TranscriptCNN International interview with Nigeria'sPresident Obasanjo and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu onDemocracyand Security Issues

"Until my last dying breath, I shall continueto think of my Jerusalem, Biafra!" Odumegwu Ojukwu

Interview by Prof. Kalu Ogbaa
Special and Exclusive to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston,USAfricaonline.com,CLASS magazine andIgboEvents


(Archiving of this report /interview on any website without the written consent of USAfrica Publisherand Prof. Ogbaa will be a violationof intellectual property laws. Web links to this page and any otherpart of USAfrica Multimedia networks aregranted)

On October 6, 2005, the former Head of State of the Republic ofBiafra, His Excellency, Chukwuemeka OdumegwuOjukwu, General of the People's Army, the Ikemba Nnewi, and DimNdigbo in Maryland, USA granted an exclusive interview to Kalu Ogbaa,Professor of English and Africana literary and cultural studies atSouthern Connecticut State University, New Haven, USA, andcontributing editor ofUSAfricaonline.com and IgboEvents. Ojukwu made certain pre-interviewremarks which, not only set the tone and tenor of the entireinterview but characterize the depth of his undying commitment andlove for Ndigbo in particular and his fellow Nigerians ingeneral.

He cited, passionately, some incidents which validated some of hispositions and claims. For example, General Ojukwu revealed that, asrecently as August 2004, he paid a private visit to Obasanjo at Abujato see how they both could find a way to work together for peace inNigeria. As they discussed, Obasanjo asked him why he Ojukwu hatedhim so much. Ojukwu said to him, "Omo-Oba, I do not hate you. As aChristian, I cannot hate you. But since you have asked that question,let me follow with another question which, perhaps, might be able toexplain what we feel. 'Omo-Oba' (that's what I call him), 'Why do youhate my people so?' I myself do not hate your people, if you do. Onthat side, I have a catalog of activities that are, and can onlyremain inimical to my people's interest: things you have done, andGod knows, I don't see how we have come to deserve it." That was one.In my last press conference, the same question came up. No, beforethen, before I left, he (Obasanjo) then said to me, "You know, wehave no problem; but there's one thing you must do for me." I said tohim, "What is it?" And he said, "Renounce Biafra so that we can worktogether!" My response was, "No, never! How can I? You see, Omo-Oba,I came to you thinking I was coming to a friend, and all you can askof me is to commit suicide. I don't know what type of friendship thisis. No, you're groping."

Then in a press conference I was asked, "Why do you keepon….?" I said, "This is a question I have been trying to answerover the years: 'Because I am involved' is, by way of response, toexplain to you why I do certain things." And then I said, "What I amdoing today has been foreseen in the Bible. In Psalm 137 (King Jamesversion), you find where the Psalmist said that he would always lookto Jerusalem, and should he for one day forget to look to Jerusalem,may his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth" [a paraphrase ofverses 4-6]. That is my position today. I don't have to set up agovernment of Biafra nor sit on the throne of Biafra. No! Mysatisfaction is already within me. And until my last dying breath, Ishall continue to think of my Jerusalem, Biafra!

Thank you, Sir.

And more than that, I go further to make it very clear that I findit wrong (and it is very wrong); I cannot sing my Lord's song in astrange land. What is my Lord's song? It is just a song offreedom.

That's right!

What I mean by that freedom I know is just the freedom of mypeople that I can't get in Nigeria. So, I will sing it in Biafra.

But let's go on. If you want to interview me so that you have morebody to your writing, of-course, it is the least I will do. You havethe greater, the greater gift from God, which is the ability to writedown the story of our people. When I look at you and Ikejiani, and Ilook at Chinua [Achebe], I feel, thank God that we havepeople who can, with their pen, confirm the story into immortality.But you see, because I am an Nnewi man, I always look for profit; andI'm not ashamed of that. When we get to talk, I will then put my ownpet project before you. I'm still looking for somebody who will helpme realize it. And that is that over the years, everybody talks aboutBiafra; everybody gets inspired one way or the other in the storiesof Biafra. But the first thing you should know is that the story ofBiafra is not the story to be told by one man. The only deservingvehicle for that story that is what I have decided is a story to betold through the mouths of million men and women. It's a giganticthing. There is no family &endash; none -- that hasn't been affectedone way or the other by Biafra. The story is simple because it's asimple people's story. It's not to be written in the halls of IvoryTowers and so on. No, under the trees! One person's story probably isabout a page of foolscap or two pages in an exercise book. Well, thatis all. Okeke Okafor: his passport photograph is there; age this,living here; this is what he's done; he's a bicycle repairer. This ishis story: one page, a page and a half…and once he's done it, hedoesn't need more. But my attitude is that it should be really good.And so it is pretentious for me to dabble into it. Who am I to writeabout Biafra? No, it's a gigantic stripe by a human group, and it canonly be told by a million mouths.

If you go to the Holocaust Museum (that's where I got the idea,not unique at all), there is an area you just come, and all you seeare little things like pamphlets, passport size, you know; juststories, stories, and stories by the people. This is the only wayI've said it. They have done it, but can you imagine anywhere wedesignate as our own, almost carelessly too, littered with a millionstories of Ndigbo maka onwe ha, maka ife fa jiri anya fu, makanzoputa fa [for their own sake, about what they have seen withtheir own eyes, and for their own salvation]? That is anotherchallenge. But if you come to my house, Prof., take me as I am. Askyour questions, and I will give you the best my memory can give me.I've done it before. I did it for Frederick Forsythe onye ocha [awhite man]. I look forward to doing it for nwanne nke munwa[my own brother].

Thank you, Sir. I appreciate that!


The Ojukwu 2005 Interview:
Special and Exclusive to USAfricaonline.com, CLASSmagazine and IgboEvents

Prof. Ogbaa: General Ojukwu, the Ikemba Nnewi, and Dim Ndigbo,you were born on November 4, 1933 in Zungeru, a town in NorthernNigeria, raised in Lagos, a town in Western Nigeria, to parents whohailed from Nnewi, a town in Eastern Nigeria. How did yourexperiences in all three regions of the erstwhile Nigeria affect yourservices to the Nigerian nation?

I don't think I'm the first …far from it…. There've beenmany prominent, and even preeminent, Nigerians who were born not justin the North and moved around but were born in Zungeru, brought up inLagos, and are of Eastern extraction. I don't know how to put this,but we grew up actually thinking of one Nigeria, and you can thenunderstand that, for me, for many years I considered that phenomenon:born in the North, trained in the West, and of Eastern extraction. Iconsidered it a great asset, because it made me feel freer than inany part of Nigeria. But beyond that also, there's this other asset(you wouldn't believe this): I speak the three languages too. Theyare preeminent languages in the three areas, so that language beingwhat it is, a vehicle of culture, I find that I've driven furtherinto the various cultures more than a few other people. And as I grewup, I grew up thinking myself a Yoruba man. That's what I thought;and I remember it was the excess of that that actually had the effectyou now see in my own make up. Of-course, I was brought up at a timewhen it was thought that, perhaps, the best cure for malaria can begleaned from the fumes of boiling dog meat. So when one of myfather's chauffeurs was very sick, we tried everything but becausenothing worked, eventually this was to be tried. I was horrified as aYoruba then. And when the dog in its extreme started yelping, I ranoutside calling on my Yoruba mates to come and watch these kobokobos[witch doctors of Northern extraction] whom I alleged hadstarted the ritual of killing and eating a human being. That's howthorough a Yoruba man I was.

People always refer to you as the son of Sir Louis OdumegwuOjukwu, a business tycoon who was believed to be Nigeria's firstmillionaire; and yet, knowing the incredible nurturing job Igbomothers do behind the scenes, could you tell us a little bit aboutyour mother, whom you always fondly refer to simply as Mama, and whatis her name?

What's her name? That's very simple, Grace; maiden name Ogbonnia,then of-course Ojukwu. She is from Ogbakuba in Ogbaru. I'm partlyOgbaru. If you know anything about Ogbaru people, you'll realize alsothey have this fondness for what they call Nwadiani [maternalgrandchild], and for that, I only have to step into Ogbarulandand I become a celebrity because I am one of them. Beyond that, also,in Ogbakuba, her father (that is my grandfather) was a chief and histitle was Ogene. And according to their tradition, as soon as I walkinto Ogbakuba, I become the Ogene, and throughout my stay there I amreferred to as Ogene, given the respect they would give to the chiefmy grandfather. My mother was living with a sister of hers inZungeru. Well, she lived all over the North for a long period, infact, so much so that in the North, I'm more known not as EmekaOjukwu but as Emeka dan Mama [Emeka the son of Mama].Everybody referred to her as Mama. Yes, and up till today, wheneverthey have any local problems local in Ogbakuba, they would come to meat least to listen to what advice I can give them. They really lookupon me as a member of their clan. And that's how it should be.Of-course, in Igboland, my mother, according to them, never reallyleft. She is an extension of their clan in Nnewi. That's the way theylook at it.

In your book, Because I Am Involved, you assert that "Prior toIndependence, I had supported the call for national integration&endash; indeed my enlistment into the Nigeria Army had beenpartially because the army remained, at that time, the onlyrespectable pan-Nigerian service available to a Nigerian patriot"(xiv). Could you describe your life as a soldier in the Nigeria Armyup to the first military coup of January 15, 1966?

My enlistment into the Nigeria Army, to say the least, startledeverybody in Nigeria who heard of it. I went to Zaria and enlisted. Idid that mainly because I didn't want any interference from thewell-meaning influence of my father. I joined the Army, signed up,but I wasn't to be spared the embarrassment because it didn't take aweek my father was aware of it. And he did everything possible tostop the enlistment. That is why, despite my educational background,I was not enlisted as an officer cadet. The general idea was that itwas agreed between the Governor General and my father that the bestway actually was to let me go into the army, and I would see formyself what the army truly was. I don't think that they took intofull consideration the level of stubbornness I must have acquiredfrom my father as well, because I remember that the question alwayscame to Zaria from Lagos, "How is he getting on?" Of-course, theywere all expecting me to give up the next day. It was difficult, Imust say. I never understood certain things that were very dumb inthe army. For example, there is hazing; it is not aesthetic; nothing.Why should you have your hair cut by putting your rice bowl on yourhead and then every bit of hair visible under the bowl cleared, andthat was a hair cut? I thought that was a bit ridiculous. But it wasdone. There were other things. For example, I never got used toqueuing up carrying my rice bowl in hand. I thought that was a bitdegrading, but since I knew that my being in the army was also a lifechallenge, I went along with these things.

Oh, while we are still talking about the army, you might beinterested to learn that I had to put myself under Sergeant Majors;Sergeants that were thoroughly, thoroughly illiterate. I had toundergo the humiliation, once I remember quite clearly. I was lockedup and charged before the Commanding Officer of the Depot, and thecrime I had committed was I could not speak English. Can you imaginethat! And what brought all this about? In their usual way of teachingus arms drill, weapon training, parts of the rifle were pointed outfor everybody to name them, you know. And there was this peculiarlittle part. I knew what it was. Others tried to guess what the namewas, and finally somebody said the name was "sapler ka". And we wereall made to repeat "sapler ka"; Again, "sapler ka", again, "saplerka". In my own subtle way, I put up my hand…. "Yes, what do youwant?" the Sergeant Major shouted. I said to him, "Sir, there is nosuch word in English dictionary as 'sapler ka'. The word is 'safetycatch'." That was a bit too much for him. That's how I was reallydoubled, "Left, Right; Left, Right …," and locked into thedetention room. And, having locked me up, of-course, he had tojustify it with a charge; and the only charge that seemed appropriateto him was that I couldn't speak English.

Well, in a funny way, that helped me a lot, because the Adjutantsaw this and burst out laughing because he'd known my background. Hetook it to the Second-in-Command, and they both laughed over it, anddecided how to handle it. At the appropriate time, I was marchedbefore eight peeping warders and ordered to sit down. I wassupposedly not able to speak English. However, I got in and gave myown version of the incident. Unfortunately for the Sergeant Major,the Adjutant and the Second-in-Command couldn't hold themselves, andthey burst out laughing. The thing you don't do. So, of-course,everything was dismissed very quickly, because a Sergeant Majorshouldn't feel humiliated. And it was decided from that moment that Ishould not actually parade with the other soldiers.

So the incident became a blessing in disguise?

Yes, I was given special duties as an Aide-de-camp to theSecond-in-Command. So I spent quite some very enjoyable times, if Imight say so, with my duties consisting of accompanying mySecond-in-Command's wife to shopping, and taking his daughters ridingand playing tennis. Certainly, that was not a bad time in theArmy.

Was he a foreigner?

Oh yes, English! The English people….

Oh, OK!

So you can now imagine, with that type of background in the army,that as soon as the next opportunity came, I was fully recommendedfor training as officer cadet in the Officer Cadet Training School,Eton Hall, England, and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in theNigeria Army. That's how I side-stepped the conspiracy between myfather and the Governor General, and ….

Who was the Governor?

His name was McPherson. … And that's how it happened.

Furthermore, you said, "As the independence of Nigeria wasbeing ushered in, I began to urge for a conscious diffusion ofethnicity as the true beginning of nation-building." Could you tellus what diffusion involves, and why the Nigerian leaders then and noware unable to implement it?

What I meant by diffusion of ethnicity actually was that youcannot build one nation in a situation that consciously separated theparts of a nation. If I am a Nigerian, then let me be a Nigerian: aNigerian as a Nigerian, not a Nigerian of Eastern origin, or aNigerian of Hausa origin. No, that's not it. I began to feel that thebarriers of ethnicity should be removed. In fact, one of my crazythoughts -- I raised it in those days at a contemporary societydiscussion in Lagos -- I said actually that the worst thing we havebarring us from progress was the limitation of our freedom; that ourfreedom should be so total that every Nigerian citizen should be ableto choose what culture he wanted to belong to. That was taking it abit far. But I really believed that if I were free, why can't I lookat the way that the Hausa behave and decide I want to be a Hausa? Andit should not be that I was born an Igbo. Stop! It should be thatthese are the criteria. If you fulfill these, you have a choice. Ihave always believed very firmly that what differentiates men fromanimals is that choice, which is God-given.

Secondly, no matter how important we might be within Creation, weare that species that was granted choice and, therefore, I believethat a lot of problems arise, deriving from man's attempt to limitGod-given freedom of choice. I believe that if you wanted choice(well, this is the foundation, anyway, of my own concept ofdemocracy; I know all of that) that at every stage you should have itwithin you to decide which way to go, either this or that. And,of-course, you would immediately say to me, "Ah, but then that canbring about chaos." I would say many things can bring about chaos.The worst thing, in fact, is by joining the crowd you might hastenchaos. That often happens. For example, take Nigeria as I see ittoday. Everything has been done to nullify our choice of politicalparties. Nobody really considered seen in low level politics shouldbe joining the PDP. But now, automatically, you are a member (youknow that kind of a thing) because they are the most powerful. Theyhold the government; they've maneuvered themselves into getting 90%practically of all representation, and so on and so forth. I wouldlike to see a situation where, no matter what they appear to be, youcan still decide freely and live fully under your choice. To explainit, my idea is that in APGA, you have a choice. I'm not telling youthat we are bigger than PDP, but we will get bigger than PDP because,in fact, we are a democratic group. But that not withstanding, what Iwould like to see is, anybody who wants, should join the AD, APGA,and any other small grouping, provided the choice comes from withinthe man or woman.

I had a rather quaint upbringing. You wouldn't believe this, I'msure: When I was a student, I was a member of the Communist Party inOxford. Yes Emeka Ojukwu. Yes, I was also a member of the YoungConservatives. I also was a member of the Labor Party. Name a newone, and I'll try it. That's part of me. So, you see, I believe thatin a country you say is one, there are certain things that must neveragain be emphasized. You must consciously stop highlighting theethnicity of members of the agglomerate. You want us to be oneNigeria, isn't it? Why do you keep on asking me what my ethnic groupis? It means you yourselves, the authorities don't believe in theoneness. Simple! But if we are strong enough to say, "Banish all ofthese, but grant to the one." Then carry it through. I hope I'mmaking sense.

Yes, you are!

For this is my attitude, and what I consider logic….

But the then politicians thought that the Igbo as well as theYoruba, who were Western educated, would dominate the Hausa, wholooked towards Mecca for their education. Is the fear that the morehighly educated Igbo and Yoruba dominating the government workforcenot the major reason for the resistance against the proposeddiffusion of ethnicity?

When we were children and we got ill, there were many people whothought the local witch doctor was the answer, but because theleaders were truly leaders and knew what was better, they insisted onour going to the doctors. There comes a time you've got to channelpeople in the right way. What I'm saying to you is that no matterwhat they thought, it was wrong for them to keep on emphasizing theethnic origins of members of the agglomerate if they believed we wereone nation.

In some of your antebellum speeches, you identified colonialismand neocolonialism as the main causes of Nigeria's disunity. Wouldyou then say that the pogrom meted against Easterners, especially theIgbo, in other parts of Nigeria was inspired by the colonialistBritish government and its agents in Nigeria?

Eh m, you realize, of-course, that if I said yes, that it would bea great accusation that I'm leveling at the colonialist Britishgovernment. So, I have to respond with some reserve.

That's okay, Sir!

The situation in Nigeria that permitted a primitive people to findand decide upon a final solution to a social problem must believethat the desk of a colonialist masters because the buck must stopsomewhere. The Northerners in Nigeria did not get to where they werein Nigeria through their own effort alone. They were helped activelyby our ex-colonial masters. They were their favorites. They lovedthem. Today, if you go through the Lugard papers, you will see asentence, an idea that keep recurring in the various reports of LordLugard: that the problem of Nigeria is Ibos [the Igbo].That's what you get. But what did the Igbo do to become the problemsof Nigeria? Nothing! In fact, the nearest explanation of that is theterm that Lugard used, which is "uppity" nature. What does that mean?What does it really mean?

Haughty, smart aleck!

Exactly! So, actually, there are many things to look into. Whowere the colonial masters? In Britain, if you are of the nobility,you inherited the name. Then if you didn't, or you feel you didbefore you did, you go into the armed forces. Then from there, if youwere not quite of that level you go into the colonial service. Andeven in the colonial service, there were various levels reserved intheir own society. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand: these weresuperior to the others. Then eventually India was a plumbappointment, and so on. Those that came to Nigeria were pretty lowlevel. But then they still had their imperial pretensions. And alwaysremember that when you are not up to it and you are aspiring to it,it fitted your wish in an odd fashion. So you found, when I was anAdministrative Officer, the most real colonialist officer I met inservice was (listen to his name and you'll see a ring to it) WilliamStanley King, MBE. And he was the one that, forgive me, I didn'trealize how I ran afoul of him. But, unfortunately, I came to servicewith my new car, a Chevrolet Impala, and he was jealous of it. Ididn't know this, but what he really enjoyed most was getting me tosalute his Morris Minor. And every morning he would put on the flagmast a 9"x6" little Union Jack and get me to stand there and salute.He felt he's done something. He was the one that once said to me,"Mr. Ojukwu, you can't go far in this service if all you succeed indoing is overtaking your boss and spraying him with dust." This wasbecause, once we went anywhere, I wanted to get there first, but heresented that. It's one of those things. So, you see, the Britishcolonial officers (some very nice ones and friends) came to Nigeriaand looked upon the North as the most civilized. You know why? Mostof them had never seen a game of Polo in their lives, but they werebrought up in a society that considered Polo the pastime of kings.So, to find themselves in Nigeria now playing Polo with the NorthernEmirs was something special! And little things like that made adifference to them. If you read some of the papers now coming outfree from the security blankets, you will be amazed by the amount ofrigging the British did for the North.

During the Nigerian Civil War a.k.a. Nigeria-Biafra War(1967-1970), you served as the General of the Biafran People's Army.Could you tell us in a nutshell the causes of that war?

All I've been discussing with you were partly causes of the war.What I hope you have noticed by now is that after independence,Nigeria was seething. Things were just not right. In 1960, there wereinternal adjustments to be done. Remember the various leaders, wholed our various delegations to the Whitehall to seek independencewent to the Whitehall without any formal mandate. But what is evenmore tragic was that in a rather facile way, they understood thatwhat was expected of them was to get back for Nigeria independence.That was all. Some members of the delegation that went to theWhitehall heard the word federalism or federation only in theWhitehall. They never heard of the term before, and they didn't knowwhat it meant. It was a new term presented to them by the ColonialOffice that they had to accept or reject. You can understand thatwhat happened there (and I say this just as a matter of fact) wasthat they ended up all thinking and asking, and being led to believethat they've done their duty. Because they kept on asking, "If weaccept federation, do we get independence?" Naturally, the answer was"Yes, yes! So what are you waiting for? Accept!"

That's the Nigerian contingent?

Yes. They got there and were given this notion of federalism,which they accepted. You should remember too that when the North gota bit nervous about the content of this independence, they wereassured by the British that, under federalism, nothing would affecttheir status. Our leaders left Whitehall each having differentnotions about the post-independence Nigeria. And the Nigerians theygot back to, all we were listening for was "Are we going to beindependent?" Yes! Finish! The celebrations began. I regret to saythat we've continued celebrating till today. The only thing is thatwe find today that less people are celebrating with us. That's all.It's tragic! Celebrating what? Independence? The least we would haveexpected is political independence. We didn't even have that. Go backto the archives, and you will notice that the very first thing thatthe British government did when the struggle for independence beganwas to shift the regional boundaries. Oh yes! The way that Godcreated Nigeria (look at your map) was normal, and that was theregional thing. The Western limit was Jebba; Eastern limit, Makurdi.And when did the boundaries shift southwards? It was in this hurry togive, built into our independence, a Northern preponderance. That'sall. Even today, I don't think that they've changed everything. Forthere are many things, such as E.C.N. and N.E.P.A., I think are stillin the Western side that ends today at Jebba; the Eastern at Makurdi.We didn't know all this. I'm not using it as an excuse. No, it's allpolitics. However, whenever we learn, what I want is we do somethingabout it. That is all.

The British created a situation that the North exploited verywell. And since the British were sort of our mentors and they gavethe final responses, they retained to themselves a certain imperialwisdom that whenever in doubt you ask the British they tell you. Thisis the problem. They made the North preponderant. We know that SheikUthman dan Fodio didn't conquer what they ascribed to him. We knowthat. But the people, as a result of false history, were put underthe yoke of Fulani imperialism. We know that the brand of Islam thatcame to Nigeria was Sunni brand. We know that up till that theSunnites are vehemently opposed to any form of federalism (Go andcheck your news about Iraq). Because, as collectivists who regardIslam as a way of life, politically and religiously, they believethat the aggregate must be under one male fist. As far as they areconcerned, Nigeria is one aggregate, and must be firmly under thefist of the Caliphate. That's where we are doing, and that has alwaysbeen our problem.

The thing I have always found difficult is trying to have asituation of live and let live with the Sunnites, and this has beenexacerbated by the Islamic Revolution coming under the guise ofFundamentalism. You find that the Northern Moslems identify joyfullywith the extremist Islam. You will find that when the world stoodhorrified by the bombing of the Twin Towers in New York, the highestgroup of people that celebrated it publicly was the Nigerian Moslemsin the North.

As far as I'm concerned, the Americans have their own policy. I amtheir friend, but I think they are more qualified than I to fighttheir own wars. What I'm saying is that, in Nigeria, the people ofthe South are more in tune with America of today. And I warn thatgiven the chance, the Northern Moslems will go extremists, like theyhave done everywhere else on God's earth. They've done it everywhere.There will be wars we will fight. It's not accidental that SaddamHussein, in a country fully Moslem, should keep alive a flame ofinternal war. When there is nothing to fight, the Sunnites will fightthe Shiites, and so on, and so forth.

In your book, Biafra: Random Thoughts, you assert that "Ourstruggle is a positive commitment to build a healthy, dynamic, andprogressive state which will be a bulwark against neocolonialism, andthe pride of black men the world over"(xii). Was this the reason whyGreat Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States helped tocrush the revolution, and were you disappointed that the black menthe world over did not get the message and so failed to assist theBiafrans in their struggle?

Disappointed? Yes. Actually, I'm disappointed very much with myown British education. When you are at school in those formativeyears learning a few things, I wonder what you remember more thanothers. To tell you the way my mind is set, of all the poems I heardvery young, it was Thomas Babington Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient Rome"(especially the following lines) that fired my imagination:

 

"Horatius"

But the Consul's brow was sad,

And the Consul's speech was low,

And darkly looked he at the wall,

And darkly at the foe.

"The van will be upon us

Before the bridge goes down;

And if they once may win the bridge,

What hope to save the town?"

Then out spake brave Horatius,

The Captain of the Gate:

"To every man upon this earth

Death cometh sooner or later.

And how can a man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the temples of his gods" (Lays XXV1 & XXVII)

 

All my life, that is the image I've held onto.

Ebube dike! [Fearless one!]

The last book I'm preparing now is to explain my own living toface the fearful odds. You are nothing if you cannot face fearfulodds for your ancestors! Oh no: for the ashes of their fathers andthe temples of our gods. There's no better way. So, you see when youthe British talked about what influence this, what influence that, Ifelt thoroughly disappointed that you took me from nowhere and dumpedme. What about the Honor of Horatio, the Patriotism of Horatio, theCourage of Horatio? And then you rejected me when I tried toexemplify those things you taught me. You could say that I'm not upto this, I haven't quite done this, I will understand. But to say tome, because I'm a black man, "No, you have no right to feel the wayyou feel," you leave me with no option than to fight to show you thatyou are wrong. That's why, all my life, I keep fighting to showpeople that they are wrong.

I'm proud of the dynamic society I built up in Biafra. Forexample, last Saturday, here in Greenbelt, Maryland, I was talking toa group of Nigerians and American Blacks in a Nigerian occasion, andI said, "You are all drinking beer here but I can assure that youreally haven't tasted good beer until you have tasted that onemanufactured in Biafra. You're drinking gin, whisky? Ours are betterbecause, in every bit of what we manufactured, there was that littleelement that makes something to surpass others, which is that therewas freedom in it at all stages!" My airport, the Biafra airport, atnight, was the busiest on the continent of Africa. No two ways aboutit ….

I'm sure you are aware of the book, Nigeria and Biafra: MyStory, your Second-in-Command Major General Efiong published in 2004.Some readers believe that he is a good story teller and commentator,but his poor critical analysis of events and people led him to takeswipes at tactics, strategies, and overall leadership role in theconduct of the war. Can we talk about some issues he raised in thebook?

Yes. Why not?

In Chapter 8 of the book, General Effiong accuses you ofpolitical naivete. He exemplifies that by referring to yourinsistence that Babafemi Ogundipe, the highest ranking officer,should have succeeded General Aguiyi-Ironsi and not Lt. ColonelGowon. Also, that as far as you were concerned, the countercoup of 29July, 1966 did not succeed in the East and as such you had noobligation to abide by or be bound by decisions taken in Lagoswithout your consent. He says, "What Ojukwu was doing was todeliberately ignore the political realities of the time, and pretendthat he was not aware that the contention was not a purely militaryone but an open political power tussle between the North and theSouth" (157). What's your answer to this charge?

Respond to a charge? I haven't heard of any charge yet. Whateverhe says, his own responses are there.

That's my word; I'm not using it from the legal standpoint,though.

Oh, look at him! Actually, when Ugorji O. Ugorji [late BiafraGen. Effiong's book publisher] was trumpeting the book, Icontacted him and said, "Do you truly understand what you are doing?"Well, there was confusion in Nigeria. Remember, the man who was shotand killed in Carter Bridge in Lagos, Major Ibanga Ekanem, was not anIgbo man. So, it was this collectivist idea that everything from theEast was East. I assumed the mandate of Ndigbo to lead them. And Iagreed. I got on, and did what I could, within the Nigerianstructure: Nigerian structure as it was then. I want everybody tounderstand that throughout those years I had hanging over my headlike the Sword of Damocles the charge of "high treason", if Nigeriagot the upper hand. And it was partial to me. It wasn't on Efiong oranybody else. That Ndigbo, when they were said to have agreed, and Iassumed the mandate of their agreement, I did the best I could. Ihave up to today not found any aspect of that mandate, given orimagined, that stipulated that matters affecting the safety of NdigboI should confide in a non-Igbo. Effiong was a non-Igbo; as simple asthat. We could do everything usually if need be (I make no apologiesabout that), but when it came to the safety of Ndigbo, no way! Myduty was to protect you, Ndigbo. So, that's that.

Does the same thing to the power struggle between the North andthe South? That's not the issue. The issue is what do you do undersuch a circumstance? Are you suggesting that I acquiesce and bow tothe North? It's implied in that statement. If I were not naïve,I should have accepted it. Or, are we not part of the South? In asituation like that I should pull out? Or I keep obeying the North? Isay, "This is not so, sir." No, he is the one that is actuallyconfused.

Gen. Effiong calls you a military dictator, and that it wasreally up to you to run the Eastern show however you wanted to. Youalone could guarantee the promise of security in the East.Furthermore, he asserts that you, General Ojukwu, wanted to controleverything, every decision or move that was made or taken, andsecondly, every military decision was contingent upon availability ofresources and approved by the "inner circle" of advisers to HisExcellency, and these were all civilians like Mr. C.C. Mojekwu"(332-36). Is this the way you ran the new country Biafra?

Sunny [Ojukwu's aide in attendance], you must be bleedingsomewhere. I don't consider these questions normally, but because ofyou, I will answer them. I always pray that no matter what thenewfound democrats say, that any nation I am part of, if faced withthe war of survival, should be blessed with the leadership of adictator. I don't know any other way you can save a people if you arenot a dictator during a war. …

He called Gowon the same thing: dictator. So I don't really knowwhat he means by that.

So, whenever people say this, you just gloss over it because theydon't know what they are talking about. I don't know how muchdictatorship you find in President Bush on matters Iraqi; I don'tknow. And so when a General so-called looks upon this and thinks he'staken a swipe, then you start asking "Who is he?" Douglass McArthur,was he a dictator in Japan? Our good friend Colin Powell in the GulfWar, did he leave his command to the dictates of a small Soviet thathe created to advise him? He took his decisions. So, one doesn'treally bother too much about such a thing. It's like calling names.But let it be known that I blame myself for not being sufficientlydictatorial. There are many things I would have done quicker eitherway, and I could have been much better. That's where I see that Ifailed in my command for not being sufficiently dictatorial.

May we continue?

Oh yes.

General Effiong says …

I made him General, by the way!

General Efiong says that the purported recognition of theRepublic of Biafra as announced within 24 hours of its declarationwas a hoax that you inspired; a diplomatic blunder that Biafra couldill afford in more ways than one (180-1). Did you, Your Excellency,commit this diplomatic blunder to "stampede the world into anavalanche of recognition for Biafra, which, once again exposed thenaivete of the Governor's understanding of diplomacy"(180-1)?

How many hours? Twenty-four hours?

Yes, that's correct.

All I want to know is "Did it happen?" The answer is "It didn't."Was there such an announcement twenty-fours after the war began? No!He must have been the only one that heard the announcement. No! Notonly that, the father of my first son's wife, Mr. Cyprian Ekwensi,lost his job as a result of a statement by a commentator in RadioBiafra to the effect that we have been recognized. Not anannouncement. No, and he lost his job. I got him arrested, broughtin, and I said, "Your resignation!" He said he had already made anarrangement to find out who did that. I remember saying to him that,in this business, there are no second chances. When you drive aroundeverybody waves at you because they imagine you'd take responsibilityfor what happens in your department. So, it's all a lie. It didn'thappen. And incidentally, the time that happened, it was the thirdmonth of the war; not a question of twenty-four hours.

In terms of strategy and logistics, Effiong makes the pointthat you were ill-prepared for fighting the war; that you thoughtthat if indeed there would be any war, it would not be anything morethan a "skirmish" in which poorly armed Nigerian troops would befaced by an onrush of thousands of screaming civilians, armed withmachetes, "pick-helves" and training sticks, bearing down upon them;and that you believed that nothing unnerved a soldier more than sucha sight, which would render him too frightened to move down thescreaming masses (191). The question is "How well could you have beenprepared in terms of strategy and logistics to wage a war that wasthrust upon unprepared people of Biafra by the Nigerian militarygovernment?"

What is the alternative? Lie down and unbutton your shirt tofacilitate the knife cutting through your neck? Is that the answer?No. So, please General Philip Effiong, you must have been quiteextraordinary to arrive at the war as Lieutenant Colonel and suchblunders were being made, not affecting you, and you still wished tobe a General? Isn't that odd? It is! And not only that, I trusted youso much so that, even when I was leaving ostensibly for a shortperiod of time, I handed over to you. I must have been sort of thebiggest idiot created in Africa: to go through all this, trusting youin a situation you did not believe? Come off it. It might even makeit better still: I know Effiong very well. His major problem is thatEfiong is not a soldier. What do I mean by that? He is not aninfantry man; he is not from any of the key units of the Army. No,Efiong was Ordinance. That's what he was: boots, shoes, socks, pants,and vests. That's his job.

He mentions it in his book. In other words, he was a storekeeper for the Army?

Yes, what else? That's what he was! So, he's not going to tell meanything about strategy. What does he know? When I met him (I thinkit was about two years ago) at the War College, I said come on, themost startling movement ever made in this Nigeria Army is my movementthrough the Midwest to Lagos. I did it! Show me any of yours; anybodythat had that breadth of imagination, and had the confidence to dosuch a thing. And I took on your regime because I wanted to. In theAuditorium of the War College, I said, "This is why, Gentlemen, ofall of us, I feel that I deserve my generalship. I didn't do it onfield of quack politics. And there's nothing they could answer. Talkabout strategy? Overnight, you lost a whole state, and you're stilltalking? No! Go on.

Finally, Efiong asserts that "Until the end of the war on 12January 1970, the Biafran soldiers fought an impossible war underconditions that were totally inhuman and uncalled. It was the resultof one man turning what was the people's will to fight a war ofsurvival into a desperate and reckless attempt to achieve a personalambition &endash; even if it meant destroying the very people hepurportedly was fighting to preserve" (237). What is your answer tothis most devastating accusation by your Second-in-Command?

What I object to is your considering it devastating. That I feelis hollow. When somebody says this, all you need do is to go throughthe book itself and decide what weight to give to such a thing. Thefunny thing is that even at his death, I was the person that gavenotice to his funeral. Philip Efiong wrote some odd things. Like allof them, he wrote hoping to buy his entry back into Nigeria. That'sall.

But it didn't happen; did it?

He is in Nigeria alright, but nothing! In fact, he also wrote thathe was very much against Ndigbo because they chose to give me all thehonors, but gave nothing to him my number two.

But with all due respect, General, I disagree with your claim,which I read from somewhere, that the Igbo people gave you the rankof Four-Star General. I thought that that rank was conferred on youby the entire peoples of Eastern Nigeria that became the Republic ofBiafra during the war, even though the majority of them were Ndigboyour people.

I have always avoided blackmailing my friends of the minoritygroups into accepting any form of blame. "If you want to run, run!"That has always been my attitude. Yes, you are right. And you wouldalso note that, actually, what the Consultative Assembly said wasthat it was the highest military rank. That should be Field Marshall.It's just that I refused to answer Field Marshall.

You handed over the Biafran Administration to General Efiong asyou left the country "in search of peace," which eventuated in yourthirteen-year exile in Ivory Coast. Could you tell us the nature ofthe arrangements with Efiong and of the departure itself?

What sort of arrangement? It wasn't anything he was to take over.Throughout the conflict, there was nowhere I was that I was not indirect radio communication with Biafra. And it was clear regardingthis trip also that the drill was, as soon as I arrived, mytechnicians set to work. And no matter what I was discussing, nomatter where, I would be informed as soon as any contact with Biafrawas made. So, certainly Efiong knew when he was in contact with me.And, of-course, even that morning, the last job I did wasdistributing the weapons that came the night before (because it cameto that): Give this to this unit and give this to that; strengthenhere and strengthen there. … At any rate, I can take a bit moreflack here because, unfortunately, it is the type of thing one had todo in the type of war we were fighting. But the point was "How did heeven take the number two position?" For, in actuality, there was noformal number two position. In the situation of our fighting the war,there were among all the tribal groupings two major ones: theIbibio/Efik and the Igbo. And one thing I tried as much as possibleto do was to maintain a form of parity between the Ibibio and theIgbo, naturally with a little edge in favor of Ndigbo, whichreflected the makeup of Biafra. N.U. Akpan was there. He was theChief Secretary to the Government and Head of the Civil Service, andthere were various military commanders of Efik/Ibibio extraction,such as Achibong, Nsudoh, and others. But it was in fact my departurethat made Efiong number two, and acting in my absence, he wouldanswer to me. That was it. And when I got to Ivory Coast, I contactedhim.

Furthermore, one can say this till the cows come home, the past ispast is past. I don't believe it was absolutely essential tosurrender when he did! But we are not made of the same fiber. So, tosay to you, I could have held on much longer, could sound likeboastfulness, and we had bad situations throughout the war. And manypeople who thought we should have collapsed probably a year earlierthought this was particularly bad. But as I was leaving for IvoryCoast, I did not hand over formally (which is the answer I want togive you) in the thought that this was the end. No, I didn't! Butthat morning when I was talking to him on the radio, there certainlywas some panic in his voice. He couldn't hold much longer, I didn'tsee how he could. And I kept on repeating the question "Has any frontcollapsed overnight?" And please, don't misunderstand me whatsoever.If he stood for one minute, he has done well because what gave mestrength was not there to give him strength: I was an Igbo man. Thatgave me strength, and he didn't have that. I cannot blame him.Secondly, no matter what anybody says, he was facing the situation Iwasn't. Benefit of the doubt I give to him. That's why I don't startmaking problems or anything. No, all I know is, as an officer, he wasleft to do his duty, and I presume he did his best.

Did you ever think of forming a Biafran government in exilebefore leaving the country? If so, were you prevented from doing soby the government of your host country?

No!

Can you in a nutshell give us an insight into your life inexile?

You are not clarifying now; you are giving body to your writing.[Some laughter]

Upon returning to Nigeria you were detained in Kirikiri Prisonin Lagos, the maximum jail in Nigeria. Could you tell us what keptyou strong and alive there?

I thought I've said enough about it in my book Because I AmInvolved. I was not detained upon return from exile; it was after the1983 Senate Elections.

In Chapter 17 of 'Because I Am Involved', you expressed somerandom thoughts on yourself at the age of 56 and on many otherNigerian national issues, especially the issue of nationalleadership. How do you score the leadership of President Obasanjo nowthat you are almost 72 years old?

If I said anything other than what I'm going to say now, he wouldnot believe me. He knows I don't think he is a good leader. No, Idon't think highly of his efforts. I don't think even he has it inhim to be a great leader. Eh m, what does one say? My good friendSegun Obasanjo is at best a village headmaster, and when I sayheadmaster in a village, I mean primary school. No, not higher thanthat. It's unfortunate. Yet also, I must doff my hat for him because,of all my colleagues in our military days, Obasanjo certainly remainsthe luckiest. And if luck comes from God, it could be something he'sdone I haven't noticed that God recompenses him with such luck. Buthe has been very lucky. I don't know how he expects to rule a countrywhere about a third of the population feels that he hates them. I putit this way: This simply is a job that has to be faced. If you mustcontinue to rule Nigeria, make that one third think again about you.But if you think it doesn't matter, that's where you fail. It mattersa lot.

Some Igbo people believe that he is not caring so much about thembecause of the humiliation he (Obasanjo) and Murtala suffered at thehands of Biafrans at Ugwu Oba sector of the war.

We try to make legends of things, but things don't happen thatway. What humiliation did Obasanjo suffer at Ugwu Oba?

The Biafran soldiers overran the Nigerian troops he commanded andinflicted heavy casualties on them.

So what? Who knew he was there? Nobody knew who was there and whowasn't.

In an interview you granted to Sun Times newspaper of New Yorkon January 30, 2005, you said that former military ruler retiredGeneral I.B. Babangida does not have what it takes to turn thingsaround, and that you didn't think he has the exceptional qualities tobe a head of state. Can you name some of those qualities and theNigerians who have them to run for the Nigerian presidency come year2007?

With all due respects, your question is at the wrong time. Icannot, for obvious reasons, answer that question now.

What do you think of the problems and crises afflicting APGA,the party you represented in 2003 as its presidential candidate, andwhat are the chances of its doing well as a viable national party in2007?

…I hesitate mainly because of your term viable. What doesthat mean?

Well in the context of Nigerian politics, people do not reallythink of a viable political party in terms of foresight, in terms ofleadership, and in terms of numbers. So I limit it to numbersbecause, when all is said and done, they will name the party that hasthe highest number as winners whether they earned it legitimately orrigged it.

I think the best way to answer you is to throw it back at you, andyou make your own calculations. I am of the opinion, very firmly,that in 2003, whereas APGA had over 80% of Ndigbo voting directly forAPGA, in 2007 more will. And if you now have the whole of the Igbopeople who are a third of the Nigerian population therefore generallya third of the electorate; if you realize and accept at the same timethat Ndigbo roughly form about 45% of Lagos (as was found out not toorecently); if you bear in mind that in the North, APGA came second inmost constituencies; and as you can see that even here in America,Nigerians in Diaspora find it difficult to say they are not APGA (andthere are very many Ndigbo there), then you can see that the chancesare very bright for APGA. The problem is going to be the problem wehad in 2003, and that is outrageous rigging. And if it were normalrigging like trying to get wrong counting and things, perhaps youmight have a better chance, but this one is that someone sat down andread the results of the elections before even the elections tookplace, and had the Executive position to enforce what he had written.That's all. In this instance, that Executive position still remains,and somebody still occupies the position. It is difficult to say whatthat person would do. I hope I'm making sense here.

Yes, completely; but what do you make of the disunity among theIgbo political leaders at home which bothers some of us the Igbo inDiaspora?

We are a funny people. It is the worst thing that I find wrong,and I keep on asking the people I talk to, "Why do you insist onactually confining your image to the abuse you get from yourenemies?" When your enemies say you are not united, you startchanting "I know we are not united, I know we are not united." It isabsolute nonsense! There is no group in Nigeria as united as Ndigbo.Proof? In 2003, Ndigbo voted en block, which is evidence of unity.Ndigbo decided to withdraw their services to Nigeria on August 26,2004. They had no money, no army, and no police, but they justdecided to sit at home. They did a hundred per cent! What betterproof of the people's unity do you want than that? Look, we hear ofBabangida, Buhari, Marwa, and others all in the context of 2007. In acountry where this does not indicate disunity at the top, tell mewhat does. And yet they are all Northerners.

I agree with you, General, because the Yoruba are the mostvocal critics of President Obasanjo, their kinfolk. In fact, theother day, an AD chieftain said Obasanjo was a disgrace to the Yorubarace. They all come from the West.

Yes, I was coming to that. In spite of that, they are happy he isthere as the President of the country so they can enjoy positionsemanating from his presidency. It is the foolish Igbo man that sees aposition he can enjoy and refuse it. We are the stupid ones.

But Dim, my worry is that Igbo people voted for APGA because ofyou and what you stand for in Igbo people's affairs. Otherwise theycouldn't have done so judging from how discordant the Igbo candidatessounded in the last election. In fact, listening to the statementscoming from people like General Ike Nwachukwu and the rest of themrationalizing why they couldn't present a consensus candidate worriesme.

It shouldn't worry you….

I know it shouldn't, but it does in the sense that, even thoughyou haven't come all out to say it, Nigerian leadership has been inthe hands of people, most of whom are functional illiterates. Most ofthem in the National Assembly are incapable of analyzing things theway you do. The views they publish in the newspapers are what themasses follow.

All I'm saying is that there are things that you see on their facevalue, and you say these are illiterates. The important thing isreally your political will as a people. For example, I actually cameout openly and joined APGA. Do you know why? It wasn't because ofpresidency. No. It was my internal quarrel with Ohanaeze. I said Iwould not stand here and be insulted by you standing me here andputting Ike Nwachukwu (retired Nigeria army general) beside me todecide who should be the nominee. This chap was in my battalion. Icommanded him in my battalion. When I left Kano, I phoned him. Ikedid I not call you no less than seventeen times to come home? Youtold me your mother was from Katsina, and that they would take careof you. Therefore you left and joined your mother's people whenNdigbo were in peril. Ike there has told you in no uncertain termsthat he fought with Nigerians. The only excuse he makes is that oncehe got to the Niger, he refused to cross the Niger to fight. Hisrefusal could be cowardice, or it could be that suddenly heremembered where he came from. If he refused to cross the Niger so asto avoid killing the Igbo in Biafra, what about those Igbo people inthe other side of the Niger? And these are the sort of things peoplesay and you people accept? I will not. So, I withdrew from Ohanaezeafter that.

I read all that, but the statement I made previously, Sir, wasabout Nigerian political leadership in general, and not particularlydirected towards Igbo politicians. I meant to say those who are"handling our affairs" are the people who don't really know how togovern Nigeria democratically. Most of the leaders govern likemilitary men in civilian clothes.

I say to you, there is no Nigeria yet. The aim, if you reallythink of it seriously, is what we are now doing, trying to build up aNigeria. That is why a lot of these things happen.

Oh, I see! Much has been made of the purported disagreementbetween you and your father. Did you ever resolve your differencesbefore he passed on?

Yes, we did! One afternoon, my father came to my house in Lagosunannounced. When he came in, he was surprised by what he saw. Hethen said to me, "Oh is this where you live? That's good. Not bad atall. Ya bu na ndi Army naebi n'uno [So the Army chaps can alsolive in cozy houses]. I was surprised because I couldn'tunderstand why he came? He asked his chauffer to bring champagne; andhe brought it. My father and I have this habit: We never drink twobottles of champagne. It must be three. He drinks one bottle and Idrink one, and then we share the third. This was just between him andme. It felt so good, and he was enjoying himself very much. So, Isaid to him, "Why do you suddenly change; you used to ask people tochase me out of our house because I disgraced you by enlisting in theArmy." Do you know what he told me? "Certainly, you will go places."I then said, "What's the problem? What have I done?" He now said:"You know, I still remember when I was a young man growing up inNnewi, a certain white man, Major Mosset, came to our market. We wereall gathered to come and see him. And among the notables of Nnewithat he paraded at the market and had whipped was my own father,because the Major said the people of Nnewi did not pay tax. I woke upthis morning and saw that my own son was now a Major…."

So, like Major Mosset, you took the whip to the Hausa peopleduring the war? [Some laughter]

So, you can see how these things work themselves out.

And by way of archetypal analogy, what the white Major did toNnewi, the Nnewi Major did it to Nigeria during the war?

From that anecdote, I understood the purpose of my father'sunexpected visit. And from that time on, my father became very proudof me.

But psychically, did that fuel your quest to fight colonialismin Nigeria?

I have told you, somehow within me, the ultimate cocaine drug isthe color of my race. It's the one thing that pushes me on. I havealways felt that this has not just to be accepted but also to berecognized as the excellent. I was not quite ten years old when Ientered King's College, Lagos. But at the King's College strike,somehow there was something in me that urged me to take part. I wasthe youngest in the school then. I was in the boarding house, and myjob was to carry water in a bucket to our tough men who were at thegate guarding the school, you know. One of the tough men was OvieWhiskey [now a Justice of the Nigeria Supreme Court]. I wasdoing my job when I looked towards the Police Station and saw comingtowards the gate Mr. Sleigh our Nature Study master who wasnotoriously wicked. Everybody said, "Here he comes." And he wasstriding down the street. I don't know what got into me. I put downthe bucket. Everybody was wondering what Mr. Sleigh was going to do,but I wasn't going to wait for that. As he approached, he came withinrange of the school gate near the boarding house. I ran out of thatgate towards him. And those at the gate were saying to me, "Comeback, come back …." I ran towards him, and when I got just closeenough to Mr. Sleigh I jumped up and gave him a slap on the face!That was the beginning of my politics.

I read about it; and they sent you to jail?

Yes.

That was in 1944?

Yes.

And when they put you in jail, after a while, you fell asleepand later cried, "I want to go home," like the ten and a half-yearold you were at that time? [Some laughter]

Yes, but in those days, there was no better way to start politics:that a young black boy slapped a white man. I was famousovernight!

Speaking of politics, how do you weigh the public utterancesand behavior of some of contemporary Nigerian politicians?

I think some of them lack decorum. For example, when PresidentObasanjo says in a BBC interview that when he visited Onitsha inAnambra State that everywhere was full of poto poto [mud andslush], that tells you he lacks decorum. But the question is,"What have you done about the horrible condition of the roads andstreets?"

I agree with you but my problem is that when some of theparliamentarians start making noise about what they need in order toserve the people, they cite American examples. But when the chips aredown, they don't do as much as half of what their Americancounterparts do for their constituencies. Is this not the height ofinsult on the intelligence of educated Nigerians?

You, you, you (reference to Chief Ojukwu's aide for thirty years,Dr. Sunny Ugochukwu, and visiting from Houston attorney Ken Okorie, amember of the editorial board of USAfrica), others and I must go andput right, not talk about but go and put right, the things that arebad. It is our duty to put them right.

While I agree with you, I don't personally like to become apracticing politician despite my political consciousness. I don'thave the guts. Having said that, I am doing something I think suitsmy nature to serve my Igbo people and my country Nigeria. …

I told you I would like to be Horatio. I'm sure there have beenmany Igbo men who have done so many noble deeds. Why can't I say Ilike to be Okoli? You see, but not knowing it clearly, alreadycourage and patriotism have become some preserves of the Romans inthat story. So, when I say Horatio, I think of the pleated skirt thatthe Roman Centurion would be wearing. I don't think of him in obiakwa [Igbo measure of loin cloths]. It's not quite! This iswhat I'm saying: In our minds, we've already separated ourselves fromthe character, and somehow we have got to find a way of conferringwith the outside world.

General Ojukwu and Eze Igbo gburugburu, our people are doingwell because of who and what you are in Igbo national history: aliving legend. In fact, if you visit my own part of the Igbo world,you will find that many people go by the name Ojukwu, since theNigeria-Biafra War. Nevertheless, the elders have been admonishingthem to be as courageous and patriotic as Ojukwu, whose name theyproudly bear. Thank you very much, Your Excellency. Uwa dikwara ginma maka odinma Ala Igbo. [May it be well with you for the goodof Igboland]

Thank you; and God bless!


RELATEDESSAY:

Odumegwu EmekaOjukwu:"It was simply a choice between Biafra and enslavement."
Obasanjo obsession withBiafraversus facts ofhistory. By Prof. Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe
Biafra-Nigeria war andhistory to get fresh, critical look from a survivor
 'Biafra:History Without Mercy' - a preliminary note
Biafra: From Boys toMen.By Dr. M.O. Ene
Callingex-Biafransoldiers traitorsis nonsensical, as it is inflammatory and unpatriotic.
By Dr. Chuba
Okadigbo
Are weIgbosor "Ibos"?:The "Ibo" misspelling of the south eastern Nigerian Igboethnic nation of almost 32 million people reflect, essentially, apost-colonial hangover of British and Euro-Caucasoid colonialmiseducation,misrepresentations, and (mis)pronounciation preference. It is/wasjust easier for the White man/woman to say 'Ibo' rather than 'Igbo.'We must remember the late psychiatrist, pan-African scholar andactivist Franz Fanon's mytho-poetic and insightful words in his 1952book, Black Skin White Masks, that "A man who has a language[consequently] possesses the world expressed and implied bythat language." Should Igbos and other African nationalities,incrementally and foolishly give up the core of their communal andnational identity on the discredited altars of Euro-Caucasoid racistsupremacy and colonial predations? I have two modest answers: firstis No; and second is No. By Chido Nwangwu

Transcript CNN International Interview Sept 17, 2002 with Nigeria's President Obasanjo and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu on Democracy and Security Issues



ARINZE: Will he be the FIRST BLACK AFRICAN POPE?
How
Obasanjo's self-succession charade at his Ota Farm has turned Nigeria to an 'Animal Farm.' By USAfricaonline.com contributor Prof. Mobolaji Aluko
Is Obasanjo really up to Nigeria's challenge and crises? By USAfrica The Newspaper editorial board member, attorney Ken Okorie. This commentary appears courtesy of our related web site, NigeriaCentral.com
Obasanjo's own challenge is to imbibe "democratic spirit and practice," By Prof. Ibiyinka Solarin

Why Bush should focus on dangers facing Nigeria's return to democracy and Obasanjo's slipperyslide. By Chido Nwangwu
Obasanjo's late wake to the Sharia crises, Court's decision and Nigeria's democracy. By Ken Okorie

Sharia-related killings and carnage in Kaduna reenact deadly prologue to Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967. By Chido Nwangwu

Jonas Savimbi, UNITA are "terrorists" in Africans' eyes despite Washington's "freedom fighter" toga for him. By SHANA WILLS

Nelson Mandela, Tribute to the world's political superstar and Lion of Africa  
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's burden mounts with murder charges, trials

TRIBUTE
A KING FOR ALL TIMES: Why Martin Luther King's legacy and vision are relevant into 21st century.




DIPLOMACY
Walter Carrington: African-American diplomat who put principles above self for Nigeria (USAfrica's founder Chido Nwangwu with Ambassador Carrington at the U.S. embassy, Nigeria)
DEMOCRACY'S WARRIOR
Out of Africa. The cock that crows in the morning belongs to one household but his voice is the property of the neighborhood. -- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah. An editor carries on his crusade against public corruption and press censorship in his native Nigeria and other African countries. By John Suval.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY
How far, how deep will Nigeria's human rights commission go?

Will religious conflicts be the time-bomb for Nigeria's latest transition to civilian rule?
Bola Ige's murder another danger signal for Nigeria's nascent democracy.

Rtd. Gen. Babangida trip as emissary for Nigeria's Obasanjo to Sudan raises curiosity, questions about what next in power play?
110 minutes with Hakeem Olajuwon
Nigerian stabbed to death in his bathroom in Houston.
Cheryl Mills' first class defense of Clinton and her detractors' game 
It's wrong to stereotype Nigerians as Drug Dealers

Private initiative, free market forces, and more democratization are Keys to prosperity in Africa


Apple announces Titanium, "killer apps" and other ground-breaking products for 2001. iTunes makes a record 500,000 downloads.
Steve Jobs extends
digital magic

Johnnie Cochran will soon learn that defending Abacha's loot is not as simple as his O.J Simpson's case. By Chido Nwangwu
In a special report a few hours after the history-making nomination, USAfricaonline.com Founder and Publisher Chido Nwangwu places Powell within the trajectory of history and into his unfolding clout and relevance in an essay titled 'Why Colin Powell brings gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency.'

AFRICA AND THE U.S. ELECTIONS
Beyond U.S. electoral shenanigans, rewards and dynamics of a democratic republic hold lessons for African politics.

USAfrica The Newspaper voted the "Best Community Newspaper" in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston. It is in the Best of Houston 2001 special as chosen by the editors and readers of the Houston Press, reflecting their poll and annual rankings.

INSIGHT to BIAFRA
Gowon: Ojukwu would not have gone free if captured during Biafra-Nigeria war...


Biafra: Gowon's needless fights with history and Ojukwu. By Nkem Ekeopara
Obasanjo obsession with Biafra versus facts of history. By Prof. Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe
Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu: "It was simply a choice between Biafra and enslavement."
Biafra-Nigeria war and history to get fresh, critical look from a survivor
 'Biafra: History Without Mercy' - a preliminary note
Biafra: From Boys to Men. By Dr. M.O. Ene
Calling ex-Biafran soldiers traitors is nonsensical, as it is inflammatory and unpatriotic.
By Dr. Chuba
Okadigbo
Steve Jobs and Apple represent the future of digital living
Nelson Mandela, Tribute to the world's political superstar and Lion of Africa  
USAfrica FORUM
IN THE HOUSE OF MANDELA: A SILLY CRY FOR REPARATIONS
By Prof. Chimalum Nwankwo

APPRECIATION
A young father writes his One year old son: "If only my heart had a voice...."
Why
Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on the Iroko, is Africa's writer of the century. By Chido Nwangwu

Since 1958, Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" set a standard of artistic excellence, and more. By Douglas Killam
DEMOCRACY DEBATE
CNN International debate on Nigeria's democracy livecast on CNN. It involved Nigeria's Information Minister Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof. Salih Booker and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. Transcripts are available on the CNN International site.

NEWS
5 students from Nigeria at Abilene Christian University killed in March 31, 2002 one-car accident. 18 year-old Kolawole Oluwagbemiga Sami was identified as the driver of the Isuzu which had 2 other men and 3 women. One of those female passengers in the 1994 Isuzu Rodeo SUV had an identification card stating her as Iyadunni Oluwaseun Bakare. She is also 18 years old. USAfricaonline.com special report by Chido Nwangwu
USAfrica The Newspaper voted the "Best Community Newspaper" in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston. It is in the Best of Houston 2001 special as chosen by the editors and readers of the Houston Press, reflecting their poll and annual rankings.

Osama bin-Laden's goons threaten Nigeria and Africa's stability. By Chido Nwangwu
Tragedy of Ige's murder is its déjà vu for the Yoruba southwest and rest of Nigeria. By Ken Okorie
What has Africa to do with September 11 terror? By Chido Nwangwu
Should Africa debates begin and end at The New York Times and The Washington Post? No
NEWS INSIGHT
CNN, Obasanjo and Nigeria's struggles with democracy.
Why Obasanjo's government should respect
CNN and Freedom of the press in Nigeria.
Jonas Savimbi, UNITA are "terrorists" in Africans' eyes despite Washington's "freedom fighter" toga for him. By SHANA WILLS


Lifestyle
Sex, Women and (Hu)Woman Rights. By Chika Unigwe

Africa suffers the scourge of the virus. This life and pain of Kgomotso Mahlangu, a five-month-old AIDS patient (above) in a hospital in the Kalafong township near Pretoria, South Africa, on October 26, 1999, brings a certain, frightening reality to the sweeping and devastating destruction of human beings who form the core of any definition of a country's future, its national security, actual and potential economic development and internal markets.
22 million Africans HIV-infected, ill with AIDS while African leaders ignore disaster-in-waiting

What has Africa to do with September 11 terror? By Chido Nwangwu
Africans reported dead in terrorist attack at WTC
September 11 terror and the ghost of things to come....
CONTINENTAL AGENDA
Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents." These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
Nwangwu, adviser to the Mayor of Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S., and immigrant home to thousands of Africans) argued further that "the issues of the heritage interests of 35 million African-Americans in Africa, the volume and value of oil business between between the U.S and Nigeria and the horrendous AIDS crisis in Africa do not lend any basis for Governor Bush's ill-advised position which removes Africa from fair consideration" were he to be elected president.
By Al Johnson