Former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings could not have said it any better in his eulogy of General Chukwuemeka Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu the freedom fight, when he noted that the reasons that precipitated the Nigerian and Biafran genocidal war are still very much prevalent today. Indeed a glance at the contemporary political class and so-called leadership in the Nigerian landscape reveals a minority that is out of step and out of touch with the governing masses. These officials such as the presidency, ministers, the senators, and the representatives of the Nigerian National Assembly are so distant from reality, that they think Abuja can inoculate them from the on-going rampaging social economic infernos and security upheavals. It is our hope that the laying to rest of the social justice impresario who was involved in championing national reconciliation, the protection of the Ibos, and by extension all marginalized ethnicities in Africa, would push our so-called leaders on the right track.
Mere encomiums pale in describing an Icon who did not seek the limelight of history but was thrust into the lime of one of the most gruesome wars in recent memory. As we mourn the late Biafra Head of state, is should be worth noting that he was born in relative opulence but used his position and resources to defend his people. A careful analysis of the Nigerian history reveals Ojukwu as an enigmatic soldier that was never involved in any coup d’état. Instead he served his nation at every point when he was needed by his motherland. An attempt to compare this heroic figure with his contemporaries and/or today’s leaders results in the sad reality of acknowledging the retrogressive state of our nation. Most of his contemporaries consciously and inadvertently led us into the current mess in Nigeria. Similarly, current statespersons and benefactors of the system are so engulfed with their short term gains and visionlessness that they remain resistant to legitimate calls by participants of the Occupy Nigeria Movement and the advocates of the Sovereign National Conference.
Some segments of the Nigerian society have questioned the veneration of late Dim Ojukwu. They have cast aspersions on the numerous local and international opinion writers, factual historians, and newspaper organizations that have written glowingly about General Ojukwu. However, the reality is that what we are witnessing is the retelling of the “Honest United Nations of Nigeria History” as opposed to the wishy-washy and pseudo history of General Yakubu Jack Gowon and company who proclaimed “No Victor No Vanquish” and “Go On With ‘One Nigeria.’” Opponents of these facts need to realize that the ingenuity with previous chronology of events in Nigeria is some of the reasons behind the retardation of progress in the Disunited Nations of Nigeria. After 51years of independence we are presented with a society where the so-called leaders have squandered and stolen billions of oil revenues, and basically crumbled the infrastructures that were in existence, while refusing to build new once, and setting up others as fronts to embezzle with impunity.
General Ojukwu was never a participant in the fleecing of Nigeria that continues to happen today. Neither was he part of the first Nigerian coup of 1966 which was orchestrated by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu the idealistic Nigerian equivalent of Lt. Col. Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, nor was he part of any other unnecessary insurrection. As a decent human being who was born in present day Niger State in northern Nigeria, Ojukwu opposed the senseless violence of the failed coup. Six months later when Major Theophilus Danjuma, Lt. Colonel Murtala Mohammed, and Lt. Colonel Yakubu J. Gowon, and their middle belt and northern cohorts assassinated General Thomas Aguyi -Ironsi the Head of State and Lt. Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi the Western region governor, General Ojukwu the eastern governor remained even keeled. His patience continued despite the ethnic cleansing of Igbo military officers from the ranks of the Nigerian Military. Ikemba (Ojukwu) as he is fondly referred was only forced to react after the pogrom of easterners in the north and some reported killings in the west. For example, thousands of corpses including those of children and disemboweled pregnant women were sent from the north back to eastern Nigeria.
Interestingly, this was at the same time when the western sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo became a convert to the anti-Igbo views of his political archrival and fellow founding member of the Action Group party Chief Samuel L. Akintola. As a head of the national opposition in the first republic and after his antics in western Nigeria which landed him in prison, Chief Awolowo was released from prison. General Jack Gowon then appointed him to the positions of Federal Commissioner of Finance and the Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council. Under the said auspices he subsequently led the think tank on how to destroy General Ojukwu and the Ibo nation during the war. When Ojukwu negotiated the confederate nation as embodied in the Aburi Accord, Chief Awolowo was instrumental in getting General Gowon to renege on the agreement reached in Ghana.
Currently we have so-called elder statesmen like Alhaji Tanko Yakassai and modern fellows like Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Rep. Mohammed Monguno (ANPP), Rep. Toby Okechukwu (PDP), and Rep. Zakari Mohammed (PDP) among others questioning the necessity for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC). Mr. Monguno reports that by electing thieves/representatives we surrendered our sovereignty. Though, our legitimate agitations for the reduction of their salaries, bonuses, and allowances are met with vociferous resistance. Senator Abaribe proclaims the possibility of anarchy when the truth is that he is a slave to the Nigerian Military designed and sanctioned 1999 Constitution. Mr. Mohammed the National Assembly Chair of Public Affairs suggests that the calls for the SNC are unnecessary because he is a beneficiary of the status quo. What else could be a more compelling prerequisite for the SNC, than the sad reality that majority of our elected officials and political appointees willfully assume public office with the male in se of draining our national treasury?
When we reckon that billions and millions are stolen from the nation in broad day light by individuals such as Rep. Dimeji Bankole, Governor Dr. Peter Odili, Governor Ikedi Ohakim, Governor T.A. Orji, and Governor James Ibori to mention a few, then we begin to realize the significance of Chief Ojukwu. Dim was light years ahead of his contemporaries and the current crop of Nigerian, Niger Delta, and Igbo leaders. His attributes empowered young men like my father to volunteer for the Biafra army before the eventually conscription of young boys to defend their ancestral land. Ojukwu canvassed for a confederation union in 1967 (ala today’s Sovereign National Conference) as a means to curb the power intoxication and corruption from the central government. Is it any surprise that we have an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that cannot successfully prosecute political and economic criminals? Instead we have surrendered the sovereign of our judiciary to the London metropolitan police to jail persons such as Governor Chief Ibori. Our EFCC is a bribery brokerage shield and/or elitist political patronage center to pay off judges, law enforcement officers, and impede the laws of the land.
Dedicated to Chief Chukwuemeka Dim Odumegu Ojukwu and his friend Professor Wole Soyinka
Nnamdi F. Akwada MSW, BA is a Social Justice Activist