Nigerian military carrying the coffin of Biafran seccesionist leader Chukwuemeka Odumengwu-Ojukwu. The leader spent years in exile and was pardoned in 1982., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
He Gave His Life…
On March 2, 2012 · In Special Report 12:30 am..Email0
By Ikeddy ISIGUZO, Chairman Editorial Board
IN life and in death Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu will not stopping being amazing. Here was a man who cast aside his privileged position, went to war to impress on his compatriots that Nigeria deserved a better constitutional setting to progress.
They would not listen to him. They accused him of being over-ambitious. They vilified him. He stuck to his position that it was unacceptable for Nigeria’s future to be compromised. He wanted a stop to the killing of the Ndigbo in unprecedented waves of massacres that Nigeria made no efforts to stop.
He went to war to protect Ndigbo, and ultimately other Nigerians. He did not ask for more than that Ndigbo should be allowed to be. He led the war fro 30 months during which he used the zeal of youth, his passion, his commitment, his dedication in getting his people behind him.
It was not for nothing that his people loved him, forget the few, who in their haste to be re-habilitated in Nigeria would tell tales to diminish Ikemba. Where would Ndigbo have been today if Ojukwu did not stand up for them in 1966?
The massacres are on again. The same challenges of nationhood that Ojukwu saw when he asked for a confederal arrangement in Aburi in 1967 are on the increase. Ndigbo are being killed in the North again. Who will speak for them?
New converts to a better constitutional setting for Nigeria vaguely refer to Aburi these days. They would not acknowledge the foresight of a man who saw the future and put his life on the line for it.
The late realisation of the progress that Nigeria would have made in the past 45 years, if each region was allowed to continue on the path it had elected is part of the challenges of governance today.
Complaints about poverty are also complaints about the inefficiencies that the absence of healthier economic competition among the confederating units has produced. The regions that erected the foundational pillars of economic and social developments in their spheres have withered under States that wait for monthly farming out of oil revenue.
Ojukwu foresaw the futility of running a unitary federation. The worries are everywhere. Federal and state workers earn the same wages. Politicians in urban Abuja make decisions for rural populaces with whom they are not in touch. Everyone is shouting about the rising cost of governance, without a word of acknowledgement of the sagacity of a man who had a recipe for these later day matters and offered it to his country.
The out pouring of praises for him in death is stunning. The army bore his casket. The President was at the events. The Vice President was there. People are falling over themselves to be identified with him.
Are Nigerians finally admitting they made a mistake going to war against him? Or are some simply glad that one more powerful voice that would ask questions, that would bring fecund ideas to the table was gone?
Whatever it, Nigeria has lost a prescient personality who spoke for everyone. His title of General of the Peoples Army might have come from the war, but it aptly encapsulated his tireless courage in standing up for the oppressed, wherever they may be found. Ndigbo are celebrating the departure of one, whose like make a rare appearance.
His passage leaves the type of vacuum that will cry for filling for a long time. It is noteworthy that Nigerians are just discovering Ojukwu in death.
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (1933-2011)
On March 2, 2012 · In Editorial 3:14 am
EULOGIES have been pouring since his departure last November 26. Everyone finally has a chance to state an impression of the man many describe as an enigma. Nigerians have been on their feet applauding a man who dared to be different.
He was born on 4 November 1933, in Zungeru, Northern Nigeria, to Sir Louis Phillip Odumegwu Ojukwu easily one of Africa’s wealthiest businessman of his days. Sir Ojukwu was successful in transportation and was on the boards of top companies, UAC (West Africa), Shell-BP and the Nigerian Stock Exchange, which he co-founded and was its first president.
The younger Ojukwu grew up, was educated at King’s College Lagos, Epsom College, England, and the University of Oxford, was to prepare Emeka to carry on the family business since he refused to be a lawyer as would have pleased his father.
On his return to Nigeria, he served in the civil service for two years, joining the army as a recruit much to his father’s scandal. He was the first university graduate in the Nigerian army, and his education and pedigree were not for the army then.
Disputes over the census in 1963, more contentions over the 1964 federal elections and further troubles over the Western Region election in 1965 resulted in the January 1966 coup, which Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu led.
Lt-Col. Ojukwu saw to the failure of the coup in Kano where he was commander. He was appointed Military Governor of the Eastern Region, under the military government of Maj-Gen Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Massacres of Igbo families in Northern Nigeria began in May. The claims were that they were in retaliation for northern army officers and top politicians Sarduana of Sokoto and Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, who were killed in the 1966coup.
Col. Yakubu Gowon became Head of State. Ojukwu rejected his leadership, Ironsi’s whereabouts and Gowon’s promotion above Brig. A. O. Ogundipe, the most senior officer, who was shipped off to Britain as High Commissioner.
Many moves, to resolve the conflict, notably the one in Aburi, Ghana, failed. In Aburi, Biafra wanted more powers for the regions, Nigeria agreed but later insisted on a stronger central government. On 30 May 1967, Ojukwu promulgated the Republic of Biafra, and Nigeria on July 6 declared war against Biafra. It lasted 30 months. The tragedies were particularly telling in Biafra where millions died of malnutrition and disease.
Ojukwu went on 12-year exile to Côte d’Ivoire. President Shehu Umaru Shagari pardoned him in 1982.
Current agitations about provisions of the 1999 Constitution that abnegate federalism are reminders that few lessons, if any, were learnt from the war and that Ojukwu lived ahead of his time.