* Why the Igbo people Love him!
* His place in Nigerian History.
* The reasons for his grand farewell!
By Francis Okoye
Reading the SUN Newspaper of Tuesday March 6, 2012, on page 6, the Igbo think-tank, Aka Ikenga, an organization that parades the likes of Dr. Chris Ngige-former governor of Anambra State, among other top professional Igbo people, revealed that they were providing a book of tributes to come out in May 2012, to immortalize Ojukwu.
In the same paper, the Apex Socio-cultural group of the Igbo extraction, Ohaneze Ndigbo also thanked president Goodluck Jonathan for giving Ojukwu a state burial.
When the history of Nigeria is being told, Gen. Emeka Ojukwu’s place in it is reserved, and also highly regarded. This, as someone who led a pioneering and exemplary role in every place that he set foot. In school in Britain, in the Army, in Biafra, in politics and finally as a God father of Nigerian politics, and Genuine democracy. No wonder, president Goodluck Jonathan gave him the Grand commander of the Niger (GCON) in death, one of the Nations highest Awards.
Watching the great farewell given to Gen. Emeka Ojukwu, not only by the Igbo’s living in far away countries like India, USA, Britian, and all the Igbo speaking states of Nigeria, and the Federal government and the generals in the Nigerian military, one will begin to wonder, why all this?
WHY THE IGBO PEOPLE LOVE HIM
Some people believe that Ojukwu is a man out to seek for power by all means, and that he should not have started a war, which led to the killing of millions of persons, especially igbos, in the Nigerian civil war. These set up people are mistaken, Ojukwu never lusted after power or war.
To fight and defend the Igbo people in Nigeria, was trust upon Gen Emeka Ojukwu. The Jan. 15th 1966 coup led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was the catalyst, which led to the killing of Igbos in Northern Nigeria-pogrom (which since then is continuing), Gen. Ojukwu, then a LT Col. did not disappoint the Igbos, so he declared Biafra independence on 30 May 1967. That marked the beginning of the love Igbo people have for him.
He did not just declare Biafra independent, but did everything he could to prevent the nation sliding into war. After the coup and killing of the supreme commander general Aguiyi-ironsi and Col Fajuyi, the most senior officer to take over was Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe – Gen Ojukwu tried to support him, but the coup plotters preferred Col Gowon,, a mate of Lt Col Ojukwu. This was one of the major reasons that led to the war.
Gen. Emeka Ojukwu tried to avoid the war, He went to Aburi (Ghana) where an Accord was done in vain to stop war from starting between Gen Gowon and himself. He also attended the Niamey (Niger Republic) peace conference under president Hamani Diori (1968) and the OAU sponsored Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) conference (1968) under the chairmanship of Emperor Haile Selassie, this was the final effort by Gen. Gowon and Gen. Ojukwu to settle the conflict.
Gen. Ojukwu also consulted the Eastern Nigerian, elders and traditional rulers at Enugu, who gave him the mandate to declare Biafra on behalf of the Igbo people.
Still more, Ojukwu’s father, sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu was a millionaire businessman and one of the richest men in Nigeria then. Gen. Ojukwu would have choosen the easy way out, by taking over his fathers business, but he put his life at stake by deciding to champion Igbo people’s rights in Nigeria, and this is one of the strongest reason why Igbo people love him so much.
During the war, Gen. Ojukwu was allowed to lead, even those like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Pius Okigbo, Sir Louis Mbanefo, CC Mojekwu, Eyo ita, Jaja Nwachukwu, Dr. K.O. Mbadiwe, Chief Dennis Osadebay, Sir Francis Akanu Ibiam, Dr. A.A. Nwafor Orizu, Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu etc, a feat no other Igbo leaders have been able to achieve in power. This older who is who in Eastern Nigeria, worked with Gen Ojukwu, and had high regards for him.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, when Igbo’s were being killed all over the North, the Igbo traders naturally ran to Ojukwu for help. The advice and help he gave them, saw to their return to the north after every periodic massacre by the North.
Speaking to newsmen, Igwe Arc Jonathan Okpalaezecha the traditional ruler of Akpo in Aguta Anambra State, revealed that Ojukwu was the one who established Royal fathers in Diaspora in all Igbo communities worldwide, with such hand work, why will the Igbo people not love him.
Finally, the Igbo people love Gen. Ojukwu for heeding their advice to leave Biafra and hand over power to his second in command, Chief of General Staff, Major-General Philip Effiong on 9th Jan. 1970. As a result of these, Gen. Emeka Ojukwu kept himself for the Igbo people.
HIS PLACE IN NIGERIAN HISTORY
Gen. Emeka Ojukwu’s place in Nigerian History is one of greatness to greatness. He was one of the first graduates to join the Nigerian army in 1957. He was also once in charge of the 5th Battalion of the Nigerian-Army in 1964 in Kano.
As an army leader, Ojukwu never planned a coup nor supported any coup plot-setting an example as an exemplary military officer, which the younger ones should emulate. In fact he helped prevent the coup against major general Aguiyi-Ironsi.
When in 1966, he was made a military governor of Eastern Nigeria, Ojukwu had to do what he had to do, following events in the country.Recently a governor in the North, told the media, that he would have done what Gen Ojukwu did if he had been in his place.
History remembers Ojukwu for all the efforts he made not to destroy Nigeria, by choosing parts of peace like the Aburi Accord, among others, to ensure that Nigeiran did not go war, knowing by profession why war for a country is not good and being a true master of History, in which area he had a masters degree from Lincoln College, Oxford University.
Most European states recognized the illegitimacy of Nigerian military rule and banned future supplies of arms, but the UK government supported them, so the course of war was set by the UK government.
When Gen. Ojukwu returned from a 13 years exile in C’ote d’Ivoire, he went into active politics, and joined the NPN. He received the title Ikemba on his return in 1982. Meaning ‘strength of the Nation’. Few people saw the reason for his joining NPN instead of the Igbo party the NPP. He was giving a message, that the Igbo should be at the center stage again and go to the source of the stream to get water.
After his ordeal in prison by Gen Buhari, Gen Emeka Ojukwu began his fight for democracy in Nigeria, and said once “As a committed democrat, every single day under an un-elected government hurts me. The citizens of this country are mature enough to make their own choices, just as they have the right to make their own mistakes”.
Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, now holding the power entrusted to him ,played a part in Nigerian’s return to Democracy since 1999. He contested for president three times, under his party to APGA (All Progressive Grand Alliance).
Dim Ojukwu’s 30 months rule of Biafra, saw the Biafran, printing bank notes that were and are still superior to that of Nigeria, Biafra built armoured vehicles, called ‘Red devil’, they produced the powerful bomb ‘Ogbunigwe’, Built airports and roads, refined petroleum (feats which Nigerian cannot achieve till today), they made share batteries and had a powerful commando unit. History will remember Ojukwu as the man who was instrumental in putting president Goodluck Jonathan in power. He refused to contest against him, and his party adopted him as their candidate, he mobilized the Igbo states, for the first time and successfully, to vote for PDP and Goodluck Jonathan. If he had not done this, and had contested, PDP would not have gotten the required votes from the South East to win the presidency. History will remember him for this last act of courage, selfless service and guidance of the Nation, and a way of his rewarding the South South for its support of Biafra in the civil war.
THE REASON FOR HIS GRAND FAREWELL
There are the reasons why Dim Emeka Ojukwu received a grand farewell, worthy of a serving of dead head of state. For Nigeria and especially the Igbo race, Ojukwu was that head of state that the Igbo people had loved and trusted.
In the East, since the announcement of his death on Nov. 26 2011 in UK, the Igbo people have been mourning, and love for Igbo people has been the reason for this great farewell, as a preacher would put it ‘Ojukwu loved his neighbor as he loved himself – his neighbor being at one point – Igbo people and in another context, Nigeria.
As a politician and God father, Dim Ojukwu was able to grab two states of Imo and Anambra State for APGA. These two states and all APGA members in South East, did not fail to grant him a befitting burial, worthy of a great member of the party.
Gov. Peter Obi and Gov. Rochas Okorocha and Chief Victor Umeh APGA chairman, also worked hand in hand to grant Dim Emeka Ojukwu a special burial worthy of note.
At the end of the year, Gov. Peter Obi named the Anambra State University, Uli, after Dim Ojukwu, to be known as Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu University, Uli, and in March 2014, He got a Doctorate Degree from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The Honours continue to come, even in death.