What I have said is not harsh, it is only the naked truth and it reflect only the intensity of the love I harbour for my people." General Dim Christopher Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba of Nnewi, Dikedioramma, Eze Igbo Gburugburu, Biafran Warlord and a prominent Nigerian politician
General Dim Christopher Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba of Nnewi, Dikedioramma, Eze Igbo Gburugburu, Biafran Warlord and a prominent Nigerian politician
General Dim Christopher Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (4 November 1933 – 26 November 2011) was the world`s renowned Nigerian military officer and celebrated politician.This gifted orator and a leader was affectionately called Emeka and held the titles Ikemba Nnewi and Eze Igbo Gburugburu for his selfless and dedicated service to his people,Ndi Igbo. The mighty iroko, Ojukwu served as the military governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1966, the leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra from 1967 to 1970 and a Nigerian politician from 1983 to 2011, when he died, aged 78. Ikemba Nnewi`s exploits both on the battle and political fields portray him as a restless soul, constantly engaged with the processes aimed at birthing an egalitarian society. He was a man with a most powerful narrative. An essential Nigerian story, with a career compelling in several respects. Ikemba Nnewi was a brave soldier and great thinker!
This great man made his debut into the theatre of life with a silver spoon; into a luxury of a high pedestal; given the best education of our time and had the world at his feet, but chose the road less traveled. He immersed himself in the service of the people. A man of scholastic brilliance from Oxford, Ojukwu chose to serve in the Nigerian military. He will be remembered as a fine officer and a gentleman.
Chief Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)) posits that "after the contributions of our great nationalists such as Nnamdi Azikwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello, no single Nigerian has altered the course of Nigeria's history as the late Ikemba Ojukwu. He was forced by the circumstance of history to defend his people when he believed they faced physical and political annihilation. His reasons were clear to his people and his voice and strong determination reverberated across Nigeria. Ultimately, he altered the course of Nigerian political history in profound ways."
Dim Christopher Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu
Ojukwu’s political consciousness evolved very early, and very quickly. As a ten-year old boy in form one at King’s College in Lagos, in 1943, he too had already joined the anti-colonial struggle. That year, he joined senior students like Tony Enahoro (who later became famous Nigerian politician Chief Anthony Enahoro) and Ovie Whiskey among others, to stage an anti-war, anti-colonial protest against the colonial administration, for which some of the students were reprimanded, others conscripted to fight, and from which people like Enahoro emerged into national limelight. Ojukwu was tried as a juvenile in the courts in Lagos for his participation, and two pictures essay that moment: when he lay sleeping at the docks, and when his father, Sir Louis, carries him still sleepy, on his shoulder at the end of proceedings. In 1944, he was briefly imprisoned for assaulting a white British colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman at King's College in Lagos, an event which generated widespread coverage in local newspapers.
Out of necessity to protect his people and save them from pogrom Odumegwu Ojukwu the brave leader his Ndi-Igbo and Eastern Nigerian people to war against the federal Nigerian government under the military leader Yakubu Gowon in the bid to secede from the federation. Despite losing the war after 3 years and going to exile for 13 years, his people decided to crown him a king in a race that does not believe in the concept of kingship. Yes, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was crowned king as the first Eze Igbo Gburugburu. Etymologically, the word gburugburu literally means, “ over all”, which by implication means that his great Igbo brothers and sisters consensually accepted the late fire brand and oracular leader as the over all King of the Igbo. Beside the title of Eze Igbo Gburugburu, the late first Quarter Master General of post-colonial Nigerian Army, also had in his kitty such other titles like; Dikedioranma of Igbo land and Ikemba Nnewi.
Though some Nigerians like Chief Obafemi Awolowo as well as some of his own Igbo people saw Ojukwu`s going to war with the federal government as evil and total mistake, but Dr Osy Ekueme and Dr Ngo Ekwueme disagreed and virtually likened Ojukwu to biblical Moses. In their "Tribute to a Great Man: Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu," Ekwueme&Ekwueme (2012) stated the that Ojukwu "was a ministering angel to Ndi-Igbo. He brought the world's attention to the pogrom against the Igbos by fellow Northern Nigerians. History will have it that he was just like vox clamantis in deserto.. the voice of one shouting in the desert."
The world`s renowned writer, Noble laureate, Yoruba man and proud Nigerian Professor Wole Soyinka who then flew into Biafra to act as a peacemaker and as a result was thrown into jail by the Nigerian President, General Yakubu Gowon posited that Ojukwu`s Ojukwu`s hands were tied and he had to obey the voice of his people to go to war with Nigeria as Chinua Achebe aptly described as "a country desperately cobbled together by British merchants,missionaries and politicians showed signs of its shaky foundations." Soyinka echoed in his tribute to Ikemba Nnewi that "Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, thrown by Destiny onto that critical moment of truth as a leader, became the voice, the actualising agent of their overwhelming recognition. He heard the answers given by the interrogatory that proceeded from gross human violation, and he responded as became a leader. In so doing, he challenged the pietisms of former colonial masters and the sanctimonousness of much of the world. He challenged an opportunistic construct of nationhood mostly externally imposed, and sought to replace it under the most harrowing circumstances with a vital purpose that answered the purpose of humanity-which is not merely to survive, but to exist in dignity. The world might cavil; the ideologues of undialectical unity might shake their head in dubious appraisal and denounce it as reckless adventurism. This however was his reading, and even the most implacable enemy would hardly deny that his position transcended individual judgment that it rested firmly on the collective will of a people, while they awaited the decisiveness of a responsive leadership."
I must state that even for his bitterest opponents, Ojukwu is known for his discipline, hard work and diplomacy. Daniel Amassoma, President, Ijaw Youth Development Association, said Ojukwu was a leader who believed in equity, justice and fairness. ``Ojukwu was a leader the youth so much believed in; a leader that every follower would always want to follow, till the very end.... we will not be tired, but we shall continue to seek until we are able to get a leader like him.’
Ikemba Nnewi was sentimental, passionate, great lover and jolly romantic man. He married thrice and had several children before he bowed graciously out of this world.
So how did Ikemba Nnewi started his life? It is apparent that Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was driven by a sense of destiny. He was in any case, a child of destiny. For those who are wont to see something magical and symbolic in coincidences, it is not for nothing that the two greatest leaders from among the Igbo in the 20th century - Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu - were born in the same month of November, in the same little town, Zungeru. Chukwuemeka "Emeka" Odumegwu-Ojukwu was born on 4 November 1933 at Zungeru in northern Nigeria to Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, an Igbo businessman from Nnewi, Anambra State in south-eastern Nigeria. Ojukwu was his father`s first son and was born after his parents separation. Sir Louis was in the transport business; he took advantage of the business boom during the Second World War to become one of the richest men in Nigeria. Ojukwu`s personal friend for 15 years Frederick_Forsyth, the world`s celebrated British best-selling novelist and biographer wrote in his biography "Emeka" that "Sir Louis Phillipe Odumegwu-Ojukwu was the wealthiest Nigerian of his generation: a multi-millionaire businessman, who had been chairman of UAC (West Africa), the Nigerian Stock Exchange, director of Shell-BP, had vast investment in property in Lagos, Kano, Port-Harcourt, Enugu, Onistha and other places and owned controlling shares in many of the top blue-chip corporations that still operate in Nigeria today, Emeka Ojukwu could have walked naturally to a life of ease and indolence. In actual fact, by today’s value, Sir Louis Ojukwu’s wealth would be in the range of about ten billion in proper sterling."
Ojukwu started living with his father in Lagos at age 3, and began to climb his educational ladder from his infancy in Lagos, southwestern Nigeria, attending St. Patrick’s School, and CMS Grammar School. At the age of ten he entered form one at King's College in Lagos in 1943. "That year, he joined senior students like Tony Enahoro and Ovie Whiskey among others, to stage an anti-war, anti-colonial protest against the colonial administration, for which some of the students were reprimanded, others conscripted to fight, and from which people like Enahoro emerged into national limelight. Ojukwu was tried as a juvenile in the courts in Lagos for his participation, and two pictures essay that moment: when he lay sleeping at the docks, and when his father, Sir Louis, carries him still sleepy, on his shoulder at the end of proceedings." In 1944, he was briefly imprisoned for assaulting a white British colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman at his King's College in Lagos, an event which generated widespread coverage in local newspapers.
Sir Louis Ojukwu sensing his son`s radicalism and troubles he was causing in political agitations transferred Emeka to Epsom College, Surrey, England in 1946. Emeka stayed in England for six years excelling in sports-sprinting, rugby, javelin and discus-gaining admission to Lincoln College, Oxford University in 1952. Forsyth (1992) writes "He took BA from Oxford in 1955 and MA both in History having lived a multimillionaire’s son’s life, driving a Rolls Royce, enjoying feminine company, and spending pleasant vacations in Lagos high society." He returned to colonial Nigeria in 1956.
Upon Ojukwu`s return to Nigeria and contrary to Sir Louis’ desire that he join the family business, Ojukwu chose to join the Civil Service, seeking a posting to Northern Nigeria. Due to Nigeria’s federal structure, he was posted instead in 1955 to his native Eastern Region, to Udi as an Assistant District Officer. Udi transformed Ojukwu into an authentic Igbo man! Before then he was a black British gentleman and Lagos boy, who spoke Queens English and fluent Yoruba. According to Forsyth (1992), Ojukwu for the first time, found the land of his ancestors, “I became aware that I was Igbo, and a Nigerian, and an African, and a black man. In that order. And I determined to be proud of all four. In that order.” At Udi, he learnt Igbo language, forsook routine office paperwork in favour of working with villagers and peasants, and learnt the true nature of the African reality. As would later happen with other Igbos, the Udi villagers trusted him and he transcended official colonial administrator, becoming adjudicator and leader. He was subsequently posted to Umuahia and Aba until 1957 and might well have stayed in the civil service, but for his father’s actions. Horrified at Ojukwu’s next posting to Calabar (where he feared that an Efik woman would “capture” his son), Sir Louis deployed his connections with the Governor-General, Sir John Macpherson, who immediately cancelled the transfer.
Evidently Emeka’s choice of the civil service was to craft his own destiny, rather than walk eternally in his father’s wealthy and influential shadows. Frustrated at Sir Louis’ interference in his career, he decided to join the army. Ojukwu joined the military as one of the first and few university graduates to join the army. Ojukwu’s father again tried to prevent him from joining the army as a cadet officer, prompting his joining as a private in 1957! It was only after British military officers recognised the futility and dysfunction of having a Masters from Oxford as a Private in the army with illiterates as contemporaries and superiors that his entry was regularised and his father’s wishes overturned. The other university graduates in the army were O. Olutoye (1956); E. A. Ifeajuna, C. O. Rotimi (1960), and A. Ademoyega (1962).
Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu went through training at Teshie in Ghana; Officer Cadet School at Eaton Hall, England from February 1958 for six months; Infantry School at Warminster; Small Arms School at Hythe returning to Nigeria’s Fifth Battalion, Kaduna in November 1958. He was deployed in 1959 to Western Cameroun to join the hunt for rebel Felix Moumi at one point discovering over one million pounds worth of various European currencies which he sent back to Army Headquarters for which he received commendation, but (in early signs of corruption) reportedly never heard of the funds again.
Ojukwu was already in military service at independence in 1960 and wrote in “Because I am Involved” that he “burnt my British passport and turned my back permanently on colonialism and neo-colonialism”; promoted Captain in December 1960; was staff Officer at Army Headquarters from 1961; became Major in summer 1961 (at which point his father reconciled with him); passed Joint Services Staff Course. Ojukwu's background and education guaranteed his promotion to higher ranks. At that time, the Nigerian Military Forces had 250 officers and only 15 were Nigerians. There were 6,400 other ranks, of which 336 were British. After serving in the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in the Congo, under Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, Ojukwu was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in January 1963 when he was appointed army Quartermaster-General. In January 1966, when the first military coup happened Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was Commander at the 5th Battalion, Kano.
Lieutenant-Colonel Ojukwu was in Kano, northern Nigeria, when an Igbo army Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu on 15 January 1966 executed and announced the bloody military coup in Kaduna, also in northern Nigeria. Ojukwu as battalion commander in Kano resists Nzeogwu’s end of the coup in the North, an action which leads to the collapse of the Ifeajuna-led coup of January 1966.
The January 1966 coup was led by five majors-Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Wole Ademoyega, Chris Anuforo and Don Okafor, though there were three other majors (Humphrey Chukwuka, Tim Onwuategwu, John Obienu); five captains (Ben Gbulie, Nwobosi, Oji, Ude and Adeleke); four lieutenants (Ezedigbo, Okaka, Oguchi and Oyewole) and seven 2-Lietenants involved. Overall leadership and conceptualisation may be attributed to Nzeogwu and Ifeajuna. Nzeogwu was a first-class, Sandhurst-trained soldier, a radical, courageous, anti-colonial and revolutionary officer who had become disillusioned with the direction of the emerging Nigerian nation, and a nationalist and patriot, who appeared incapable of tribalism and other parochial thinking. Ifeajuna had revolutionary ideas, but was a less-predictable person.
In this coup different actors were given roles to eliminate certain political targets.Nzeogwu’s single-mindedness and dedication accounted for success of the plotters in eliminating their Hausa/Fulani targets in Kaduna and Lagos while Ifeajuna and cohorts failed to eliminate Igbo targets such as Army GOC General Aguiyi-Ironsi, Eastern Premier Dr Okpara and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. At the end of the coup, the prime minister, Tafawa Balewa, Northern Premier Ahmadu Bello; and Northern officers-Brigadier Maimalari, Colonel Kur Mohammed, Lt.Colonels Abogo Largema, and Yakubu Pam had been killed. The largely politically illegitimate Western Premier S.L.A Akintola, Ademulegun and Shodeinde were also killed. All Igbo political and military targets had somehow escaped except for Lt.Colonel Arthur Unegbe. It wasn’t long before the coup was transformed in the minds particularly of Northerners into an Igbo attempt to wipe away their political and military leaders and the counter-coup of July 1966 which brought Yakubu Gowon (and the North) back to power became inevitable.
Gen. Ironsi watching a mortar concentration at Kachia near Kaduna in 1966, shortly before his overthrow and assassination. L-R: Lt. Col. Imo, Major Obioha, Lt. Col Okoro (with umbrella), Lt. Col. A. Madiebo, Major Ogbemudia (with map), Col. Wellington Bassey, Maj. Gen. A. Ironsi, Lt. Col. O. Kalu, Lt. Col. M. Shuwa, Lt. Col. J. Akagha etc.
In all this Ojukwu was loyal army servant and never involved himself in the putsch. Lt. Col Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu then, Brigade Commander in Kano was never consulted by the plotters probably because they saw him as a pro-establishment officer who was unlikely to sympathise with their plans, and because he was senior to all the coup plotters. There is no dispute over the fact that as the actual coup unfolded, Ojukwu absolutely refused to cooperate with Nzeogwu in Kaduna and the other plotters. Rather he rallied and kept his troops loyal to the federal government. He also protected Northern citizens including his friend, Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero during the period of uncertainty after the coup attempt. Indeed Ojukwu’s appointment as military governor of the Eastern Region was a clear acknowledgment of his loyalty to the nation and army authorities. It is indeed an irony that it was this same pro-establishment, nationalist and loyalist officer who would soon lead the Biafran rebellion against Nigeria! It is clear that circumstances thrust this role upon Ojukwu and he merely accepted the role history had earmarked for him.
Aguiyi-Ironsi took over the leadership of the country and thus became the first military head of state. On Monday, 17 January 1966, he appointed military governors for the four regions. Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu was appointed Military Governor of Eastern Region. Others were: Lt.-Cols Hassan Usman Katsina (North), Francis Adekunle Fajuyi (West), and David Akpode Ejoor (Mid West). These men formed the Supreme Military Council with Brigadier B.A.O Ogundipe, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, Chief of Staff Army HQ, Commodore J. E. A. Wey, Head of Nigerian Navy, Lt. Col. George T. Kurubo, Head of Air Force, Col. Sittu Alao.
In May 1966, riots and a bloodbath erupted in the North with at least 3,000 Easterners killed, and others fleeing South. This presented problems for Odumegwu Ojukwu. He did everything in his power to prevent reprisals. As a Governor of the Eastern Region since January 1966, he pleaded with Igbos to return up North and in June 1966, barely a month after the massacre, he appointed his old friend, Emir of Kano, Chancellor of the University of Nigeria.
On 29 July 1966, a group of officers, including Majors Murtala Muhammed, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, and Martin Adamu, led the majority Northern soldiers in a mutiny that later developed into a "counter-coup" or revenge coup. The coup failed in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria where Ojukwu was the military Governor, due to the effort of the brigade commander and hesitation of northern officers stationed in the region (partly due to the mutiny leaders in the East being Northern whilst being surrounded by a large Eastern population). The initial objective of the Northern officers who led the coup (Murtala Muhammed, Yakubu Gowon, Theophilus Danjuma, et al) appeared clearly to be secession (“araba” – separation in Hausa) from Nigeria until they were reportedly persuaded by the British High Commissioner that “you’ve got it all now; why settle for half” and Gowon became Head of State, leading to Ojukwu’s first disagreement with the Northern military establishment.
In the coup, the Supreme Commander General Aguiyi-Ironsi and his host Colonel Fajuyi were abducted and killed in Ibadan. On acknowledging Ironsi's death, Ojukwu insisted that the military hierarchy be preserved. In that case, the most senior army officer after Ironsi was Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, should take over leadership, not Colonel Gowon (the coup plotters choice), however the leaders of the counter-coup insisted that Colonel Gowon be made head of state. Both Gowon and Ojukwu were of the same rank in the Nigeria Army then (Lt. Colonel). Ogundipe could not muster enough force in Lagos to establish his authority as soldiers (Guard Battalion) available to him were under Joseph Nanven Garba who was part of the coup, it was this realisation that led Ogundipe to opt out and accepted posting as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Thus, Ojukwu's insistence could not be enforced by Ogundipe unless the coup plotters agreed (which they did not). The fall out from this led to a stand off between Ojukwu and Gowon leading to the sequence of events that resulted in the Nigerian civil war.
Many Eastern/Igbo officers had been killed during the July counter-coup, evidently as collateral revenge for the earlier deaths in January. In September 1966, a second pogrom commenced with large scale killings everywhere across Northern Nigeria. After Gowon’s broadcast on September 29, rather than abate, the killings intensified. Pain, anger and rage were felt across the East, especially by Ojukwu who, to his eternal regret, had urged those who fled in May to return, many to their brutal end. Ojukwu started resisting Federal army`s pogrom on Easterners and Igbos. It must be noted here that the first threat of force was issued by Gowon on 30/11/66 and the first shells were fired on 6/7/67 by the “federal” side
In January 1967, the Nigerian military leadership went to Aburi, Ghana for a peace conference hosted by the Ghanaian head of state General Joseph Ankrah. In Aburi, Ojukwu proposed the foundational thesis for the evolution of a modern Nigerian state under clear federal principles. The Aburi agreement, meant to resolve the crisis and was freely signed by all parties under General Ankrah’s auspices, was unilaterally rejected by Gowon upon pressure from his British minders and their agents in the Nigerian civil service, and levies war against the East, when he return to Lagos on 26/1/67 upon. The accord established equal, federal control over the armed forces through the Supreme Military Council (SMC); a military HQ with equal regional representation; regional military area commands; major national appointments – diplomatic, senior armed forces and police, and “super-scale” federal civil service and corporations – would be made by the SMC. In effect, Ojukwu’s quest was equality of federating regions and rejection of hegemony. Unceasing calls for “true federalism”, “zoning”, “rotation”, “federal character”, “non-marginalisation”, etc., show that Ojukwu’s position was prescient.
On 30 May 1967,as a result of this, Colonel Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared Eastern Nigeria a sovereign state to be known as BIAFRA:
"Having mandated me to proclaim on your behalf, and in your name, that Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent Republic, now, therefore I, Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, by virtue of the authority, and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria together with her continental shelf and territorial waters, shall, henceforth, be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra."
(No Place To Hide – Crises And Conflicts Inside Biafra, Benard Odogwu, 1985, Pp. 3 & 4).
Biafran (Nigerian Civil) War
On 6 July 1967, Gowon declared war and attacked Biafra. For 30 months, the war raged on. Now General Odumegwu-Ojukwu knew that the odds against the new republic were overwhelming. Most European states recognised the illegitimacy of the Nigerian military rule and banned all future supplies of arms, but the UK government substantially increased its supplies, even sending British Army and Royal Air Force advisors. The British watached on unconcerned as humanitarian and food aid to the Biafran enclave was stopped. The Nigerian government tried to starve out the rebels. Chief Obafemi 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.”
During the war in addition to the Aburi (Ghana) Accord that tried to avoid the war, there was also 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 General Ojukwu and General Gowon to settle the conflict at the Conference Table. The rest is history and even though General Gowon, a good man, promised "No Victor, No Vanquished," the Igbos were not only defeated but felt vanquished.
After three years of non-stop fighting and starvation, a hole did appear in the Biafran front lines and this was exploited by the Nigerian military. As it became obvious that all was lost, Ojukwu was convinced to leave the country to avoid his certain assassination. On 9 January 1970, General Odumegwu-Ojukwu handed over power to his second in command, Chief of General Staff Major-General Philip Effiong, and left for Côte d'Ivoire, where President Felix Houphöet-Biogny – who had recognised Biafra on 14 May 1968 – granted him political asylum.
Death of the Biafran mercenary Marc Goosens in an attack on Onitsha, which was dramatically captured on film
There was one controversial issue during the Biafra war, the killing of some members of the July 1966 alleged coup plot and Major Victor Banjo. They were executed for alleged treason with the approval of Ojukwu, the Biafran Supreme commander. Major Ifejuna was one of those executed. More or so, there was a mystery on how Nzeogwu died in Biafra enclaved while doing a raid against Nigeria army on behalf of Biafra.
In all on could decipher that Ojukwu fights to protect the lives of his threatened people, and in the interval, creates what may possibly have been the most advanced, most progressive modern state in Africa. The evidence of administrative efficiency was there in the way Ojukwu mobilized the civil and bureaucratic structures of the East in Biafra.
General Odumegwu Ojukwu at Aburi meeting
Sustaining the Biafran war
Blockaded by air, land and sea, Ojukwu and Biafra refined enough fuel stored under the canopies of jungle trees in the town of Obohia in Mbaise, Imo State Nigeria. These were the products of makeshift Refineries that moved from place to place as the enclave receded. Facing deadly air raids from Russian MIG jets piloted by Algerian and Egyptian mercenaries, Ojukwu's Biafra and University scientists designed, collected resources, and build the "Ogbunigwe," a series of large bombs, in only a matter of weeks. As the drums of war were sounding, Ojukwu's Biafra was planning the establishment of the University of Science and Technology in Port-Harcourt.
Ojokwu`s Biafra had counted on USSR support but they were let down. The retired Supreme Court Judge, Paul Nwokedi has recounted the premise for which the Soviet Union refused to support "a young nation seeking self-determination" when as Ojukwu’s envoy to Moscow he asked the same questions. Andre Gromyko’s, response to him was instructive: "Pauliya, Europe will not let you go…you have not fought this war for one year and you’re already producing your own rockets and rocket fuel…" he said to Nwokedi in 1968. That comment is a tribute to the visionary leadership of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Biafran technicians conceived and produced the Ogbunigwe, a cone shaped, sometimes cylindrical cluster bomb that disperses shrapnel with percussion. It was also used as a ground to ground and ground to air projectile and was used with telling and destructive effect.
Ojukwu and the Biafra RAP built airports and roads, refined petroleum, chemicals and materials, designed and built light and heavy equipment, researched on chemical and biological weapons, rocketry and guidance systems, invented new forms of explosives, tried new forms of food processing and technology.
Biafra home-made armoured vehicle the "Red Devil," celebrated also in the book by Sebastian Okechukwu Mezu Behind The Rising Sun, was a red terror in the battle field. The Biafra shoreline was lined with home-made shore batteries and remote controlled weapons systems propelling rockets and bombs.
The famous photo that heralded the armistice and official end of the Nigerian civil war in the newsmedia in January 1970: federal troops celebrating while running on the Uli air strip that had been the final foothold of the secessionists, and from where rebel leader Ojukwu fled into exile in Cote D'Ivoire
After 13 years in exile, the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari granted an official pardon to Odumegwu-Ojukwu and opened the road for a triumphant return in 1982. The people of Nnewi gave him the now very famous chieftaincy title of Ikemba (Strength of the Nation, while the entire Igbo nation took to calling him Dikedioramma ("beloved hero of the masses") during his living arrangement in his family home in Nnewi, Anambra.
His foray into politics was disappointing to many, who wanted him to stay above the fray. The ruling party, NPN, rigged him out of the senate seat, which was purportedly lost to a relatively little known state commissioner in then Governor Jim Nwobodo's cabinet called Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe.
Following these events some of Ojukwu`s critics argued that Ojukwu engaged in "self-demystification" after remaining an enigmatic myth. In his defense for re-entering politics, Chinua Achebe writes "A man of lesser stature may have chosen to disappear from public view and engagements. Not Ikemba! He decided that being a shy Nigerian was out of the question. Regardless of the occasional taunts he received from various corners of Nigeria-including from among some of his own people-he rolled up his sleeves and offered himself as a labourer in Nigeria’s vineyard. He knew more than many, the steep price that millions had paid for the prospects of founding a Nigerian nation. He knew too that Nigeria remained an unfounded idea, that it was caught in the cycle of lost opportunities, of promising roads not taken .Above all, he knew the risks involved in partisan politics ,but would rather take the risks than remain a spectator in the process that shaped the lives of his people." Ojukwu has himself argued that he does not want to be a "myth" when there is so much work to be done. This is an act of courage.
The second Republic was truncated on 31 December 1983 by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, supported by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and Brigadier Sani Abacha. The junta proceeded to arrest and to keep Ojukwu in Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison, Lagos, alongside most prominent politicians of that era. Having never been charged with any crimes, he was unconditionally released from detention on 1 October 1984, alongside 249 other politicians of that era—former Ministers Adamu Ciroma and Maitama Sule were also on that batch of released politicians. In ordering his release, the Head of State, General Buhari said inter alia: "While we will not hesitate to send those found with cases to answer before the special military tribunal, no person will be kept in detention a-day longer than necessary if investigations have not so far incriminated him." (WEST AFRICA, 8 October 1984)
After the ordeal in Buhari's prisons, Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu continued to play major roles in the advancement of the Igbo nation in a democracy because
"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".
Ojukwu had played a significant role in Nigeria's return to democracy since 1999 (the fourth Republic). He had contested as presidential candidate of his party, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)for the last three of the four elections. Until his illness, he remained the party leader. The party was in control of two states in and largely influential amongst the igbo ethnic area of Nigeria.
Left-Governor Obi(Anambra State),Odumegwu-Ojukwu,his wife ,Bianca.I call him-'The man who saw tomorrow'.
Ojukwu`s Married life
Ojukwu the warrior and a giant of a man was a known socialite. He is well-known for partying big-time and also surrender himself with beautiful women. However, in 1965, Ojukwu married his wife, then the 19 year old devorcee Mrs. Njideka Ojukwu (Aunty Njideka).
Sonny Okosun, Ojukwu, and Christie Essien Igbokwe
When Njideka got married to the legendary Ikemba Nnewi, she had separated from her first husband Dr Brodie Mends, a Ghanaian Fante surgeon. She married Brodie-Mends in 1955 and gave birth to her first and only daughter, Iruaku, in 1956. After marrying Ojukwu in 1962 they move from Lagos to Kano in 1965 where her husband was staying. The marriage was celebrated at Apapa, Lagos with reception at Sir Odumegwu’s Ikoyi residence. Aunty Njideka was said to be a very brave woman who stood by Ikemba Nnewi throughout the entire civil war. Phillip Effiong jr, son of Ojukwu’s second in command in the Biafran army, Gen Phillip Effiong, "Mrs. Njideka Ojukwu is one of Biafra’s Unsung “Sheroes" of Biafran war. Mrs Njideka Ojukwu and mother to the former Anambra State Commissioner for Special Duties and Transport, Mr. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Ojukwu and his second wife Stella Onyeador
After divorcing Aunty Njideka, Ikemba married another beautiful woman, Stella Onyeador. The marriage went on for sometime and ended in a divorce.
After this Ojukwu got involved with the 20 years old Bianca, "the most beautiful woman in Nigeria" in 1989. Their relationship went on for some years they got married formally on November 12, 1994.
Bianca Ojukwu the third wife of Ikemba
The will listed Ojukwu's children as follows: Tenny Hamman (daughter), Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Jnr (son), Mmegha (Mimi) (daughter), Okigbo (son), Ebele (daughter), Chineme (daughter), Afam (son) and Nwachukwu (son). Of his Children, Tenny was never known until Ojukwu`s death when his will made mentioned of this secret daughter.
On 26 November 2011, Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu died in the United Kingdom after a brief illness, aged 78. His death was an instant international news as all the most powerful media outlets in the world carried the sad news. Tributes pour in from from the fore-corners of the world showing Ikemba`s international popularity and fame.
The Nigerian army accorded him the highest military accolade and conducted funeral parade for him in Abuja, Nigeria on 27 February 2012, the day his body was flown back to Nigeria from London before his burial on Friday, 2 March. He was buried in a newly built mausoleum in his compound at Nnewi.
Before his final interment, he had about the most unique and elaborate weeklong funeral ceremonies in Nigeria besides Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whereby his body was carried around the five Eastern states, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, including the nation's capital, Abuja. Memorial services and public events were also held in his honour in several places across Nigeria, including Lagos and Niger state his birthplace.
DIM CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU-OJUKWU'S BURIAL IN NNEWI FROM LEFT: FIRST LADY, DAME PATIENCE JONATHAN; PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN; SON OF THE LATE DIM CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU-OJUKWU, EMEKA JNR, AND GOV. PETER OBI OF ANAMBRA, AT THE BURIAL OF DIM CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU-OJUKWU AT NNEWI, ANAMBRA, ON FRIDAY (2/3/12). NAN
His funeral was attended by President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and ex President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana among other personalities.
ex President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana PAYING HIS LAST RESPECT TO iKEMBA
"President Jonathan said that the achievements that set Ojukwu apart and which had made him subject of “edifying posthumous commentaries”, though undeniably solid were far from personal. “They were solid altruistic achievements of a man whose life epitomized love and self sacrifice.
High ranking military officers and pall bearers carry the coffin of Nigeria's secessionist leader Odumegwu Ojukwu during the national inter-denominational funeral rites at Michael Opkara Square in Enugu, southeastern Nigeria
For only such love could explain his preference for the great risk involved in the leadership role he assumed in his lifetime to the privileged background into which he was born,” he said. Recalling how Ojukwu sailed to leadership limelight and how “he reluctantly accepted the role that perhaps most critically defined his place in the history of our country”, the president also noted how the late Biafran leader, “despite his reluctances, he acquitted himself quite historically, heroically while fulfilling that role, not withstanding the difficult odds that stood against his side” during the civil war.
“We are also aware of how after the dust of hostilities had settled, he became strong advocate of a united Nigeria. All these governed by the same ideals of justice and fairness to all which were the hallmark of his vision as a patriot of humanists,” the president said."
Ikemba of Nnewi was a special soul born to fulfill a special role. He was no angel but he was a great leader and even his opponents cannot deny him that. Chinua Achebe put it aptly that he "was a rare masquerade, the kind that appears once in a generation among a people."
Former Secretary of the Commonwealth Emeka Anyaoku (L) sits with the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka during the national funeral ceremony for Biafran ex-warlord Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu in Nigeria's southeastern city of Enugu
For some Igbos who criticized him unfairly over the creation of independent state of BIAFRA and subsequent civil war that ensued leading to the death of over 3 million Igbos and Easterners, Ikemba poured out his heart and told them the naked truth that "For conferring these titles on him, Ojuku had this to say:""For you (Igbo and Eastern Nigerians), I abandoned all ease and embraced pain. For you I impoverish myself to buy your protection. For you, I walked every battlefront to assure your welfare. For you, I stood when every other person crouched. For you, I endured 13 years of bitter exile. For you, I endured 10 months of maximum security prison. For you, I endured priestly poverty. For you, I continue to struggle...
What I have said is not harsh, it is only the naked truth and it reflect only the intensity of the love I harbour for my people." Clearly one can see from his speech here that It takes Ikemba like Odumegwu Ojukwu of nnewi to be Ikemba.
Ndi Igbo performing Ohafia War dance at Ikemba Nnewi`s funeral
In his last speech to the Igbo people whilst addressing the meeting of South East Elders and Leaders held in Owerri on the 5th of March, 2010 (just before the stroke), he insisted that Ndi-Igbo should continue to act as the adhesive force holding the Nigerian fabric together. He stated "Ndigbo are nation-builders not nation-wreckers, but that the strong Igbo moral sense, handed down to us by our ancestors, will always resent and rebel against injustice, inequity and mindless blood-letting." ...........he " exhorted Ndigbo to be assertive and courageous in protecting their rights, lives and properties as bona fide citizens of Nigeria whilst respecting the rights of other citizens."
Ojukwu like Robert Green Ingersoll said of his late brother, "This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock, but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was the friend of all heroic souls. He climbed the heights and left all superstitions far below, while on his forehead fell the golden dawning of the grander day".
When Edward Snowdon interviewed him and Wole Soyinka and Achinua Achebe before his death weather he would have done different thing if the circumstances that led to the civil war should crop up, Ikemba the who saw yesterday replied "“History does not repeat itself,” he growled. “But if it did, I would do exactly the same again. Excuse me.”
Statue of Ikemba Nnewi at Onitsha
Yet Ojukwu's life and times were not defined by his cosmopolitan appeal, though he was no rustic; nor was he defined by flaming Nigerian nationalism, though many would insist, with more facts on the tragic Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), that he was a rebel with a cause. He was rather defined by Igbo nationalism, if not irredentism. But given the turn of events in Nigeria, with its continuous crisis of nationhood and identity, neither Igbo nationalism nor Igbo irredentism would appear illegitimate. (Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN))
OJUKWU: A GIANT WHO LIVED FOR OTHERS
Being a tribute to Ojukwu taken from Pages 23-26 of the Book of Tribute-Life and times of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
By Professor Chinua Achebe
There is a cruel irony in the coincidence between the death of Ikemba Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (1933-2011) and a disturbing surge in sectarian violence in Nigeria. Ojukwu’s life, career, and abiding commitments were shaped by just such trying circumstances as Nigeria faces today. That his death and funeral
are framed by the familiar circumstances that he fought against four decades ago clearly projects the significance of his life and the unsolved challenges confronting our dear homeland. A beleaguered nation sorely needs Ikemba’s voice at this juncture to caution our feet against treading the path of thunder.
And even in death his voice rings clear, as urgent and resonant as perhaps only he had the ability, bearing the message of restraint, justice and restitution.
This giant of a man may now lie inert, but his intrepid voice speaks to all of us from the grave. We should listen and hearken to the message that issues from him. The question is: Are we ready to listen?
Or are we like the proverbial housefly devoid of counsel that journeys with the corpse into the grave?
I have called Ojukwu a giant of a man, and I know there are people ready to challenge the praise.
Even so, I am confident that in death, his stature and the scale of his achievements will rise above the malice and scepticism of his traducers. Why do I think he was a giant?
One mark of greatness lies in how a man or woman responds to onerous historical challenges and how his or her ideas and vision endure over time. Ojukwu was barely 32 when history thrust him onto the stage of great
convulsions.Nigera, a country desperately cobbled together by British merchants,missionaries and politicians [/b]showed signs of its shaky foundations. Bitter regional and sectarian rivalries and resentments had combined with corruption and rigged elections to bring the fledging nation to a jagged edge. After several waves of ethnic cleansing of southeasterners, there was little doubt that the idea of one Nigeria was strained beyond forced amalgamation.
When embattled easterners demanded self-determination, Ojukwu displayed true greatness by accepting –and quickly rising-to the challenge of leadership. In proclaiming his people’s choice to live as a separate national entity called Biafra,he bravely entered a territory that was for the most part uncharted. True, he had read history at Oxford, but he had no history of secession in Africa to go by. He and Biafra had no models.
Ojukwu’s Biafra was, then an experiment in the best sense of that word. Along with the confident, self-posessed, but never pompous man who led us, we had to learn every lesson about the dim prospects and huge frustrations of founding a nation, as we went along. Even so, through the sheer eloquence of his representation of the plight of his people, the passion and charisma he brought to the Biafran cause, and his powers of engagement with Biafrans and others,Ojukwu found a way to stamp the Biafran struggle in the world’s consciousness ,to elevate his people’s struggle onto the international platform.
Much of the grit,inventive genius and resilience of the Biafran people owed to Ojukwu’s inspiring leadership. For a child of uncommon privilege-his father Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu was once Nigeria’s towering
businessman-he exuded a common touch and infectious charm and empathy that galvanised Biafrans and many supporters around the world. His cosmopolitan background-born of Igbo parents in Zungeru, Northern Nigeria, experienced adolescence as a student in Kings College, Lagos, South Western Nigeria, and studied abroad-was an asset that defined his engagement with the world. If he soared above other public figures in Nigeria and is so well celebrated, it was partly because of his disdain for the culture of wanton accumulation at the expense of the people. Instead he made self-disregarding sacrifices as the leader of an economically strapped Biafra.
The "Biafran" Cabinet at a Church service, on the extreme right is the late Sir Louis Mbanefo- former Supreme Court Judge and Judge of the World Court, who severally advised Ojukwu to negotiate a dignified end- to no avail and who was then left - alongside Phillip Effiong to negotiate surrender, after Ojukwu took off.
Ojukwu always insisted, rightly, that the fact that Biafra ultimately buckled should not be read as a sign that the cause itself was misconceived. He was adamant that the quest for Biafra- as a quest for justice
and equity –lives on and will continue to reverberate in Nigeria and elsewhere.
He made point of rebuking Nigeria for behaving all too frequently as if it had not fought a war. True to Ikemba’s vision, forty years after the war, Nigerians from various regions have continued to agitate for a sovereign national conference to determine the structure and terms of a federal union.
Another measure of Ojukwu’s greatness can be glimpsed from his deportment once he returned to Nigeria, after a prolonged exile in Cote D’Ivoire.
A man of lesser stature may have chosen to disappear from public view and engagements. Not Ikemba! He decided that being a shy Nigerian was out of the question. Regardless of the occasional taunts he received from various corners of Nigeria-including from among some of his own people-he rolled up his sleeves and offered himself as a labourer in Nigeria’s vineyard. He knew more than many, the steep price that millions had paid for the prospects of founding a Nigerian nation. He knew too that Nigeria remained an unfounded idea, that it was caught in the cycle of lost opportunities, of promising roads not taken .Above all, he knew the risks involved in partisan politics ,but would rather take the risks than remain a spectator in the process that shaped the lives of his people.
In death, his voice has understandably become louder. Like a venerable ancestor, that he is, he has much to teach us about the negotiations and investments we must make in order to dispel the dark clouds that are
looming over us, especially at this dangerous chapter in our history. If we listen,we can still usher in the long-dreamed achievement of our collective aspirations.[b] A man like Ojukwu was a rare masquerade, the kind that appears once in a generation among a people.
May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Chinua Achebe was a former professor n David and Marrianna Fisher University and Professor of African Studies at Brown University,Providence, USA. He is well-known for his Novel "Things Fall Apart."
Wole Soyinka's Tribute To Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu
Culled from "Book of Tributes-life and times of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu"
"Having mandated me to proclaim on your behalf and in your name, that Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign Independent Republic, now therefore, I Lieutenant Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, by virtue of the authority, and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called EASTERN Nigeria, together with her continental shelf and territorial waters shall henceforth be an independent sovereign state, of the name and title Republic of Biafra"
With these words, on May 30 of the year 1967, a young bearded man, thirty-four years of age in a fledgling nation that was barely seven years old, plunged that nation into hitherto uncharted waters, and inserted a battalion of question marks into the presumptions of nation-being on more levels than one. That declaration was not merely historic, it re-wrote the more familiar trajectories of colonialism, even as it implicitly served notice on the sacrosanct order of imperial givens. It moved the unarticulated question, when is a nation? away from simplistic political parameters-away from mere nomenclature and habitude â€“ to the more critical area of morality and internal obligations.
It served notice on the conscience of the world, ripped apart the hollow claims of inheritance and replaced them with the hitherto subordinate yet logical assertiveness of a people`s will. Young and old, the literate and the uneducated; urban sophisticates and rural dwellers, citizen and soldier-all were compelled to re-examine their own situating in a world of close inter-relations and distant ideological blocs, bringing many to that basic question :Just when is a nation?
Throughout world history, many have died for, but without an awareness of the existential centrality of that question. The Biafran act of secession was one that could claim that its people had direct and absolute intimacy with the negative corollary of that question. Their brutal, immediately antecedent circumstances ensured that they could provide one of more truthful and urgent answers to the obverse of that question, which would then read: when is a nation not?
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, thrown by Destiny onto that critical moment of truth as a leader, became the voice, the actualising agent of their overwhelming recognition. He heard the answers given by the interrogatory that proceeded from gross human violation, and he responded as became a leader. In so doing, he challenged the pietisms of former colonial masters and the sanctimonoussness of much of the world. He challenged an opportunistic contruct of nationhood mostly externally imposed, and sought to replace it under the most harrowing circumstances with a vital purpose that answered the purpose of humanity-which is not merely to survive, but to exist in dignity. The world might cavil; the ideologues of undialectical unity might shake their head in dubious appraisal and denounce it as reckless adventurism. This however was his reading, and even the most implacable enemy would hardly deny that his position transcended individual judgment that it rested firmly on the collective will of a people, while they awaited the decisiveness of a responsive leadership.
Even today, many will admit that, in this very nation, that question remains unresolved; that more and more people are probing that question; that all over the world, certainly in our own continent, multitudes are braving impossible odds, conceding immense sacrifice to contest the facile and complacent answer that whatever is, is divinely ordained, thus conferring the mantle of divinity to those whose spatial contrivances called nations continue to creak at the seams and consume human lives in millions.
Their mission is to conserve a sacrosanct order that was ever given human legitimacy as if it is not the very humanity that grants authority to the cohesion of any inert piece of real estate and thus, only such humanity contains, and can exercise a moral will in designating it a habitable and productive entity that truly deserves the designation of nation-being.
Humanity must be allowed to make its errors. Indeed errors are the unregistered provisions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are however degrees and qualities of errors, and the most lamentable are those that proceed from the lack of courage to interrogate whatever humanity has merely happened upon, or has been imposed upon us as thinking humans, and failure to accept the resultant clamour and the antecedents of this clamour for change. This is what constitutes a primal error, a deficiency in responsive capabilities, a condition of mental enslavement.
Change is not an absolute however, but I acknowledged it to be the product of human curiosity, observation, creativity and transformative intelligence. Nor should change imply ,of necessity, the destruction of what is viable, what amplifies the value that already make us human, or bind us in the common pursuit of the amelioration of existence. Where stagnation, retrogression, or diminution of those very virtues, those very progressive qualities that make even self-fulfilment possible stare a people in the face however then, surely the iterative of change becomes irresistible and its horizons exert the pressure of inevitability. That immense call fell on the shoulders of our comrade Chukwuemeka, and he responded in the manner we all know, for better or for ill, but he was not found wanting in the hour of decision.
The error of Biafra is what we hear plenty of. Only rarely with dismissive condescension, are rightly attributed, those achievements against overwhelming odds that gave rise to that ancient adage: Necessity is the mother of invention, or even, Sweet are the uses of adversity. There were indeed cruelties here also, on Biafran soil, as on her opposing side, and there were needless prolongation of human suffering. Biafra became a byword for paranoia. There were politics that dug Biafra deeper and deeper into its self-dug bunker, from where the world became a blank surrounding, closing in despite apertures that were clearly visible to many, even from within.
A leader must accept responsibility for all such failings, with perhaps the meagre consolation that throughout the history of conflicts and especially of conflicts based on the righteous perception of wrongs; such has been the fate of the beleaguered. But it would be a greater injustice from all of us if we fail in the apportionment of the positive ,such as an inspirational leadership that held a people together and aroused an unprecedented level of creative adjustments, of practical inventiveness ,the like of which has yet to be recorded on our continent. What a pity that policy and suspicion has led to the squandering of such bequests!
The regrets, individual and collective, the triumph of the dominance of human spirit, no longer matter to the man whose passage among us we are gathered here to commemorate any more than the very questioning structures of human co-habitation. He who lived to embrace, to share bread and salt with his once implacable enemies, is no longer with us, yet he remains among us. In his lifetime, bitterness did turn so many pages towards the chapter of reconciliation, but has it truly brought mutual understanding?
Let us reflect on that question carefully today-yes a full half century later- as we bid farewell to one who did not flinch from the burden of choice, but boldly answered the summons of history.
Former Commonwealth Secretary-General Emeka Anyaoku (L) and former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings arrive to attend the national inter-denominational funeral rites for Odumegwu Ojukwu, at Michael Opkara Square in Enugu
As the saying goes the rest is also history.
Biafra Revisited: civil war leader Ojukwu dies – By Richard Dowden
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 Gowon. 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 there 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.
Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society and author of Africa: altered states, ordinary miracles
NIGER-DELTA INDIGENES CELEBRATE ODUMEGWU-OJUKWU
The Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Mr Joseph Evah, on Wednesday in Lagos urged the Federal Government to rename the Eagle Square, Abuja as ``Odumegwu-Ojukwu Square’’.
Evah made the plea at an event organised by Niger-Delta indigenes in honour of the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
``The Federal Government should confirm the slogan that Abuja is, indeed, the Centre of Unity by renaming the Eagle Square, Abuja as ``Odumegwu-Ojukwu Square,’’ in the same way the former Race course in Lagos was renamed ``Tafawa Balewa Square,’’ he said.
Evah described Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a prophetic revolutionary and a man who believed that the Nigeria dream should be based on Justice.
``The prophetic revolutionary succeeded in convincing all actors in the civil war to sign off on what was known as the ``Aburi Accord,’’ the `famous’ document which was signed at Aburi, Ghana in January 1967,’’ he said.
Evah recalled that during the conference in Ghana, Ojukwu’s articulations and brilliance resonated and it was clear that he was a man that saw `tomorrow’.
According to him, the Aburi Accord would have solved most of the nation’s political and economic problems.
``The solutions Odumegwu-Ojukwu proffered for peaceful coexistence and national unity were based on the Aburi Accord and they are still germane,’’ Evah said.
Earlier, the chairman of the occasion, Mr Ben Murray-Bruce, who was represented, said Odumegwu-Ojukwu deserved all the honour being accorded him because he was a great man.
Bruce also suggested that the Federal Government should give Odumegwu-Ojukwu some appropriate recognition by renaming a national monument after him.
In his remarks, Mr Daniel Amassoma, President, Ijaw Youth Development Association, said Ojukwu was a leader who believed in equity, justice and fairness.
``Ojukwu was a leader the youth so much believed in; a leader that every follower would always want to follow, till the very end.
``As he has passed on, we will not be tired, but we shall continue to seek until we are able to get a leader like him,’’ Amassoma said.
In his tribute, the Eze Ndigbo of Lagos State, Chief Christian Chukwuemeka Nwachukwu, also supported the call to immortalise Ojukwu, saying he was a fighter for Justice.
``We have made an excellent suggestion to President Goodluck Jonathan and we expect that he will heed our advice and immortalise Ojukwu, as a way of showing love to a great Nigerian.
Odumegwu-Ojukwu (78), a former Military Governor of the defunct Eastern Region and a retired Nigerian military officer, who died in a London Hospital on Nov. 26, is to be buried in his hometown, Nnewi, Anambra State, on March 2. (NAN)
'HOW SHAGARI GRANTED OJUKWU AMNESTY'By 1981, particularly after President Shehu Shagari granted amnesty to General Yakubu Gowon, Emeka, who was fond of calling Gowon 'Jack,' felt that their 'two cases' could have been considered in tandem, but because the people of Plateau made a strong case for Gowon, while 'the East' was not able to present a united front on his case, it would appear to Shagari that Gowon's case was a more pressing national issue. He then suggested that we pursue a new initiative by making the necessary contacts with those within the listening range of President Shagari and others outside of this orbit. The primary targets were Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir and Chief Victor Masi.
Okadigbo was to be the arrowhead, since he was the Political Adviser to the President. Tahir, then Chairman of the Board of Nigerian Telecommunications, was chosen because of his influence and political pre-eminence within northern political circles. Masi was an important Minister of Works in the Shagari administration and a brilliant Army Captain with the Biafran Army Engineers. General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu gave these as his reasons for preferring that we worked with these eminent Nigerians.
The meeting with Tahir and Obiano
In part two of this narrative that appeared last week, I traced the initial involvement of Okadigbo in the project of Emeka's homecoming, and how I took him and Obiozo to Bingerville to meet and discuss with the General. Soon after we returned to Nigeria, we tracked Dr. Tahir at Ikoyi Hotel, where he was temporarily accommodated. He was very warm and polite to us and Okadigbo had tutored Vincent Obiano and I how to present the case to Tahir. As he chain-smoked, he listened us out and made promises he so dutifully fulfilled. We then moved to Victor Masi's official residence in Ikoyi. He was waiting for us. Obiano had contacted him, for they knew themselves at the University of Nigeria in the early sixties. Here, again, the reception was warm and friendly. Before we knew it, Emeka called Chief Ike Onunaku, a top management staff of the United Africa Company (UAC) (I mean the UAC under Chief Ernest Shonekan), who was a part of us and who hosted so many of our meetings in those difficult days, to say he was getting feelers on how effective the team had become. By this time, Emeka had asked Colonel Joe Achuzia to join us and to handle the security component of the project. We continued to meet regularly at Onunaku's Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi residence - Bless his soul.
Ojukwu met Shinkafi in London
One early Saturday morning, Onunaku sent his driver to bring me to Ikoyi. 'What about'? I asked the driver. He wouldn't know beyond the instruction to get to my Ikeja residence and 'get Kanayo here before two o'clock.' When I arrived, I was told that the General wanted to give me a new brief by 3pm, and since I didn't have a telephone at home, Onunaku's place at Ikoyi was the best option. At exactly three o'clock, the call came through and Emeka said he had just returned to Abidjan from London, where he had 'fruitful and rewarding discussions' with the Director-General of the Nigeria Security Organization (NSO), Alhaji Shinkafi. I was to constitute a strong media team to start working on softening the ground for his journey home. His meeting in London with Shinkafi had increased his optimism that his days in exile were, indeed, coming to an end, he said. He sounded slightly excited, and I was happy and so was Chief Onunaku.
The media campaign
Two days later, I traveled to Enugu on a Nigeria Airways flight, in the company of Vincent Obiano. We were in Enugu to ask for the support of a good friend and colleague, Obinwa Nnaji, who was then Editor of Sunday Satellite of the Satellite Newspaper Group in Enugu. We confided in him and told him precisely how the General wanted the media aspect of the project handled from the East. After getting his advice, support and firm commitment, Vincent and I came back to Lagos. The following day, I drove to Iwaya Road Yaba, Lagos to brief and request the support and sympathy of veteran journalist and editor, Gbolabo Ogunsawo, the former editor of Sunday Times. Emeka knew him by reputation and specifically advised me to reach out to him. In his days as the editor, the weekly was reputed to be the highest circulating newspaper in Africa, south of Sahara. And from exile, he was a loyal reader of Sunday Times.
We secured Gbalabo's sympathy and through him the understanding of the Unity Party of Nigeria, as well as access to as many editors in the Lagos/Ibadan media axis as possible. Obinwa Nnaji also inherited the duty of getting his editor colleagues in the South East to step up the media campaign. Before we all knew it, Ojukwu's return to Nigeria had developed into a huge national discussion and conversation. Indomitable Tai Solarin added his voice in an article that was published in both the Nigerian Tribune and the Daily Sketch.
The debate was now widening and going in the direction we had planned. And Emeka was letting us know that he was following developments closely but warned: 'You must not relent until Shagari pronounces the magic word 'Emeka, Come Home.'' Dr. Chuba Okadigbo was doing just fine in the political turf. He called me one day to say that the media tempo must not go down at all. Gbolabo, Obinwa and I were taking care of the media angle. Colonel Achuzia (now a chief in his native Asaba and its Ochiagha) was making progress with security arrangements. Everything was going good. Everybody was cooperating and the end of Emeka's days in exile was nearing its terminal stage.
In a terse statement issued by the presidency, Shehu Shagari allowed Emeka to come home and a huge volley of joy and jubilation were unleashed. Preparations for his trip home began in earnest. Individuals and groups that were afraid to mention Emeka Ojukwu's name in public since January 1970 began to come out of their holes, like termites. I remember one fellow who refused to touch the letter from Ojukwu to him in 1972, and even warned Emeka Enejere and I never to mention that we ever saw or came to his office located in central Lagos, was busy granting elaborate press interviews soon after the amnesty announcement. He was hailing the General as 'my infinite hero,' who is on his way back home. Such is life.
At the end of it all, however, many genuine Igbo groups made contacts with us and began to donate time and buses that would convey people to Lagos and back.
The Cote d'Ivoire angle
Many Ivorians, too, voluntarily donated huge sums for the printing of thousands of T-shirts. Emma Ackah, an Ivorian presidency staff, was in-charge of that. Emeka had instructed what should be written on the shirts - simple Igbo words, 'ONYEIJE NNO.' What happened at the airport the day he arrived Nigeria is now history. The day his body arrives Nigeria will record yet another history.
It is on this note that I say, with tears in my eyes, to my General, mentor, adviser and ogam: sleep well and good night - Chukwu nabata mkpuru obi gi. Ka emesia!
My life with OjukwuBeautiful, if that could capture it, is like an understatement. For in her seventies, the grace and elegance that must have made the Ikemba fall head over heels in love decades ago were apparent. With a disarming smile, an intellect that is confounding and a memory that is outstanding, Mrs Njideka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is a subject for a whole biography. But that may never come out of her. She just is not attracted by publicity. In this interview, a lot of areas were marked as no go areas, a lot of fields not to be touched. Obvious, however, is the fact that there are far too many truths lurking within her that only a book can fully capture. What we serve here therefore is the summary of an interview session with the woman who saw the Nigerian Civil War as the wife of one of the two most important players - Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu; a woman who gave birth to four successful children and has remained elegant even in her seventies. Eni Akinsola spoke with her. (Note: this interview was first published in The Nation on Sunday, June 22, 2008. Mrs Ojukwu passed on March 24, 2010)
What was your childhood and growing up like?
My birth was said to be special in that my mum was barely seven months pregnant when I came prematurely with my twin sister. We were said to have been covered with all sorts of clothing, wool and other things to make us warm. My mum could not offer bosom milk because she was not too well and so we had to be bosom-fed by other women. I made it but the other child didn’t. I was named Njideka, which means “I am grateful for this child.”
My parents had seven of us, one died at thirteen and I became the second from the original third position among the children. I attended St. Monica’s in Onitsha and Archdeacon Crowder Memorial Girls School, Elelenwo, near Port Harcourt. I was born in a Christian family. My parents were very strict Christians. It’s difficult to say this, but the truth is that I was born in abundance. I had everything I wanted. True also is that it wasn’t a happy childhood. My father, for reasons best known to him, wanted very much to marry me off and yet he had five daughters, I was number two.
Coming from a wealthy home, how was school like?
It was not easy at all. Teenagers had their own ways of thinking. We had so many people. My father would not allow one to say hello to a man.
But here was I, in Elelenwo, with students from University College, Ibadan coming to teach. I will be going on, and see one and say hello, or shake hands, my father would see that and descend on me. Our house was so high that he could see you from afar. In any case, I was not ready to play hide and seek. I read a lot, stayed indoors a lot.
My father was one of the pioneers in the recording business. There was another called Joe Febro, though I have forgotten the man behind it. Those days, they used to work together.
My father, had seven living children I was first number three, but when the eldest died at thirteen, I became the second.
How did your relationship with Ojukwu start?
It was after my divorce from Dr. Brodi-Mends, a Ghanaian and the father of my first child, Iruaku. Ojukwu is somebody you see around or bump into because our parents were business people. I’d seen him the day my younger sister was going to England at the airport. She knew him before me. Later on, he told me my sister was my best ambassador. That she was always talking about me and that I was always at home.
Then, you had to fly by a small aircraft from Enugu to Kano to join the British Airways. So, we had gotten to the airport when my name was announced, I was shocked. I had the feeling that maybe something terrible had happened to my father. My hands were shaking when they were giving me the telegraph. I opened it and what was the content: “I am sorry; I mean to come to meet you at the airport. But I was sent to Kpeshi (Teshie) in Ghana. Emeka. “When I read it, I had to wonder, why is he concerned and where is “Kpeshi”. Because, I was not familiar with military locations.
After that, I went to London and continued with my life, until three years later, when I met him again at a tube station. I had gone with a friend of mine, Mrs. Obiekwe, she is late now. While we were going with the husband, somebody just said ‘they do not greet people in Igbo.’’ I turned back and lo and behold, it was Emeka, who had escorted his father to the station.
He said he was on a course and asked for my phone number and I gave him. A week later, he called. “Hello, I am very sorry I have not been able to call,” he said, I said no problem, in any case, you give your number to several people not with any expectation that they’ll call. We met on several occasions thereafter. He pursued me like I have never experienced. At a point he asked me about a Canadian friend of mine and said that I had to let go of him.
One major reason I didn’t mind him was my father. I was afraid he could have a heart attack and die if he got to know I had a white friend. By then, we were thinking of a serious relationship.
Anyway, Emeka was calling and calling and staying on the phone. I didn’t realize what he was up to until I asked him why he liked wasting time and money on phones. He asked if I really wanted the truth, then revealed that he wanted to take that my friend, who he had christened “Canada.” off me! (laughter).
One day, Emeka invited me to his house. I took a friend of mine, Efun Shobande, with me. We got to his house and he took me aside. So, you brought someone to come and spy on me? I laughed it off but that was indeed why I brought my friend with me.
By the way, I lost contact with Efun and have not seen her since. I understand she was married and was in Kaduna, she was brought up in Jos.
On the way back the next day, we talked about him and I was so confused, that when we go to Baker Street, I almost passed out.
Efun told me that she liked and preferred Emeka. In any case, she added, “he is a Nigerian.”
I thereafter, told him to get in touch with my parents if he was serious. He had known about Iruaku, my daughter by Brodi-Mends. She was two when I left home. When I got back to Nigeria, I saw a huge teddy bear with Iruaku and when I asked who gave it to her, I was told it was Emeka.
He had obviously wooed everybody in the house over. My mother and the rest were all in love with him. Our parents, fathers were well known to one another, though they are from Nnewi and we are from Nawfia, not too far from Awka.My mother and the rest were all in love with him. Our parents, fathers were well known to one another, though they are from Nnewi and we are from Nawfia, not too far from Awka.
Your marriage with Ikemba started on a high. He was a military man and all that… Did you know he was in the military when it started.?
I knew he was a soldier. But I didn’t know much about what being a soldier meant. There was a day he came home while in London with the British Army uniform, I asked him and he said he is on course and so have to put on the uniform during the duration of the course.
I only got to know more when I came back. The first party he took me took me to was Ironsi’s. I didn’t remember seeing many women there. I remember seeing Murtala Mohammed who was then Ironsi’s Aide De Camp. The men were so polished; spoke impeccable English, well mannered and unbelievably polite. I was pleasantly surprised. So we had people like this in Nigeria? I sort of liked them. The crop I saw was impressive. And Emeka was very good at taking care of a woman.
Was he randy, full of soft words, romantic?
I didn’t even know the word is romance. Not really. He is just a very kind man, very polite, not intrusive. He cared less about what happened in the kitchen, he just settled for whatever you offered him. He respected me and my opinion a lot. Later, when the children got across to him, he would ask them what my opinion was on issues. And I loved him immensely in return.
If you were this in love, why the separation?
Well, somebody summed it up: Fredrick Forsyth in his book. He knew the very beginning of the story. I agree with him that it is the war. I suppose, in a given situation, where things are very bad, there is always a casualty. I guess I was the last casualty of the war.
I do not hold Emeka responsible. I think there was pressure on him to have another wife and he was resisting. And you know there are other undercurrents that are better left in the past where they belong.
So, one day, you just decided to leave him or he asked you to leave?
No, I just left. I disappeared. I went to London. Okigbo my last son was then around two and a half years. He didn’t allow any of the children to go with me. Eventually, we communicated again and I got the children back.
Maybe the problem is that I can’t tolerate distraction in my marriage. I gave all, my soul, life and all and could not stand ridiculous stories. The unfortunate part of it all was that I kept marrying single sons. But if I had married again and had trouble, I would just have left I love my peace.
Since then, what have you been doing?
I have been doing business. When I was in London, I was ordering George, jewelleries from India, Italy and selling them to other traders. I couldn’t continue with my education, so I went into buying and selling. Some people asked me, what was Deka (West Africa) Limited (my company) into? And I answered: we sell everything except illegal things.
Like your dad who was into buying and selling before going into recording?
Yes, I learnt trading from him. He was into several other legitimate things. For instance, when he started the record business, he would bring in sample records and play them, he would then ask us to listen in and from our reactions, he gets a fair idea of how the record would be received by buyers. In that way, we were being used as sounding boards.
Then he went into importing ladies’ things. Later on, he opened a recording factory, CTO, which stands for Christopher Tagbo Onyekwere.
Before I married, I worked for him for one year as a clerk and I was for the important and export section. So, I learn on the job. Of the several of us Tagbo is an accountant, Ndubuisi, the other boy, an engineer, is the one managing the rest of my dad’s business.
Tagbo was in London for sometime and then moved to Zambia, where he was like the governor of the Central Bank for some time. Definitely after the war, my family was not comfortable here.
The factory was burnt during the war, because it was on the water front. My elder sister, I told you was a nurse, and was one of the best nurses I have ever met. She had a clinic. She is late now and had children.
When I was asking about you from the commissioner, your son, I could read admiration and deep respect. And he said, he never heard any bad word from you against his father. I know you have your grouses, why did you keep them to yourself?
You see, it is destructive to bring children into the disagreements of their parents. In my case, he is not a criminal; he is a very kind man. He was not criminally involved. He did not steal while in government, he doesn’t know how to steal government’s money. And that was why he was even spending our money. So, there was indeed nothing to tell.
I couldn’t make up a story because I wanted to make him bad with the children.
If there was a crime you could hold against him, it would be that he loved women. Ordinarily that is a thing one should be able to put up with, but it is not that simple when you are in love with a man. In any case when you love a man, there are so many things you don’t ever do.
He, I must say, is unlike most Nigerian men. His likes are not common. In maintaining the family, he was much like my dad. He does not interfere with what happens in the kitchen. He has a long of good points.
Well, have you been communicating?
Yes, very well. In bringing up the children, he is always there. Whenever, proximity allows, he comes in here and we discuss specific issues of importance. We were never in any irreconcilable crisis. And we share respect for one another.
How was the war for you? The fact that you were the wife of the Head of State of a breakaway country; how was the pressure of the war, the children and the family?
Let me tell you one true story. When the war started, the wife of the Commissioner of Police came up to my house and asked; Madam, how do you survive in all these because the tension was just too much? She said: “do you know, this man, she was referring to her husband, whenever he goes out, I always feel I am going to melt. My body would be shaking. You know, I love my husband so much I can’t imagine what I would do if he dies.”
I told her that I tackle the tension by settling for the worse, even when I pray fervently that it does not happen. Each time he goes out, I pretend that it may be the last time I’ll be seeing him. I felt that the best thing to do is to be prepared anytime to be a widow. That I felt would be the best attitude because if not, you will die immediately. If you love a man like that, all you could do if the unexpected happens, is to swallow very hard and just move on. You see, I am so calm. There was this particular doctor who used to come to take what he needed for others from the little we were getting as relief materials during the war. He refers to me as ‘always unruffled”. May be it’s in the way I’m made.
Was there no time you felt threatened as a person? When you felt death was close? Were you prepared to die for the cause? Were you convinced about the Biafra thing?
If you saw what happened to Igbos in the north… I was so angry. I told my husband I would have been in the tanks if I wasn’t married to him. When they were bringing people from the North; headless men, women … they put bottles inside them. I was very angry. I felt I should go out there and kill all of them. There was no way you could see the returning casualties and not get angry. Let me give you an example. One day, when I came back from Ivory Coast, I was on my way to Broad Street. I didn’t know my way around. One gentleman in suit, extremely light in complexion, obviously from the North, introduced himself. Please can I meet you? His name was a northern name. I said, oh my God! And went away showing how bitter I was.
Is there any reason for Biafra now?
You tell me. Is there any reason for Biafra as a Nigerian? (Here there was a debate on present realities.) I don’t know. It’s almost impossible, but it won’t be. It can happen if they are not careful. The way they are treating everybody, even Yorubas sometimes ago threatened to go away. And you people (Yoruba) let us down because we wanted southern solidarity. Have you not heard of that?
It is not over yet. It may not come in this manner. It may not be Yoruba wanting to go away or Igbo wanting to go away. Something terrible can happen. You cannot continue to oppress people like this. They force their ways into power or rig elections and rob the place dry and they are not even ashamed. What haven’t we seen?
When Emeka was a governor, he was young, early thirties because both of us were married when we were thirty. I remember one day, one ambassador came and left a small chain and pendant for him to give me. He rejected it. It took a lot of persuasion from everybody there before he accepted it. The case now is different.
Do you know that Nigeria is the 10th country in the world in terms of the gap between the rich and the poor? And the people who are rich don’t even know how to make money, only how to steal. In our own time, my father worked himself to death. They didn’t know what resting was all about. Nowadays, people just flaunt their unearned wealth. It’s not fair.
To some people he was unforgiving,
Yorubas or those that he dealt with?
Not Yorubas. Several people in write-ups have said he is stubborn, inflexible and rigid. I know you love him, you still love him, and he was your husband. How do you see him?
He wasn’t intransigent or inflexible. You see, he was not stubborn to me, and that is the gospel truth. The only thing that sometimes caused friction was women. And when you look at this women problem, a lot of them used to bring themselves to him. Donate themselves! Though I believe that sometimes a man should be able to say no.
Earlier on, you alluded to the war as reason for separation. What particular situation can you point to in the war?
The whole war itself. We were not together all the time; it was too dangerous. If it was about closeness, the war made us close like this (showing two hands tightly held together). Very, very close. Although he was far away from us, we were very close. We had a radio, the children used to talk to him every evening, every 9 o’clock. He was sending messages to me almost every night by dispatch rider. He would write a letter. I would give the person a reply.
His fears, his feelings…?
Very serious things. But I don’t want somebody else to know about them. I remember when we were in Ivory Coast. There was this debate in France about Quebec and French Canadians and something about someone who had information that was needed by parties to the crisis and they killed him. I don’t know how it happened but when I finished reading it I went and burnt all the letters. When he knew that I burnt them, he was upset, but I am glad I did it
Those are things you could have used to write your memoirs…
All the things I burnt are in my head. At my age I don’t forget anything. They come out like pictures in my head. So, it’s not about that.
Let’s pray you write your book. I am longing to read it.
Maybe I would have been gone by then.
You mean you are not going to write your book? You don’t have to write it yourself. You have your sons. They can do that for you.
I said you are still very young. You will read it, even when I am gone.
You don’t want it launched before you go, but why?
For some personal reasons,
You met some other top ranking Nigerians who were leaders as well. How well did you relate with them? And have you met some of them of late?
I knew some of them but we were not friends
Like who particularly?
Let me see. You know we were colleagues. Our husbands worked together, but their ways were different from my own. I didn’t like to be what they were. I don’t want any person to come and tell me about my husband because it may kill your spirit. I also don’t want to tell them about their husbands. They weren’t terribly educated. I am not terribly educated either, but I have a different outlook. I remember one instance when Emeka was governor. One day I got a message from Victoria Aguiyi-Ironsi ordering me to attend a function. I ignored it and didn’t go. I felt she could have called me on the phone. I wasn’t a military officer? Some of them were carrying on as if they were military officers too. She shouldn’t have done it. I was sorry when her husband was killed. She was a nice lady too in her own. Others though were not as nice, and to that end, I used to keep some distance from them.
have you ever met her?
I have never met her. Gowon was not married before the crisis. You know he was a rank lower than my husband.
What would you say was the lowest point in your relationship with him?
It was in Ivory Coast. It was the conspiracy that eventually led to my leaving. It is better left for another day.
From the way you have been speaking of him, it is obvious you loved him and you still love him.
Yes, but if I love him what can I do. It’s not something you just write on. It is deeper than just writing about it.
The young woman who is the wife of the Ikemba now, Bianca, is she close to you?
No, not really. Though, we have met on some occasions like when Emeka (my son) got married.
You are from the same area?
No, she is from Enugu state, I’m from Anambra.
How have you been coping; I mean running your life?
I am more or less retired now. I live on pension from me, from my family and from my children.
My life with Ojukwu –Bianca
Story by Alvan Ewuzie
She was without any iota of doubt, the closest person to Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. In April 2010 Bianca, Ojukwu’s wife of over two decades spoke about her relationship with the national icon. Excerpts:
How long have you been married to Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu?
We have been into a relationship since 1989 but we got married formally on November 12, 1994.
We have been together for over 20 years, because we had been living together since 1989.
How old were you and how old was he at the time?
Well, I was 22 and he was in his mid 50s
People considered you too young for him at that time. How did you feel then?
It’s not your conventional relationship. Looking back now, I certainly realise that I was very young at that time but it didn’t seem to matter , because we had so much in common and we had good communication. The gap was not there in our day-to-day interactions. People thought the relationship was bizarre , because of the age difference but it’s only now when I look back, now that I have children of my own that I realised that it was rather unusual.
Odumegwu Ojukwu and Bianca`s 10-year-old daugther Chineme reads the Bible during the national inter-denominational funeral rites at Michael Opkara Square in Enugu
You were so much in love at the time that you didn’t notice any disparity in your ages?
I don’t know whether I would classify it as being in love. I just knew that the difference tended to melt away when compared to the common grounds that we had. We had a similar background and we had so much to talk about. We had common interests and we just did a lot of things together. We went to see plays at the theatre, we went on vacations and there was just no disparity in our interaction. I didn’t feel it at the time.
How come you’re feeling it now?
No, I don’t feel it now, because we have gotten used to each other having been together for so long. I always told him I am like the furniture in your house. We are too used to each other. I can complete his sentences and he can complete mine. Really I think at the end of the day that’s what is imperative in every relationship. You must be able to communicate. He understood me fully and he appreciated that mine has been a life of dedication to him. I know the travails he has been through and I appreciate that a man such as him needs somebody to step in and play the role of a wife, sister and mother simultaneously and give him peace of mind in his day to day life.
Would you say therefore that you were psychologically prepared to be Ojukwu’s wife?
I come from a political family. If that’s being psychologically prepared well I am not the one to say so. But I think I had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities beyond what somebody of my age would reasonably be expected to go through. I had to learn in the process. I think I have done well because it requires diplomacy and the fact that sometimes you have to get out of your skin to mediate in conflicts that will generally arise around a man of his stature. It’s been quite challenging but I thank God that I have been able to navigate the terrain.
Bianca Ojukwu Ikemba, wife of the Senate President Helen Mark, and the First Lady Patience Goodluck Jonathan attend Ojukwu's funeral in Abuja on February 27, 2012
Has it ever occurred to you that people never gave this marriage a chance, yet it has lasted this long. How does that make you feel?
I feel blessed. I have known friends in more conventional marriages, who break up, remarry and break up again in this space of time and I am still here. I thank God for his grace because nobody gave this thing a chance of survival. In all honesty I was really young at that time and I did believe that I could handle it. Now when I look back I wonder how I did it. That was not a situation your average 22-year-old could handle. Normally the disparity ought to make the interests different. But the truth is that I didn’t miss those things the average 22-year old would want, like going to parties, clubs and the like. Those were not my interests.
Though people have always said that I am very old fashioned and I didn’t have those things that propel people of my age. I wanted a stable marriage. I wanted to live with a man that I have things in common with and a man that I could spend the rest of my life with. Having said that, the truth is that it requires a lot of sacrifice, commitment and hard work to be able to make it work.
Was it that you had to grow up to him or he had to come down to you? How was the mix?
No question about that, I had to grow up to him. I had to learn to interact with people who were a lot older than I was. Generally from the time I was 22 people who were coming to our various homes were people of his age. They were his friends and by extension they have become my friends too. I give God the glory. He had some of the most dedicated, committed and loyal friends to his cause. I feel privileged to have met these people. I consider them as family. So I had to grow up to his life.
You were not scared by that calibre of people?
Don’t forget that I am the daughter of a former governor. My father was the governor of old Anambra state, now consisting of Enugu and parts of Ebonyi. So I was certainly not intimidated because we had such regular high calibre people visiting us. Presidents, ex presidents, Ambassadors, governors were frequent visitors. I was not intimidated in the least. It was just a progression. Just that the same calibre of people were now visiting in another house. The routine was basically the same, just a little bit accentuated.
Let’s talk about Ojukwu. What kind of a man was he?
I think you are in a better position to do that. Having spent the better part of two hours with him today I think you are probably in a better position to do that. As you can see he is a very complex man, very complex. He can be like a volcano about to erupt this minute and the next he is like a kitten. His persona switches so rapidly that it is really quite hard to pin him down, to paint a complete picture of him. There would always be that mystery. He is kind, caring, and as you have witnessed, a very stubborn man. A lot of the time, he gets impatient and most people find that rather intimidating. But he can be very meek. One just has to find that meeting ground of interacting with him. Once you can do that then you are on safe ground. But he can be quite difficult to decode.
Obviously he loved you and said it to anyone who cared to listen. What did he do differently to you that also gives you the impression that he really loved you?
I think it’s the absolute trust that he has in me, the faith. I think everyman is looking for a replacement for his mother. That’s one thing I have learnt. In life, every man looks for that woman who would not just be his wife but his mother, whose paramount objective is to ensure that he can be the best man he is meant to be. I wouldn’t say that he loves me in an irrational way. Perhaps in me he has been able to find that combination of wife and mother. The mother element is very important, because it’s only your mother that you would trust so absolutely to be able to deliver the best judgments and to be able to pull you back when they think you are doing something wrong. It’s just to have absolute trust in your judgment and go to bed with both eyes closed.
A lot of people don’t have that in their families. A lot of men find that their wives tend to be quite demanding and impatient and the men then reflect that in their attitude. But I think a woman cannot get the best out of any man by nagging him or making him feel bad and less of a man. But if you let him be a man then you get the best out of him. That’s what has helped this marriage to stay the way it is today.
You are a lawyer but you seem to be averse to politics even when you grew in a political home so to say…
Well, I have seen quite a lot in my life with Ikemba and I have seen that you need to develop very tough skin to go into politics. Unfortunately, that’s something I am yet to develop. Until Nigeria offers an opportunity for one to be a decent politician without having to sell their soul I will continue to be averse to politics. I have hope that we will get to that stage soon because the Nigerian people are no longer willing to just sit back and watch and accept whatever is rammed down their throat. The recent election in Anambra is a pointer to that.
I understand that one or two political offers had come your way. You don’t want them or you just prefer being Ikemba’s wife?
Being Ikemba’s wife is a job on its own. These are issues that are being constantly discussed. Right now my prerogative is my husband and my family. I have a very young family. I don’t want a situation that would have my attention divided. I would like to help determine the path that my children would take. I would like to be instrumental to raising and shaping their lives. I am not saying that I cannot do that and serve the people at the same time. These were offers that were made even before the elections but I just didn’t feel that the time was ripe.
You relationship with Ikemba is the longest he has had with any woman. Does that make you feel special?
(Long laughter) It must be one of two things: its either that I am made of a sponge-like material that can absorb or that I am made of a shell-like object, like a turtle’s back and I have found a way of making things work. Sometimes you are lucky in life. You just come across somebody that God says this is the person that you will stay with for the rest of your life and you just have to work at maintaining that relationship. He is working and I am working too and we both appreciate the fact that we need each other and that we both need to be as committed as we can for the relationship to work. That’s what we are doing, building on it everyday. That’s just the key. It does not make me feel special. It’s not like being in Las Vegas everyday. But the high points are always more than the low points. I think if you can get 70 percent you have done very well.
How do you relate with his other grown up children, and perhaps the other living wives?
(Laughs) I like the way you put, living wives. The fact is that at the time I met him he was a bachelor. He was not living or married to anybody at that time and that’s probably why we were able to go through a Roman Catholic wedding. We had our wedding in a Roman catholic church and that would have been impossible if he were designated a married man. Otherwise he would have been a bigamist. I am just making the point that I met him as a bachelor. Of course he had been in a lot of other relationships but I have not had the opportunity of interacting with those people that he had had relationships with in the past.
What about his children?
Oh yes. You know he has three children that are older than I am. We get on quite well. Most of the children don’t live here. They live abroad. My marriage to their father is not anything new because they live in societies where such things are not abnormal as such. They know their limits.
We hold family meetings and things like that. Some times issues come up that we don’t all agree upon. At such times Ikemba steps in and sorts things out. That’s normal but generally we get on well. So far it’s been quite cordial and when they come on vacation they stay here and I am glad to tell you that they all have their rooms here. I have tried to make sure that we are one united family.
What I deduce from the foregoing is that you are Ojukwu’s only legitimate wife.
That’s correct. If there is anybody else who can present a wedding picture, a marriage certificate in the church then I am willing to defer to that person. However, we live in Africa and the church format is not the only acceptable mode. There is the traditional mode. In my own case I did not start with the traditional marriage because my parents were initially opposed to the marriage. I only went through the traditional marriage after the birth of my children. My children were present at the event. Any woman who has been married in the traditional mode is also an acceptable wife. The only time both modes come into conflict is when there is a legal contention. That’s why I am making it clear that he went through both processes with me.
You mean you are not aware of any other women who went through those processes with him.
I am not aware of anybody that went through a church wedding with him. You know the Roman Catholic Church is very strict in that respect. If they had any such information they would not have done the wedding. No Catholic priest would wed you if he considers you a bigamist. They wed you strictly on the basis that you are a single man.
Is he still the romantic man you met in 1989?
Oh my. I think romance runs in his veins. He will never change. I am the one who is not romantic. I am very practical. But he is very poetic. By virtue of his education and interactions in life, Ojukwu was raised as an aristocrat, so he tends to focus more on the classics, the arts, literature and so on. When you look at him in that light you find that he cannot but be romantic. In every thing he does it comes through. It’s part of his everyday life. Even now when he is not as strong as he used to be, he would still come to open doors for me to get into the car. He would ensure I am served a drink before him and things like that. He is a typical gentle man. Without a doubt if Ikemba is nothing else he is a perfect gentleman.
Why did you say you won’t allow him present himself again for an elective post?
I think he has done his bit. There comes a time in every man’s life when you just need to find the nearest beach, find a deck chair, sit by the ocean and reflect. I think he is at that stage in his life. He has done nothing but live and breathe the Igbo course. Sometimes he would hear of some injustice somewhere and he would stay awake all night trying to find how it can be redressed. I remember the situation of the Apo six. He would wake up at night and say to me, what’s happening, have these people been found, what are you gleaning from the media? Anytime an Igboman suffers any form of injustice it makes his blood boil, even in situations when he feels helpless. At such times I simply pray to God that he does not have a blood condition because you see him so agitated.
At such times I also tell him to stop knocking his head against the brick wall. I think he has sacrificed everything including his family. There are things he ought to have done but didn’t have the time to do because of his struggles. Now I think that whatever time he has left should be used for his family, to nurture the family and let other people carry on from where he left off.
You are the closest person to him who can tell me this: will people ever get to read his memoirs?
Like you and everybody else I also keep my fingers crossed. But I can tell you that he has been writing but slowly though. Sometimes he wakes up, remembers an incident and then writes. One thing I know is that he is not writing the account in sequence, he puts down incidents as he remembers. At the moment there is a group currently showing very strong interest in getting him to complete and publish the memoirs. But I do not know how soon that will be. And it is something that we all really need to see, to know what really happened or more importantly how his mind was working at the time, his fears, anxieties and aspirations, what he wanted to achieve and why he took some of the decisions he took. A lot of people still do not have a real grasp of those things and we need to get into the innermost recesses of his mind to know them.
But is he really working on it?
Yes, I know for a fact that he is working on it but at a snail speed.
You still look trim and fit, how do you manage to keep this fit?
Do you know what it takes to run this house, run my NGO, run my law chambers? There are so many things I am doing that sometimes I don’t even have time for lunch.
Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu obituary
Controversial leader of the short-lived Republic of Biafra
The death at the age of 78 of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, former leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, removes a charismatic, larger-than-life figure from the Nigerian political scene. Although deeply controversial in his lifetime, he will be missed in Nigeria far beyond his own Igbo people. President Goodluck Jonathan's tribute spoke of Ojukwu's "immense love of his people, justice, equity and fairness which forced him into the leading role he played in the Nigerian civil war".
In the long perspective of history, the failure of the Biafran secession, which lasted from May 1967 to January 1970, helped decisively to consolidate the unity of independent Nigeria. And if after his pardon and return to his country Ojukwu never made the political breakthrough he had sought, the myth of Biafra that he did so much to create still lingers, even while there is no prospect of recreating it.
Ojukwu, widely known as Emeka, was born in Zungeru, northern Nigeria. His father was the transport millionaire Sir Louis Ojukwu. Schooled at King's college, Lagos, and Epsom college, Surrey, Emeka studied history at Lincoln College, Oxford. Graduating in 1955, he returned to work in the eastern Nigeria administrative service, and two years later joined the army, one of the first Nigerian graduates to do so. It was a surprising decision for one who had been known in Oxford for his playboy lifestyle, but it reflected a serious commitment to Nigeria, and even a certain farsightedness about the role the military might come to play in politics.
He had two spells of officer training in Britain (1958 and 1962), and also served in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1963, and at the time of Nigeria's first coup in January 1966 was in command of the fifth battalion in Kano. He played his cards well, declaring loyalty to the new military head of state, Major-General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, and became governor of the Eastern region.
Thus history had cast him as destiny's child. When the counter-coup came in July 1966, and the Igbo people, who had benefited from the first coup, were on the receiving end of northern revenge attacks – most notably the killing of many senior officers, including Ironsi himself – he was in a position to provide the leadership for which he had surely been groomed, refusing to accept the authority of the federal government in Lagos.
As the series of massacres of easterners, especially Igbos, grew in the north, the pressure from his people made secession increasingly likely. It was strongly believed in Lagos that Ojukwu's own sizeable ego was now a factor, and that another leader might have managed to avoid secession.
After the failure of peace talks in Aburi, Ghana, in January 1967, in which the wily Ojukwu had outmanoeuvred the more straightforward federal leader General Yakubu Gowon, the prospect of a full breakaway loomed closer, especially since an Aburi-style confederation had been rejected in Lagos. Ojukwu, claiming to be doubtful, was swept along the tide of his own public opinion, and secession became inevitable.
The historical motives of this period will continue to be argued passionately, since they were at the core of the case for Biafra. Gowon declared the creation of 12 states on 27 May 1967, including notably splitting the Eastern region into three, thus separating minority ethnic groups from Igbos. It was said that the creation of the states was a pre-emptive move, since secession was in any case planned. And once the "independent and sovereign state" of Biafra was proclaimed on 29 May, it was only a matter of time before fighting began a few weeks later.
After a bold move on the Mid-west region in August, a push towards Lagos failed, and federal troops recaptured the Mid-west in September. The story of the war and the famine and disease that went with it, causing between 1m and 3m deaths, was then one of the slow encirclement of Biafra. This progressively confined the Igbos to their own heartland, but they still managed a noble and courageous resistance, sustained by Ojukwu's charismatic and authoritarian leadership.
If at the beginning there was a real fear of further massacres, the policy of "no victors, no vanquished" pursued by Gowon meant that after the eventual surrender in January 1970, reconciliation largely worked. Visiting the former rebel areas soon after the end of the war, I was told: "We were forced out of the federation, now we've been forced back into it."
Ojukwu had left for exile in Ivory Coast on the last flight out of Biafra's improvised airport at Uli, and it was more than 12 years before he was finally pardoned by civilian president Shehu Shagari, and allowed to make a triumphant return in 1982. It was then that he was given the title of Ikemba by the people of his father's home town of Nnewi.
He even joined the ruling party, which was seeking to gain Igbo support. But his ventures into politics did not work, and he was detained with many other politicians for a few months after the coup of 31 December 1983.
He continued in politics when activity revived briefly in the early 1990s, and after the full return to civil rule in 1999 helped form the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), for which he ran as presidential candidate in 2003 and 2007, both notably fraudulent elections. In this period he often gave interviews in which he retained his old political authority and panache, although latterly he was increasingly unwell, suffering a stroke early this year.
He had a gift for oratory – his collected speeches were edited by his great admirer the writer Frederick Forsyth, and published with the simple title Biafra (1969); Forsyth also wrote a biography,Emeka (1982, revised 1991). The former editor of the journal West Africa, David Williams, no friend of Biafra, used to say that in other circumstances he could see Ojukwu's style and gravitas entirely in place at a Commonwealth leaders' conference.
In 1994 he married his third wife, Bianca Onoh, daughter of a senior politician, and former Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria in 1988. He is survived by her and several children.
• Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, politician and solder, born 4 November 1933; died 26 November 2011
Emeka Ojukwu, leader of breakaway Biafra, died on November 26th, aged 78
IT WAS after Nigeria's first military coup, in January 1966, that Emeka Ojukwu came to power as governor of the country's predominantly-Ibo Eastern Region. Though he was himself an Ibo and a lieutenant-colonel in the army, he had not been involved in this Ibo-led plot, nor, less surprisingly, did he take part in the second coup, six months later, which was led by northerners. He was a federalist, which is to say he believed in keeping Nigeria as a federal state.
God had not designed it as such, but the British had. As the colonial power, they had drawn a line round the lands of the three main peoples and 400 or so smaller linguistic groups, governed the mainly-Muslim northerners indirectly through traditional rulers and the mainly-Christian remainder directly, called them in aggregate a nation and, in 1960, given them independence. Two years earlier, a Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe, borrowing from Yeats, had pointed out that “things fall apart”, in a novel of that name. He had quickly been proved right.
Colonel Ojukwu, too, had foreseen the likelihood of bust-up. That was why he had not followed his father into business but, after school in England and then Oxford, had instead gone into the army, which was considered one of the country's sturdier institutions. It did indeed prove to be a lasting source of power, but not of unity. The second coup was followed by the killing of at least 200 Ibo soldiers.
Pogroms of Ibos had already taken place in the North and they now grew more severe, claiming the lives of tens of thousands of easterners, and prompting over 1m of the luckier ones to head for their region of origin. Colonel Ojukwu was soon regretting the broadcast he had made earlier, in which he had asked Ibos in the North to return home since the situation was “under control”. Instead, the scene was set for a war that was to last for 30 months and claim the lives, it is said, of 1m people through fighting, hunger or disease. Some put the number much higher.
Secession was surely not what Colonel Ojukwu had in mind when he became governor of the East. Just five months before Biafra broke away he was arguing for a looser federation, and he got the promise of it, even though his fellow military governors soon backtracked, realising they had been outwitted. The colonel was clever and more educated than his counterparts, which may have been why he would not defer to his antagonist, Lieut-Colonel Yakubu Gowon, the federal supreme commander; or perhaps he was just proud and obstinate, as his critics had it.
Of course, the general, as he soon made himself, had a difficult part to play. He wanted to show that Biafra was a serious country, self-reliant, efficient, able to take its place as the “first nation-state south of the Sahara”. He also had to present it as a victim, a plucky little population of about 13m, reluctantly taking on a bully with nearly three times as many people and all the resources of an established state. He had to be both bulldog and underdog.
Soft of voice and sad of eye, he played the part brilliantly. Pausing before he answered questions, drawing on a State Express 555 cigarette and talking in tones of measured reasonableness, he came across as the thinking man's soldier. Despite his youth, his bulk lent authority, his beard, grown as a symbol of mourning for the massacred Ibos, lent gravitas. Yet he could also be arrogant and authoritarian, ready to adopt the very practices he affected to disdain—by, for instance, appointing his father to chair two regional corporations.
The “police action” described by Colonel Gowon at the outset turned into a bloody conflict and a merciless siege. It was the first war to be brought by television—and a skilful propaganda machine—into rich-country homes almost daily. It was thus conducted with pictures of starving children and claims of genocide, as well as the promise of oil contracts, daring night-time airlifts, talk of jihad, accusations of collusion by aid-workers and weapons supplied (or withheld) competitively by Britain, the Soviet Union and others. It also involved conventional fighting and at this the Biafrans, after a surprising irruption in August 1967 to within 150km (nearly 100 miles) of the federal capital, proved inadequate. By year's end the federal side had taken more than half of Biafra's territory.
Historians say, fairly, that General Ojukwu should have surrendered then. Biafra had no chance of victory, and two years of famine and fighting would have been avoided. At the time, though, Biafra still seemed to offer the prospect of a country better run than most others in Africa, and the fears of genocide were certainly well founded. In the event, General Gowon behaved impeccably, and his troops exacted no revenge. General Ojukwu was pardoned in 1982, returned to Nigeria from exile and re-entered politics, albeit unsuccessfully.
For Africa it was a cautionary tale. The 1960s, in which so many African countries gained independence, had started with a brutal war of secession in Congo. They ended with another. However, Biafra's failure to redraw colonial boundaries by force put an end to most further attempts. If any change is to be made now, it must be by consent, as in Sudan. Perhaps General Ojukwu's stand was needed to achieve this.
Nigeria: Ojukwu's Secret Daughter Traced She Lives in KadunaBY ABDULLAHI TASIU ABUBAKAR, ISMAIL MADASHIR, ISA SA'IDU IN ZARIA AND TONY ADIBE IN ENUGU, 9 DECEMBER 2012
The secret daughter ex-Biafran leader left behind was brought up by a prominent Muslim family in Kaduna. She lives among the Northern elite and detests any suggestion that links her with the former warlord. This is the extraordinary story of Ojukwu's mystery daughter.
Even in death Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Nigeria's best known rebel leader, seems to have retained his ability to shock. The revelation that he had a secret daughter -- to whom he allocated, in his will, one of his landed properties -- shocked even the other members of his family. But perhaps more shocking is the discovery -- through Sunday Trust investigation -- that the daughter was actually brought up by a prominent Northern Muslim as his own "child".
Tenny Hamman, as Ojukwu called her, was raised in Kaduna by former Deputy Inspector General of Police Hamman Maiduguri as his own "daughter". Although she was formally named Aisha (the name she used in school), she is also called Tani (or Aunty Tani by younger relatives). Tani is a traditional Hausa name given to a female born on Monday. Apparently the name Tenny (or Tenni) that Ojukwu called her is the corrupted version of Tani.
Late Hamman Maiduguri was a top police officer who spent a significant part of his life in Kaduna. He hailed from the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, Borno State capital. He was appointed Northern Region's commissioner of police after the death of the region's Premier Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto. He later became the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) during the regime of General Yakubu Gowon, the man who led the crushing of Ojukwu's Republic of Biafra.
The story of how Hamman Maiduguri became "the father" of Ojukwu's daughter appears to be as mysterious to even a section of his own family as it is to the other members of Ojukwu's family.
Much of it is still shrouded in deep secrecy but Sunday Trust investigation reveals that the late police officer did raise Tenny as his own daughter.
There are conflicting versions of how she came to be late Hamman's daughter. Some sources told Sunday Trust that she was the daughter of his wife, Mary Theresa (a Christian who later converted to Islam and is now called Inna or simply Hajia); others said Tenny was a daughter of Mary Theresa's sister and that the family adopted her as their own.
One of the sources said Tenny's mother gave birth to her before she married Hamman. "He accepted her with her baby and since then she has been bearing the name Tenny Hamman," he said.
Whichever version is accurate, most sources said she was indeed brought up like a biological daughter of Hamman. Many residents of the area still believe that she is Hamman's biological daughter. One source said she was among the people who inherited what he left behind when he died.
"It will be very difficult for you to unravel her true story because many knew her as Hamman's biological daughter," said the source. "She inherited part of his properties. This story you are trying to open is seen by some as mere tale because they grew up and know her as one of Hamman's children," he added.
"i will call the police"
Indeed, due to the cloud of secrecy surrounding the whole issue, details are hard to come by. When a hint of the story began to emerge following the announcement of Ojukwu's will, the family mounted a formidable firewall to block any leakage from any possible source. Sunday Trust's investigation was blocked from many angles and some of its staffers were even threatened with arrest and litigation.
When the leak first came that the woman Ojukwu spoke of as his daughter was a lady living in Kaduna, Sunday Trust search team spent considerable time trying to locate her.
Our correspondents who eventually located her at the house of late Hamman in Kaduna said Tenny is a woman approaching the age of 50. She is living with her aged mother, they said. One of them noted that she is Ojukwu's "carbon copy".
Apparently, she got a premonition that journalists, having heard of the will, might be looking for her. So when one of our correspondents knocked on the door to the house to seek an audience with her, she was ready for him.
As soon as he entered the house, she chased him away. "Who are you and why are you here?" she shouted. When he tried to introduce himself, she refused to listen to him.
"Leave here before I call the police," she said angrily.
Many other family relations approached responded with hostility too. One of them threatened litigation. "If you mention anything about us, we'll sue," he warned.
Sources told Sunday Trust that Ojukwu met Tenny's mother when he was a military officer in the North. He was in charge of 5th Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Kano, where he was also friends with the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, before he was appointed the Governor of the Eastern Region following the first military coup in 1966.
Apparently, throughout the crisis surrounding the coup and counter-coup of July 1966 and the subsequent civil war that followed them as a result of Ojukwu's declaration of Biafran independence, Ojukwu and his ex-lover kept the issue of their love child secret.
But as little Tenny grew up, there appeared to be some people who had suspected a link between her mother and Ojukwu.
Sources told Sunday Trust that there was a time when Tenny's school mates at Queen's Amina College, Kaduna, spread "gossips" that she was Ojukwu's daughter. At the college, Tenny was said to be a tough girl and a bully. But when one slim girl called her Ojukwu's daughter, she broke down in tears.
"Her mates were surprised that she could also be very weak," the source said.
One of her classmates also told Sunday Trust that Tenny -- known in the college as Aisha Hamman -- was always uncomfortable with claims that she was Ojukwu's daughter.
Another said, although she could be nice, she doesn't tolerate nonsense. "We once fought in the school," she told Sunday Trust in confidence. "Since then I have not been close to her. She didn't even attend my marriage".
They were 30 in their Queen's Amina College class and they finished in 1978. It is unclear what other academic attainments Tenny got, but her college classmates said she at one time lived in the United States.
Another source also said she had worked at the presidency during General Sani Abacha's regime.
"She got married and has a daughter, who should be in her 20s by now," another source said. "But she has since parted ways with the husband".
The will that outs Tenny
The revelation of Tenny as Ojukwu's daughter came from the former Biafra leader's will which was read at the Enugu State High Court penultimate Friday. It was presented to a section of the family by the chief registrar of the court Mr Dennis Ekoh.
The will listed Ojukwu's children as follows: Tenny Hamman (daughter), Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Jnr (son), Mmegha (Mimi) (daughter), Okigbo (son), Ebele (daughter), Chineme (daughter), Afam (son) and Nwachukwu (son).
Ojukwu's widow, former beauty pageant Bianca Onoh but now Nigeria's Ambassador to Spain, was there, ostensibly to represent both herself and the three children she had with Ojukwu: Chineme, Afam and Nwachukwu.
She reportedly expressed shock over the appearance of Tenny's name in the will. She said her husband had never told her about Tenny when he was alive.
Apart from Bianca, Ojukwu's first cousin, Mr Val Nwosu, and another relative, Mr Mike Ejemba, were at the court to witness the presentation. But Ojukwu's other children were not there nor were they represented by anyone.
Based on the will, Bianca emerged as the biggest beneficiary of Ojukwu's wealth. She is allocated his Casablanca Lodge located at No 7, Forest Crescent, GRA, Enugu; two of his properties at Jabi and Kuje in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; and all his money and personal effects.
She is also to replace him as the trustee in the family company, Ojukwu Transport Limited. She was also given two plots of land in Nnewi. But Ojukwu put a strong caveat that Bianca should forfeit the land if she remarries.
His eldest son, Emeka Jnr., got the family house at Nnewi.
Tenny, who is apparently his eldest daughter, got Jubilee Hotel, located in Zaria, Kaduna State. Other children too have their own shares.
The hotel Ojukwu gave Tenny
Sunday Trust investigation traced the hotel Ojukwu allocated to his daughter to a lively area in Zaria. The investigation revealed that late warlord does indeed own a house and a hotel located on Hospital Road in Sabon Gari, Zaria.
The hotel used to be a very popular inn where people visited mainly to have drinks. It is a one-storey building where the top floor is left open with burglars surrounding it perhaps for the safety of the customers.
However, when Sunday Trust's correspondent visited the place, he observed that it is no longer functioning as a hotel: it has been turned into a warehouse.
A 65-year-old resident of the area confided to Sunday Trust that recently a son of Ojukwu, who resides in Germany, had visited the place and probably ordered for the change.
"It was after the visit of Ojukwu's son to the area that the status of the hotel changed to a warehouse. What we learnt was that the place has been sold but I don't know the details of the transaction.
"Of course, the hotel belonged to Ojukwu before he died. I can authoritatively confirm this to you because I know virtually all the owners of the properties in most areas of Sabon Gari," he added.
"The place was very popular before the recent change of status. But as you can see, the place has now turned to a warehouse where provision items are stored," he said.
Hospital Road, where Ojukwu's house and the former hotel are located in Zaria, is predominantly occupied by people from southern part of Nigeria.
The hotel was located at the heart of the street while Hospital Road is one of the famous streets in Sabon Gari area. The hotel's location, observers said, added to its popularity.
Apart from that, according to those interviewed by Sunday Trust, Sabon Gari houses most of the hotels that exist in Zaria.
Despite the popularity of Jubilee Hotel, though, some residents told Sunday Trust that they were not aware that it belonged to Ojukwu.
"Honestly, I heard it recently that Ojukwu owned the hotel. Of course, I know Jubilee Hotel for quite some time now but I never knew that it belonged to Ojukwu.
"When pub activities stopped taking place at the hotel, somebody told me that the place belonged to Ojukwu and his children have decided to change the status of the place.
"I learnt that before the demise of Ojukwu, the hotel was run by his brother but after his death, according to what I learnt, Ojukwu's children took over," another resident, Idris Tijjani, told Sunday Trust.
The controversy over the will
It is unclear whether Tenny will claim the hotel Ojukwu allocated to her. If she plans to do so, she may not face much trouble, despite the controversy that trails the presentation of the will.
Although the will itself has deepened the conflict among other members of Ojukwu's family, the contending sides appeared to have accepted the allocation of the hotel to Tenny.
Bianca did not reject it and the first son, Emeka Jnr, too, said his father did have a will that mentions Tenny as his daughter and has awarded her landed property.
Emeka Jnr had rejected the will presented at the Enugu State High Court and claimed that the genuine will of his father has not yet been presented. But he admitted that in the genuine will, Tenny has her share.
The other controversy about the will is the omission of Ojukwu's look-a-like son, Debechukwu Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Debe has persistently claimed to be Ojukwu's eldest child and is currently engaged in legal battle with other members of the family.
But his name did not feature in the will.
Ojukwu's lawyer said that the former Biafran leader did not include Dede because the latter failed to prove that he was indeed his son.
Ojukwu's randy past
The emergence of Tenny in Ojukwu's will has once again brought to the fore his playboy lifestyle.
Although his admirers tend to play down such aspect, it keeps reverberating. At an event held last year ahead of his burial, majority of the speakers focused mainly on Ojukwu's heroic deeds and boldness as a soldier.
But Nollywood actor and ace broadcaster, Chief Pete Edochie, surprised the huge audience when he talked about Ojukwu's randy past.
"Ojukwu was a human being; Ojukwu loved women. As a matter of fact, I would describe him as H. G. Wells described Mr. Paully.
"H.G Wells said that Mr Paully was congenitally disposed to the worship of women. Well, those words may sound harsh but I will describe Ojukwu like that. Ojukwu loved women with a passion," Edochie told the gathering.
When Sunday Trust contacted Edochie over Ojukwu's revelation of Tenny as his love child and the property he reserved for her, he said he had no doubt about it.
"Ojukwu knows the number of children he had when he lived. If he had written such thing in his will, there is no point questioning the wish of the dead," he said.
Nigeria-Biafra Civil War
By Obi Nwakanma
Vanguard (Nigeria), November 09, 2003
EVERYONE knows that Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s father, Sir Louis Phillipe Odumegwu-Ojukwu was the wealthiest Nigerian of his generation: a multi-millionaire businessman, who had been chairman of UAC (West Africa), the Nigerian Stock Exchange, director of Shell-BP, had vast investment in property in Lagos, Kano, Port-Harcourt, Enugu, Onistha and other places and owned controlling shares in many of the top blue-chip corporations that still operate in Nigeria today, Emeka Ojukwu could have walked naturally to a life of ease and indolence. In actual fact, by today’s value, Sir Louis Ojukwu’s wealth would be in the range of about ten billion in proper sterling. But returning from Oxford University, where he had taken an Oxford M.A. in Modern History from Lincoln College, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu turned his back to all that, and chose service- because it was his own path to freedom, and to greatness, on his own terms.
His biographer, the English writer Frederick Forsyth has given an account in the book, Emeka, of how Ojukwu’s helpless father had tried to lure his Oxford-educated son to become a director in his company in 1956, and about how his restless son chose instead to enter the civil service. Seeing that his mind was made, Sir Louis goes to his friend, the British governor-general, Sir James Robertson to try and convince Emeka Ojukwu. The governor-general offers Emeka any job he wanted, including as senior assistant secretary in the governor-general’s office. Ojukwu rejects the offer, and on his own terms secures a rural posting to Udi, in the Eastern regional civil service. We have also come to know how Ojukwu entered the Army as the first Nigerian university graduate to earn a commission. At a time when the military was not too sexy, Ojukwu, apparently with an eye on history, sought a commission. His influential father once again intervened to stop his son, using the governor-general once again to block Ojukwu’s commission. Failing to earn an officers commission, Ojukwu decides to go through the lowly route - he joins as an other rank - a private with a Master’s degree in History from Oxford. This is hardly the act of an arrogant, power-hungry person.
It is apparent that Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was driven by a sense of destiny. He was in any case, a child of destiny. For those who are wont to see something magical and symbolic in coincidences, it is not for nothing that the two greatest leaders from among the Igbo in the 20th century - Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu - were born in the same month of November, in the same little town, Zungeru. It was as though Chukwu had forged a generational baton. Ojukwu’s political consciousness evolved very early, and very quickly. As a ten-year old boy in form one at King’s College in Lagos, in 1943, he too had already joined the anti-colonial struggle. That year, he joined senior students like Tony Enahoro and Ovie Whiskey among others, to stage an anti-war, anti-colonial protest against the colonial administration, for which some of the students were reprimanded, others conscripted to fight, and from which people like Enahoro emerged into national limelight. Ojukwu was tried as a juvenile in the courts in
Lagos for his participation, and two pictures essay that moment: when he lay sleeping at the docks, and when his father, Sir Louis, carries him still sleepy, on his shoulder at the end of proceedings. Ojukwu’s radicalised consciousness was possibly sharpened when his father sent him off to school in England, to Epsom College, soon after the King’s incident. Black, stubborn, and opinionated, Ojukwu might have earned himself some unsavory record. But he was a sportsman. He was brilliant. He was a rich boy. He was inevitable. In Oxford, Ojukwu joined the socialists, even though he rode about in a Rolls Royce.
All these may have figured when he chose to take a stand against the genocide that followed the events of 1966. The British, afraid of the "red scare" and the safety of their investment in post-colonial Africa already had his records. Let me then sum up the event: Ojukwu as battalion commander in Kano resists Nzeogwu’s end of the coup in the North, an action which leads to the collapse of the Ifeajuna-led coup of January 1966. Ojukwu as governor in Enugu resists the Gowon led coup of July 1966, insisting upon the next officer in rank, Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, after the death of Ironsi, to take over the mantle of federal administration. His move was to preserve the integrity and discipline of the Nigerian Army. Ojukwu’s resistance leads to the massacre of Easterners, especially the Igbo. Ojukwu’s attempts conciliation, going right up to Aburi, and proposing the foundational thesis for the evolution of a modern Nigerian state under clear federal principles. Gowon reneges upon pressure from his British minders and their agents in the Nigerian civil service, and levies war against the East.
Ojukwu fights to protect the lives of his threatened people, and in the interval, creates what may possibly have been the most advanced, most progressive modern state in Africa. The evidence of administrative efficiency was there in the way Ojukwu mobilized the civil and bureaucratic structures of the East in Biafra.
The evidence of technological advancement was there, in the establishing of the first University of Technology in Nigeria at Port-Harcourt, and in the war production that went on, in spite of the minimal engineering infrastructure that was available. The retired Supreme Court Judge, Paul Nwokedi has recounted the premise for which the Soviet Union refused to support "a young nation seeking self-determination" when as Ojukwu’s envoy to Moscow he asked the same questions. Andre Gromyko’s, response to him was instructive: "Pauliya, Europe will not let you go…you have not fought this war for one year and you’re already producing your own rockets and rocket fuel…" he said to Nwokedi in 1968. That comment is a tribute to the visionary leadership of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
It is instructive, even ironic, that everything Ojukwu stood for has become the cornerstone in the struggle for the emergence of true Nigerian state. The plank of the current minority agitation, led by the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, and now by the Ijaw for a more equitable place within the federation was clearly articulated by Ojukwu in Aburi. The search for a "true federalism" was articulated by Ojukwu in Aburi. The fight to preserve the hierarchy and integrity of the Nigerian Army was the very basis of Ojukwu’s disagreement with Yakubu Gowon. Ojukwu has established in clear terms the basis of his vision of a modern state in the "Ahiara declaration."
Higher moral authority
Nigeria has been unable to contradict Ojukwu. Not one of his detractors can make a claim to a higher moral authority, and that, in sum, is the legacy of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. That he fought for the highest principles and values, everything against which Nigeria turned its back: the preservation of human dignity, the integrity of political leadership, the survival of the Igbo and their minority neighbours and the rehabilitation of the Igbo within the polity. Ojukwu continues this fight - the struggle for Igbo rehabilitation has become the struggle of his life - because as he has argued, in his comments to the National Reconciliation Committee (NARECOM), established by the late Sani Abacha "without justice, there would be no reconciliation"
Ojukwu’s critic often point to his "self-demystification" on account of his involvement in politics since his return from exile in 1982; especially his dabbling with the NPN. Ojukwu has himself argued that he does not want to be a "myth" when there is so much work to be done. This is an act of courage. His work, he has said, is to "heal" Nigeria from its demonic self. Others have seen him in the context of his choice of the title: "Eze-Igbo Gburugburu" arguing that Ojukwu wants to be King. But Ojukwu knows his people too well - that there is no word for "King" in Igbo. That the word "Eze" means "leader" and not King. He has in his own subtle way said that he reigns in the heart and not on the throne. And he is right in taking the role - Eze Igbo gburugburu - it means, only one thing: the burden of true leadership - the leadership of the Assembly of Ndi Igbo. It did not begin today, it began with that song: "Ojukwu wu Eze Biafra…" - Ojukwu is the leader of Biafra. Destiny thrust that role upon him. He has borne it with great strength and character. There is no doubt that Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu has faltered, made mistakes, and made some questionable choices in his dialogue with his people - but he is not an infallible deity, although many people would prefer him to be; he is just a great leader. The greatest leader of his people in the other half of the 20th century. Buffeted, spat upon, exiled and isolated, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu still reigns in the heart of the people - the Igbo - to whom he has sacrificed his career, his wealth, and even his health.
While some strange ones strut about making claims to Igbo leadership, the Igbo know who their true leaders are. The evidence is there, whenever Ojukwu speaks, the true Igbo listens because they judge him to be true. Hopefully, when he has batted a century and not out, and shed his mortal body, the true Igbo shall raise their voice in that song:
Enyi o, enyi o o…
Enyi Biafra ala la -
Enyi Biafra ala a la …
Enyi Biafra ala la -
Odumegwu-Ojukwu bu enyi Biafra
They shall wrap that body in the green and black colours of the struggle, with its sign of the rising sun, and place it carefully into the vaults and it shall it shall enter into the pantheon of Igbo deities. That is what his chi prepared for Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
Biafra/Nigeria (Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity)
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