Ojukwu: Their Hero; My Coward

By: Arc

Level: 3

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Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (Ikemba)

I never met the great man, he hasn’t done much to offend me save for picking super model Bianca for companionship and snubbing his mates (how could Feminists miss that?). All opinions I have about him are formed by events and stories I have heard-history, documentaries, newspapers, elderly mouths. Every time I hear Ojukwu, I hear the Biafran War, I hear Civil War, I hear 1967-1970…Funny when I hear Gowon, all I actually think is ‘Nigerian’s past president.’ Before we get to meet the man- Ikemba Ojukwu, Let us go through the legacy he left us, how it happened and what I think, perhaps know, sparked events.

The Biafran War

I’d like to state that this war started on the 15th January 1966 when Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu and some others intoxicated by the weapons they were wielding decided to Lord it over us. The war truly started with the assassination of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Sir Ahmadu Bello…There has always been tribal tension long before the Queen and her cohorts fused us. In a 1964 interview Sir Ahmadu Bello made these damning assertions:

“A Northerner first, if we don’t find one, we get an expatriate on contract, if we can’t find one then we get another Nigerian from other regions.”

This right here, explains Nigeria’s problem from past to present…We were not one, we still are not one, let’s see about the future. I said some time ago that we have no right to discuss racism as we practice kindredism and I think I echoed Fela. In the same interview Bello could not hide his jealousy at seeing an Ibo man excel. The northerners could not will themselves to work hard and excel too; they rather cloaked themselves with co-wife jealousy and desperation. The Ibos however would always be known as the tribe that led the first strike and would never be “liked” by other minority tribes who suffered on their account.

After 6 months, the North replied Chukwuma via Muritala and Judas Danjuma. The July counter coup encouraged the North to launch a genocidal killing of Ibos in their region. The Ibos fled and were received by the Eastern Region Military Governor- Lt. Colonel Chukwuemeka Ojukwu and he assured the country that the East would not retaliate. He said that the East believed in peaceful settlement of the present problems through discussion and negotiation not in action, whose direct result would be destruction of an edifice we have done so much to build. 

How then did we get to war? I vote OIL, PRIDE, Ojukwu believing his own hype, standing for justice Ned Stark* style and ill advice.

Oil: Black gold is the ultimate reason the haters of the Ibos could not imagine living without us…One would think that when Ojukwu declared Republic of Biafra on the 30th of May 1967, it would be greeted with parties in Northern streets,  merriment that we have been divorced. Gowon said in his telecast that Nigeria moved to reclaim Biafra to prevent the country splitting into several  sovereign states controlled by foreign powers, leading to more chaos. Gowon had a point, validated by the proclamation of Republic of Benin, not Bey-ne—Be-Nin. However he wasn’t truthful, oil was the major player, the civil war was business and other countries kept mute, they let it happen so they could plot the best deals for their countries.

Pride: After the July counter coup, Ojukwu backed the right candidate for the Nigerian bloody throne (The throne has claimed about a handful and I hear it’s about to claim another, I hope not). He backed most senior army officer Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe but Gowon who had the same rank as he did was chosen. It is safe to say both men “should” have some bad blood between them; Ojukwu seeing Gowon as an undeserving leader and Gowon seeing him as the man who didn’t want him in power.

Believe In His Own Hype: A young Ojukwu was imprisoned for assaulting a white British colonial teacher who humiliated a black woman. Ojukwu had always stood up against oppression and was firm in pursuing the right cause. He received the Ibos after they fled the North and must have started feeling like Moses, in every sense of the word. The rich kid who didn’t grow up anywhere near the East and who was safe from any form of danger @ family status and military rank decided to become the savior of the people. Sure there were Chiwetalagu mouthed people fanning his ego.

Ill Advice: Long before the search for loopholes in Decree No. 8 after the Aburi Accord, the May 27th proclamation of South East, Rivers and East Central states (assured us, me that it was always about the oil) and the 30th May proclamation of the Republic of Biafra; I am certain some humans had already put it in the mind of prominent Ibos that Biafra be created. “We would control our oil and live large” they said. “Ojukwu we need you to do this for us, you shall be our President.” President of oil; how many turn down such offer? Between January and declaration May, we had designed our flag, made uniforms and all. It is also safe to assume that external forces pushed for Biafra as well E.g the French. Acting on ill advice and driven by passion, pride and the Moses hype, Sir Ojukwu declared Biafra knowing full well that Gowon had stamped this an act of treason. He had a plan though, Nigerian forces would strike first (and they did), Biafra would play victim. The world would have sympathy and a “Big Brother” decree would set Biafra free. He was wrong, it’s a cruel world and mostly humans show only empathy—war is business. The nation Nigeria was independent and would be allowed to handle its crisis by itself without interference.

The war raged on for a solid 30 months. Millions lost their lives (Collateral damage).

Children

I agree that we had to surrender; we had to accept that all who had died in the fight, had fought valiantly and died for nothing just so the children had a shot at living. The starvation was a battle we could not handle. We were vanquished, whatever line they tell you. I understand this; the one thing I don’t understand is why Ojukwu ran. COWARD. I would never forgive him for this and I wasn’t even born then.

And with me gone, comrades, there’ll be one less mouth to feed.”

We bought that? I don’t know much about war-courage-leadership but I’ve seen Brave Heart and Troy, Wallace and Hector fought to the death. That’s honor, that’s bravery. So Vice President Philip Effiong had a degree in bending over? I guess Ikemba could not look Gowon in the eye and surrender—again pride. Do you know how many people would say “Ojukwu protected his life first!” when called upon to stand for Ibos. Their grandfathers took the bullet, he took an air craft.

Ojukwu’s speech on BBC after the war: “…Biafrans fought with everything they had, they were out-manned, out-gunned…”

My heart breaks at this error, “they” fought not “we” fought.

It is nice to see that my great grandmother died while the two men who instigated the war lived a long and fulfilled life; one got to bed Bianca, the other attends functions and events till this day.

The Bending over Speech: We are loyal Nigerian citizens and accept authority of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria…Republic of Biafra ceases to exist!!!

Sir Nnamdi Kanu were you listening to VP Philip? Judging by your wiki profile, you weren’t. Your father should have told you then. Biafra had ceased to exist a long time ago. Don’t take us back there with your Radio-Biafra antics. We are all suffering for the sins of one brash Major Chukwuma, we cannot afford another. Major players in the war against us have gone on to lead the nation- Yar’adua, Buhari, Babangida, Obasanjo. Our dear Ikemba has contested three times under the minority party APGA. We didn’t stand a chance in any of those, no one would vote for us, no one likes us, thanks to Major Chukwuma. I don’t think we like ourselves, we are still looking for “Sabo.”

This country needs not only the “Ibos” but all of its ethnic groups, for its destiny is to achieve greatness through ethnic diversity.”

Meet Our Beloved Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (The Strength of Our Pseudo-Igbo Nation)

4th Nov 1933-26th Nov 2011

Odumegwu

Son of Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu from Nnewi, Anambra State was born in Niger State. He was an old boy of CMS Grammar School Lagos and King’s College. He enjoyed top notch education courtesy of his Father’s wealth in the United Kingdom- Epsom College, Lincoln College and Oxford University. His masters’ degree in history ensured he remained a politician till his death. He was an honorable man who stood for the rights of the people and can be regarded as the single most influential Ibo man. He is survived by first son Emeka Ojukwu Jnr, his young wife Bianca Onoh, her three children Afamefuna, Chineme and Nwachukwu and others.

Ojukwu is buried in his mausoleum at Nnewi, Anambra State.

Naztory: Know Your Country; Love Your Country

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6 Comments Ojukwu: Their Hero; My Coward

  1. Orieno Smiles

    Glad to see someone share part of my ideology of Ojukwu and Gowon “Pride and Selfishness”

    A beautiful narrative from about the Civil war. We were never one and still not one.
    We sold us before they bought us,
    We killed us before they flogged us,
    We betrayed us before they imprisoned us,
    We have victims of our actions not of circumstances. Until we realise the beauty in diversity, until we see ourselves as hope to other Africans, we’ll not rise to live the meaning of our creed.

    Our history is faulty, hence have to be re-written,
    Our Anthem is a sham, hence have to be re-sang.

    It’s our song of Exodus “O happy home, when shall I see my home?”

    Reply
  2. Angie

    How I learned more from reading this beautiful write up than any history book is totally amazing…. Good one LR

    Reply
  3. John

    A good piece, Ojukwu failed in many ways. The only snag I cut is that the situation came upon him. But in the context of Igbo philosophy of life ‘mberede nyiri dike, mana mberede ka eji ama dike’. He failed. I completely agree Igbos had every good reason to go to war, but I also believe that war was not the only option.
    Also, like it’s said, the end justifies the means, the war did not. If Ojukwu went to war because 10,000 Igbos were brutally killed; and then lost well over one million, and lost Biafra, and abandoned the people at the most dangerous time, Ojukwu failed.
    But like I said, the only reason was that circumstances forced the war on him, and he was too young and obviously illprepared for such magnitude of international crisis

    Reply

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