East by force”, the governor had said.

In 1967, people were not as smart as today. When a soldier spoke, people believed. So people believed that actually the young state could defend itself from any outside aggression. But everyone later realised, it was propaganda, probably to frighten the enemy. And it backfired.

In my father’s compound in Port Harcourt in 1967, there were about 17 young and able bodied men who swore to defend the new sovereign nation. They went through trainings, in civil defence and later joined the Biafra army. The chant across the city was the same across the new nation: “Ojukwu give us gun to go and kill Gowon”, and they meant their song.

So one breezy Monday morning, the call to duty came. All 17 were ferried along with thousands others, by train to Enugu to confront Nigerian solders who had now declared war on the new nation. On arrival, they were moved into camp before deployment at the early fronts of the war around Nsukka.

On deployment, these young men, routing for action were handed blunt machetes that had been confiscated from the wharf in Port Harcourt. These were the weapons they were given to confront a well trained and better equipped Nigerian military force that had just seen action in the Congo. Till my father joined the Biafra Army as instructor, being a veteran of the Second Wold War and my family returned to Idima Abam, now in Abia State, none of the 17 returned alive.

Another miscalculation that sank the new state was the invasion of Bonny which eventually led to the collapse of Port Harcourt. It provided effective blockade by sea and fastened the death of the new nation. My elder sister, Nko, was a business woman living in Bonny with her family then.

Her account was that, very early one morning, a submarine accompanying a vessel that regularly called to lift crude oil owned by Shell Petroleum, suddenly surfaced from the high seas and directed its big guns on the island of Bonny.

The platoon of soldiers deployed there was overwhelmed by the attack, so while some died in the swamps struggling to escape, others simply disappeared. My sister was caught in the cross fire while preparing breakfast for her family.

That Biafra was sustained in bitter confrontation with Nigeria for 30 months resides in the courage and resilience of the Igbo, particularly after the other tribes in the region jumped ship. For instance, the initial gains by the Biafra Army to recover territories captured by Nigerian forces was executed with weapons captured from Nigerian troops themselves.

And then the legendary weapon of mass destruction, (WMD) Ogbunigwe that eventually prolonged the conflict was the ingenuity of Igbo engineers and others who, even to this day, are capable of re_enacting such feat, should duty again so call.

Like has been variously discussed, the Biafra conflict was a mismatch. The Igbo went to war unprepared. Nigerian soldiers that were already poised to eliminate the people took advantage of the secession call. At the end of hostilities they took hostages, even married women. They would have done more but for the Christian, General Yakubu Gowon.

Ojukwu meant well for the Igbo, but he hated opposition particularly from other Igbo leaders. For instance, I was at Government House, Umuahia, when former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, made peace between Ojukwu and Dr. Alex Ekwueme.

The two most powerful Igbo statesmen had been at daggers_drawn before the former governor decided to call a truce. Not only had the twosome been students at Kings College, Lagos together, they were classmates, but never saw eye to eye. They made peace that night at an age when they both had nothing further substantial to contribute to Igbo unity.

With Ojukwu gone, it may be difficult to interpret the Eze Igbo Gburugburu title. The title has since been bastardized across the land that some traditional rulers in Igbo land had to cry out. The Gburugburu angle was to distinguish from the crowd of Eze Igbos.

The Biafra experience should teach leaders to exercise restraint and think through a project like secession before jumping into major conflicts, particularly those that can involve human lives. One agrees that Nigeria declared war on the new nation, but they used the secession bid to justify their action.
Source: Vanguard, 23rd December 2011.

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Azikiwe varsity immortalises Ojukwu

FROM CHUKS COLLINS, AWKA

AUTHORITIES of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, have named the second wing of its pioneer students’ hostel after the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu who died recently in a private hospital in London.

The honour was announced by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Boniface Egboka, who said that nothing done to immortalise the late Ikemba Nnewi and foremost Igbo leader can be enough.

The first wing of the students’ hostel had earlier been named after President Goodluck Jonathan and had been so commissioned by the representative of the President and Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, during the institution’s 9th convocation ceremonies held on 19 November 2011.

According to Prof. Egboka, “the naming of the 2nd Wing of this huge edifice after our dearly beloved Ojukwu is a clear manifestation of the university’s resolve to make the late Igbo leader a happy man even in his grave. Across the university, the news of Ojukwu’s death had saddened many minds and now, the immortalisation of his name through the Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Hostel in UNIZIK has brought back joy to the university community”.
Source: The Guardian, 20th December 2011.

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Unizik immortalizes Ojukwu, names hostel after him
From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka

Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka,Anambra State has taken the lead in immortalizing the late Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu by naming its students’ hostel after him.

The Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Boniface Egboka, said the second wing of the huge edifice would henceforth be known as Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Hostel.

First wing of the hostel was named after President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and was commissioned on November 19, 2011, at the convocation of the institution by the president’s representative and Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i.
Egboka stated that nothing done to immortalize the late foremost Igbo leader and Ikemba Nnewi would be too much.

“The naming of the second wing of this huge edifice after our dearly beloved Ojukwu is a clear manifestation of the university’s resolve to make the late Igbo leader a happy man even in his grave.”

He noted that the news of Ojukwu’s death on November 26, 2011 in a London hospital at the age of 78 had saddened many minds across the university community.
He added that the immortalization of his name in Unizik, would bring joy to the institution.

Source: The Guardian, 20th December 2011.

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Ojukwu, statesman of all times —Ogbemudia

By EBOJELE AKHERE PATRICK 

Brigadier-General (Dr). Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia (rtd) is a two time governor of the old Bendel State and no doubt a household name in the political scene in the country. He was also a major player in the events that led to the declaration by former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon of the famous No victor, No vanquished speech during the civil war. In this session with journalists in Benin recently, he bares his mind on several burning issues affecting Edo State and his relationship with late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.

Excerpts: 

The PDP in Edo State is approaching another election next year. How prepared is your party?

THE taste of the pudding is in the eating. The logical result of hard work is success. I urge the party to work very hard and to put forward the best candidate to face the Comrade Governor Adam Oshiomhole who has raised the bar very high through his performance in office. The PDP candidate has to prove to Edo people that he can and will do better.

Comrade Adams Oshiomhole regime has just celebrated three years in office. What is your assessment?

That is the same question I have just answered. I have just told you that through performance in office Adams has raised the electoral bar high. So the PDP has to work twice or thrice as hard and must present a good candidate. Next question, please.

Some of the projects you established including Edo Line transport, Bendel Brewery, Bendel Insurance are now moribund. What do you suggest in order to revive them?

I am not too sure of your performance audit. Are your sure those companies are moribund? I doubt. Maybe they are not performing optimally. Each administration sets up its priorities, although government is, or ought to be a continuum. At my age and station in life, mine is now to offer advice and make suggestions, even to the opposition, in the greater interest of our state and country. The fact that you have mentioned those areas, itself calls government attention to them. Government may wish to consider privatization and/or commercialization. But please, go back and cross check your facts well.

The communal farms settlements are also gone. What is your take on this?

This is not a new problem. And my answer is also not new. Since 1994, I have been shouting that we should feed first our country. That a hungry man is an angry man, so also is a nation. A hungry and angry nation cannot understand or follow the ideals of democracy. Our democracy should start in the stomach; an empty stomach cannot vote or vote rightly. So it is in our interest and the interest of our democracy, to go back to farm, to grow food to feed ourselves, have reserves and sell some for foreign exhange. There is no alternative to it. Certainly not oil.

Recently you headed a Benin Forum meeting at Bishop Kelly Pastoral Centre. What is the aim of the Forum? Was it to support a Bini candidate?

I would like to refer you to both my opening address and the communiqué of the meeting. No, it is not necessarily to push for a Bini candidate but it would support any body, which will protect and advance Bini interest better. And it is not limited to the governorship election or to governance in Edo State. It is holistic, non-partisan and not time bound.

42 years ago, Nigerian civil war came to an end. Some people have said that the war was a necessity while others insisted that it was avoidable. What is your view?

My view is that both schools of thought are correct. When you are pushed to the wall, and you cannot pass through it, you turn back and fight. But the push could have been avoided in the first place. Same for what led to the push. So both views are correct depending on your perspective, or from where you are looking at it.

One of the main actors in the civil war, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu is dead. How do you see him?

First as a colleague in the Army, then as statesman and now at death,  Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was a gallant officer. He was a Lieutenant Colonel and Battalion Commander while I was a Brigade Major. Then he was appointed Governor of Eastern State, David Ejoor for the Midwest, Adeyinka Adebayor for the West and Hassan Katsina for North. That was after the coup of January 15th 1966. Following the crises that ensued, in 1967 he declared the Republic of Biafra and fought fiercely to secede from Nigeria. I was appointed Governor of Midwest in 1967 and I fought against him. He lost his military campaign in the Midwest, in the West and in the Northern fringes of the East. So Biafra collapsed. He went into exile. When President Shehu Shagari pardoned him, I was there to help with his political rehabilitation. We resumed our old friendship and related very closely. His subsequent political campaign was equally forceful, effective and you ignore Ojukwu only at your peril. He was a master orator who through sheer force of character and speech dominated his audience anywhere. Outside politics, he was very forth right, courageous, visionary and patriotic. He believed that to be a good Nigerian, you must be a good Igboman. He wanted a true Nigerian nation that would recognize and respect all the ethnic groups and not a country of different and disparate ethnic nationalities. He died a statesman of all times whose place in Nigeria’s history and contributions to Nigeria can neither be equaled nor erased.

Why did you join the Nigerian Army?

In the essay I wrote at the Army recruiting centre in 1953, I said that it had been proposed that 1956 would be Nigeria’s year of destiny- for self government for each region ahead of Nigeria’s independence. It was obvious and inevitable that there would be problem. I wanted to be part of the authority to deal with those problems. They were surprised and impressed and immediately recruited me

As a father of old Bendel State, now Delta and Edo States, what are your contributions that remain incomparable till date?

I would say that it was largely the circumstances of the time. Nigeria was in crisis. The civil war came. Midwest was a major theatre of the war. We sacrificed human and material resources to save Nigeria. And this was acknowledged by the Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon who said “but for the Midwest, there would be no Nigeria”. At the end of the war, we had fresh challenges: to unite our people, to re-absorb the returnees, to protect those who took refuge in Midwest, to rebuild and expand our infrastructures and institutions, to provide facilities and amenities and generally to give Midwesterners hope and confidence. But should add very quickly that I was not alone. It was a good team work.
 Source: Daily Champion, 17th December 2011.

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South-East after Ojukwu’s exit

South East Leaders

Written by Jude Ossai

With the demise of Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, Jude Ossai, South-East Bureau Chief, writes on the prospect of the Igbo clan in producing another dynamic leader that would lead the Ndigbo to the Promised Land.

THAT Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is dead is no longer news. Perhaps, what is news is how Ndigbo, the people who occupy the South-East geopolitical zone, will cope with the exit of their illustrious son, who spent almost his entire life championing their cause.

The late Chief Ojukwu will best be remembered for both by his people and those outside Igbo enclave for leading Ndigbo to the 1967 civil war. To others, the late Ikemba of Nnewi might not have muted the idea for an independent state of Biafra in 1967, but as the governor of the defunct Eastern Region, the mantle of leadership fell on him to lead the secessionist, especially after the brutal massacre of the Igbo in the North.

How the civil war was prosecuted before it came to an end in 1970 is now history. Even with the “No Victor No Vanquish” slogan of General Yakubu Gowon, apparently to calm the frayed nerves of both sides of Biafra and Nigeria, the Igbo knew that they suffered more setbacks. Chief Ojukwu wore the toga of a “rebel” even when many, particularly his people, still see him as a hero.

Now that Chief Ojukwu is dead, who becomes the face of Ndigbo politically, socially and economically? Who succeeds Ojukwu? These are burning questions in minds of many people.

To the leader of the Movement for Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, the death of Chief Ojukwu would be used as a uniting force for Ndigbo, adding that the late elder-statesman did not die in vain.

“The best Ndigbo should do for Ojukwu is for them to be united and work together. Now that Dim Ojukwu is dead, after his burial, we shall look at all those who are using the name of Ndigbo for buying and selling at Abuja. We will not allow that to continue,” he said, adding that “the death of warlord has brought an end to Igbo marginalisation. Ojukwu is not dead. Only his flesh is dead. Great men do not die,” he said.

It was against the backdrop that the leadership of MASSOB and the South-East governors declared seven days of prayer and mourning for the repose of the soul of the ex-Biafra leader.

Governor Peter Obi of Anambra, who is also the chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum told reporters in Enugu during his visit to the Enugu residence of Chief Ojukwu that the prayers were part of the arrangements to give the late Ikemba of Nnewi a befitting burial. The mourning and prayers ended last Tuesday.

“Everybody is aware that Ezeigbo is  dead and we are all in the mourning mood. Igboland is in mourning mood, Nigeria is in mourning mood. We need prayers for our leader,” he said.

Nigerian Tribune investigation revealed that Ojukwu’s successor will be difficult to find, even as militant wing of MASSOB would prefer their leader, Chief Uwazuruike, to take over the mantle of leadership. The late Ikemba himself would perhaps have picked the founding father of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, but the  late war lord, according to some people, did not find the militancy he found in Chief Uwazuruike, the perceived conspiracy against Chief Okorie in APGA, notwithstanding.

The role of Chief Uwazuruike since the death of Chief Ojukwu shows that the Igbo activist is prepared to wear Ojukwu’s big shoes. The MASSOB leader held forte for the wife and family of Chief Ojukwu, playing host to sympathisers who thronged  the residence of Chief Ojukwu, while Lady Bianca was in London. Already, Chief Uwazuruike is being approached by prominent Igbo politicians for an inclusion in the committees to be set up for the burial of the fallen hero.

Already, the thinking of many Igbo stakeholders outside the political class is that the man who should fill the vacuum created by Ojukwu’s exit should be a courageous and credible Igbo individual who have carved a niche for himself outside the government cycles. It is only then that the leader would command the respect of the larger segment of Ndigbo.

But the truth is that the republican nature of the Igbo people could pose a serious challenge in picking Ojukwu’s successor, coupled with the recent trend of get-rich-quickly syndrome. The old value system of hard work, which Ndigbo was known for, is gradually being eroded by the other side of capitalism. Indeed, the man to step into the shoe of the late Ikemba, who, inspite of the initial challenges he faced in the muddy waters of partisan politics in Nigeria, succeeded literally in becoming the symbol that helped to sustain All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) all through its trying moments before it gained ground in Anambra and Imo states, must also exhibit great potential and command respect from the Igbo people.

The current highest political leader in Igbo, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has thrown his weight behind the realisation of the late Ikemba’s dream of an egalitarian society where justice, fairness and equity will reign supreme in the land.

Although Senator Ekweremadu did not hit the nail on the head when he paid a condolence visit to the wife of the late warlord, Lady Bianca, at the weekend, as he did not mention that a large number of Ndigbo were massacred in the North in 1966/67 but rather preferred to say that Nigerians were massacred in Nigeria, the lawmaker agreed that the problems that led to the civil war still exist and could still be solved, if Nigerians come together.

“The things that gave rise to the civil war are still with us and that is why many years after the civil war. We had the Ife/Modakeke crisis. We still have problem in Plateau State,  and even in Anambra State, we had Aguleri/Umuleri crisis.

“Ikemba, as a person, came before his time. Ikemba lived ahead of his time. He died ahead of his time because his vision and views are yet to be realised. And I believe surely his views will be realised. It is at that time Nigerians will begin to realise that Ikemba was a man who saw tomorrow,” he said, adding that, “the best we can do for Ikemba is for all us to sit down and talk to ourselves and see how to address these issues so that we can live as a nation. As at now we are all managing to survive as one country. It is important to address these problems because they are with us and I do not believe that they are insurmountable’.

According to him, “It is possible we find an arrangement to accommodate everybody in Nigeria so that people can live peacefully wherever they find themselves and able to earn their living without confrontation”. Describing the late Ikemba as a phenomenon, he appealed that everybody should do his best to give him a befitting burial.

Another theory is whether the pioneer Treasurer of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, who understands all the intricacies of the party’s politics and existence, is fully equipped to lead the party and Ndibgo as well.

Critics of Umeh rate him low, as they argued that besides his age-old disagreement with the pioneer National Chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, some elements within Anambra, who had been calling for change of leadership in APGA, would be a stumbling block to his dream of leading the peope of the South-East. So, for Umeh to fully step into Ojukwu’s shoes, he would need to resolve such critical issues and brace up for the needed reforms.

A section of Ndigbo contended that Chief Okorie, the founding father of APGA, is another influential member of the party that may play a leadership role, now that Ojukwu has gone.

Ndigbo, as an ethnic nationality, do have men and women who are highly intelligent and courageous as Ikemba. But it will be pretty difficult for the people to produce the same selfless Ojukwu, a son of a million, from Nnewi, who was born 78 years ago. It remains to be seen the path Ndigbo would take towards producing another leader, who would be as selfless as the late Ikemba.
Source: Tribune, 14th December 2011.

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The ojukwu symbolism: From personal reminisciences (1)

By Uzodinma Nwala

The first time I came closest to Chief Ojukwu was during the National Constitutional Conference of 1994-95. He was a delegate to that controversial Conference that took place during one of the most critical periods in Nigeria’s history. It was a period when a break-up of Nigeria was again looming in the horizon.

Ojukwu, like many other leading patriots, came to that Conference in search of the way forward and how to keep Nigeria together as a united country.

It was there that an incident occurred whose significance opens the door for a deeper understanding of the Ojukwu mystique and the Ojukwu symbolism.

There was a disagreement between him and the rest of the delegates from the Igbo-speaking areas of Nigeria. He was reported to have made a statement which the delegates regarded as a deviation from their mandate.

Late Odumegwu Ojukwu in a handshake with Col. Umar Dangiwa

And consequently a Committee of six was raised, comprising of Chief Alex Ekwueme, the late Chief Austin Egbo from Delta, Dr Josiah Ogbonnaya from Abia State, Dr Joshua Odunna from Imo State, the late Chief Okogbule Wanodi from Rivers State and my humble self (Uzodinma Nwala), as Secretary of the Igbo Delegates Forum to that Conference.

Our mandate was to urge him to refrain from the line he was toeing and to appear at the meeting of the Forum to clarify his position.

Chief Ojukwu did appear at the Forum which, incidentally, he was the official Chairman. However, on that particular day, Dr Sam Onunaka Mbakwe took the Chair.

When we got to the relevant item on the Agenda, the Ikemba was asked to address his brothers and colleagues. He spoke for over twenty-five minutes, arguing that the mandate of the delegates did not prevent them from expressing contrary views. He ended up accusing the delegates of irreverence to him and of behaving in consonance with the historical fallacy that Ndigbo Enwe Eze.

His speech provoked very fierce reactions from the delegates. It is not my intention here to recall the mundane elements of that debate. Rather, I would like us to reflect on the significance of that very event and on some other related critical moments in Ojukwu’s biography (or rather his life and times).That will help us to appreciate more fully Ojukwu’s place in the socio-cultural history of the Igbo nation as well as the political history of the Nigerian Federation.

While some of my colleagues at that Conference, reacted in various ways to his speech, which many considered as not only offensive, but as a sign of one man against the rest, and, therefore, wanted to beat him into line; for me, I saw it as an opportunity to address the historical fallacy that Igbo Enwe Eze. Incidentally, it was a view I had previously and privately discussed with the Ikemba in his Apo Village Residence.

When it was my turn to speak, I said to him, “Sir, remember my private discussions with you on some issues as well as on this historical fallacy – Igbo Enwe Enwe”.

On that day at his residence, our discussion began with the implications of the Ikemba, the Peoples’ General, playing the role of a politician. I had said to him- “Sir, I will like to see you on the campaign trail one of these days, to see how you react to rotten tomato or rotten eggs thrown at you; that will tell how far you are maturing as a politician”. And he laughed.

On the historical fallacy – Igbo Enwe Eze. I had argued that, contrary to that fallacy, Ndigbo are among the greatest hero worshippers in history. “The Ikemba’s life, I said is a testimony to this”.

Then I drew his attention to three episodes in his life. One, as the Leader of Biafra, two, his return from self- exile in Ivory Coast and, three, his membership of the National Party of Nigeria(NPN).

Ojukwu- the Leader of Biafra

I said to him “During the civil war, you were like a demi-god to Ndigbo world-wide. The people were ready to lay their lives so that you might live. The men were ready to abandon their beds for the Peoples’ General. You were like a divinity. Your words were command to the people. You were their Hero, their Eze, their King”.
Source: Vanguard, 14
th December 2011.

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Ojukwu: The Mighty Iroko has fallen

By Chief Anayo Onwuegbu  

Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu

The demise in London recently of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, Eze-Igbo Gburu-Gburu, is shocking and painful, not just to the immediate family of Ikemba but also to the entire Igbo nation in particular and Nigeria in general. Ikemba Nnewi was an icon; a fine, fearless and courageous soldier, erudite scholar with amazing intelligence, robust and unapologetically truthful, who, whenever he spoke, conveys the mien of the oracle of the gods. 

We have, indeed, lost a father, brother, friend, protector and conscience of Ndigbo and a kindred spirit; and it is with the greatest mental strength that I am able to refer to him in the past tense.

It will be recalled that Chief Ojukwu was actually the first real intellectual to join the Nigerian Army after graduating from the prestigious Oxford University, London. Ignoring the lure of his father’s stupendous wealth and flourishing business empire, the inimitable Ikemba displayed a high sense of patriotism to die for the fatherland by joining the Nigerian Army at a time the Nigerian regiment was still reeling from a massive colonial hangover whereupon he had noted in one of his random musings that ‘colonial experience automates and leaves the victim almost paralysed long after the victim had ceased to have direct contact with the colonial stimulus’. His intention of joining the Nigerian Army, in deference to a luxurious life in his father’s palatial mansion, was to contribute his quota in giving direction, purpose and form to the Nigerian Army and leave a legacy of the finest military organization in Africa.

Regrettably, his patriotic intentions were cut short and vitiated by predominantly ethnic-minded colleagues who orchestrated and executed one of the most infamous genocidal pogroms in history against Ndigbo especially in the northern part of the country. Seeing his people trooping back to the Igbo homeland from all across the country, abused, bruised, battered and maimed in a senseless killing orgy in the North and West of Nigeria, Chief Ojukwu, then military governor of Eastern Nigeria, took up the gauntlet to his people from annihilation by hostile forces. 

After several attempts to broker peace and stop the needless bloodletting against Ndigbo, Chief Ojukwu was left no other choice than to declare the Sovereign State of Biafra. The events of those years are recorded in history. After the civil war, he went into exile in Cote D’Ivoire and in the Second Republic, he was granted state pardon paving the way for his return to the country. On returning to Nigeria, he joined forces with democratic forces to entrench democracy in Nigeria. 

The democratic climate of that period provided him an opportunity to speak fearlessly about the marginalization and alienation of the Igbo nation from the commanding heights of power and economy in the country.
The return of the military in 1983 did not deter Ikemba’s determination to fight for the cause of Ndigbo. Severally incarcerated for his convictions, Chief Ojukwu remained a symbol of courage and conscience of the Igbo nation. He understood Nigeria’s political character very well and what place Ndigbo ought to occupy in it. He believed in democratic mandate and the supremacy of the people’s will. He demonstrated this by going the whole hog in Governor Peter Obi’s heroic battle to reclaim his mandate.

Chief Ojukwu was an astute writer and scholar and his epic work, ‘Because I am Involved’, will remain one of the literary milestones to have issued from his prolific pen. His background as a historian was also remarkable in his career both as a soldier and democrat because it afforded him large latitude to critically analyze issues and proffer adequate solutions. Until his demise, his conviction on the inevitability of an Igbo president for Nigeria was as strong as the tsunami wave.

Chief Ojukwu was, indeed, one of the most courageous Igbo men and Nigerians that ever lived. Transiting at this time of critical national consciousness is, indeed, a great loss to a national in search of direction. Chief Ojukwu will be remembered for his heroics, oratorical power, courage, adroitness, and resoluteness to reject evil even in the face of daunting challenges.

For the Igbo nation, the mighty Iroko tree has fallen and the birds of the air that nestle on it are in disarray. History beckons on the Igbo people for another mighty Iroko that would provide a rallying point for the birds. How do we mourn this icon? Is it by crying peevishly as a people without hope and vision? No! That would defeat his courage and determination to dare the lion in its den. Is it to pour ashes on ourselves and deck ourselves in sackcloth? No! That would defeat his robustness and wit in the face of extreme danger. We should rather pick up our cymbals, our flutes and our gongs and climb to the high mountains and proclaim the Ikemba philosophy of Igbo uniqueness, and Igbo resilience and will to survive. We should sing choruses of joy to announce to the whole world that our hero has transited in a blaze of glory. That would gladden his memory.

Chief Ojukwu is forgotten. He has died to live for as Tom Stoppard would say, ‘a man is dead who is forgotten in death’. Ikemba can never be forgotten, even in death. He lives on. A befitting epitaph for him would be ‘Here lies the great Ikemba, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who came, saw and conquered’. Good night, Ikemba.
 
Onwuegbu writes from Enugu
Source: Sun, 14th December 2011.

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Ojukwu - A Leader Like no Other

editorial

THE spontaneous, world-wide outpouring of glowing tributes that have continued to trail the demise of the Peoples General, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu- Ojukwu, is eloquent testimony to the fact that it pays best to live a life of service dedicated to the common man.

The universal nature of the eulogies that have continued in honour of the leader of the defunct Republic of Biafra is also confirmation of the fact that though he rose in defence of his ethnic group of origin when the Igbo faced the threat of annihilation, his action received the endorsement of people across the world, who are opposed to all forms of oppression and injustice.

Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu's life, indeed, symbolized humility, selflessness, courage, forthrightness, nationalism, far-sightedness and people-centred leadership, all virtues that endeared him to people while he lived and have continued to attract people from all ethnic groups and nationalities to him even in death.

Born into wealth on November 4,1933 of a businessman father, Sir Louis Phillippe Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi and Eze Igbu Gburugburu, received the best of elite education in Britain, at Epsom College, and Lincoln College, Oxford University where he obtained a Bachelor's degree in modern history before returning to the country to take up employment in the civil service.

He joined the civil service to serve the common interest, rather than join the family business and continue, in affluence, to make more billions for the Odumegwu-Ojukwu family.

Soon after, another opportunity to serve the fatherland presented itself and he promptly took it up, by joining the Nigerian Army where he rose rapidly to become Quartermaster General and later, Commander of the strategic 5th Battalion in Kano. He was holding this key position when Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and his colleagues struck on January 15, 1966.

A true patriot, he refused to cooperate with the coupists and his action, to a large extent, helped to foil the bloody coup.

When, however, he was faced with the reality of the pogrom against Ndigbo in the North, he made spirited efforts as military governor of the Eastern region to protect Ndigbo from genocide and went further to proffer suggestions, at the historic Aburi, Ghana, peace conference, that would have saved the country more bloodshed and guaranteed not only peaceful co-existence for all groups but accelerated development for the country.

The visionary proposal, agreed upon and code named the 'Aburi Accord,' was undermined by self-seeking senior civil servants of the time who misled the inexperienced military leadership into backing out of the agreement, and Ndigbo were left with no option than to protect themselves against extermination.

Armed with little more than cudgels, Igbo youths, under the highly inspirational leadership of Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu, fought heroically against a military that was armed to the teeth with sophisticated weapons and was fully backed by major world powers.

When the war ended, after 30 months of fierce fighting, on January 9, 1970, the world acknowledged that Ndigbo under the leadership of Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu, had given a good account of themselves and could no longer be taken for granted. Though beaten, the Igbo were not bowed.

The 13 years he spent in exile in Cote d'Ivoire were not long enough to erase from the memory of the average Igbo man the towering image of their beloved leader, hence when he returned to the country in 1982 after being pardoned by the then President Shehu Shagari, he received a hero's welcome.

Many believe that his return and re-integration into national life marked the real end of the civil war, but the enigmatic leader of leaders continued to engage the country's rulers, especially at the federal level, articulating and advancing, in his usually eloquent manner, issues that affect, not only Ndigbo, but the masses of Nigeria.

He, thus, became the voice of the voiceless and the rallying point for those who were disadvantaged, oppressed or dispossessed. And as an individual, he refused to be intimidated, dispossessed or oppressed, and many were encouraged by his courage and principled positions.

His politics, both as senatorial candidate of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) upon his return from exile, as presidential candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and as the national leader and chairman of the Board of Trustees of APGA till has demise, was similarly driven by the same concerns for the masses and for the common good.

This was reciprocated by an appreciative populace. Whenever he turned up for any political rallies, such gatherings spontaneously witnessed mammoth crowds who were easily electrified by his emotive speeches, and the magic of his name was such that wherever he spoke up for an aspirant or candidate or was mentioned as remotely supporting any such political office seekers, they easily won whatever positions they contested, especially in the South East geo-political zone.

Across the country, he grew to become a figure that could not be ignored or disrespected even by those who were in opposing political parties or those from ethnic and religious groups different from his. No wonder then that tributes have been flowing even from unexpected quarters, for this man of the people, this foremost warrior, confirmed patriot and leading statesman.

Virtually all who have eulogized this great leader have called on the Federal Government to immortalize him, a call that we firmly endorse, as history has proved him a visionary leader who saw far ahead of his contemporaries, that devolution of powers by whatever name called - confederation or true federalism - is the way to go for the country to fully actualize its potentials.

It is, however, a big shame that the evil of the senseless massacre of innocent people on the platform of religious and ethnic differences, which he rose to fight against has continued unabated 44 years after the guns boomed to signal the start of the civil war on July 6, 1967.

As arrangements continue to give this leader with a difference a befitting burial in the new year, all Nigerians must resolve never to shed the blood of their countrymen again under any guise. The nation's current leaders must also courageous move to devolve powers away from the centre to the federating units, be they geo-political zones, states or local governments, so long as actions in this regard are taken, guided by the principles of equity and justice for all.

Once these are done, Nigerians would have given Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu fitting farewell gifts, aside the monuments that must be erected across the country, by states and the Federal Government, to immortalize this great son of Nigeria, Africa and the world.
Source: Daily Champion, 13th December 2011.

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‘We can honour Ojukwu by uniting under APGA’
By OLA AGBAJE

The greatest honour the Igbo people can give to the late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is to come under the banner of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to sustain his vision of respect and dignity for people of the  South-east  within the Nigerian nation.

Theo Nwaigbo

Lagos-based lawyer and activist, Theo Nwaigbo, made the clarion call while speaking on the death of the Igbo leader and its implication on the political fortune of Ndigbo in the country. He also spoke on other national issues

Excerpts:
Why we must unite under APGA?
Over the years, the  south-east  have been content with politics of errand tea boys in the corridor of power, apologies to our father, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Eze Gburugburu of Igbo land. In the current political dispensation, it is only the Igbo that do not have any identifiable political platform of their own. And that is why they have been getting second fiddle treatment from the PDP. Nigeria by creation stands on tripod. 

Only the  South-east  zone do not have their legs standing. The Yoruba have proved that their hearts and soul remain with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The PDP is predominantly a northern party. This is why Ndigbo must unite under the APGA umbrella so that they can have their dignity and a voice of their own.

APGA in Imo state
Reflecting on the success of the All Progressives  Grand Alliance  in Imo state in the last general election I can conveniently tell you that the party won fair and square. It is however important to point out that the victory was not based solely on the capacity of APGA as a party but more largely on the charisma and popularity of Owelle Rochas Okorocha. If he had joined any other party the party would still have won election the state.

It was his personality and pedigree that attracted coalition of forces against the power drunk Ohakim government. Before he joined the party, APGA was virtually at zero level in the state. The party only existed in the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Now the welcome party is over, the government must start to develop and grow the party to a formidable political organization in the state and the entire Igbo land. This is the challenge before him now. And it is a serious one for that matter because the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) hawks are still hovering around in the state. It is by developing the party into a formidable platform that he can help himself and the entire Ndigbo in the political configuration of the nation. Hence he must embark on drastic surgical operation of the party to give a total reorganization.
The ACN experience

If you can recall, the Alliance for Democracy (AD) was the dominant party in the Yoruba land. Unfortunately the party entered into a pact with PDP through  former  President Olusegun Obasanjo who was desperately looking for a political base. AD suffered a huge betrayal and they lost the entire South West, except Lagos state where Bola Tinubu played a smart fox. The party was changed to AC and finally ACN.

Having learnt the bitter lesson, the leadership of the party went back to the drawing board. Party leaders such as Asiwaju Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande, and Chief Osoba among others embarked on massive mobilisation and reorganization of the party. The result is there for all to see.

They recaptured the entire South-west except Ondo state. The lesson to be drawn here is that the Yoruba have bounced back as major force in the political equation of the country. They now have a solid political platform to advance the collective interest of the people. Other serious groups in other zones are now willing to collaborate and negotiate with the party on a larger scale. Hence, nobody can toy with the South-West people the way they will toy with the Igbo.

Ndigbo must learn from such rich experience and rally round in APGA as their authentic Igbo platform. Nigeria is a tripod so divinely created. Orji Kalu had that vision and was building something like that with the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA). Unfortunately, he suffered betrayal and he lost Abia and Imo in the process.

The challenges before Obi, Okorocha
Both Peter Obi and Okorocha has the responsibility to make APGA attractive to the people just the way Fashola’s performance made  ACN the right model for the people in the Southwest. I’m sure the people will have no choice than to come under the banner of APGA if they are able to deliver dividends of democracy to the people and demonstrate that governance is not just about sharing money to the godfathers and party cronies. Obi has really started well in Anambra and Rochas is not doing badly in Imo considering the enormous challenge he met on the ground. However, they must remain focus and steadfast in the service to the people.  They must make the two states model of good governance. If they are able to do that there would be no place for politics of  god fatherism and do-or-die in Igbo land.

Critics of Okorocha It is quite expected that those who never wanted good things for the people, those who are still aggrieved over the sudden termination of the chop-chop politics will find it difficult to come to term with the dawn of light in the state and so will pick on anything to criticize him. While it is too early to start assessing his government, it is quite clear that he has been able to restore hope to the people. He has been able to arrest the ugly situation he met on the ground.

However, he must remain focus  and avoid the usual banana peel through periodic auditing and evaluation of the people working with him. A lot of  hawks,  wolves in human skin are trying to get closer to him.
Sustaining committed APGA members It is good to consolidate on the gains of the election. Yes,  I agree with that but we should not forget that during the April elections, some PDP warlords did everything to protect the interest of the man sent to prevent Owelle Rochas Okorocha from winning the election.

Also, some ACN chieftains did same for their candidate. However, the APGA faithful with the support of the people and God won the fiercely contested election. Some of them even staked their lives  in the face of intimidation and harassment. They refused to compromise APGA’s candidate even in the face of tempting offers. Therefore, it would not be fair, just and equitable to sacrifice the interest of such loyalparty men  to satisfy the interest of defectors  from other political parties whose loyalties cannot be guaranteed now.

This is where I want the governor to strike the balance between the new crowd and the tested loyal APGA faithful who were at the forefront of the war during the election. He  should not forget those who put their lives on the line at various polling stations. He should be mindful of those who fought against him to sustain Ohakim in power but who are now telling him that they love him more than they love Ohakim.

He should be wary of such political turncoats who are only interested in what they can benefit from his government. Such people are everwilling to jump to any available ship at any available opportunity.
APGA must be built on strong party discipline and loyalty, which must be cultivated at all levels. For  example, they have their internal policy which requires any newcomer to spend certain period of time before he could be considered ripe for certain positions. So, if you are an ACN, you should be committed to that party.

South-east and tokenism
Yes, you may call it compensation. For example, when an Ibo man is appointed  Secretary to the Federal Government or Deputy Senate President but with due respect, I would describe such purported compensation as an insult to the collective sensibility of the Igbo people considering their  contributions  and sacrifice to the building of Nigerian nation.
The war ended 40 years ago and people are still talking about compensation. We are not strangers in this country. That is why I am advocating for a political platform on which we can stand and negotiate for power. We don’t stand on porous grounds and say we want to negotiate. The most clearly identified political party with undiluted Igbo antecedent today is APGA and this must be on the commitment of everybody that believes in the cardinal objectives of the party. It cannot be built on the shoulders of lily-livered adventurists who cannot be trusted on any principle or ideological stand.

As I  talk  to you, opportunists, adventurists and political turncoats have invaded APGA. This is where both Obi and Okorocha have a great task. They must walk together to build genuine loyalty among their followers. They must identify committed party faithful and make them the real pillars of APGA across Iboland. There is nothing wrong with an Ibo party. There is nothing wrong with a strong Ibo- based political party. You must be a good tribal man before you can be a good national leader.
Source: Sun, 13th December 2011.

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Ojukwu’s leadership qualities unmatched — Obi, Oyo Onyendu Ndigbo

Onyendu Ndigbo, Oyo State, Dr Alloy Obi, has said that the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu would be remembered for his high quality leadership and bravery. He spoke with NGOZI UWUJARE, in Ibadan. Excerpts:
Ojukwu’s death

I am from Anambra State where the late Ikemba of Nnewi came from. I must tell you that his death is shocking and unbelievable. With his death the Igbo have lost a great and patriotic leader, who lived his entire life in the struggle for social justice and equity.

Ojukwu would be remembered for his bravery and high leadership qualities unparalleled not only among the Igbo but throughout the country. He was also a trail blazer. We have lost a leader of leaders and an astute administrator. Ojukwu, who came from a comfortable family background decided to suffer for his love for the Igbo.

President Goodluck Jonathan will do well by immortalising this great Nigerian. We urge all Igbo leaders to learn from his steadfastness and determination. I use this opportunity to commiserate with Nigerians on the loss of one of their illustrious sons and leaders.
Source: Sun, 13th December 2011.

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Ojukwu was in love with one Nigeria – Akinyele

BY DOTUN IBIWOYE

Chief Alex Akinyele

The accolades totally outweigh any criticism about the late Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu, in the eyes of the former Minister of Information, Chief Alex Akinyele. In this interview on the legacies of Ojukwu, Akinyele also bared his mind on some other national issues including national security, corruption among others. Excerpts:

Where would you place the late Odumegwu Ojukwu in the nation’s history?

Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu might be wrongly misunderstood by many people, but I don’t fall within that category. I saw Ojukwu as a Nigerian. He was every sense a Nigerian. Whether you think of his activities and non activities with respect to the Biafra-Nigerian civil war. The fact that he came back after his exile and went into political activities to vote as a Nigerian shows that he is truly a Nigerian.

From the point of view of what he did in the Nigerian- Biafran conflict, he showed that he was a couragous man who laid the foundation for the agitation of the minority interests in Nigeria. He is man who could fight hard to achieve an objective. The first objective might not be in the general interest of Nigeria but you can see the good intentions in his fight.

Also, he fights for the general interest of Nigerians and everyone can see the fighting spirit, like a good soldier.

In 1998 when I went to Enugu as part of the National Reconciliation committee, he presented a paper to the audience. That paper was the best paper that we got in that committee. When you read the paper, you will see that he is passionately in love with one Nigeria. But at the same time, he made attempts for the people who fought the war, he felt that Nigerians who fought in the Biafran war should be compensated, which was a great idea.

You talk as if you knew him personally and had regard for his agitations?

You talk about people according to the way they relate to you. When my wife died, he came to pay a condolence visit to me. He consoled me and pacified me and spoke to me for 30 minutes in my sitting room. I was really impressed because I never knew that he had such patience, for him to stand by me and encourage me to move on with life, was really helpful.

I respect his, perseverance and approach to nationals issues which made him unique among his peers. Since he married the most beautiful woman in Nigeria, he was a good family man.

The lessons that Nigerians should learn from him is that no matter what your country does to you, don’t go to war against your country.

We also have to commend the effort of the former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari who gave him a soft landing to his fatherland. He received him back and settled him in the language of reconciliation.

Ojukwu did not abuse the reconciliation. He honoured it. We thank Shagari for bringing back that kind of Nigerian to the fold of Nigerians. What we have to learn from him or to appreciate, is that whatever difficulties or differences that we have in our country, our country is still our country.

How do you situate these differences you mention in the emergence of Boko Haram that has led to the prosecution of Senator?

The security issue is so serious that it is enough to make all of us shiver. A senator of the federal republic! One of the highest offices in Nigeria and one of them is charged with treason! In fact, I want to say that all those of them who are in the National Assembly should bear part of the shame. That one of us can turn round against the fatherland?

I hope that they will not make a mess of the case in court. It baffles me and it baffles many people. How safe are we?

These Boko Haram people tell you that they will strike at any place that they want to strike, and they strike there. There is nobody to stop them. That was why President Goodluck Jonathan made a mockery of our national award by giving one to the Inspector General of Police. What for? What is the meaning of that?

The police is not doing their best to save us in this country. And the way they distribute policemen to senators, assembly men here and there as if they are so jobless.

I went to see a friend, he is just a politician and there were three of them (policemen) there!

There was a time that I visited my friend, he was then the chairman of PDP, his house was like a police barrack – as if the country does not know what to do with the policemen we train. That is why 30 people were recently killed in Jos, 10 people killed by armed robbers in Ogun State last week. So who is safe?

A logical and reasonable distribution of policemen will address the question of insecurity. But they are in the houses of these politicians, they carry plates, they drive their cars, they drive their wives. They are like house boys.

The Inspector General of Police should look into that. And whatever he observes let him write the Senate. The policemen have lost their identities, they have lost their pride, they are like house boys. They follow their bosses to parties and when their bosses are drinking, they are also drinking and they send them errands there in the party. The girl friends of the senators also send them on errand. They have really downgraded our police.

How can you expect the best from a police force which has been so downgraded? So we need a rethink in this country. What we have, we don’t know how to use. Our police have gone round the world, they come back with medals, but we who own them do not know how to use them. We still treat them like house boys, errand boys, it is unfair.

What is your take on the plea bargain method adopted by the EFCC?

What is called plea bargain? It is the most corrupt way to dispense justice. When it started, I was alarmed and it was a shame that all of us opened our eyes wide when they were going with their plea bargain. There is no degree of honesty. Somebody who has stolen money? It may be ten thousand or one million naira. Basically he is a rogue. Treat him like a rogue. Why pamper them? Why say, “Alright you have stolen billions, say you are sorry. Give back about ten naira to the government and they themselves will take some for themselves.”

It is an abuse of the rule of law. Abuse of the rule of justice of fair play, abuse of the integrity of the court. It shouldn’t have happened and when it happened, I was so shocked that I stopped talking or commenting on EFCC.

I am surprised that the great minds in this country did not see it. I am surprised that they allowed it to happen at all. I am also surprised that they allowed it to happen in more than one case. When it happened in another case people would have raised alarm and it would have been better. Whatever happened, it is already in our records that those who are called upon to fight crime, to fight corruption are themselves assisting and encouraging corruption with plea bargain.

So what do you think is the way out?

One of the reasons that Farida Waziri was sacked was because of this plea bargain. She is a lawyer, she is a top police officer, she should not have allowed it, talk less of executing it. I must confess, I have respect for her, she is my friend and I like her very much and there was a time I was supporting her with my views as expressed in the papers. But immediately this plea bargaining started, I was surprised. It could have happened under somebody else, not Farida.

Does that imply that the President made the right decision in sacking her?

We all know that the president has good intentions. He is a godly man, he is a lucky man, always dancing around him are the apostles of the devil so he needs a greater heart not to shame God. If he was appointed by God and he is there now, you should know that anybody that is anointed by God’s will is the target of devils.

The way that some of these governors are looting the treasury and being set free is also worrying. They don’t start to steal at the second term, they start stealing from the time they get there, right from day one, because they know that they might not be elected again.

So if the second term doesn’t come, they carry on with their business. It is a pity in this country. Sunny Ade said that the problem that money will bring, money will not be able to cure it. Nigerians love and craze for money will definitely destroy this country eventually.

It seems as if nobody is too big nobody is too highly placed not to steal. Where are we heading in this country?

What does anybody want to do with it excess money. It does not exempt you from death, it does not exempt you from being sick and it does not exempt you from having cancer. They just destroy themselves, destroy their reputation and they destroy Nigeria alongside. That is the most pitiable part of this craze for money. It is a pity.

What is your assessment of the recent national awards, does it still have its credibility?

From my assessment it has nothing called credibility. When you line them up and take a selection of ten of the awardees, you will discover that six of them are looters and unpatriotic people. Where is the integrity? That was why I have expressed an opinion that the president should begin to think from next time, he should write out list of those to be awarded. He should give the list to the Nigerian public. If anyone has anything against any of these people, let us know. Then they will be appointed by all of us.

If that does not seem to suit them, then send the list to the EFCC, SSS, ICPC are these people honest, can you clear them, and tell us if they have criminal records. We want to know more about these people inside and outside. When they say yes as they confirm their names, the president can give them awards. But when you give rogues…

I told you that there is no degree of honesty. You are either honest or dishonest. Not you saying that your own degree of dishonesty is manageable, I stole only NI.1 billion. It is not acceptable. There is no comparison. A rogue is a rogue. If the president will do that, it will be very good for the country and therefore, if you have a national award offered to you everybody will respect it, not only Nigerians will respect you, people outside Nigeria will respect you. When you go to the UK, the US and other western countries, you will be sorry for Nigeria the way people talk about the values that we hold dear to ourselves.
Source: Vanguard, 5th December 2011

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Ojukwu: Profiling striking condolences

Written by Abiodun AwolajaMonday

Abiodun Awolaja  does a random sampling of the tributes  paid to the late Biafran leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, from across the country, presenting few of the most striking ones.

Ojukwu 3
Ojukwu

The transition, penultimate  Saturday, of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, former Biafran warlord, has naturally attracted a torrent of tributes from across the country. As a figure in Nigerian history, Ojukwu ranks immediately after the nation’s founding fathers such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, as a personage whose Odyssey is  inextricably intertwined with the country’s, and as one of the most extensively studied academic subjects across the globe.

Declaring that his place in the country’s history was assured, President Goodluck Jonathan said Ojukwu’s ‘’immense love for his people, justice, equity, and fairness which forced him into the leading role he played in the Nigerian Civil War and, as well as his commitment to reconciliation and the full integration of his people into a united and  progressive Nigeria in the aftermath of the war, will ensure that he is remembered as one of the great personalities of his time who stood out easily as a brave, courageous, fearless, erudite and charismatic leader.”

Senate President David Mark, speaking in the same vein, said: “ No matter how much you loved or hated 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.”

Two major actors in the polity, Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, gave touching tributes to the fallen Ikemba of Nnewi. Obsanjo said: “ 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 commiserate with his family and pray for the repose of his soul.” While this might look like an ordinary statement, Obasanjo’s disclosure that he had, on several occasions, discussed the possibility of an expression of remorse from Ojukwu “on the Nigerian Civil War which in itself was a culmination of actions and reactions” no doubt touches the sorest point in the country’s history, and rekindles memories of the bloody crisis which did incalculable damage to Nigeria’s corporate existence.

For his part, Babangida, who urged the Federal Government to immortalise the late Igbo leader, said: “Dim Ojukwu’s patriotism about the oneness of the country was not in doubt. He believed that given the country’s diverse socio-political and cultural configurations, the nation-states within the nation must be given room to flourish in a mutually exclusive arrangement that would further the aspiration of the country.”

For his part, immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni, said: “With Ikemba’s death, there is nothing more to say other than “oke osisi din a nukwu ogha na ala igbo adawoo”(‘’The biggest iroko tree in the forest of Igboland has fallen.”). Like our own Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, Ojukwu was, indeed, the power of the Igbo people and truly a Dikedioramma (beloved hero). He will be missed by all.”

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said “Chief Ojukwu’s actions in his life time impacted hugely on the history of Nigeria and helped shape the country’s destiny. His endless quest for fairness and justice was reflected in his unmatched love for his people, and the sacrifices he made on their behalf,” while the Oyo State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, operating on the wavelength of Igbo culture, said the late Biafran warlord mirrored the trinity of Igbo character. According to him, the trinity of Igbo character included Akpu uche (cult of reason), Ukwu n’ije (striving and enterprise) and Aka Ikenga (pride of attainment). He added that a good score by an Igbo man in all these three pronounced him to have attained Ntozu (accomplishment/high grade titles), which in turn brings Odenigbo (global acclaim).

In contrast to Ajimobi’s learned cultural discourse, however, former House of Representatives member, Patrick Obahiagbon, enthused in his rather quaint style: “The invitation to the celestial lodge of the soul personality of the irrefrangible and sui generis Ikemba himself—Dim Odumegwo Ojukwu—brings again to focal hiceps and biceps the ephemerality of life. Beyond the state of lachrymoseism, his celestial ascension has, and would, continue to righteously bestir.

“I do hope, however, that we take immutable cognition of the fact that the fundamental issues which Ikemba confronted have now even coagulated and ossified into Gorgon Medusa. For Nigeria to progress, we must apotheosise our centripetal proclivities above our centrifugal excrescence. All hail Ikemba.”

And the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), in a tribute which focused on the political dividends of the fallen soldier’s struggle for the Igbo nation within the Nigerian political ecology, said: “He was a political icon and a man greatly needed by many people to build and enhance their respective political influences. He was forthright, courageous, outspoken and a true patriot.”

Former Ogun State governor, Chief Segun Osoba, lamented the passing of the military strongman, but took solace in the fact that he died as a Nigerian rather than a separatist ethnic leader. “He was always passionate about any cause; he was passionate about Nigeria. He fled the country at a point but returned to die a Nigerian.”
Source: Tribune, 5th December 2011.

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In London, Ojukwu was lonely, dumb – Igwe Nwokedi

BY BASHIR ADEFAKA

Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s death, last Saturday, has continued to generate comments from eminent Nigerians, especially those who were with him from the time of the Civil War till his death.

Igwe Alex Nwokedi, a veteran journalist and Igbo monarch who served in the war as head of counter intelligence under Ojukwu’s Republic of Biafra gives graphic details of Ojukwu’s health in London hospital.

Ojukwu 4
Nwokedi and Ojukwu

Your Majesty was very close to the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu so much that you visited him at his London hospital before he died. What is your account of his life in London hospital?

When I visited London, I went to the hospital where he was admitted. His chief- of- staff was with him and I was told upon entering the ward that I should just hold his hand and speak; that he could hear but he could not talk. I held his hand and greeted him, “Gburugburu,” that is Igwe of Igbo Land. He was a very good Catholic. I told him that he had suffered for the Igbo and that our mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary would take very good care of him.

I spoke to him, encouraged him but to tell you the truth, I was not happy at all with his situation. There was a Philipino nurse taking care of him, and his daughter was also there with him. They were the only two people with him in that ward. I told the daughter that as she was taking care of her father, that our Lord would bless her and that her own children would pay her back by taking good care of her. Then, I left the hospital and since then, I have been saying Novena Mass for him so that our good Lord would take good care of him.

Also, during my visit to him in London, I was told how General Gowon used to call every day to ask after his health. That really touched me. I was the one who suggested to his General Practitioner, GP, Dr. Koyi Ugboma, who recommended him to specialists in London that they should put the ailing Ojukwu in a wheel chair and move him around because to lie in that position without being moved around could be very tormenting. I told him also that after taking him around and he became normal, that they should bring him back to Enugu where his people would be coming to visit him and that itself would make him fine because he was very lonesome.

How did your relationship with him start?

I knew Ojukwu in the early 60s through my late brother, the Igwe I took over from, Igwe Charles Nwokedi. He was a very good friend of Ojukwu. When I was with the Daily Times as a reporter. I was on leave sometime and I went to my brother in Aba. He and Ojukwu lived together when Ojukwu was the District Officer. Ojukwu came to the airport in Enugu to pick me in ‘calm and gear’ vehicle. That was what they called the car that time, and he drove me from Enugu to my brother’s house in Aba. And all along, we chatted very well. He was telling me about his days in King’s College and I was telling him too about my days in St. Gregory’s College. We were chatting that way until we got home.

Since then, we were meeting quite regularly in my brother’s place till the (civil) war started.

Was there anything about Ojukwu’s character then that suggested he could lead a war in the magnitude of Biafra Civil War?

Ojukwu was a very kind hearted man. With the war, he became the man of the century. He sacrificed a lot to take the Igbo out of slavery. His father was a very rich man and he had all the money of his father but still, he sacrificed everything he had and volunteered to wage the war, which was imposed on him.

You said the war was imposed on him. How?

That war was imposed him because he didn’t start it. He was not in the (first) coup. In fact, he was among those to be killed but he narrowly escaped, and after the coup, they went for Ahiara Declaration, which Vanguard is serializing. And you know what happened? After the Aburi Accord in Ghana and they all came back, the then ‘Super’ Permanent Secretaries went to convince the Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon and they reneged from what they all agreed on in Ghana.

Nobody would say that the killing of Igbos at that time was a good thing but Nigerians kept quiet. Ojukwu did not start the war. Nigerians started the war, they attacked us and we defended ourselves.

I must say that somebody like the then, Lt. Col. Theophilus Danjuma, being a very disciplined officer, made sure that he was fighting a war and not personality. But for the discipline he instilled in the One Division of the Nigerian Army that he commanded at that time, the war would have lingered on and probably Biafrans could have gone into guerrilla warfare.

Well, I don’t agree with him for his coup and I don’t agree with his remarks, which he wrote about General Aguiyi Ironsi. But when you talk about the Civil War, the truth there is that General Danjuma, who was then a lieutenant colonel, was a very disciplined commander and he disciplined his division very well, which played a role in how the war ended. We also have to thank General Gowon for his declaration of ‘no victor, no vanquished’.

Another person who is very important on how the war really ended was a deputy inspector-general of police then, Chief Theo Fagbola. As a matter of fact, Fagbola could be said to be the architect of the end of the Civil War in Nigeria.

Chief Awolowo has always been mentioned in this regard. How did Fagbola come into it?

I am coming to that. When the Owelle of Onitsha and former President, late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, was in the plane travelling to Liberia, Fagbola was in the plane. He delayed the flight and took Dr. Azikiwe to Dodan Barracks and that was the beginning of the end of the Civil War because it was as a result of that action that the Igbo became divided as to whether to surrender or continue with the war or not.

We all respected Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and for him to be seen in Dodan Barracks at that time talking with the Nigerian side caused the division of opinions among the Igbos and that was the end of the war, though General Obasanjo ended it physically and General Gowon sealed it up with his might and magnanimity.

I’m therefore using this medium to call on the government to give a post-humous award to the late DIG, Chief Theo Fagbola for his noble role in how the move for the end of the Civil War started. His taking Dr. Azikiwe to Dodan Barracks was the beginning of the dialogues and negotiations that eventually ended the war.

Igbo without Ojukwu

First and foremost, we the Igbo shall immortalize him. As a matter of fact, I’m calling on the Anambra State House of Assembly to pass a resolution that Anambra State should be called Biafra State to immortalize Ojukwu.

Does that not sound inciting considering the issue on ground regarding MASSOB?

We are not doing it with war again. It should be done constitutionally because Ojukwu was and he is still a great man in death as you can see. And as a matter of fact, for the seven days declared for mourning, I urge all traditional rulers not to wear beads; any Igbo man who is a traditional ruler should not wear beads as a sign of mourning our late great leader.

The chief mourner is the Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Peter Obi. You have linked his recent return of schools to missionaries as part of the signs that the Civil War has finally ended. Could you throw more light on this?

I don’t know about the political aspect of it but all I know is that our governor, Peter Obi, returned schools to their original owners and that, again, is a landmark of the end of the Civil War. By handing over those schools to the voluntary organizations who have the will to run them, he has virtually told the Igbos not only in Anambra State but elsewhere that the Civil War has ended.

How do I mean? Yes, because taking schools away in the first place from voluntary agencies was an attempt to destroy the educational power that was the pride of the Igbo and to tell you the fact, it was the reason the Igbo did not like Anthony Ukpabi Asika, the former governor of East Central State. He was the one who took over the schools. I think he said he was forced to do it because at that time,what they were talking about in the country was educational imbalance and the North was always talking of imbalance in education in Nigeria and taking schools away from the missions in the East at that time was a calculated attempt to destroy the pride of the Igbo which was the education.

When you look at it, while Hausas were talking about education imbalance, the Igbo, instead of complaining, didn’t but rather they strived to catch up with the Yoruba so much that today there are more lawyers, doctors and engineers in Igboland than they are in Yorubaland.

And this happened because, instead of shouting education imbalance, we started to build schools all over Igboland. At that time, there were only Christ the King College, Government College Umuahia and about two others. But when the missionaries came, they started building schools and so we had many schools all over the place.

I must say that as Igbo, we should be proud of ourselves. And when again they wanted to destroy us, Ojukwu resisted it and led us during the war that was imposed on us. We fought that war to defend ourselves. We did not start it.

We did not fight that war to break Nigeria. The Igbo were foremost in nationalist struggle in this country. Most Nigerians who went to jail were Igbo and some Northerners, of course, like Mallam Abdullahi and Tanbo Gawaba. We had Okoye, Abuna, Peter Osugo, many Igbo who went to jail fighting for this country. Does it then make sense to say the Igbo would want to destroy what they built? I’m asking you: do you think we should destroy what we built? The Igbo did not fight the war to break Nigeria but we fought the war to defend ourselves; we fought the war to defend our faith and knowledge.

There are people who were very close to Ojukwu and only they can talk about him, not the kind of talks that I have been hearing or reading by some people who don’t know him. There are people like Uche Chukwumerije, Dr. Benard Odogwu, who was the head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence under Ojukwu’s Biafra and under whom I served during the war as the head of counter intelligence. So those who know Ojukwu should speak. I will always remain proud of him and as far as I am concerned. Ojukwu will always remain a hero, who saved the Igbo from slavery.

Is it still a case that the Igbo will never forget Awolowo for the role he played in their loss of secession?

It was what he said that caused it. He said everything we had was just N20 and it was too hard on us but that will not stop me from recognizing him as a great man who, as Federal Commissioner for Finance, fought the war without borrowing money. The truth must be said.

I have very high regards for Papa Awolowo and I have a very, very high regard for General Yakubu Gowon; he has a big heart, he’s a brother and an uncle to the Igbo. Similarly, somebody like Danjuma must be acknowledged here as a great man. While the Third Marine Commando in the West was just busy killing people any how, Lt. Col. Danjuma instilled discipline in his own division and that helped a lot in stopping the war from escalating beyond what it was.
Source: Vanguard, 5th December 2011.

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The Man Who Freed Awo

Wole Olaoye

opinion

"I guess you already know my name; what's yours?" Ojukwu asked me.

"I'm Wole Olaoye," I answered.

It was the roaring eighties. I was editor-In-Chief of Monthly Life magazine. The month's cover story had been assigned to a senior staff writer, but the Subject had insisted that he would speak to no one else but the editor-In-Chief. I had to take the interview in the company of our venerable columnist, Chief Cyprian Ekwensi.

He struck me as a man who knew he was intelligent and wouldn't suffer fools gladly. Several times I had to remind him that I was supposed to be the one asking questions because he would suddenly turn a question around on its head and ask me my opinion. It was such a delight sparring with him. It was a testimony to his stature that we reprinted the edition of Monthly Life in which the Ojukwu cover story appeared three times within two weeks.

It was a mutually beneficial engagement: We broke the ice on Ojukwu's comprehensive marginalization by both government and media, making unprecedented cover sales in the process; and he lifted the interview for use in his book, Because I Am Involved.

Now the Iroko tree has fallen and all kinds of ants are crawling all over it. The elephant has expired and different shapes and sizes of knives are showing up to carve a chunk. I insist that every human life has a lesson to teach- if only we look closely enough. Love him or hate him, adore him or deride him; Christopher Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu will be recognized by history as a man who rose up to the challenge facing his people at a crucial period of Nigerian history. Yes, his was the face of the rebellion, the face that the federal propagandists taught us to hate. We must however not forget that both he and Yakubu Gowon were thrown up by forces of history.

When I asked Ojukwu about his relationship with Gowon and his former colleagues from Northern Nigeria, he said he did not nurse any animosity against any of those who found themselves on the federal side during the 30-month civil war. Specifically he said of Gowon: "That Gowon and I did not see eye-to-eye on certain issues was as a result of our different perceptions of the situation at the time. These were perceptions built into our being in Nigeria. If I were from the North my perception of the situation would have been entirely different, just as if Gowon had been from the East. In leading the war we both postured. For anyone therefore to try and extend this posturing and make it permanent on the national stage, to my mind, is sterile."

Ojukwu was quite generous in his assessment of Nigeria's First Republic leaders, even if he didn't agree with their ideological persuasions. On Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Northern Region, he said: "Whenever children, the heirs of our today, read the history of Nigeria the one name that must command admiration and one which will, without doubt, attract the largest fan club would be that of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto.... He perceived Northern Nigeria as his domain and proceeded by sheer force of character to pull up that section of Nigeria from its bootstraps...."

He also admired Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe for different reasons and in varying degrees. He said Zik was his childhood idol and a close friend of his millionaire father, Sir L.P. Odumegwu Ojukwu. There were so many things he admired about Zik, but he felt that the great nationalist could have done more for the region of his birth. On Awo he complained that the Nigerian press had not given him credit where it was due. Striking his massive chest, he declared that it was he, and not General Gowon, that effected the release of Chief Awolowo from Calabar prison in 1966. He reminded me that he was the Governor of the Eastern Region at the time and he could have done as he pleased if he had other motives. Indeed he said he released his father's Rolls Royce to ferry the former premier of the Western Region from prison.

The least one can say of Ojukwu is that he was a man of his convictions. He stood for something. Born into wealth and privileged to have the best education money could buy in his day, he took on the challenges of leadership of his people at a difficult period and I consider it unfair to demonise him permanently on account of that. No one can turn back the hands of the clock. Mistakes were made by all concerned. Ojukwu was as fallible as his next door neighbour. If there is anything to learn from his life, it is that each section of the country must be careful how it treats others; what starts as a socio-political boil can become a fratricidal and cancerous ulcer. We should be generous to him in death.

"Death is more universal than life", says Albie Sachs; "everyone dies but not everyone lives."

Christopher Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu lived - which is more than can be said of many of us.

The world favours the wicked (Author Unknown)

Dakota Native American tribal wisdom, passed on from generation to generation, says: "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount and get a different horse."

However, in government and corporate Africa, more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.

5. Lowering the standards so that the dead horse can be included.

6. Re-classifying the dead horse as 'living impaired'.

7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.

9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse's performance.

10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overheads and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.

12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And of course...

13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position, so that some other horse does the job on its behalf!

If you understand the above, then you are obviously residing in Africa...
Source: Daily Trust, 5th December 2011.

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CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU, 1933-2011: Symbol Of Igbo Struggle

Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s fight for life ended on November 26 in a London hospital. It was the last fight of a man who had engaged in one struggle or the other in his fairly long life on earth. However, it was the struggle for Biafra, which he led as head of state, that has made him one of the major actors in the history of modern Nigeria.

The tributes that have been pouring in from all corners of the globe and from all manner of people –  even from former antagonists – since Ojukwu’s death attest to the greatness of this former warlord. Nobody has convicted him for the attempt by the former Eastern Region to secede from Nigeria; anyone in his shoes would have granted the request of his people to save them from total annihilation.

In several ways, therefore, Ojukwu symbolised resistance to oppression: As a young lad, in 1944, he attracted newspaper headlines when he assaulted a white colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman at King’s College, Lagos. Obviously, the urge to defend his country from external aggression was one of the reasons he joined the army in 1957. Son of a billionaire businessman, Ojukwu had returned to Nigeria in 1956 after obtaining a master’s degree in History from Oxford University. Against his wealthy father’s advice, he worked briefly as an administrative officer before resigning to join the army. When the first military coup happened in January 1966, Ojukwu helped in frustrating the coup plotters in Kano. The coup failed and power was handed over to the supreme commander of the armed forces, General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi, who later appointed Ojukwu military governor of the then Eastern Region. A counter-coup on July 29 of that year led to Aguiyi-Ironsi’s assassination and a pogrom during which Igbo people were massacred in parts of northern Nigeria. Ojukwu did everything to avoid reprisal attacks in the Eastern Region.

The non-implementation of an agreement reached at a peace conference held in Aburi, Ghana, in January 1967 prompted Ojukwu to declare the state of Biafra on May 30. Yakubu Gowon, who had succeeded Aguiyi-Ironsi as Nigeria’s head of state, declared war on Biafra on July 6, 1967. The war ended in January 1970 when Ojukwu travelled to Ivory Coast and his deputy Philip Effiong surrendered. Gowon proclaimed there was “no victor, no vanquished”.

The civilian government of Shehu Shagari granted Ojukwu pardon in 1982. His return to the country, after 12 years in exile, was phenomenal. His people celebrated him, conferring numerous traditional titles on him. And, from then, Ojukwu became the undisputed leader of the Igbo.

While joining the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1983, he promised to reintegrate the Igbo into the mainstream of Nigerian politics. In the Fourth Republic, he ran for president twice (2003 and 2007) under the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The party currently controls two states, Anambra and Imo.

Our condolences go to the Ojukwu family and to all Igbo who regarded him as their king. Indeed, Nigeria has lost a great man whose equal is difficult to find.
Source: Leadership, 5th December 2011.

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Ohaneze Ndigbo visits Ojukwu's family

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Ohaneze Ndigbo ethnic group, on Sunday paid a condolence visit to the ancestral home of the late Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

The group, including its past and present members, was led by the President-General, Amb. Ralph Uwechue.

Other members on the visit included the Secretary-General, Chief Nduka Eya, Ikenga Nnewi, Dr Dozie Ikedife, Ikemba Ahaba, Col. Joe Achuzia, Mr Hycenth Nweke, Mr Ralph Ndigwe and Mrs Getrude Iroemeh.

They were received by the Ojukwu family, the traditional ruler of Nnewi, Igwe Kenneth Orizu III at his palace, as well as executives of the Town Union (Nzuko Ora).

In a message presented by Uwechue, the group expressed grief at the death of Ojukwu, whom it described as "a rare gem and contemporary legend of Igbo land.

``When something happens to a great man, you will first go to his ancestral home to sympathise.

``So, we are here to condole with, and confer with the Ojukwu family over the loss of their son and our Igbo legend.

``The death was a great loss to Ndigbo as Ojukwu stood out for the struggle of Ndigbo when the people needed him most.''

He noted that the legacy the ‘Ikemba Nnewi' left behind would remain alive, saying that "Ojukwu's death will be a take-off point for Ndigbo.''

Uwechue assured that the Ohaneze Ndigbo would play its expected role in the burial "of a worthy son of Igbo land," adding that a condolence register had been opened at its secretariat in Enugu.

``We would be happy if the Federal Government takes steps to honour Ojukwu to ensure that he receives the honour that is due to him,'' he added.

Responding, the late Ojukwu's brother, Mr Sunday Ojukwu, thanked the group for the visit and promised to relate with them to ensure a befitting burial for the Igbo leader.

At the palace of the traditional ruler of Nnewi, Igwe Kenneth Orizu III, a minute silence was observed in honour of the late Ojukwu.

In his remarks, Orizu recalled that he gave Ojukwu the name "Ikemba Nnewi" in recognition of his contribution to the liberation of the entire Ndigbo.

``We know so far that Ojukwu has gone on a journey. We look forward to when we will be communicated offically so that we can join in the funeral proceedings,'' the traditional ruler remarked.

Odumegwu-Ojukwu died in a London hospital on Nov. 26 at the age of 78.

Source: Next, 5th December 2011.

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Tribute to Ikemba Nnewi

Adamu Adamu

opinion

The death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, Dikedioranmma Ezeigbo Gburugburu, in London a fortnight ago truly marked the end of an era--an era that shaped, destroyed and had since been trying unsuccessfully to reshape the nation's destiny. Despite its failure, it was the era of remarkable men.

And by whatever measure, Dim Ojukwu was a remarkable person with many great qualities, but history will remember him not for these qualities but for the rebellion that, more than any of those qualities, came to so accurately define him and his eventful and chequered life for this nation: a Nigerian by birth, an Igbo by tribe, a historian by training, a soldier by profession, a rebel by disposition and a Biafran by choice. Forced by circumstances beyond his control, he reverted to a being a Nigerian again; but, at heart he remained the quintessential rebel.

And it was as a rebel that he became a hero to his people--symbol of their struggle, focus of their emotion, a fighter for their rights, and the captain of the war train--but still the accidental hero who was the product of a struggle of which he was not, at least officially, originally a part. It was a struggle that was anything but heroic in its origin; for, it was not in the nature of rational things that the selective murder of the political and military leaders of a section of the country could in any way answer the name of revolution, as some people were now trying to promote that regicide--that communal killing carried out by men in uniform at the dawn of that fateful January 15, 1966, and eulogise its perpetrators as revolutionary heroes. Revolution should be made of saner, sterner stuff.

The Eastern coup couldn't have been a revolution any more than the Northern pogrom carried out in response to it could be said to be heroic or gallant. In any case, the pogrom--inexcusable under any circumstance--couldn't have been because of the killing of the Sardauna and the others; and if it was presented as such, it would still be unacceptable and condemned. The Sardauna and the others were killed by Major Chukuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and not by Ndigbo.

And the truth was that the pogrom was incited by a report of mass killings of Northerners in the East heard on Radio Cotonou, a story invented and told to some Northern leaders by the Americans at the monitoring station in Kaduna. But nobody wants to know even as the nation comes back full circle and gets set to repeat the same tragedy, egged on by the same people, only now in a way that is more sophisticated. But whatever the reality was, it was simply unacceptable: at the critical moment, the North had not been a good host to Ndigbo, and it is still not; but certainly war in 1967 was not inevitable.

And from what some Igbo leaders were saying today the decision to break away and go to war was not a unanimously agreed tribal project. It was Ojukwu's lone and unilateral declaration. He was the leader thrown up by circumstances and he fit the bill--intelligent, charismatic, self-sacrificing, and authoritarian--some have said autocratic--and who brooked no opposition. It was no ambition that propelled him in what he did as leader of the rebellion--it was pure ambitiousness. The land of Ndigbo was looking for a statesman; instead, it got a patriotic, autocratic despot, a tribal shogun, on an ego trip on which he took the whole of his people along, and forced them into a war for which they were ill-prepared.

And if the January 1966 coup, the rebellion and the war that came in its aftermath were all to redress grievances of marginalisation of the Ndigbo, the war then had really been fought in vain; because Ndigbo and a host of others are today louder and more vociferous in making those very same charges. As to the efficacy of the rebellion in redressing grievances, the Helmsman of the rebellion was himself reported to have had second thoughts.

In the past, on the national scene, Igbo was Ibo--'I Before Others'--and that, perhaps more than any of the misdeeds of governance, should explain what happened in the immediate post-independence period; but Igbo republican temperament had blinded them to the fact that their most prominent Chief answered the title Obi--Others Before I, that being the right attitude to adopt by those who wish to lead others.

And if fighting for Biafra seemed right to the Igbo, fighting it to preserve the territorial integrity of Nigeria seemed an even better proposition to the rest of Nigerians. But the reality was that even to them, Biafra was not the best, or even a good, idea; not when, as Dr. Samuel Ikoku once pointed out, Ndigbo, more so than all other tribal groups, needed the expanse of Nigeria's room for their being and wellbeing.

Thus, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe's "I believed then as I believe now" speech should have come at the very time Ojukwu was dragging the East to war, and not when the civil war had already claimed more than a million lives; but fear was the key. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo's recent revelation that Ojukwu had in fact expressed remorse for the war, and Ojukwu's own assertion that he could now go to war to defend Nigeria's unity and territorial integrity ought now to have awakened latter-day Biafraphiles to their senses to appreciate the folly of the war and the danger in trying to reenact it. 'No-victor, no vanquished' might have given absolution, but that didn't mean mistakes were not made.

And if Nigeria's territorial integrity was indeed something worth defending and fighting for, the nation was yet to express its full gratitude to the North for bearing the burden of it all. And if, as everyone, including Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the nation's foremost constitutional lawyers, had always said, that true, proper federalism was the only answer for Nigeria, this nation was yet to pay the right and proper tribute and give thanks to General TY Danjuma and General Martin Adamu for sacrificing their lives to defend federalism.
Source: Daily Trust, 5th December 2011.

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Ojukwu to be buried Feb 2

By Chris Oji, Enugu and Nwanosike Onu, Awka 

The late Biafra leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu will be buried on February 2, next year, Anambra State Governor Peter Obi announced yesterday.

Obi spoke to reporters after a meeting of Southeast governors in Enugu. 

According to him, although the funeral will begin in Enugu, the late Ojukwu’s body will be taken to his country home, Nnewi, for burial.

According to the governor, a committee will be set up to discuss the burial.

He said all the Southeast and Southsouth states that made up the former Eastern Region as well the presidency will participate in the ceremonies.

“On 2nd of February, 2012, the burial ceremony of Dim Ojukwu will take place in Enugu, after which his remains will be taken to his country home, Nnewi for internment”.

The ceremonies will begin in Enugu because it was the capital of the former Eastern Region, Obi said.

It was also gathered that Ojukwu’s remains will be taken to Zungeru, Niger State his birth place, and Lagos where he started his career.

Also yesterday, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the apex Igbo Socio-cultural Organisation (Ohanaeze Ndigbo), led by Amb. Raph Uwechue, visited the family of the late Ojukwu yesterday to condole with them.

They also addressed the Nnewi National Assembly and the traditional ruler of the commercial city, Obi Kenneth Orizu.

The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo told the family and the people of Nnewi that Ndigbo will only be happy if the Ikemba Nnewi is given a state burial.

Ohanaeze said Nigeria should honour the great height attained by Ojukwu by honouring him in a special way.

After signing the condolence register at the Ojukwu family home in Umudim, Uwechue said Ojukwu died when Ndigbo needed his leadership counsel the most.

The traditional ruler of Nnewi, Igwe Kennenth Orizu, said at his palace that Ojukwu’s death should bring unity in Igboland. He described his death as painful.

Former President General of Ohaneze Dr Dozie Ikedife said before the former warlord’s burial, the Federal Government should bestow national honour on him or stay off his burial.

The Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nduka Eya urged the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) to ensure that Ojukwu’s legacy does not die.

A younger brother of the late Ikemba Nnewi, Mr Sunday Ojukwu, praised Ohanaeze for respecting his brother, with their visit. 

The Director of Information of MASSOB, Comrade Uchenna Madu, said the group took over the family house of Ojukwu to avoid any breakdown of law and order.

He urged the Federal Government and Obi to rehabilitate the Oba to Okigwe road and other Nnewi roads that are dilapidated before his burial.

Uwechue said: “Ojukwu died for Igbo cause and we must give him every respect he deserves.

“He never thought of breaking up Nigeria, but he fought in order not to allow the Igbo nation to be conquered by anybody, I resigned my position as Nigeria’s Ambassador to France to join Ojukwu in his cause to liberate Ndigbo. I was not sacked.”

The former Prefect, Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Francis Cardinal Arinze has thanked Obi for the attention given to the late Ojukwu during his illness.

In a letter to the Governor, Cardinal Arinze promised to continue to remember the dead hero at Holy Mass so that he will have eternal rest.

He extolled the late Ojukwu’s intelligence, firmness of principles, love for his people, high qualities of leadership and courage to face challenges, noting that he occupies a significant place in the history of Nigeria.

The Catholic Bishop of Nnewi, the Most Reverend Hilary Paul Odili Okeke, said Ojukwu’s death end the earthly life of a legend.

Rev Okeke noted that the late Ojukwu, in spite of numerous challenges, remained the undisputed Igbo leader, the authentic rallying point of all Igbo people and one who had the  interest of Ndigbo at heart, a patriot and an icon who led the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) with vision and courage.
Source: The Nation, 5th December 2011.

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Ojukwu for Burial Feb 2, 2012

By  Christopher Isiguzo 

Indications emerged Sunday, that the remains of the former Biafran warlord and leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who died in a London hospital on November 26, would be laid to rest on February 2, 2012.

This is coming on a day the Anglican Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Rev. Emmanuel Chukwumah, declared that the demise of Ojukwu would not bring to an end the struggle for Biafra, urging Igbo leaders to rise up without further delay in demanding for their fair share in the country.

Also, the leader of the World Ndigbo Youth Council, (WNIC), Chief Ndubuisi Igwekala,  said his group would mobilise all Igbo youths both at home and in Diaspora to be part of Ojukwu’s burial on February 2, insisting that the late elder statesman fought to give Igbos true identity.

Chairman of the South-east Governors’ Forum and Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, announced the burial date, while addressing journalists, shortly after a meeting of the forum at the Enugu Government House, Sunday.

The governor said all burial  activities of the late Igbo leader would be held in Enugu on the same day, while his remains would be taken to his country home, Nnewi in Anambra State, solely for interment.

According to him, a committee would soon be set to discuss further on the burial arrangements of the former Biafran leader.

Obi said all the states of the defunct East Central State, where the late Ojukwu held sway as the military governor as well the presidency would participate in the ceremonies which would take place in Enugu State.

“On February 2, 2012, the burial ceremony of Ojukwu will take place in Enugu, after which his corpse will be taken to his country home Nnewi for internment,” he said.
He explained that the decision to commence the interment ceremonies for the late APGA leader in Enugu was informed by the fact that Enugu was the capital of the former Eastern Region.
Apart from the Governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sullivan Chime, who was represented at the meeting, the other governors of Abia, Imo, Ebonyi State were all
present.

In another development, the Anglican Bishop of Enugu, Bishop Chukwuma, said while briefing newsmen in Enugu that the death of Ojukwu would not mark an end to be Igbo struggle for justice, equity and fair-play.

Chukwuma also described the statement credited to former president Olusegun Obasanjo to the effect that he advised Ojukwu to apologise for the civil war as unfortunate, stressing that should there be any form of apology, it should come from Obasanjo for enthroning a culture of corruption on Nigeria during his eight years “misrule”.

The Anglican cleric who said Obasanjo was “talking rubbish’, noted that there was no reason for the apology as according to him, Ojukwu stood for a just cause.

He said there was no dispute to the fact that Ojukwu was governor of the former east central state, insisting that should the federal government refuse to give him a national burial, the governors of the south east and their south-south counterparts should come together and give him a state burial.

Speaking further on how Ojukwu can be immortalised, Chukwuma asked for the naming of the Nnewi Teaching Hospital, as well as the Anambra State University after the late Biafran leader.

“As far as we are concerned, Ojukwu made national influence and left no one in doubt as to his contribution to the growth and development of the nation. Although he may have his handicaps, but he was a courageous Nigerian and his type is not easy to come by. Nigeria should immortalize him”, Chukwuma said.

Similarly, the Leader of the World Ndigbo Youth Council, Chief Igwekala said in Enugu yesterday that his group was prepared to mobilise all Igbos to ensure that Ojukwu received a befitting burial on the stipulated date.

Igwekala, who was formerly the Director of Youth and Sports of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) noted that there was no level of contributions to the burial of Ojukwu that would be too much noting that “Ojukwu fought to the extent of putting his life on the line in a bid to give the Igbo man an identity.

“We have lost a great father, a motivator, our symbol of struggle physically but spiritually Ojukwu is not dead. We have several thousands of Ikembas and we are determined to actualise his dreams before long. We will be part and parcel of the burial programme,” he noted. 
Source: This Day, 5th December 2011.

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The Exit of Ijele Ndigbo

He lived a full and active life as a bold man of artless candour. With his demise, last week, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, one of the most colourful and enlightened men to wear the Nigerian Army uniform, became a convenient peg on which to hang some reflections on the Nigerian State and the evolution of what is glibly described as the national question. Yet it is an evolution to which he made more than a passing contribution, as the first Quarter Master General of the Nigerian Army and former Head of State in a secessionist Biafra.

If controversy trailed Ojukwu while alive, it is even more so in death. Revisionist views about him are on the ascendant everywhere today while the issues for which he staked life, reputation and personal comfort are dawning on many long after he raised them. The unresolved questions of equity and national cohesion about which we pretended to have settled answers in the past, but about which he kept emphasising that the questions had not even been asked, are suddenly the issues on the table once again.

The fact that he often held his own amid popular opposition, dissent and even derision shows the late Ojukwu to be a man of unflinching courage that sometimes verges on daredevilry. It is precisely these qualities which endeared him to many that also alienated him from others. If he sometimes sounded too sure about his views to argue with those who disagreed with him, it was because he preferred being right to getting popular endorsement. He was bold, but with a self-certainty that could easily be mistaken for arrogance. At no time was he beggarly and offensively diffident in the face of his convictions; notwithstanding who may not have liked them at the time.

When Ojukwu led an endangered south-east in an unsuccessful secessionist bid, it was more out of his desire to save the lives of those who looked up to him for leadership than a desire to dismember Nigeria. It was also a measure of Nigeria's progressive march from civil war to a new era that Ojukwu was granted full state pardon by the civilian government of President Shehu Shagari. That pardon and its immediate aftermath were only to add a new dimension to the controversy surrounding the man. When he came back from exile and joined then ruling National Party of Nigeria, rather than the Nigerian Peoples Party, which was dominant in the south-east, some interpreted this as either a betrayal of Ndigbo, or at best a demeaning gesture to the party that granted him pardon.

But Ojukwu had a different view. He also had no apologies, as he explained that his objective was to affirm in no uncertain terms that the civil war was over and that a reintegration into Nigeria was not to be achieved by a sustained 'we' and 'them' approach to politics. He argued at the time that building Nigeria guaranteed Ndigbo a better future because a hardworking and diligent people would always excel in an environment where equity prevails through conscious national cohesion.

In life, Ojukwu received many titles from his people in recognition of his role as their leader and role model. But perhaps the most outstanding of these titles, and one which sired rolling controversies, is the title of "Eze Igbo". Ojukwu was at pains to explain that the title was a symbolic acknowledgment of his essence as epitomising the true Igbo nature and spirit, rather than be understood as a title with territorial claims. Eze Igbo in this sense is like the Ijele masquerade which symbolises royalty, dignity and honour. The Ijele does not dance for money, or entertain the crowd, because the crowd and other masquerades use it as the ultimate reference in defining their essence.

As the nation therefore mourns this remarkable son of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, let the death of Ojukwu provide a new stimulus to us in reviewing the issues he fought for and the inequities he detested.
Source: This Day, 4th December 2011

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Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (1933-2011)

“Enyi O, Enyi O- Enyi Biafra Alaa la….”

By Obi Nwakanma

General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu died last weekend. His death brings to a certain climax the drama of a true, modern Nigerian epic. Olusegun Obasanjo was right this time in describing Ojukwu’s death as “the end of an era.” At the passing of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu described Zik as “the Alpha and the Omega of modern Nigeria” just as he characterized Obafemi Awolowo as “the best president Nigeria never had,” thus  melding paradox with hyperbole in an equal alchemy of mystery.

It was in true form. Ojukwu was like that – capable of wit and rhetoric. He was born to it. My first meeting with Ojukwu was as a rookie journalist in Lagos in 1990 at the then Holiday Inn in Ikoyi. He would grant no interviews he said. However, when I mentioned that I was writing the life of the Poet Okigbo, he looked me squarely in the face and said, “I cannot talk to you about Okigbo standing up.

Anyi g’anodu n’ani.”(We must have to sit down to it). He gave me the address to his office in Apapa and invited me to a chat, and thereafter, to the famous Villaska Lodge on Queens Drive, Ikoyi. A mighty head sat on Ojukwu’s shoulder and his eyes were then bold and penetrating, whenever he drove home a point. Years later, like Tiresias, those eyes became clouded, half-blind with cataract; the passage of time was upon them.

Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the lion of Biafra, had been touched by the hand of time. Time is the great leveler. In 1987, Ibrahim Babangida described Awolowo as the “great issue in Nigerian politics.” He was wrong. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu remains the central issue in modern Nigeria.

It was he who took Nigeria by the scruff of the neck and shook it out of its complacency. Ojukwu was born into great wealth. The second, but apparently favored son of West Africa’s wealthiest man in his time – Sir Louis Phillipe Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Emeka Ojukwu started school at the CMS Grammar School at ten in 1943- when most in his generation began secondary school at fifteen.  He transferred soon to Kings College, Lagos, and was the youngest boy at Kings College in 1944. He was senior in class to people like Alex Ekwueme or the late Rex Akpofure (1945) or Allison Ayida and Asiodu (1946) –those were his contemporaries.

Ojukwu however was different in one respect: he was born to wealth and privilege. His father was a powerful mogul of finance and counted among his dinner guests, the British Governor-General of Nigeria as well as the likes of Nigeria’s leading anti-colonial nationalist figures, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who was his Godfather.

Perhaps his exposure by these vicarious contacts opened the young Emeka to the great issues of national and global politics which emboldened him far earlier than his peers, for even as a ten years he came to national and perhaps international attention by his actions in 1944 when he took part in the now famous Kings College students anti-colonial and anti-war protest against the British colonial administration.

One of the most damning pictures against colonialism, and perhaps an image which was fully exploited by the nationalists to mobilize public opinion against British colonial rule in Nigeria was of a ten years old Emeka Ojukwu standing trial in the Lagos courts and sleeping in the docks before an English judge trying a minor. His father of course hired one of the leading lawyers in Lagos; Ojukwu was freed. But he was soon sent away to boarding school in England. His father wanted him at Eton. Admission protocols took too long and he ended up at Epsom in Surrey. From Epsom College, where Ojukwu excelled in Sports – in Cricket, Athletics, Boxing and in Debate – he went down to Lincoln College, Oxford when he lived the life of youthful dissipation, took his degree effortlessly in History and later earned a Master of Arts in Modern History from Oxford in 1956. He returned to Nigeria in 1957, and against his father’s entreaties joined the Eastern Nigerian Civil Service, and in due course also against his father’s objection, joined the Queens Own Regiment as a private soldier. Afterwards, when it became clear that it was beneath his paces, he was sent to Eaton Hall for Officers Training in 1957. He was the first Nigerian University graduate to join the Army.

The rest is now history. Among his early jobs was as Military Instructor at Teshie, Ghana, where Murtala Muhammed and Benjamin Adekunle were his students in Military Tactics.At 33 years, he stood boldly against genocide and against the contradictions of the modern Nigerian state and declared the secession of the Republic of Biafra from the Nigerian federation. Civil war ensued, and he led the war as Head of State and Commander of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Biafra for three years from 1967 to 1970 when Biafra collapsed.

There is no question about Ojukwu’s personal human flaws; he had many of it, and he made his own share of mistakes, and he was prepared to acknowledge these. The question today however is no longer whether Ojukwu was right or wrong about Biafra. From all the tributes paid to him this past week, and from all that has happened in Nigeria, and continues to happen to this nation since 1970, it is apparent that Odumegwu-Ojukwu was right. He stands tall before the blind judge of history. He returned to Nigeria in 1982 from exile and re-embraced it, and talked from then about the “Biafra of the mind.”

The Biafra of the mind is the gift of memory and the gift of freedom from a man who rejected mere privilege in search of service and honor, and from a man who led and proved that it is possible to lead a productive African nation. Last week, the president of the Nigerian senate, Mr. David Mark said he still wonders how Ojukwu could mobilize the technological genius of an entire nation. That is the secret: Biafra was organized as a democracy.

It was a clarion call. Ojukwu’s greatest achievement is proof – that even in the most desperate and turbulent of situations, men led by example, can  reach great heights.

As he himself said at the TSM Lectures in 1992, “while Biafra was a vast workshop Nigeria was a dumping ground” of all kinds of expensive toxins. Ojukwu led people with dignity; Biafra’s grassroots democracy thrived; men and women of ability were inspired to work; young men stood before their General and vowed to give their life to him and for the people he led. Why? How did Ojukwu achieve this among a most troublesome people like the Igbo? It is simple: he was their General, and he proved that he could be trusted.

He earned their trust. He inspired them by his own sacrifice. He led them – with the flag of the rising sun fluttering – to believe that they were that sun rising.

Nigeria lost the opportunity of Ojukwu’s sterling leadership.We who survived Nigeria’s darkest night yet because of Odumegwu-Ojukwu and all those who fought with him, must now send him to immortality as the sun rises. It is time to say Goodnight, my General, as you lie now rested in that eternal crypt: the soul of an entire people where gods are made and are reborn.

Source: Vanguard, 4th December 2011

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Ojukwu: Biafra would have been the toast of Africa – Ogbemudia

By Taye Obateru & Gabriel Enogholase
TWO-time governor of defunct Bendel State, Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, has described the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, as a “gallant nationalist and freedom fighter” who fought for his rights and for the rights of the overwhelming majority of his Igbo people.

In reminiscence of their days in the Nigeria Army and the events that led to the civil war, Ogbemudia said Ojukwu “was always a visionary, forth-right, courageous, outspoken, nationalist and patriotic”.

According to him,“Ojukwu wanted to see a Nigerian nation where all ethnic nationalities are recognized and fairly treated, not a country of disparate and desperate ethnic groups. He threw all that was left of his physical and mental energy into this enterprise but did not live to see it through”.

He went on in his condolence message, “Although it is a universal saying that you don’t say evil about the dead, in the case of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi, there is truly no evil to talk about his life. Many say he was a rebel. No, he was a gallant nationalist and freedom fighter. He openly disagreed on issues and rather than stomach his dissatisfaction, he fought for his rights and for the rights of the overwhelming majority of his Ibo people who looked up to him.

“Imagine that he succeeded, and Biafra had become a state, going by the feats they achieved at a very difficult time, Biafra would have become the toast of Africa by now. Perhaps many other new states would have been born.

“I was a major and later a brigade major when he was a Lt Col. commanding a battalion at Kano. We were all under the command of Kaduna 1st Brigade. Following the coup of January 15, 1966, he was appointed Military Governor of Eastern Region, David Ejoor for the Midwest, Adeyinka Adebayo for the West and Usman Hassan Katsina for the North. The crisis ensued as the North had good reasons to believe that the coup was targeted against them. Many Ibos in the North were killed in a reprisal manner. Gen Ironsi the Head of State was also killed.

“By 1967, the crisis had worsened and Ojukwu declared Biafra. He invaded the Midwest. Same year i was appointed Military Governor of the Midwest. We fought against Biafra Army and liberated the Midwest. Midwest sacrificed human and material resources to save Nigeria. The Head of State at this time was Gen. Gowon. He appreciated this and remarked that but for Midwest, there would have been no Nigeria.

“That notwithstanding, my admiration for Ojukwu remained high. I contributed all I could to the rehabilitation of the east.

“My friendship with Chief Ojukwu effectively resumed when he returned from exile. I helped with his political reintegration and was sorry that he wasn’t allowed to go to the Senate in 1983. He was always visionary, forth-right, courageous, outspoken, nationalistic and patriotic.

Meanwhile, an Igbo socio-cultural organization, Izu Umunna, has  urged the Senate to reverse its decision which opposed a state burial for Chief Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, in the interest of justice and fair play.

Source: Vanguard, 4th December 2011

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Tribute to General Emeka Oduegwu-Ojukwu-1934-2011

The Diasporan Perspective : By Ekerete Udoh 

I am officially in a state of mourning as I have to reflect on the lives of two important people who in many ways helped shape my career and influence me in profound and consequential manner. Exactly a year ago, I lost a dear friend- a confidant and a good woman in every material particular that anyone could aspire to know and have as a friend-Ms. Donna Tillman to cancer. I was getting ready to mark the first year of her sad death, when the news broke that another person whom I regard as a father and a mentor –General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukw-the Ikemba Nnewi, the erstwhile Head of State and Commander –in-Chief of the Armed forces of the now defunct state of Biafra- the one with the sonorous voice and whose diction and command of English was almost musical was dead. I had intended to devote this week’s column to harp again on the need for Nigerians who love this country and have a sense of pride and dignity about her essence to join hands and rescue us from daily international ridicule and embarrassment that Murtala Mohammed Airport represents. I will return to that topic next week.

General Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu loved me dearly and until I moved to the United States, I was officially a member of his household with unfettered access. I would pop in sometimes, without an appointment, and the security detail upon informing the Ikemba that I was at the gate, would not only asked that I be allowed in, but would come out of the living room, always in jeans, and walking barefoot, would usher me to the house. Most times, I would ask myself what I did to deserve such kind treatment by a man who was a true historic figure in the evolution of the Nigerian state. Whenever I listened to him speak in that soft voice, I would find it difficult to believe this was the same man who led an oppressed people, a people who had been subjected to pogrom and other genocidal tactics for almost thirty months without much of international support.  He appeared so gentle-so collegial almost to a fault. Listening to him, his power of persuasion, his intimidating intellect and the force of his oratory, you would be left with no choice but to appreciate why the Biafran people followed him without question and invested their collective hopes for a safe and secure future in him.

My first encounter with General Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu happened in 1990 at the an event to mark the New Yam Festival in Umuahia-Abia State organized by Eze Everest Nmandi Ofoegbu- now the Chairman of Abia State Traditional Council. The event was attended by virtually who’s is who in the Nigerian state then. Several members of the then Armed Forces Ruling Council and I believe the then Chief of General Staff-late Admiral Aikhomu was in attendance alongside the immediate CGS-Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, several military governors then as well as captains of industry and pop culture personalities. The atmosphere was that of a carnival and I can vividly recall the MCs-the gregarious duo of ‘Chief Zebrudaya’ and ‘Gringory’ of the 70s Sit-com-New Masquerade announcing the arrival of Chief Ojukwu and the whole place erupted in an ovation that lasted over ten minutes.

Ojukwu’s appearance at the event also was significant in another angle: it signaled the first public appearance of the Ikemba with his then rumored girlfriend-the former “Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria” Bianca Onoh. Before the duo stepped out publicly, the Nigerian media was agog with all manner of stories about their relationship. This interest was triggered by Ojukwu’s devotion of a page in his book “Because I am Involved” to praise the then beauty queen, and singling her out as one who may provide Africa with its first ‘Miss World’ title. The inclusion of that chapter in an otherwise consequential book that dealt with more profound issues triggered a rash of speculations and rumors that would later dominate the Nigerian media-mainstream and pop culture for months. As the rumors swirled around and innuendoes and third rate sources inundated the pages of newspapers and magazines, the loving duo maintained a studious silence. They would not comment as to what was the true nature of their relationship, neither would they entertain interview requests from the media both local and international. That silence was however, to be broken and the New Yam Festival provided the opportunity for that to happen.

I had established a very good friendship with Bianca Onoh soon after I interviewed her for Climax magazine which I, alongside Moji Danisa had edited then in 1989. Bianca and I had remained very good friends after that interview. She had come to trust my editorial judgment and the spirit of true friendship developed between us. I was touched when she found time to mail me a card when she went to contest for Miss Universe and provided me exclusive tit bits on the pageant. There were no cell-phones then; neither did we have Facebook, Twitter or other social media of today, where you can in a minute contact anyone all over the world. For her to still find time and reach out to me was a very refreshing tendency and that only helped deepen our friendship.

As the Ikemba held Bianca’s hands while walking to the high table at the New Yam event, our eyes met, and she winked at me. Shortly after they had taken their seat, I walked up to General l Ojukwu, greeted him and after exchanging greetings with Bianca, asked her to convince the Ikemba to grant me an interview. Bianca looked at me with those large luminous eyes and said “Ekerete, I will do it for you-just for you” and whispered to the Ikemba who now turned to me and said “young man, I respect your courage. Meet me in Lagos on Monday and Bianca and I would grant you an interview.” Walking back to my seat, I was giddy with excitement and I quickly sent words to my publisher then-Dr. Ibe Kachikwu- now an Executive Director-Legal of Mobil Producing that I had landed the mother of all interviews.
The following Monday, I was led into the presence of General Ojukwu and his delectable girlfriend then-now his dear wife-Bianca and for over two hours, Bianca and Ojukwu gave me all the scoops I needed on their romance; how they met, their marital plans, the huge age difference that existed between them, the reaction of Bianca’s father-former old Anambra state Governor-the late C.C. Onoh to the relationship and above all why Biafra failed. It was a world exclusive and as we printed and reprinted copies of Hints magazine, due to the popularity of the story, my career reached the stratosphere. The interview was culled by several foreign newspapers and magazines and I can still recall the celebrations in our newsroom then, which paraded among others-Dr. Reuben Abati-now the Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Kayode Ajala-one of Nigerian’s most gifted writers, Chim Newton, Osita Aniemeka, Chidinama Awa Agwu etc. Hints magazine subsequently became the toast of the nation.

Since that interview, I was welcomed by the Ojukwu household and he was later to grant me two additional interviews that centered sorely on Biafra and why the effort fell short. Ojukwu was a man who genuinely loved his people. He was to reprise the word of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo- a good Igbo first before becoming a better Nigerian. He agonized over the lack of true federalism in Nigerian and was in many of our informal discussions, a strong advocate for the Sovereign National Conference where he believed the structural imbalance in the country would be addressed and resolved.

Even though he led the secessionist Biafran Republic, he loved being a Nigerian and I remember asking him if he thought the ideals of Biafra would someday be realized. He looked at me and in his characteristic way of talking almost as if he were whispering but would later become animated and raising the decibel of his voice, he said “I am a Nigerian but even at that, the issues that led us to war are still prevalent and must be resolved and I hope those in power would ensure that we would never have to fight our brothers and sisters again over issues that can be resolved at the conference table.”
Ojukwu bore no animosity toward those who had seized his father’s property and was grateful to the Igbo nation for all they had done for him- the love, the support and faith they reposed in him. When General Babagida eventually returned his late father’s property to him, he was very grateful to him and even at that, he didn’t spare IBB when he manipulated the transition to democracy program. In an interview I had with him for the defunct Quality magazine, he told Babangida in no uncertain terms that he was playing with the patience of Nigerians with his endless transition program. He was a very principled man.

Ojukwu loved his beautiful wife-Bianca, and had a special name for her.  He called her “Madam.” He appreciated the love, the devotion, the care she had shown him and went above and beyond to replicate and return the love. I used to marvel at the breath and extent of their love and devotion to one another. It was a thing of beauty to watch how much they loved each other. As death takes away our dear Ikemba, here’s wishing his dear wife-the one and only “Madam” Bianca- my dear friend the fortitude to bear the loss. The people’s general lived a consequential life and as the New York Times of 11-26 2011 stated he “remained a hero in the eyes of many of his countrymen.” May his soul rest in peace.

Nigerian Diasporas Hail President Jonathan’s Pledge to grant Diasporas voting rights in 2015
The Nigerian Diaspora community is excited over the pronouncement of President Jonathan earlier this week in Paris, France that he would work to ensure that the Nigerian Diaspora community exercises one of the most basic constitutional imperatives of a citizen-the right to vote.

As readers of this column would recall, I wrote a piece a few weeks ago in which I lamented the exclusion of a large pool of educated, economically secure and skilled populace whose only challenge was that they resided in another country. I had made reference in the said piece to the Dominican Republic Diasporas, the Ghanaian, the Jewish-Americans and other countries where having residence abroad by its citizens is not considered an impediment for participation in the political process.

President Jonathan’s pledge is highly commendable and shows he is determined to provide a sense of inclusion to our Diasporan community. At Tropical Grill- a Nigerian upscale restaurant and lounge located on Rockaway Boulevard- a few minutes from JFK Airport, in Queens, New York, the general sentiments of hundreds of Nigerians who had gathered last Monday to watch the “The Monday Night Football” was one of praise for the president. According to Ayo- an attorney, “the president has shown leadership by this gesture. I think the Diasporan population will enrich the texture of discourse and platforms future candidates will run on and it can only be a win-win situation for us all.” Joy- an OBGYN also concurred” the notion of excluding us from voting for our preferred candidates to say the least was a wrong policy. We love our country dearly and wish for her nothing but a fulfillment of the dreams of our founding, and one way of doing so, is to ensure that we vote into office candidates who would not sacrifice the aspirations of our people. I commend the president for finally pledging to grant us this one wish-to ensure that our votes count.”
Source: This Day, 4th December 2011

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Izu Umunna mourns Ojukwu, insists on state burial 

Written by  Jude Owuamanam

Ojukwu 2

An Igbo socio-cultural organization,Izu Umunna, has described the death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a big blow to the Igbo.

Ojukwu was the founding patron of the organisation.

The group also disagreed with the Senate, which on Thursday rejected a state burial for the foremost nationalist.

Izu Umunna, in a statement signed by Secretary-General, Elvis Chukwu, said, “Ojukwu was the general of the people’s army, a colossus, an indefatigable, charismatic and enigmatic Igbo leader, who lived for the principle of equity, fairness and justice, the virtues for which he lived and died for, and which has continued to hunt our country till date.”

It also described Ojukwu as a gallant soldier par excellence, an erudite scholar and a social crusader whose love for his country and the people would remain in the sands of time.

The group, while faulting the argument by the Senate against giving the Ojukwu a befitting state burial said the deceased was the only person who fought the civil war purely on principle.

Not giving Ojukwu a state burial the group said, would mean that the Igbo were still being regarded as a defeated people.

“Students of history will remember that one of the reasons why Ojukwu went to war was the injustice meted to General Ogundipe, who was supposed to take over from Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi instead of Gen Yakubu Gowon.

“He had insisted that seniority in the army be maintained and that he could not take orders from Gowon, who was his junior,” the group said.

The group added that granting Ojukwu a state burial would be the last step in the total integration of Igbo race into the mainstream of the Nigerian polity and finally lay to rest the  ghost of the civil war.

Izu Umunnacalled on the Senate to reverse the decision in the interest of justice and fairness, since Ojukwu was granted a state pardon that enabled him to return home from exile and was also actively involved in building Nigeria to what it is today.

Source: Punch, 4th December 2011

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Entertainers mourn Ojukwu

By Samuel Olatunji

If you think only politicians appreciate Ikemba Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, you are wrong. Tributes from Nigerian entertainers have continued to pour in for the late elder statesman who passed away last week Saturday. They also have one or two things to say about the former Biafran leader. 

According to President of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Segun Arinze, Ojukwu’s goal was good of the common man. “The general has left us. He fought for a reason and at the end of the day it was a battle of no victor no vanquished. His goal was good for the common man, and we will remember him for that.”

For director and producer, Kingsley Ogoro, Ojukwu was a motivator. “It was a painful death. He propelled Nigeria to where it is today. He was a motivator.” Ogoro is planning a biopic on the general. 
Star actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, reached out to Bianca, Ojukwu’s widow, and promised to get in touch personally. “Bianca is a personal friend. I feel for her. I don’t want to pass my condolences on pages of newspaper. I will reach her personally; Ojukwu’s death was a great loss.”

Entertainer-turned politician, Tony One Week, said Ojukwu was more than a soldier. He was an orator and the face of the entire Igbo race. “I will miss his oratory and stage mastery. We shall also miss what he represented. The Igbo race has lost his face. We can only pray that someone would rise and fill his shoes. He was not just a soldier, he was also a historian. Anambra people are going to be sad, and it’s a clarion call to all active Igbo politicians to rise to the occasion. What he represented was more than just Anambra. He represented the entire Igbo race.” 

On the viability of Nigeria and justification of Ojukwu embarking on the war, Tony said, “At the time Ojukwu revolted, it was necessary. He wanted to liberate the Igbo nation. No Igbo man has shown a better liver since Ojukwu. He is a hero. It is too bad he lost the war. Had he won, the Igbo would have been better off. Successive governments have marginalized the Igbo, who always sabotaged themselves. A big pity! We will miss the suspense associated with Ojukwu. His life was full of events. Tony is the minority leader of Anambra State House of Assembly. 

Responding to question on the viability of the Nigerian State and whether the war was right, actor Emeka Ike said, “Ojukwu remains the man of the moment. The war he fought was necessary at the time. Maybe if not for the war all Nigerians might not have a sense of belonging. We will miss the statesman that he was, his opinion, because nowadays men don’t have opinion anymore, they follow the crowd. We will also miss his integrity, which is not common.”

Jide Kosoko
The man fought for what he believed in. Though we were so young then, but I still remember he was a gallant soldier and he remained relevant till his death. Well, about Nigeria’s viability, I cannot comment on that, but it is good that Nigeria is still one. But one thing is true: Ojukwu remained relevant till his death.
Source: Sun, 4th December 2011

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Immortalize Ojukwu, Senate tells FG

By Henry Umoru

ABUJA—THE Sen ate, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to immortalize the late Dim Odimegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, by naming a prominent establishment after him, just as it paid glowing tributes to him.

Ikemba and Bianca
Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu and Bianca at APGA presidential rally at Nnamdi Azikiwe
Stadium, Enugu (Photo: Vanguard)

Also, yesterday, the Senate resolved to send a delegation to commiserate with his family, the people and government of Anambra State, even as it observed a minute silence in his honour.

Resolutions of the Senate came after a motion by Senator Andy Uba, PDP, Anambra South, along side fifty other senators. In the motion, Uba who noted that late Ojukwu was a source of pride for those who had the opportunity to experience him and stood tall against elements of injustice, segregation and oppression, said, “his efforts helped to lay the foundation for national integration, equality and equity, championing Nigeria as one indivisible unit true to the words in our National Anthem.

“Ojukwu seceded south eastern Nigeria from the rest of the country and proclaimed the area a sovereign state with the name Republic of Biafra, on January 9, 1970 and moved to Cote d’Ivoire where he was granted political asylum. As an astute politician he joined the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, and was a member of the 1995 Constitutional Conference that midwife the fourth Republic.”

Nationalist with revolutionary idea

Meanwhile, Senate President David Mark, who described late Ojukwu as a great Nigerian, stressed that at the time he joined the Army, “it was only great patriots that could join and they are very few. When you have a nationalist with radical and revolutionary idea then Nigerians should see his positive side rather that the other side. You cannot mention Ojukwu without the mention of Gowon, Adebayo and Hassan Katsina. People who worked with him learnt a lot from him and some of the disagreement was based on his principle. History would be kind to him.”

Senate President Mark who urged Nigerians to push behind them the pains and agony that came with the Civil War, stressed that those principles and ideals late Ojukwu stood for were yet to be addressed four decades after.

Mark said: “He was a radical and revolutionary leader. At any time in the history of a nation, there must be someone like Ojukwu. People should see the positive sides of Ojukwu. Though we cannot forget the agony and pains that came with the war but we should leave such to history. The history of Nigeria remains incomplete without the mention of Ojukwu’s name.

“Let me say with all sense of responsibility, that someone like Uche Chukwumerije learnt a lot from the man’s style of leadership. The important thing is that as a leader, Ojukwu showed that he was focused, courageous, brave and he loved his people and carried them along with him.

There is a lot to learn from Ojukwu’s style of leadership. The history of this country will be totally incomplete without bringing Ojukwu’s name in a very conspicuous manner. I agree with Senator Uche Chukwumerije that the old Eastern region must come together as one to give Ojukwu a befitting burial.”

The Senate President who appreciated the high skilled technology showed during the civil war, was, however, amazed at the accelerated infrastructural and technological advancement of the old Biafran people, adding that it is a pace Nigeria as a nation still finds difficult to keep. He said: “What bothers me and keeps me gazing all the time is that Ojukwu as a leader of Biafra was able to lead Biafra at that time through a major development in technology. They were able to build their own refineries but Nigeria today has not been able to do any of these. Ojukwu and his people were determined and focused and were capable of taking a nation to greater heights.”

Earlier in his contribution, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, PDP, Abia North, who recalled called the traumatic experience of the mid-sixties, the coups and counter coups, genocide, massacres and ethnic cleansing, said: “He lived in Nigeria in an era, when Nigeria was peopled by Nigerians. But with time in the mid sixties, traumatic event took place in Nigeria: coups and counter coups, waves of genocidal massacres and ethnic cleansing. And after the long night of violence and military rule, we found out that Nigeria has changed; that Nigeria is now peopled by non Nigerians and that its territories are now peopled by tribes and ethnic nationalities.

“Our foundational structures are being suspected and what caused the metamorphosis, not just of Nigeria but also the subject of discussion today is simply the neocolonial path to independence, which lays emphasis on coercive use of state power as a means of managing social grievances. This character manifested itself then and it is still manifesting itself today: from genocidal massacres of the Igbos to the Udi massacres, to Katsina-Ala massacres to even what is happening in Borno today.”

Uche who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Education, said that Ojukwu should be given a posthumous award of GCON and the eastern states should give him a state burial.

Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi, who noted that Ojukwu was born with silver spoon, but decided on his own to associate with the less privileged, said: “He came back from Cote d’Ivoire, he informed that he would fight again but for the unity of Nigeria. He died a nationalist and as an Igbo leader.”

For Senator Smart Adeyemi, PDP, KogiWest, Ojukwu was a courageous and intelligent person with strong strength of character. He said: “When we were young in the village anytime we heard about Ojukwu we thought he was a spirit because of his courage and intelligence. He was destined to sacrifice for the greatness of the country.”

Also in her contribution, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu, PDP, Abia North, who described Ojukwu as fearless and courageous man that was prepared to give his life for the Igbo people, said she admired Ojukwu’s belief in Nigeria as an indivisible entity devoid of injustice and oppression. He added: “One thing I have learnt from the existence of Ojukwu was that he was one who believed in something and pursued it to a logical end. He had a will to bring around his people to believe in his vision. This is missing in today’s leadership. People express displeasure in the way resources and equity of this nation are used.

“He had believed that if the entire nation or leaders could not remember that this country has east, west and north and south and that resources should not be centred in a particular zone, so many years after, Nigerians are suffering from injustice, inequality and oppression. Ojukwu’s death calls for sober reflection.”

Senator Bukola Saraki, PDP, Kwara Central, said: “I stand to celebrate the man Ojukwu and his virtues. Right from his early age, he showed much wisdom. As he moved on in his life, he stood for what he believed. We should all borrow a leaf from him; stand firm for what we believe is right and go ahead to pursue it.”

Fears and pains

Senator Joshua Lidani, PDP, Gombe South, the earlier memory of Ojukwu was that of a hideous man but according to him, history has changed all that, adding: “My memory of the late Ojukwu was that he personified anything that had to do for the Civil War and all the fears and pains that we had as children during the was.The mental picture we had about him was hideous looking man but after the end of the war, we began to know better and understand the circumstances that led to the war and began to see Igbos as brothers.

Other contributors were Senators Ganiyu Solomon, Abdul Ningi, Hope Uzodinma and Chris Ngige.

For Senator Solomon, Ojukwu took up the responsibility as a leader of his region at the time it was most necessary, adding, “It was the only option at the time, not many will agree but we have different opinions. He was a great man.”

For Senator Chris Ngige, ACN, Anambra Central: “The Ikemba was a great man. He had a vision espoused, suggesting that he came before his time. He should be given a GCFR honour before his burial so that it is meaningful.”
Source: Vanguard, 2nd December 2011.

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Senate rejects state burial for Ojukwu Urges FG to Imortalise him

COSMAS EKPUNOBI (ASSIT. POL. EDITOR) ADEKUNLE ADESUJI

Legislative activities came to a near halt yesterday on the floor of the Senate, as the Upper House honoured late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu who died in a London hospital early last week.

Though Senators in a unanimous resolution yesterday asked the Federal Government to immortalise the late Biafran leader, they however rejected the prayer asking government to grant a state burial for Ojukwu.

Senators by a resounding voice vote asked the governments of the old Eastern region to ensure a befitting burial ceremony for him.

The Senators in a glowing tribute to the late soldier described Ojukwu as a ‘true nationalist and apostle of human right.

The resolution asking government to immortalise Ojukwu followed a motion by Senator Andy Uba and 51 others. Some of the Senators however regretted that the injustice, lawlessness and corruption which caused the civil were still pervading the society today.

Senators Nkechi Nwaogu, Ayogu Eze, Uche Chukwumerije, Bukola Saraki, Abdul Ningi and others who spoke on the lifes and times of late Ojukwu said Nigerians would for ever miss his good leadership qualities.

But the prayer asking the federal government to grant state burial to late Ikemba was dropped following a point of order by Abdul Ning and Ita Enag who argued that doing so would amount to a bad precedent.

Senate President David Mark said: "The fact that we devoted the whole of today’s session to give this man an honour well deserved is a clear indication that we believe that he was a great Nigerian. I must say with every sense of respect that by the time he joined the Army, it was only the patriots and nationalists that joined the Army. At that time, to join the army was the first and most important demonstration of nationalism and patriotism.

"The aim then was to protect the nation’s territorial integrity and not to take over government. What borders me and keeps me gazing all the time is that Ojukwu as a leader of Biafra was able to lead Biafra at that time through a major development in technology. They were able to build their own refineries but a nation Nigeria today has not been able to do any of those.

"Ojukwu and his people were determined and focused and could take a nation to a greater height. He was a radical and revolutionary leader. At any time in the history of a nation, there must be someone like Ojukwu. People should see the positive sides of Ojukwu. Though we cannot forget the agony and pains that we came with the war but we should leave such to history.

"Let me say with all sense of responsibility that people like Uche Chukwumerije did learn a lot from the man’s style of leadership. The important thing is that as a leader, Ojukwu showed that he was focused, courageous, brave and he loved his people and carried them along.

"There is a lot to learn from Ojukwu’s style of leadership. The history of this country will be totally incomplete without bringing Ojukwu’s name in a very conspicuous manner. I agree with Senator Chukwumerije that the old Eastern region must come together as one to give Ojukwu a befitting burial.

"How was the Nigerian system, all of us not able to translate this shift from national complaints into positive input in building up a nation?

On his part, Chukwumerije said: "Ojukwu made three other contributions. The first; Ojukwu held tenaciously to his convictions that the rule of law, in theory and practice, respect of human life, right to life must be the prerequisite for the viability and existence of any nation. And today, I think a tribute to the vision of Ojukwu, is that these fundamental issues have become consistent core values of the Nigeria’s institutional framework. You have seen that in the first two chapters of the Constitution.

"The second contribution is Ojukwu’s insistence that the neo-colonial character of Nigeria state must be transcended and transformed into a people-based arrangement. Now, when you look again into the unfolding events in Nigeria, you find that Ojukwu is being vindicated. The struggle for self-expression and self-accommodation and the growing popularity of the demand for a conference of ethnic nationalities point to the necessity of reviewing the foundation of Project Nigeria.

"His third contribution is that through the little brief Ojukwu did prove one thing: That the black man has the capacity, he has the wherewithal and the political will that could put us at par with any nation in the world. Based on these three contributions Ojukwu made, history will one day record that Ojukwu is the most formidable catalyst to the opposition to make Nigeria a democratic and equitable-based plural country."

Senator Ganiyu Olarenwaju Solomon said: "Ojukwu was a fearless and courageous Nigerian. Ojukwu was indeed a great man, he was a patriotic; his contribution to the National development will be remembered. Ojukwu was loved by his people because of his contribution to the region.

Abdul Ningi said: "Ojukwu was born with a silver spoon but decided on his own to associate himself with the less privileged. He died as authentic Igbo leader, is a nationalist; he gave all to build this nation.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe said: "Ojukwu decided to commit class suicide. Ojukwu was one that led us where we are today by creating more states. His death is telling each one in leadership position to discharge their responsibilities to the best of their abilities".
Source: Daily Champion, 2nd December 2011.

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Ojukwu refused to open armoury for coup plotters in 1966 – Okwuosa 

Written by  Ozioma Ubabukoh

Mr. Azuka Okwuosa

Mr. Azuka Okwuosa, one of the closest friends of the late Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, in this interview with Ozioma Ubabukoh, says Ojukwu’s patriotism made him refuse to open armoury for coup plotters in 1966.

How long have you known the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu?

I have been close to him since he came back from exile in 1982. Since then, I have worked closely with him at different levels. After my youth service in 1984, I worked closely with him and I saw him as an icon. I once told him I liked his ideas, principles and those things he represented. 

You will recall that when he returned from exile in 1982, in spite of the fact that his property was not released by the Shehu Shagari administration, he was not affected; he forged on with life. His intelligence was much more than gold and silver. Those of us who (were) close to him imbibed that principle. He brought me into the All Progressives Grand Alliance.

Ojukwu intended to put his war memos together and publish them as a book before he died. Now that he is no more, what efforts are you and other of his associates making to keep his dream alive?

He had always kept those war memos to his chest. He knew how far he had gone. I am not in the position to say exactly when the war memos will be published. One thing he had always told me and said over the years was that he owed the nation that book which contained his war memos. After the burial, we shall definitely keep that dream of his alive. When the book eventually comes out, it will show to the world the very identity of Ikemba. However, we are not talking of that now that we are mourning.

What major incidents would you recall that endeared you more to the late Ezeigbo Gburugburu?

I can recall an incident that occurred in 1982, shortly after his return from exile, when he had an ejection from his house at 29 Queens Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos. Most people would have felt humiliated about that incident, but Ikemba said he would fight and ensure that he got back his house. He said he believed in fighting for justice.

We encouraged him, and, indeed, he fought and got back his house. Like a fighter for justice that he was, he went to court, fought, and fought until he regained what rightfully belonged to him. Those of us who are (were) close to him imbibed that principle.

The second major incident was in 1993. The event was the burial of Houphouet Biogny, former President of Ivory Coast. I travelled with him to the country. In the plane with us were the then Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha; Yakubu Gowon; Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and his late wife, Stella; Maitama Sule and Adamu Ciroma.

He took me on that mission and as a young man; I saw it as an opportunity to learn a lot, which I did. At Cote d’Ivoire, I became more endeared to him when I saw the manner he handled issues and the way the Ivoriens bowed and respected him. The third major incident I can recollect was his entering into politics after his return from exile. So many people at that time had questioned his joining the National Party of Nigeria instead of the Nigeria Peoples Party that had an Igbo man, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, at the helm of affairs.

He joined the NPN because it had a national outlook. He felt that since he was the one who led his people to war, he should also be the one to bring them together as one, and the NPN was the right platform to actualise it. He was not happy seeing his people disillusioned. He felt he should join the NPN to integrate them into mainstream politics.

Before his death, did he ever share his regrets with you on the non-implementation of the Aburi Accord?

Of course he did. He had always said the spirit of Aburi Accord was haunting Nigeria. You can see what is happening in the Niger Delta. That is a typical example. Let us digress a bit. I want to tell you that Ojukwu lived ahead of his time. At the age of 20, he had already obtained his Bachelor of Arts. You know the frustration he faced, but because of his doggedness, he sailed through. He was rare. You had expected someone with such aristocratic ideas to live above board, but he did not. He rather chose to identify with the masses.

What are the things you will say he did not achieve?

He would always tell me that Nigeria is a country not a nation. Before his death, he was looking forward to the nationhood of this country, where every federating unit will come and live together. Ikemba’s biggest regret was that he did not live to see Nigeria’s transformation from a country to nationhood. He did his best in this regard, that was why he always wished to express himself. He had a personal crest – a sheep and two lions by its side, and an eagle on top. He told me that the crest meant, ‘To thy self be true.’ Everything he did during his lifetime always propelled him for another.

Now, what about the stroke he suffered before he died. How did it all happen?

About seven years ago, he suffered stroke. That particular stroke he suffered at that time affected his sight. When the second stroke struck six years later, in December 2010, we were so shocked. He was still talking and wishing to live but suddenly, we moved him to the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku-Ozala, Enugu, where he stayed for 10 days before he was stabilised and flown abroad.

In the hospital he stayed, they had about 60 patients in similar health condition as Ojukwu. Most of those patients died within weeks, but he fought on and lived for another 11 months. The doctor even said ‘this man must be made of a sterner stuff.’ Well, God gives life and He takes it. I saw him three months ago. At the hospital in London, I called his name and immediately he recognised me, he wanted to sit up but I asked him not to. Three weeks before he died, he had recovered so much and was even going for physiotherapy, but death suddenly called.

Some years before his passage, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had asked him to apologise for the purported damage he did to Nigeria by going to war. What is your take on this?

Obasanjo is free to say what he wants to say. What happened between 1966 and 1970, I do not think there is any need for apology. If you remember the last coup that took place in 1966, Ojukwu was the one who refused to open an armoury for the coup plotters. He loved this country. But the counter coup, six months after, led to the massacre of Ndigbo in northern Nigeria. So who needs to apologise?

How could the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra give Ojukwu the biggest burial in Africa as promised?

The Federal Government will work with them and Ojukwu family. There will be a committee and the committee will come out with a blueprint for the burial plans. Until then, I would not want to comment on that.

Source: Punch, 2nd December 2011.

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Senate , Makinde, Akunyili , others mourn Ikemba

FROM JOHN ABBA-OGBODO AND BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE, (ABUJA), CHRIS IREKAMBA (LAGOS) AND UZOMA NZEAGWU (AWKA)

IT was torrent of tributes yesterday for the late Biafran leader Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu as the Senate called on the Federal Government to immortalise him.

For the Primate of Methodist Church of Nigeria, His Eminence, Dr. Sunday Ola Makinde, Odumegwu-Ojukwu was a man of valour and substance who stood for what he believed in.

Former Information Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili described the late Igbo leader as a big brother, mentor and an inspirator

Meanwhile, the Anambra State secretariat, House of Assembly Complex and the Government House, all in Awka, the state capital have continued to witness huge crowd of mourners who throng there to sign the condolence registers provided by the state government.

Leading the debate  on the motion, the chief sponsor, Senator Andy Uba (Anambra South) recalled that the deceased lived a life worthy of emulation. Uba said the late Ojukwu “was a source of pride for those who had the opportunity to experience him, stood tall against elements of injustice, segregation and oppression’’.

Senate President, David Mark, remarked that devoting a whole day to deliberate on the life and times of Ojukwu in the Senate  was befitting and an indication that the Senate believed that he was a great Nigerian.

“The fact that we devoted the whole of today’s Session to give this man an honour well deserved is a clear indication that we believe that he was a great Nigerian. I must say with every sense of respect that by the time he joined the Army, it was only the patriots and nationalists that joined the Army”, he said.

Senator Uche Chukwumerije, (Abia North) and other senators eulogised the Biafran leader.

When The Guardian visited the state secretariat yesterday,  the queue was long, but people there were orderly.  .

One of the mourners who gave his name as Isaac, said Ojukwu’s death  was the most  singular devastating news in recent times, especially for the Igbo.

He added that while men should not question God, that if his opinion was sought that he would have respectfully suggested to God to grant people like Odumegwu-Ojukwu the gift of immortality.

Source: The Guardian, 2nd December 2011.

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Senate honours Ojukwu 
Urges old Eastern Region States to accord him State burial
History will be kind to Ikemba -Mark

From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja

Eulogies poured in torrents at the Senate on Thursday for Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who died last Saturday in a London hospital, aged 78. 
In a motion by Senator Andy Uba and 50 others including Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Senators Chris Anyanwu, Uche Chukwumerije, Dahiru Kuta, Emmanuel Paulker, Enyinnaya Abaribe, Helen Esuene and Heineken Lokpobiri, the Upper legislative Chamber urged all the eastern states which were formerly in the old Eastern Region to honour the late Ojukwu with a state burial.

Senate rejected an earlier request from Chairman of the Education Committee, Senator Uche Chukwumerije that Ojukwu be accorded state burial.
Deputy Majority Leader Abdul Ningi said that state burial is usually accorded former Presidents, their deputies and former military Heads of State.
“I raise this matter purposely for historical reasons and in compliance with the rule of law as raised by Senator Chukwumerije. The late Obafemi Awolowo wasn’t accorded a state burial and I know that this chamber will be involved in his funeral and the Senate President has already said that the old Eastern Region should come together to give him a befitting burial. I think we should limit it to that.”

Earlier, in his eulogy, Chukwumerije noted that Ojukwu made three significant contributions to Nigeria which he urged should be sustained.
Chukwumerije shunned his usual white French suit. Yesterday, he wore black. That would be the first time since his entry into the Senate in 2003 that he would wear black.
Speaking from an insider perspective, Chukwumerije told the chamber that history would be kind to Ojukwu in the formation of a democratic Nigeria.
His words: “How was Nigerian system, all of us, not able to translate this shift from national confidence into positive input in building up a nation?

“Ojukwu made three important contributions. The first, Mr President, was that Ojukwu held tenaciously to his convictions that the rule of law, in theory and practice, respect for human rights, right to life must be the prerequisite for the viability and existence of a nation.
“And today, I think a tribute to the vision of Ojukwu, is that these fundamental issues have become consistent core value of Nigeria’s institutional framework. You have seen that in the first three chapters of the Constitution.
“Then, the second contribution is Ojukwu’s insistence that the neo-colonial character of the Nigeria state must be transcended and transformed into a people-based arrangement. Now, when you look again into the unfolding events in Nigeria, you find that Ojukwu is being vindicated.

“There was nothing like secession of Biafra. Ojukwu was a most reluctant actor in moving out of Nigeria. The contributions he has made to the foundational pillars of Nigeria, when you consider these things, I most humbly ask that his contributions should be recognized by being given post-humous award of GCON and all the states now which constituted Eastern Region then should jointly give Ojukwu a state burial.”
Vice Chairman of the Power and Steel Committee, Senator Chris Ngige, echoed his call for a post-humous award for Ojukwu.
He also attributed Ojukwu’s loss of his senatorial election in 1983 to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) on “rigging.”
Ngige said: “Ojukwu won the 1983 election to become a Senator but was denied the opportunity. That was when rigging started…I differ with Senator Chukwumerije. He should be given the GCFR and it should be bestowed on him before the burial.”

Senate Minority Whip Ganiyu Solomon acknowledged that “Ojukwu was very patriotic” while Senator Kuta noted that the late Ojukwu was “a highly intelligent, highly courageous man. He meant well for the country.”
In his closing remarks, Senate President David Mark hoped that history would be kind to Ojukwu, adding that he belonged to a rare breed of patriotic Nigerians and he was a man who lived ahead of his time.
“Any honour bestowed on him is a honour well-deserved. He was a great Nigerian. When he joined the Army, it was only patriots who joined and at that time, unless you love Nigeria, you don’t go near the Army,” he said.
Source: Sun, 1st December 2011.

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Mbadinuju, Iheanacho, Agbakoba speak on Ojukwu

By CHINELO OBOGO

The demise of the Ikemba of Nnewi Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu will no doubt leave a vaccum Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, in a telephone interview with Daily Sun said that Ojukwu’s death will definitely leave a void but believes that another leader will emerge to take his place.

“Firstly I want to point out that I am glad that no one has had any negative thing to say about Ojukwu and that goes to show that he was very forthright and full of integrity. The volume of accolades that have poured for him were unprecedented. If he was a bad person, no one would have had anything good to say about him. If you want to know how great and how good a man is, it is after his death. He had a larger than life image and he was very concerned about the welfare of the Igbos.

In terms of the leadership of the Igbos, Ojukwu had a lot going for him and that was why he naturally was a strong voice in the South East. First his father, Chief Louis Ojukwu was one of the wealthiest Nigerians during his time and he had the opportunity of having a very prestigious upbringing. Secondly, he led the Igbos to secede, which led to the civil war and since then, he has been regarded as the voice of the Igbo race. 

So it is only natural for him to be regarded as the leader of the South east especially when it comes to political issues. Before his unfortunate demise, he had always championed the cause of the Igbos. He was very particular about equality for the South East region in terms of the number of states that we had and he kept canvassing for an additional state to be created for the South East region.
In terms of the leadership of the Igbos, I do not believe that the Igbos have no king as is believed. Even though it is very difficult for a people to speak with one voice as there may be dissenting voices, when we have a strong leader I believe we can speak as one.

Before you called me, I was in a meeting and one of our leaders told me that he had attended a meeting of some South South leaders and what they told him was that some Igbos had come to them and told them that the South East is not yet ready to produce a president. I was very saddened and disappointed that some of our own people can behave that way. That is what we are talking about. In a people, there will always be those who will speak with dissenting voices. I do not belive that even the South West and the North speak with one voice because it will be very difficult and the East is no different.

However our prayer is that God will raise a David for the South East that will be a rallying point for Ndigbo because for now, Ojukwu’s demise has created a huge vacuum politically. We need a selfless leader who will not be out for selfish interests. I also urge Igbos to as much as possible be unified in thoughts because that is the only way we can actually make an impact.” Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho, a former minister for interior told Daily Sun in a telephone interview that he is of the belief that a leader will emerge for the South East after Ojukwu’s death who will be a rallying point for the South East.

His words, “Ojukwu’s death is very painful and it has left a huge void in the political life of the Igbos. He was like the rallying point for Ndigbo. Anytime he said a thing, it is regarded as if the generality of the Igbos have spoken. He naturally assumed this position when he led the Igbos to fight the civil war and that was why he was regarded as leader. In terms of who takes over the leadership of the Igbos, I strongly believe that a leader will emerge. I am not of the opinion that the Igbos have no leader or king. When a strong voice that is devoid of selfish interests emerges, people will naturally align with him. For now, I can’t tell if we have one but I am certain that when things have settled down, a leader will emerge.

Former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) had in an earlier interview told Daily Sun that the South east has very few leaders who can stand up for the interests of Ndigbo. He however stated that in the younger generation, he admired the politics of former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu whom he described as a fearless person considering his fight against former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

According to him, “In this generation, besides Ojukwu, Kalu is someone who I admire because he is fearless. He is young and can be boisterous but he was able to stand alone during his time against Obasanjo when other governors were running for cover. If we had more of his type in the South East, I think there would be a lot of improvement. We need leaders that will look the government in the face and say this is what we want for the Igbos.
Source: Sun, 1st December 2011.

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Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
(1933- 2011)

Expectedly, tributes have continued to trail the life and times of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. Ojukwu lost the battle on Saturday, November 26 to a “massive stroke” which necessitated his being flown abroad on December 23, 2010 aboard a chattered German Air Ambulance.

Those who have given accolades to the Nnewi-born Biafran warlord have described him as a great man who had the interest of the country at heart, which he exhibited in his decision to join partisan politics upon his return from exile in 1982.

Although born into wealth, Ikemba Nnewi, as he was fondly called, had opted for a hard way of living, preferring to die with the less-privileged than to dine and wine with kings.

His fighting spirit and desire for justice date back to when he was 11 years old; when he reportedly slapped a white British colonial teacher who humiliated a Nigerian woman at King’s College, Lagos, where he (Ojukwu) was a student.

Emeka, first son of a wealthy man, Sir Louis Odumegwu-Ojukwu, was expected to join the family business. To prepare him academically, his father had got him enrolled in the best schools available at the time. After his secondary education, Emeka ended up at Oxford University, London, where he got his Master’s degree in Modern History.

However, moved by the desire to serve the country, upon his return from Britain, Ojukwu rejected the comfort of his father’s business, which would have made him one of the world’s richest men. He initially opted for a life in the civil service as district officer, before finally joining the army in 1957 as one of the first set of graduates to enroll in the force.

This decision was to open a new chapter in the life of Ojukwu. The failure of the then Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon-led military administration to address some alleged injustices against the Igbo, led to the declaration of the Republic of Biafra by Ojukwu in 1967. The consequence of this action was a 30-month civil war which left the country badly bruised and battered.

Ojukwu championed the cause of his people, the Igbo. While the first President of the country, Nnamdi Azikiwe (also an Igbo man), was laboriously pursuing a pan-Nigerian idea, Ndigbo found a voice in Odumegwu-Ojukwu in their moment of trial.

His foray into politics did not, however, pay off as he was unable to get elected. It is on record that he lost a senatorial poll; in 2003 and 2007, he contested the presidential elections on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but lost.

Before his death, Ojukwu’s influence in the party, especially in his state, Anambra, was huge. It is on record that the incumbent Governor, Peter Obi, rode to victory on the crest of Ojukwu’s popularity in the 2010 gubernatorial election in the state.

Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu will always be remembered for his dogged spirit and undying love for his people. He gave his all to any cause he believed in. This is a challenge to those who occupy public offices who should understand that the interest of the masses of this country must be uppermost in their considerations.

Ojukwu, who was a military governor of the defunct Eastern Region, could have closed his eyes and played the Ostrich to the alleged ill-treatment of his people, but he chose the hard way to seek total freedom for them.

Little wonder he remains a hero in the estimation of many, no matter what others may say. Adieu, the person’s General.
Source: Business Day, 30th November 2011.

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Revisiting Biafra - Civil War Leader Ojukwu Dies

Richard Dowden

analysis

There was one astounding moment at Chinua Achebe's Colloquium at Brown University in the US last year when three of the most influential men in the Biafran War came together on the platform - Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Oxford educated Biafran rebel leader, Professor Achebe himself, the most articulate proponent of the Biafran cause, and Wole Soyinka who flew into Biafra to act as a peacemaker and as a result was thrown into jail by the Nigerian President, General Yakubu Gowan. Only Gowon was missing.

Just to see the three old men together was extraordinary - the slow-spoken, reflective Achebe in his beret, Soyinka with his shock of snowy hair and white beard speaking bluntly then enigmatically, and Ojukwu, a giant of a man in a huge black coat but now blind, led around by an assistant. He said very little but I wanted to ask a simple question, so when the session ended I managed to stop him for a moment and ask if he had any regrets about the war. He paused but did not turn his head. "History does not repeat itself," he growled. "But if it did, I would do exactly the same again. Excuse me." He moved on.

He died in London last Saturday and his death may trigger a re-assessment of that terrible war. In so many ways the Biafran conflict defined war in Africa for the rest of the century. It challenged the universal agreement among the newly independent African states to accept the colonial borders. The Ibos attempted to leave Nigeria and create their own state, (although they would have taken with them several other ethnic groups, like the Ibibios, the Annanga and the Ogojas, who were not consulted). This tribally based rebellion was to be replicated throughout the continent in following years. The war divided Africa, with Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire and Tanzania supporting the Biafran cause and other countries backing Nigeria. A divided African Union prevented it acting as a peacemaker, and from then on the AU played almost no role in ending wars in Africa.

Biafra was also about resources - oil in this case, which supercharged the conflict and ensured that outsiders like Britain took sides and supplied weapons. While not causing Africa's subsequent wars, oil, diamonds, coltan and other valuable resources have exacerbated and prolonged conflicts. It did not however divide the world along Cold War lines. The Soviet Union also supplied weapons while the US took a neutral stance imposing its own arms embargo on both sides.

But perhaps Biafra's greatest impact was its image. The last time the world had seen masses of starving people was at the end of the Second World War. The 'Biafran baby' - a starving child with huge sad eyes, stick-like limbs and bloated stomach - became a defining image of Africa for the next half century as wars broke out in almost half the continent's states.

Aid agencies, which had had few emergencies since the end of World War II, found a new role in Biafra and there confronted all the problems they were to face elsewhere in Africa in the coming decades. A whole generation of aid workers were forged in the Biafran fire. The biggest problem for the aid agencies was that they knew some of the food and medical supplies were being taken by the combatants, thereby prolonging the war. The aid air bridge was also used by arms suppliers and one aid plane was shot down by the Nigerians. The Nigerian government tried to starve out the rebels. Chief Awolowo, then a minister, said in 1968 "all is fair in war and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don't see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight us harder."

On January 12th 1970 the war ended with the collapse of Biafra and the flight of Ojukwu (although he said he would die rather than run away). General Yakubu Gowon declared that there would be no victors and no vanquished and it appears to have been no retribution once the fighting stopped. But there was no peace building or reconciliation either. Nigeria returned to peace, Ojukwu returned to Nigeria and was given an official pardon. But many Ibos feel they have been excluded from high office ever since and there has been little discussion of the war or its effects. The history of the war and its causes is not taught in schools and until Chimamanda Adichie's novel Half of a Yellow Sun there was no written memory of what happened.

Perhaps with the death of Ojukwu that will change.
Source: Africa Arguments, 29th November 2011.

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Ojukwu was sent to expose Nigeria (1)

By Ochereome Nnanna
We knew the day would come. It would have happened this time last year when he was hit by a catatonic stroke. But, just like the great warrior that he was, he fought death for another year and bowed as all mortals eventually must.

When last I met him, it was at the Hotel Concorde, Owerri in November 2009. While humorously referring to his bout with ageing, the partially blind Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, told me in his suite: O na ekili m, mu na-ekili ya. “It is staring at me, and I am staring at it”. Ojukwu has finally blinked.

There is a reason for which God the Almighty sent every human being. If you are lucky you will discover yours and leave the world different than you met it. If not you will come and go and none will know. Ojukwu was lucky. He found his reason for being sent to Nigeria.

My interpretation of it? He was sent to expose the treachery of the British colonial masters which amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914, thus creating one of the most potentially beautiful and prosperous political entities that the modern world may yet see. Britain later decided to inject poison into the veins of this entity, making sure to punish those who were eager for them to grant Nigeria independence quickly and go home.

Born into the household of Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, one of the richest Nigerians of his time, Ojukwu was given the best education a multimillionaire’s favourite son could ever have. Egged on by destiny, he did not do many things his father wanted him to do. After bagging a Master’s Degree in Oxford, he wanted to serve the nation, so he went into the civil service briefly before enrolling in the Royal Nigerian Army. He was thus perched on the threshold of his historic duty post.

Throughout his eventful life, Ojukwu maintained he was a patriot and a nationalist even though he led a secessionist war against Nigeria and pitched his leadership activities in his native Igboland. Going by the positions and principles he stood for when the going got tough, his claim was justified.

He was not one of the plotters of the military coup that ushered the military into the political arena in January 1966. If anything, he commanded his unit to ensure the coup did not succeed in the Kano area, while in Lagos the General Officer Commanding, GOC, the Nigerian Army, Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, coordinated efforts to prevent the takeover of government by the Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu-led group of young military whippersnappers.

It was not until the assassination of the first military Head of State, General Aguiyi-Ironsi, by Northern officers that Ojukwu’s mission to Nigeria started showing.

In the brief moments when there was a vacuum following the death of Ironsi, Ojukwu, as a member of the Supreme Military Council, argued that the order of succession should be followed, whereby the next most senior officer should take over power. He took this stand irrespective of the fact that the next most senior officer after Ironsi was Brigadier B.A.O. Ogundipe, the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, a Yoruba.

However, in spite of the fact that Southern officers dominated the SMC (Lt Col Adekunle Fajuyi, Military Governor of the Western Region; Lt Col David Akopde Ejoor, Military Governor of Mid Western Region; Ogundipe; Commodore JEA Akinwale Wey, head of the Navy and Lt Col George Kurubo, head of the Air Force) as opposed to two from the North (Lt Col Yakubu Gowon, Chief of Staff, Army Headquarters and Lt Col Hassan Usman Katsina, Military Governor of the Northern Region), Ojukwu’s motion was not acted upon. Ogundipe himself played safe, because according to him, Northern officers who staged the counter-coup would not allow him to assume leadership. The North and their technical advisers, the British authorities, asked Gowon to take over and he did.

This incident was the beginning of the collapse of professionalism in the Army and the beginning of its ethnicisation. Ojukwu firmly continued to oppose this outrage and refused to recognise Gowon’s authority because Gowon was a junior officer to him and many in the SMC.

But as time went on, history’s revisionists started portraying Ojukwu’s stand as a personal grudge against Gowon. If Ojukwu’s principled stand was adhered to, it would have helped preserve the professional integrity of the Nigerian Army.

Ogundipe, as a third and neutral party outside the Igbo and Northern tango, could have conducted a brief transition to civil rule while the injustices committed in the wake of the two coups d’etat would be ameliorated in the spirit of national reconciliation.

But the then united North was allowed to force its way to power and started taking steps that diminished the Igbo stake in Nigeria and thus forced them to take up arms to defend themselves and seek a safe haven in a separate republic known as Biafra. The failure of Ogundipe to succeed Ironsi entrenched the Northernisation of the Nigerian Army and the perpetuation of the North as Nigeria’s political overlords in the place of the former British colonialists.

During the total of 27 years when the military dominated the political space of Nigeria the power struggle was no longer between North and South or North and East. It was now between North and North, particularly between the Muslim North and the rest of the North, with the latter (Gowon’s people) increasingly taking Ojukwu’s place as the “rebels” who plotted so many failed bloody coups against the Fulani establishment.

There was a total breakdown in discipline, as non-Muslim Northerners in the military as well as their Southern counterparts were often ridden rough-shod by less fancied junior, well-connected Northern Muslim officers. The height of it was in 1987 when General Sani Abacha was in power. Major Hamza Al Mustapha openly toyed with Yoruba generals such as Major General Abdulkarim Adisa, Major General Tajudeen Olanrewaju and the Chief of General Staff, Lt General Oladipo Diya when they were caught in coup plot against Abacha.

It was only after Olusegun Obasanjo took over in 1999 as elected president that he put a halt to this sectional madness by retiring 93 politically-exposed military officers. Thus resumed the process of re-professionalisation and re-nationalisation of the Nigerian Army. We will continue on Monday, God willing.
Source: Vanguard, 1st December 2011.

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Ojukwu: The philosophy that defined his politics

Fresh from exile in 1982, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) signifying the beginning of his politics.NDUBUISI ORJI writes on the philosophy that informed his political trajectory.

When Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu joined partisan politics in 1982, not a few were bewildered. Even more confounding was his choice of political party. Late Ojukwu after 12 years in the Ivory Coast had joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). His decision to pitch his tent with the NPN raised several questions. 

The major question was why NPN of all parties. The reason for this was not far fetched. Prior to his exile in early 1970, the Igbo leader had led the Igbo nation in a war to secede from Nigeria. The general expectation that he would have joined the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) led by the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. The NPP was seen largely as an Igbo party, more so when NPP controlled the two eastern states of Anambra and Imo at that point. While the NPN on the other hand was perceived as a Northern party. 
Many had insinuated at that point that Ojukwu’s membership of the NPN may have been part of the deal he reached with the government of Shehu Shagari, which granted him a state pardon thereby making his return to the country possible. 

Even the government of Shagari was shocked that he joined politics. According to the Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi , Director General of the Nigerian Security Organization at that time said the Ikemba involvement in partisan politics was not part of the understanding reached with the government before his return. 
Commenting on the events of those days, Shinkafi told a national daily “I do not know about (Alex) Ekwueme, but it was certainly not President Shagari’s wish. He didn’t want Ojukwu to get involved in party politics, even in NPN.” But then Ojukwu disappointed them all and embraced partisan politics.
In joining politics, he was motivated by the same factor that influenced him into joining the civil service as an assistant district officer . That is service to the people. It was that burning desire that also drove him into confronting the Federal Government led by General Yakubu Gowon. 

Ojukwu’s involvement with the NPN changed the tempor of the politics of Eastern Nigeria. He declared for the Onitasha Senatorial seat on the platform of the NPN. The NPP government in the old Anambra State under the watch of Chief Jim Nwobodo was already giving Vice President Alex Ekwueme tough time. To effectively checkmate the NPP, which already had a militia group , he formed the Ikemba Front. The Ikemba Front came to be more than a match for the NPP militia group. Shinkafi explained that “Even before Ojukwu returned, Ekwueme and Governor Jim Nwobodo were having a running battle in the area. NPP already had a militia. Ojukwu only reacted by forming his own militia. Several times I went to the East and urged Nwobodo to respect the office of the vice president. However, in responding to NPP and forming his own militia, Ojukwu went beyond expectation.”
At the end of the 1983 senatorial, Ojukwu host to the less popular NPP candidate In 1983, he contested the Onitsha senatorial poll, but lost to a relatively little known Anambra State commissioner in then Governor Jim Nwobodo’s cabinet, Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe. But the NPN won the governorship of the state. 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.

Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, who was then the Presidential Liaison Officer to the National Assembly, said “The basic aim of persuading him to join the NPN was to reintegrate the Igbo to the mainstream national politics after the civil war. Then, the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) was the ruling party in the South-east states of Imo and Anambra and we believed that Ojukwu should no longer play regional politics. We met and went to him and convinced him to join the NPN, at least for the sake of the Igbos and it eventually paid off when the NPN won Anambra governorship election with Onoh as the governor.” For the Igbo leader “I joined NPN to bring the Igbos into the main stream of Nigeria’s politics since I was the one that pulled them out in the first place,” Ojukwu was quoted severally to have replied when asked why he joined the NPN upon returning from Ivory Coast.

The failed senatorial adventure was not Ojukwu’s first romance with politics. 
During the 1978 election, the late Biafran leader had nursed the idea of contesting for the Nnewi Federal Constituency on the platform of the Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP.) He was nominated in absentia. According to the Ikemba in his book. Because I am Involved , “ I was convinced that such a momentous change (1978 transition programme), such an event must not take place without my being an issue. I made contacts with my compatriots individually and as party member , finally it was the GNPP, under Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim that settled upon my candidature. The campaign began in earnest. I was nominated in absentia”. He said he was motivated by Nkwame Nkrumah and Kenyatta who had moved into power from prison. However, the dream was stillbirth as the military authority reacted negatively to the idea of his participation in the transition programmes, thereby forcing Waziri and others to deny him. 

Not loog after the 1983 election, the military struck. The General Muhammadu Buhari’s regime that toppled the civil administration clamped Ojukwu and other politicians of that era into prison. . He was detained for 10 months.
Forging ahead 
Having put his hand in the plough, there was no going back for the Igbo leader politically. In the third republic , he joined the National Republican Convention, NRC, and aspired to contest the presidency. He said the surest way to show that the civil war had ended and the Igbo fully integrated into the affairs of the nation was to allow the Igbo become president.
However, General Ibrahim Babangida promptly disqualified him from running for president alongside other “old breed” politicians. During the General Sani Abacha regime, he was one of those elected to the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) of 1994 to 1995. 

At the inception of the fourth republic, Ojukwu first joined the All Peoples Party (APP, now All Nigeria Peoples Party) in the Fourth Republic. Together with Dr. Olusola Saraki, Chief Tom Ikimi, the late Lamidi Adedibu, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu,  Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu, the late Chief Sam Mbakwe, all political soul mates who could change Nigeria along defined lines. Their efforts at building a strong national party failed when the APP lost at the 1999 polls, as many of them left for the ruling party. But Ojukwu soldiered on. He later founded the Peoples Democratic Congress which was not registered as a political party.

Then in 2002 with Chief Chekwas Okorie, the former military governor formed the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). It was in APGA that he came close to realizing his dream of offering service to the people. Though the two attempts he made at governing the country on the platform of the party was not successful, the party won governorship elections in Anambra and Imo State in the last general election.
He was the party’s presidential candidate platform in the 2003 presidential poll. He fought the polls against President Olusegun Obasanjo, General Buhari and other contenders and came third. He repeated the quest in 2007 and came sixth. However he did not participate in the last election though to ill health.

Ojukwu no doubt had an eventful political career. But his main regret would be that he never lived to see an Igbo man elected as Nigerian president. Because that for him would mean the full integration of Ndigbo into Nigerian polity after the 30 moths bitter civil war, he led to give the Igbos a better deal in Nigeria.
Source: Vanguard, 1st December 2011.

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Rivers ACN mourns Ojukwu, Vanguard bureau chief

Joy Olekanma, Port Harcourt

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Rivers State chapter has joined the family, the government and people of Anambra State and the entire Igbo race at home and abroad to mourn the death of former Biafran Warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

In a statement in Port Harcourt signed by the party Publicity Secretary, Jerry Needam, the party described the Ex-Biafran Warlord as a fearless and courageous warrior who deserves national recognition.

The party said Ojukwu who emerged as one of those sent to the constitutional conference would be remembered for his love for the Igbos and Nigeria at large.

"At the constitutional conference Ojukwu stood for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation and the restoration of the pride of Nigerians", the party recalled.

The party further recalled that Ojukwu’s contributions at the conference were enormous and remarkable.

The party has also sympathized with the publisher of the Vanguard Newspaper as well as management and staff of the newspaper and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), particularly the Rivers State Chapter of the Federated Correspondents Chapel over the death of Mr George Onah, Port Harcourt Bureau Chief of the Vanguard Newspaper.

The ACN in Rivers State described Mr George Onah as a well baked practising journalist who made a mark in his chosen career.

And wished the families of Ojukwu and Onah the fortitude to bear the great losses and prayed God to grant them peaceful rest.
Source: Daily Champion, 1st December 2011.

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I enjoyed a father-son relationship with Ojukwu — Kalu.

FORMER governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has lamented the death of Ikemba Nnewi and Eze Igbo Gburuguru, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

In a statement yesterday, Kalu, who said he enjoyed a father-son relationship with the late leader, waxed poetic as he described him as ‘my captain’ whose ‘ship weathered every storm’ during his eventful life time, just as he prayed for the repose of his soul.

In his tribute ex-Biafran leader, Kalu wrote:

"You summoned us as a people and a Nation to seek a newer and better country; where justice and equity reigned.

In the words of Ulysses, that fearful trip is done, the ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is almost won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

But O heart! heart! heart! O on the deck my Captain Dim Odumegwu lies,

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up--for you the flag is flung for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain ! dear father !

The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage almost closed and done; From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won.

May God grant us the fortitude to bear this colossal loss, for in the words of Aeschylus, "Even In Our Sleep, Pain that Cannot Forget Falls Drop by Drop Upon the Heart; and in Our Own Despair, Against Our Will, Comes Wisdom to us by the Awful Grace of God".

Good night my Captain and thank you.

Source: Daily Champion, 1st December 2011.

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He brought credibility to the Nigerian Army — Ogbuewu

KENNETH OFOMA, Abakaliki

former Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Ambassador Frank. Nchita Ogbuewu has described the late Ikemba Nnewi and Leader of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a phenomenon and the first Nigerian who brought dignity to the Nigerian Army.

Ogbuewu said that Ojukwu’s joining of the Nigerian Army when he did, as a University graduate disproved the notion and belief among the people that the army was a dumping ground for never-do-wells and the uneducated.

The Nigeria’s former Ambassador to Greece while reacting to Ojukwu’s death said, "He was the person who set the tone for other graduate officers to enlist into the force and elevated the standards of the Force."

Ambassador Ogbuewu lamented that the late Leader died at a time his wealth of experience would have been tapped by those in authority in solving myriads of problems bedeviling the nation as he was passionate about getting the best for Nigeria and her citizens. His objective criticism and analysis of issues will be missed by all.

The gubernatorial candidate of APGA in Ebonyi State in the last general elections in a statement observed with relish that his brief political association with the late elder statesman showed that Ikemba was a man who always wanted every Igbo to be proud of his roots and capacity to confront challenges in life. ‘He will ginger you to have confidence in yourself and capacity to turn the tides no matter any obstacles. He will tell you that an Igbo should not be afraid of anything so long as he is within the law and should always stand up for his rights’, Ambassador Ogbuewu quipped.

He commiserated with his amiable wife, Bianca, immediate family, the national Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh and the party’s national executive and Ndigbo at large on the death of the "indefatigable Leader", expressing the hope that God in His infinite mercy will grant his soul eternal peace.

Ambassador Ogbuewu expressed the hope that his death will unite well-meaning Nigerians and Ndigbo everywhere and observed that people of Ojukwu’s pedigree are rare to find in climes. He pleaded with the Almighty to help in sourcing another fearless and altruistic Nigerian to fill the vacuum created by his demise.
Source: Daily Champion, 1st December 2011.

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‘Ojukwu’s Body To Remain In London For Security Reasons’

NNAMDI MBAWIKE and DAVID -CHYDDY ELEKE 

The corpse of ex-Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu will remain in London until the conclusion of arrangements for his burial.

National chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Chief Victor Umeh  dropped the hint while speaking with newsmen yesterday at the Enugu residence of Ojukwu, shortly after signing condolence register opened for the late Igbo leader.

He explained that  the decision to keep Ojukwu’s corpse in London pending the conclusion of his burial arrangements  was taken at the  various meetings held  in London and Nigeria.

Umeh, who arrived in Nigeria from London yesterday, said they would also consider during their subsequent meetings “whether to build a mausoleum for Ojukwu and place him there so that people will go and see the body of the greatest Igbo man that has lived”      

He disclosed that the meetings they  held in London and Nigeria demanded that more consultation would  be made  before a funeral date for Ojukwu would be fixed.
The APGA boss, however, assured that the burial rites for Ojukwu would commence immediately the body is brought home, adding that the resolve to keep his corpse  in London was also to ensure that it was properly taken care of.

He said: “Well, I came in from London this morning, and it is very clear to you that the burial of Ojukwu is not just like any other burial; certainly, in this part of the world, he is a man that so many people are interested in his burial rites. So extensive consultation will take place , but you know that having left us in the physical realm, his body must be committed to Mother Earth.

Meanwhile, the former Abia State Governor  Orji Uzor Kalu  has lamented the death of Ojukwu. In a statement yesterday, Kalu, who enjoyed a chummy, father-son relationship with the late leader,  waxed poetic as he described him as ‘my captain’ whose ‘ship weathered every storm’ during his eventful life time,  just as he prayed for the repose of his soul.

Source: Leadership, 1st December 2011.

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FG, nine states will be involved in Ikemba’s burial — Umeh 

Written by  Agency Reporter

Chairman, All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Umeh, in this interview with Ozioma Ubakukoh, says extensive consultations will be made before the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, will be buried and other issues

When is the burial of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu?

It is very clear that the burial of Ojukwu is not just like any other burial. This is going to be a burial that nobody has ever seen its type. He is a man so many people are interested in his burial rites. Extensive consultations will be made before his burial will take place, but you know that having left us in physical realm, his body must be committed to mother earth. He was a Christian - a Catholic and he will receive a Catholic burial as well.

You just returned from London and we heard you held a series of meetings with his family members. What were the meetings all about?

The short meetings we have had in London and at home here require that more consultations be made before a final date for his burial is fixed. We have also decided in the interest of security that the corpse will remain in London until we are ready with the arrangements. So, once the body is brought home, the burial rites will commence. The decision is that we shall still leave his corpse there for proper care and for us to get back home and work.

What is the major reason for choosing to keep his corpse in London?

For security reasons, the corpse of the late Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, will not be brought back to Nigeria very soon and will remain in a London morgue until all arrangements are concluded for his burial.

The late Ikemba Nnewi may as well not be buried after all. He may be deposited in a mausoleum where anybody who wants to see his remains could go there and possibly draw inspiration if the person so wishes.

Again, all the wishes of Ojukwu as reportedly contained in his will, like taking his corpse to the four countries that recognised the defunct Biafra Republic, are expected to be captured in his burial rites that nobody knows when it will be released.

Which individuals or groups have indicated interest to participate in the burial?

His mates at Epson College in London have indicated interest to be included in the burial arrangements. All the nine state governments of the old Eastern Region states – Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa, that Ojukwu administered as a military governor, will equally be involved in his burial; same as the Federal Government.

Encomiums have continued to pour in since his death. He never got such when he was alive. Why is this so?

I thank all those who have showered praises on Ojukwu, but I wonder why they waited for his death to do so. However, I charge them to recognise what the late Ikemba stood for and said in the 60s. He said injustice had no place in the modern world and that equity and justice must be the guiding principle for every nation.

What about his family?

The nuclear family of the Ikemba – his children and wife – will arrive Enugu this week. APGA will continue to use the name of Ojukwu for all its future campaign slogans.
Source: Punch, 1st December 2011.

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…Corpse to remain in London
Bianca returns on Saturday

From PETRUS OBI, Enugu

The corpse of the late Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu will remain in London for security reasons until his burial arrangements are concluded. 

National Chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, dropped the hint yesterday, shortly after signing the condolence register at the Enugu residence of the Ikemba Nnewi. He explained that the decision to keep Ojukwu’s corpse in London pending the conclusion of his burial arrangements was taken at the various meetings on the late icon held in London and Nigeria.

Umeh who arrived Nigeria from London yesterday, said that their subsequent meetings would also consider whether Ojukwu’s body would be buried or embalmed in a mausoleum so that people visit the place to see the body of the ‘greatest Igboman that ever lived.’

He disclosed that the meetings held in London and Nigeria required that more consultations be made before a burial date is fixed.
The APGA boss, however, stressed that the rites for Ojukwu would commence immediately the body “is brought home”, adding that the resolve to keep his corpse in London was also to ensure that it was properly taken care of.

“ Well I came in from London this morning and it is very clear to you that the burial of Ojukwu is not just like any other burial. Certainly, in this part of the world, he is a man that so many people are interested in his burial rites. So, extensive consultations will take place. But you know that having left us in the physical realm, his body must be committed to mother earth.
“ He was a Christian, a catholic and he will also receive a catholic burial as well , the short meetings we had in London and the ones they have had at home here require that more consultation will be made before a final date for his burial will take place, we have also in the interest of security decided that the corpse will remain in England until when we are ready with all the arrangements” he said.

Umeh also stated that Ojukwu,s former colleagues in Epson College in London had indicated their interest to participate in the burial, adding that his widow would return from London next Saturday while his children will return today.
“We can’t understand where we are going from here, I don’t know what will happen to his position in Igboland
“ We don’t need to immortalise Ojukwu again. Ojukwu is already immortalised in the hearts of the people he fought for. He will never die,” he said.

Umeh added that President Goodluck Jonathan, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), among others would be involved in the burial arrangements.
Source: Sun, 1st December 2011.

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Ojukwu: The Last Patriot at 78

BY VALENTINE OBIENYEM

Ojukwu21

TODAY, the 4th of November, 2011, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the number one Igbo citizen and a Nigerian patriot was 78 yesterday, for on the 4th of November, 1933, that extra-ordinary man was puffed into the world. I was privileged to accompany Gov. Obi (his 8th visit) to see him in London a few days ago, where his beautiful wife, Bianca is taking excellent care of him.

By the standard of today, his father, Sir Louis Odumegwu was a Billionaire. With his wealth, he reared the little but charming Emeka with all the affection that parents lavish upon their children in ever y age. He was determined to give him the best education. Consistent with Sir Louis’ vow, the child, Emeka, was almost crushed with education. The first school he attended was St. Patrick’s Primary School, Idumagbo, Lagos. There, during break hours, he relished sham battles in which, time and again, he and his friends were nearly killed. Because of this, only few pupils could dare play with him. Later, he attended Church Missionary Grammar School (CMS) and King’s College, both in Lagos.

While in King’s College, his father had already discovered that his child, Emeka, was intellectually precocious and keen, well endowed with good judgment and restless with ambition. How best could a man develop his potentialities? In those days, as it is today, it helped to attend good schools. King’s College was in fact, one of the best secondary schools in Nigeria. Since education was still developing in the country, Sir Odumegwu wanted for his son a country where education has reached advanced stages, for effective intellectual insemination. It is a fact of history that when one grows among advanced people, he is more likely to imbibe their civilization with great ease. After discussing the idea of a British education with some of his enlightened Nigerian friends, they settled for Epsom on the understanding that at thirteen he would transfer to Eton, Britain’s most exclusive public school.

As planned, Emeka, 12, was admitted into Epsom College, in the county of Surrey.

His English education began in earnest. Epsom thenceforth became a formative ordeal for him in a strange environment. The college inspired the talented Emeka with a great love for history. He came to know and admire English civilization. Like any child with his disposition, he equally learnt a great deal of the virtues and vices that go with growing up.

Emeka later gained admission to Lincoln College, University of Oxford in 1952. Oxford, as expected, was full of the frolic of students, the odour of learning and the excitement of independent thought. There, his father was anxious that Emeka should study Law saying, "I think there is the material of a good lawyer and legal director of my business in him."11 This was in line with the prevalent disposition among Nigerians, where, till today, fond parents always want their children to read Law which they regard as an open sesame to wealth and high social status.

The insistence of the father that Emeka studied Law was the first serious conflict between father and son. In filial compromise Emeka took up the studying of Law; but as a student of Law, the prospect of studying modern History and observing the lives of heroes held a secret fascination for him. At a stage, having studied Law for a year, he burnt his law books, forgot Jurisprudence and followed History as if under a spell.

In 1955 he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree. Back to Nigeria, he soon returned to Oxford to receive his Master of Arts degree. With all these, and while in the flower of his maturity, he inwardly felt satisfied that he was now well armed with the weapon of education. His desire to contribute to the development of his country could now begin. Silently, he resolved to begin in earnest.

On his return and excited and happy with his son, Sir Odumegwu took Emeka to a lavishly furnished office complex, and handed him the keys. On getting home that day, Emeka had a vision or something close to that; he was offered a choice of life of ease, pleasure, plenty and vice, or one of hardship, danger, glory and virtue. He followed wise counsel and chose the more difficult but virtuous life. Thereafter, he rejected the cosy path cut for him by his father, gave him back the keys and decided to cut his own path.

This crave for individualism made him join the Eastern Nigerian Public Service as an Administrative Officer. Sir Louis was not pleased at all that his son took what he considered the ridiculous job of an administrator. Exhausting all persuasion, the father upbraided the son for trying to make his family a public jest. Rather than budge, the son showed ever less interest in the father’s business, ever more in administration.

The dust generated by Emeka’s administrative work had hardly settled down when, in search of an organization that would escape his father’s influence, he generated another controversy that threatened to separate him from his father for good. He joined the Army! This was in 1957, when the Nigerian Army was merely a part of an all-embracing British West African army called the Royal West African Frontier Forces (RWAFF). These forces included the armies of Nigeria, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra-Leone and Gambia.

Thinking the task of bringing his son to his "senses" had gone beyond him, Sir Odumegwu enlisted the help of his friends; Zik and others were contacted. Zik called Emeka and advised that if he were Emeka, he would accept his father’s offer and avoid the hazard of joining a brutal force. Emeka remarked that he would do so if he were Zik. Being Emeka, he maintained that his father’s offer would make him perpetually delineated as Ojukwu.

After the drama of being forced to enter the force as a recruit, the new Cadet went to Teshie in Ghana, thenceforth to Officer Cadet School at Eaton Hall in England,. He later attended Infantry School at Warminster and Small Arms School at Hythe and Joint Services Staff College (JSSC) at Latimer.

TODAY, the 4th of November, 2011, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the number one Igbo citizen and a Nigerian patriot is 78, for on the 4th of November, 1933, that extra-ordinary man was puffed into the world. I was privileged to accompany Gov. Obi (his 8th visit) to see him in London a few days ago, where her beautiful wife, Bianca is taking excellent care of him.

By the standard of today, his father, Sir Louis Odumegwu was a Billionaire. With his wealth, he reared the little but charming Emeka with all the affection that parents lavish upon their children in ever y age. He was determined to give him the best education. Consistent with Sir Louis’ vow, the child, Emeka, was almost crushed with education. The first school he attended was St. Patrick’s Primary School, Idumagbo, Lagos. There, during break hours, he relished sham battles in which, time and again, he and his friends were nearly killed. Because of this, only few pupils could dare play with him. Later, he attended Church Missionary Grammar School (CMS) and King’s College, both in Lagos.

While in King’s College, his father had already discovered that his child, Emeka, was intellectually precocious and keen, well endowed with good judgment and restless with ambition. How best could a man develop his potentialities? In those days, as it is today, it helped to attend good schools. King’s College was in fact, one of the best secondary schools in Nigeria. Since education was still developing in the country, Sir Odumegwu wanted for his son a country where education has reached advanced stages, for effective intellectual insemination. It is a fact of history that when one grows among advanced people, he is more likely to imbibe their civilization with great ease. After discussing the idea of a British education with some of his enlightened Nigerian friends, they settled for Epsom on the understanding that at thirteen he would transfer to Eton, Britain’s most exclusive public school.

As planned, Emeka, 12, was admitted into Epsom College, in the county of Surrey.

His English education began in earnest. Epsom thenceforth became a formative ordeal for him in a strange environment. The college inspired the talented Emeka with a great love for history. He came to know and admire English civilization. Like any child with his disposition, he equally learnt a great deal of the virtues and vices that go with growing up.

Emeka later gained admission to Lincoln College, University of Oxford in 1952. Oxford, as expected, was full of the frolic of students, the odour of learning and the excitement of independent thought. There, his father was anxious that Emeka should study Law saying, "I think there is the material of a good lawyer and legal director of my business in him."11 This was in line with the prevalent disposition among Nigerians, where, till today, fond parents always want their children to read Law which they regard as an open sesame to wealth and high social status.

The insistence of the father that Emeka studied Law was the first serious conflict between father and son. In filial compromise Emeka took up the studying of Law; but as a student of Law, the prospect of studying modern History and observing the lives of heroes held a secret fascination for him. At a stage, having studied Law for a year, he burnt his law books, forgot Jurisprudence and followed History as if under a spell.

In 1955 he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree. Back to Nigeria, he soon returned to Oxford to receive his Master of Arts degree. With all these, and while in the flower of his maturity, he inwardly felt satisfied that he was now well armed with the weapon of education. His desire to contribute to the development of his country could now begin. Silently, he resolved to begin in earnest.

On his return and excited and happy with his son, Sir Odumegwu took Emeka to a lavishly furnished office complex, and handed him the keys. On getting home that day, Emeka had a vision or something close to that; he was offered a choice of life of ease, pleasure, plenty and vice, or one of hardship, danger, glory and virtue. He followed wise counsel and chose the more difficult but virtuous life. Thereafter, he rejected the cosy path cut for him by his father, gave him back the keys and decided to cut his own path.

This crave for individualism made him join the Eastern Nigerian Public Service as an Administrative Officer. Sir Louis was not pleased at all that his son took what he considered the ridiculous job of an administrator. Exhausting all persuasion, the father upbraided the son for trying to make his family a public jest. Rather than budge, the son showed ever less interest in the father’s business, ever more in administration.

The dust generated by Emeka’s administrative work had hardly settled down when, in search of an organization that would escape his father’s influence, he generated another controversy that threatened to separate him from his father for good. He joined the Army! This was in 1957, when the Nigerian Army was merely a part of an all-embracing British West African army called the Royal West African Frontier Forces (RWAFF). These forces included the armies of Nigeria, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra-Leone and Gambia.

Thinking the task of bringing his son to his "senses" had gone beyond him, Sir Odumegwu enlisted the help of his friends; Zik and others were contacted. Zik called Emeka and advised that if he were Emeka, he would accept his father’s offer and avoid the hazard of joining a brutal force. Emeka remarked that he would do so if he were Zik. Being Emeka, he maintained that his father’s offer would make him perpetually delineated as Ojukwu.

After the drama of being forced to enter the force as a recruit, the new Cadet went to Teshie in Ghana, thenceforth to Officer Cadet School at Eaton Hall in England,. He later attended Infantry School at Warminster and Small Arms School at Hythe and Joint Services Staff College (JSSC) at Latimer.

In Nigeria, Ojukwu served with the First Battalion, Kano, before his appointment as an instructor, Royal West African Frontier Forces Training School, Teshie, Ghana, 1958-60. Ojukwu returned to fatherland in 1961 and served as staff officer in the ‘A’ Branch of the new Nigerian Army Headquarters in the Defence Ministry building in Lagos. He had no problems carrying out his assigned duties. Six months as a Captain, Ojukwu was promoted to a Major. Because of the respect Emeka’s father had for the rank of a Major, he broke the silence with his son and celebrated his promotion with him. Father and son drank a bottle of champagne between them as a gesture of re-union. Very soon he was transferred to Kaduna as a Staff Officer with the First Brigade. While there, like his contemporaries, he served with the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces in Congo in 1962. Between 1964 and 66, Ojukwu was the commander of Fifth Battalion, Kano. The period of his command can be described without tongue-in-cheek, as the most gruesome time in the history of Nigeria. While he was in the Fifth Battalion, the first attempted coup took place. He did not, like most commanders, abdicate his command. He opposed the coup and was later appointed the governor of the Eastern Region.

His tenure as governor portrayed him as a master in the art of governance, and an eloquent public speaker. None who heard him speak could forget the cadence of his speeches, his mellifluous tones, the eloquence of his words, the geniality of his spirit, the charm of his courtesy, the vivacity of his wit, the poetic sensitivity of his mind. Both in his prepared and impromptu speeches, he made use of all the faculties he had, natural or acquired, such that he far surpassed in force and strength all the orations of his contemporaries. He has the rare capacity for dramatic poses. Clenched fist, jutting jaw and theatrical action, were part of his fiery speeches.

The regime of General Ironsi, which Ojukwu was part of, tried to save Nigeria within the limits of their vision and creed.
Source: Daily Champion, 5th November 2011.

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