‘He never fought against Nigeria’
THEY came in superlative terms. They were all comments used to qualify the late Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, as a man whose courage, excellence, patriotism and selfless service were beyond compare.
The event was at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos and it was organised by the Lagos State government in conjunction with Igbo in Lagos as part of the funeral activities for Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
The roll call of eminent personalities at the event chaired by renowned lawyer, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite included Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, his predecessor, Bola Tinubu, former governor of Ekiti State, Niyi Adebayo, governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha, governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Oko monarch and professor of music, Laz Ekwueme and professor of political economy, Pat Utomi.
Others were Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd), distinguished economist, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, Special Adviser to the President on Inter-party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi, Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu, a member of the Odumegwu-Ojukwu Burial Central Committee, Chief Martins Agbaso, Ambassador Musiliu Obanikoro, Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo (rtd), Lagos State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Ben Akabueze, former President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. Joe Irukwu, Eze Ndigbo Lagos, Eze Raphael Ohazuluike and Chief Christopher Eze.
The list included the former Chairman of Diamond Bank, Chief Pascal Dozie, Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Joe Igbokwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Chisco Transport Ltd., Chief Chidi Anyaegbu, Senator Chris Ngige and Chief Ogola Osoka.
The venue was highly secured by a combined team of security agencies who freaked people coming in from one of the main-gates opened for pedestrians.
Inside the venue, combat-ready men of the State Security Services, searched those with bags.
The performances of Igbo war songs by Igbo troupes, cadets of Kings College, an orchestra-like musical rendition led by Prof. Ekwueme who also did the National Anthem added colour to the event. Odumegwu-Ojukwu was an alumnus of Kings College.
The ceremony, compered by the trio of Bisi Olatilo, Emeka Obasi and Paddy Njoku could easily pass as a carnival of cultural displays as various cluster groups, decked in beautiful traditional regalia helped to electrify the event. .
Extolling the virtues of Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Braithwaite noted that some people erroneously alleged that Odumegwu-Ojukwu waged a war against his fatherland. He said that what Odumegwu-Ojukwu rather did was to declare war against injustice, corruption, deception and lies, adding that what he did would have received wider international blessings if it were to be now.
He said: “What Emeka did, had it been now that the dynamics of international politics have changed, it would have stayed.”
Braithwaite warned that unless a national conference was convened to allow Nigerians discuss the basis of their co-existence, prophecies of doom made about Nigeria might be fulfilled. He maintained that the members of the National Assembly on their own could not generate a people’s constitution because they (National Assembly) were the product of the defective constitution. He described Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a great man who loved his fatherland.
The host governor, Fashola, went through the nation’s war history and ended up eulogising the contributions made by Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
Fashola asserted that never again would there be war in Nigeria. “I say never again to war in Nigeria. Never again! My faith in the future of Nigeria remains enforced by the conviction that myself and my cousin, Ganiyu Okafor will never be separated,” he insisted.
Fashola said he would tell the next generation all he believed that Odumegwu-Ojukwu represented. According to him, the late Biafran leader should be celebrated. His words: “I will tell the next generation that Ojukwu was a man whose courage and sacrifice are worthy of emulation. He had deep love for his people. He was one of the greatest Nigerians who insisted on true federalism. He was resilient, resourceful and committed to his people.
“He was an Iroko who stood tall above all. He believed in peace, unity, justice and freedom. He had courage and doggedness when he challenged the government of Lagos State. I will also tell the next generation that he was an author because he was involved.”
Chukwumerije described the event as a home coming for Odumegwu-Ojukwu who was raised in Lagos. He expressed joy that the love Odumegwu-Ojukwu had for Lagos was being reciprocated, stressing that he was a patriot whose personal life mirrored the life of Nigeria.
For the national leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Odumegwu-Ojukwu was a powerful man worth celebrating. “He was a man very powerful in his generation. A great soldier and great thinker. He enmeshed himself in the service of his people. He served his country in the military after graduating from one of the best universities in the world – Oxford. Highly intelligent, no Nigerian has altered the history of our nationhood as Ojukwu aside Awolowo, Zik and the like.
“He forwent the riches of his family and chose the patriotic lane. His voice was never drawn on issues that concerned him. He never compromised and for the sake of his people, Eze Igbo Gburugburu entered into politics instead of business.”
Adebayo described the Biafran leader as a good, hardworking and loyal officer. .
Nwachukwu said Odumegwu-Ojukwu was against injustice and showed great courage.
Speaking in the same direction, Utomi charged the spirit of Odumegwu-Ojukwu to rise and fight injustice in Nigeria, adding that he was a great man.
“Ojukwu spoke out. The issues that threw him up as the leader of Igbos are still very much with us”, said Dozie.
In his own tribute, the national Chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh described Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a colossus who did so much for his people and Nigeria.
Okorocha whose presence elicited cheers from the crowd just as Tinubu, stated that the late icon was not dead but alive because he died a hero, adding that he did not exit without leaving a legacy.
Other speakers included Obi, Anyaegbu, Agbaso, leaders of other ethnic nationalities such as the Hausa community, Igbira and the Niger Delta.
Besides, the wife of the President, Dame Patience Jonathan will lead a team of government officials to a grand funeral rally in honour of Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
The rally which is part of the funeral arrangements being put together by the Abuja chapter of the local organising committee for the burial of the late Igbo leader will also have in attendance, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha as well as serving ministers and government officials.
Disclosing this yesterday while briefing the press on the activities lined up in Abuja as burial rites of Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the chairman of the Abuja local organising committee, Nwabueze Obi said that the rally which would begin in the afternoon at the old parade ground in Abuja would be preceded by a procession of Igbo youths and friends in some selected streets of the Federal Capital Territory.