Nigeria’s refusal to respect Aburi accord forced Ojukwu to lead Biafra.
USAfrica: Throughout North America and around the world, NdiIgbo are coming together in their organizations to celebrate the life and November 2011 passing of the Ikemba Nnewi, Eze-Igbo-Gburugburu, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Emeka Ojukwu. He was, indisputably, one of the two or three most renowned and significant Igbo sons.
He was the scion of a wealthy Nnewi family and, as many commentators have already written and said, he could have lived out his life in luxury and opulent laziness. But his Chi – that divine spark that is in all of us, and which shapes our
destiny – led him, first into the Nigerian administrative services and later, into the Nigerian army. The rest, as they say, is history.
His name will, for ever, be linked to Biafra. The civil war that rent the heart of
Nigeria was fought, not because Emeka Ojukwu – in an excess of ambition – led
his Eastern Nigeria into the ill-fated attempt to secede from Nigeria. All objective
assessments of the events that led to that fratricidal war have cleared Ojukwu of
the stigma of an egomaniacal ambition. Even the Encyclopaedia Britannica – and
Britain was no friend of Biafra – exonerates Ojukwu on this issue, and recognized
that only popular pressure from his fellow Eastern Nigerians compelled him to
declare Biafra’s secession from Nigeria. All he wanted, and proposed to the all-
party meeting in Aburi, Ghana, was the loosening of the excessively rigid umbilical
cords that held the Nigerian hotchpotch together, so that Nigeria could evolve
into a weak federation-type government that would allow the major ethnicities
As it turned out, the Aburi agreement was not worth the paper on which it was printed. The Federal government of General Gowon unexpectedly backed away from the terms agreed, which inevitably led to the civil war. Nigeria, with vastly superior weaponry, invaded Biafra, fired the first salvoes, and was strongly supported by the United Kingdom and the communist Soviet Union, in an unholy alliance that eventually snuffed out the fledgling Biafran nation. An impious alliance that did not hesitate to use starvation as a weapon of war against Biafra’s children!
I am indebted to Chris Ukachukwu for his two internet postings of January 5 and 6, 2011. The January 5 posting was Ojukwu’s speech to the South-East Elders and Leaders on March 5, 2010, in Owerri. The other was a selection of Ojukwu’s quotes.
I was struck by Ojukwu’s reference to Nigeria as “OUR GOD-GIVEN COUNTRY”. Of all the likely descriptions of Nigeria by, especially, an Emeka Ojukwu, I would have least expected him to use those words. My reaction might well be because I (as insignificant a Biafran as you are likely to meet) would
have indignantly shrunk from giving Nigeria that divinely worded accolade. But of course Ojukwu used that description of Nigeria to upbraid the Igbo for our timidity in asserting ourselves and our rights in a country that we – more than every other ethnicity – have helped to build, and in which we should “act as the adhesive force holding the Nigerian fabric together”.
It is matter for regret that Ojukwu did not live long enough to bring to fruition
the publication of his book that he had hoped would tell the unvarnished story
of Biafra and of the civil war. A story that he hoped would have shown that
NdiIgbo “are nation-builders and not nation-wreckers”!
Ojukwu’s reflections on his Igbo people ring with fierce pride in our abilities as
a people, and regret that, as a people, we Igbo seem to have resigned ourselves
to the role of playing second fiddle in the life of Nigeria. In his address to the
assembled Igbo leaders and elders in Owerri, not quite two years ago, Ojukwu
expressed his ardent desire and hope that NdiIgbo “shall regain their political
relevance in Nigeria, without violence, in MY LIFETIME”. He urged the nurturing
and strengthening of internal unity and cohesion in the Igbo nation, and – in his
own words – “the re-establishment and strengthening of the authority structures
and sanction mechanisms in Igboland”. I believe this to be a direct reference to
the Ohaneze NdiIgbo, the successor organization to the Igbo State Union,
which was a potent force for advancing Igbo interests.
My family and I lived in far-away Europe during the entire duration of the Biafra-
Nigeria civil war, and for a little over a year before it started. We had our three square meals every day, and only suffered vicariously because we felt deep,
heart-wrenching anguish for the Biafrans, especially the children, who were being
starved to death by the superior military strength of Nigeria – a situation in which
the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union were criminally complicit.
We Biafrans, resident in Switzerland, and indeed elsewhere in Europe, felt fierce
pride in Biafra. Pride in the intrepidity of her soldiers against overwhelming odds!
Pride in the remarkable ingenuity of the Biafran scientists and technologists who,
from scratch, produced the deadly OGBUNIGWE (otherwise known as SHORE-
BATTERY) that, at least partially gave the “vandals” a taste –however minimally –
of the havoc they wrecked on our Biafran soldiers and hapless civilians! Pride in
the Biafran scientists and technologists who found ways to refine our petroleum
– an example and an achievement that a wiser Nigeria should have embraced and
taken further, to reduce our shameful dependence today on imported refined oil!
We held our heads high as we walked the streets and boulevards of Europe, and
grabbed every opportunity to introduce ourselves as Biafrans. And almost always
our interlocutors reacted with what sounded like genuinely warm praise for Biafra
and Emeka Ojukwu. They would pump our hands enthusiastically. When, as soon
became inevitable, the end came, there was a very audible sigh of anguish from a
thousand Biafran and sympathetic European throats around Europe.
It might have been Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s manifest destiny to try to
lead the Igbo nation and their immediate neighbors out of a Nigeria that was and
– as of this writing – still remains at best an artificial agglomeration of ethnicities.
A Nigeria where the Igbo have been, and still are, subjected to cruel martyrdom,
for the sole reason that we are Igbo and Christian!
If it was indeed his CHI that predetermined the course his life would take, I join
everyone else in saying to Dim Emeka Ojukwu: “You were divinely ordained to
be our man of destiny and, but for the obscenely insurmountable odds stacked
against you, you would have fulfilled that destiny. But your work may not
necessarily have come to a full stop with your passing. You have lit a flame which
seems temporarily to have been extinguished. But the idea and notion of Biafra lives on. And, sooner or later, the world – the United Nations Organization – will
sit up, and do for the Igbo what it has done for Southern Sudan. And when that
happens, you – our EzeIgbo Gburugburu – would finally have a memorial befitting
your unparalleled work and strivings for your people.”
We will probably never see his like in our lifetime, and then some. He bestrode
the Nigerian firmament like the colossus that he was. May his soul rest in perfect peace!!
•Nnabuenyi Chike Momah, one of the late 1940s graduate of the Government College Umuahia, is an author of several novels and retired international agencies staff currently residing in Arlington, Texas. His book review-exclusive interview with USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu will be published here on USAfricaonline.com and across the platforms of USAfrica e-groups on March 7, 2012.
USAfrica: Ikemba ODUMEGWU OJUKWU’s farewell in Aba, today February 28, 2012, reflected a fitting tribute, historically meaningful celebration, proper regard and deserving appreciation of the greatest Igbo, in my opinion, to have ever lived (like him or hate him).
I SALUTE Aba (aka Enyimba city), the robust and fearless town I was born, bred and raised, for giving the Ikemba, our Ochiagha, Gburugburu, Oka oburu uzo, dike na ndu ma n’onwu, mgbadike anyi, a hero’s farewell.
To the Ikemba, may your valiant soul rest in peace and dignity.
We will, and I, Chido Nwangwu, will never forget to continue to tell my generation and the next about your towering courage through tempest and thunder; through sorrow, pain, tears, blood….
•Dr. Chido Nwangwu, Founder & Publisher of USAfrica multimedia networks, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; and recipient of several journalism and public policy awards, was recently profiled by the CNN International for his pioneering works on multimedia/news/public policy projects for Africans and Americans. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2010/07/29/mpa.african.media.bk.a.cnn.
• For seasoned insights and breaking news on these issues, log on to USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica powered e-groups including Nigeria360 at yahoogroups and USAfrica at googlegroups. Follow us at Facebook.com/USAfricaChido and Twitter.com/Chido247
WHY I CELEBRATE THE LIFE AND WORKS OF NELSON MANDELA. By Chido Nwangwu http://usafricaonline.com/2010/07/15/mandela-why-i-celebrate-his-life-works-by-chido-nwangwu/
Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, USAfricaonline.com and the Nigeria360 e-group. http://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/ : IF any of the Nigerian President’s 100 advisers has the polite courage for the extraordinary task of reminding His Excellency of his foremost, sworn, constitutional obligation to the national interest about security and safety of Nigerians and all who sojourn in Nigeria, please whisper clearly to Mr. President that I said, respectfully: Nigerians, at home and abroad, are still concerned and afraid for living in what I call Nigeria’s Federal Republic of Insecurity. FULL text of commentary at USAfricaonline.com http://usafricaonline.com/2011/12/17/nigeria-federal-republic-of-insecurity-by-chido-nwangwu/
Related insight: USAfrica’s October 17, 2001 special report/alert: Nigeria’s bin-Laden cheerleaders could ignite religious war, destabilize Africa. By USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu. http://usafricaonline.com/chido.binladennigeria.html
310 killed by Nigeria’s ‘talibans’ in Bauchi, Yobe n Maiduguri; crises escalate. USAfricaonline.com on July 28, 2009. www.usafricaonline.com/chido.ngrtalibans09.html
Related and prior reporting on the Jos crises on USAfrica, click here: http://usafricaonline.com/2011/08/16/10-killed-in-renewed-violence-near-jos/
News archives related to Jos, here http://usafricaonline.com/?s=jos
USAfrica: As Egypt’s corrupter-in-chief Mubarak slides into history’s dustbin. By Chido Nwangwu. http://usafricaonline.com/2011/01/30/chido-nwangwu-as-egypt-corrupter-in-chief-mubarak-slides-into-historys-dustbin-egyptians-not-waiting-for-obama-and-united-nations/
Tunisia, Egypt . . . Is Nigeria next? By Prof. Rosaire Ifedi http://usafricaonline.com/2011/02/13/tunisia-egypt-is-nigeria-next-by-prof-rosaire-ifedi/