Quotable Measures of the Man: Dim Ojukwu of Nigeria (4)
Reading tributes and eulogies (good knowledges, studies and attributes) in honour of Dim Ojukwu since his passing has been of tremendous exercise. I have enjoyed them and I am particularly sure people who did not pay attention to him or did not know much about this extraordinary man and leader of his people have gained insights and now know how to place him in history, military, political and social relationships in a nation building.
The part four of the “Quotable Measures of the man: Dim Ojukwu” brings the conclusion of the series I have put together in this column.
I have enjoyed a lot of good will from readers and I just want to thank everyone for contributing in one way or the other in assembling the materials. It took me quite some work to hunt for various insightful tributes, comments, abstracts and quotes devoted to the life and times of Dim Ojukwu. As the four parts collections do not claim exhaustive, I also want to ask those I may have missed out including their useful and well cherished tributes and eulogies that apparently no matter where they may be lying in one newspaper, internet websites, funeral oration notes and registers, wake-keeping keynote speeches, papers, books or in the ears of those who heard them, be assured that they are recognized as part of the contributions and reciprocities we have clearly and passionately given to those who served their people well, like Dim Ojukwu did.
Let us continue to pray for the bereaved family of Dim Ojukwu and his kinsmen and women – the Igbo people as a whole to continue to, not only celebrate Ojukwu and realize his legacies, but also to bravely move on with their own life and times. Each o has akaraka (destiny) and what Dim Ojukwu exemplified is how people work into and out of the opportunities and moments that shape their akaraka. As such what Ojukwu happened to be and lived for came from his own akaraka.
I did a small song while giving a keynote speech on the Wake-keep and Prayer Service organized in honour of Dim Ojukwu on March 3, 2012 in Edmonton of Alberta, Canada, which truly touched the gathered Igbo and Nigerians and their friends in attendance with the concept of akaraka of a person. What he was for which we eulogize him is indeed what can be described as O si n’akara ya (it is from and to his destiny for God and humanity). But the most important thing is to capture one’s circumstances that will make his or her akaraka to come out and serve others. Ojukwu did this with a unique difference.
Below are therefore the concluding quotes and abstracts which I truly hope you will equally appreciate and understand the manner of man Dim Ojukwu was to his people and Nigeria before he departed to eternity.
1. Emeka Ojukwu had become in many respects an institution that was reckoned with by all and sundry, both friends and foes alike. He was a man of charisma, courage and intellect who used his prodigious endowment and uncommon circumstances in the history of his country to positively affect human lives, especially those of his generation. The Ikemba, as he was popularly called, was, according to a Greek proverb, “a truth spoken before its time”. (Chief Emeka Anyaoku, 2012).
2. “The story of Ikemba is the story of a man who spurned the silver spoon and jettisoned the comfort that life offered him from birth to follow a passion of service to fatherland and the defense of the defenseless.” (Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 2012).
3. Ojukwu’s belief in the Nigerian project was underlined by the fact that he not only joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) on return from exile in 1982, but also vied for the presidency of the country. (Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 2012).
4. “Ikemba had a vision of a Nigeria where every citizen lives without fears in any part thereof; a country great in name and esteem; a country well governed and devoid of the vultures of tribalism, discrimination, ethnic segregation, religious nepotism, sectional cabalism and a nation where potentials and might are not rendered weak by the vultures of corruption and greed.” (Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 2012).
5. All along, Ojukwu knew that he would settle for nothing but the secession of the East. And the Aburi accord all but conceded that. And so, when Ojukwu proclaimed the Republic of Biafra, the supportive slogan was, “On Aburi we stand.” Gowon’s administration countered with the slogan, “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.” The battle line was drawn. And so Nigerians all fought a bloody civil war for 30 months. (Minabere Ibelema, 2012).
6. “Ikemba! Be rest assured that this house will not fall; the termites will no longer eat down our fences; the crows and vultures will no longer patch on our heritage; strangers will no longer walk over our portion, for the sun can only rise on our heritage.” (Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 2012).
7. Odumegwu-Ojukwu came ahead of his time, lived ahead of his time, and died ahead of his time since the laudable visions he longed for were yet to be realized. (Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 2012).
8. To the generality of Nigerians, especially the younger generation, though, Dim Ojukwu was the flag bearer of All Peoples Grand Alliance- APGA. He was a man determined to lead Ndigbo out of the wilderness of oppression, marginalization and political disenfranchisement by actively participating in the process himself. They would remember him as the man that continually inserted himself into politics and encouraged other Igbos not to turn away from politics even when the odds seemed stacked against them. In that spirit, many young men and women, of Igbo extraction, followed him into politics and now occupy important positions in the nation and have started on the march towards placing Ndigbo in the mainstream of political spectrum. They have come to believe, as Ojukwu did, that full participation in politics will afford Ndigbo opportunities as well as open hitherto closed doors. Thanks to Ojukwu. (Alfred Obiora Uzokwe, 2012).
9. “Our dear nation and her leaders owe it to the memory of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu to strengthen Nigeria as an indivisible political entity where justice, peace, love, and unity reigns. “Where national interest is supreme; where corruption is a thing of the past; and where every Nigerian is free and able to actualise his or her legitimate dreams and aspirations unmolested in any part of the country, irrespective of religious, political, and tribal affiliations and origin.
This is indeed the greatest honour and tribute he can get from us.” (Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 2012).
10. This must be the greatest heist in the history of Nigeria where anything—provided it is an absurdity—is possible. The Nigerian government, an unrepentant genocidist system, hijacked the burial and funeral services of Dim Ojukwu, the leader of Biafra—the same Biafra that is the victim of Nigeria’s genocide! Ongoing genocide! While the Igbo watched and cheered… (Oguchi Nkwocha, MD).
11. Nigeria has lost a true patriot. Alas, the centre of gravity and equilibrium of the Igbo nation in Nigerian political power game is no more. We have lost a great scholar, a philosopher, great historian, a political clearing house east of the Niger, a soldiers’ soldier, the apotheosis of responsible and responsive leadership, astute administrator and a leader magnificus. (Senator Ben Ndi Obi, 2012).
12. When the dust settles, and crocodile tears disappear, Biafrans will begin to weep anew, because what Nigeria could not achieve on the battlefield, she at long last succeeded in doing in the graveyard: capture Ojukwu. Yes, Nigeria draped Dim Ojukwu’s coffin in Nigeria’s shamed national flag, a flag steeped with the criminal sentiments and inhuman acts which Ojukwu led Biafra against; the very thing that Ojukwu led us Biafrans to defend ourselves against. While the Igbo looked on and made speeches… (Oguchi Nkwocha, MD).
13. Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was not an ordinary person or one of the run of the mill leaders that we often eulogise after death in Nigeria. He was much more than that. I had read and heard so much about him throughout my youth and in various history books including the bestseller written by Fredrick Forsythe, his old English public school friend and biographer, titled ''Emeka'' and another book titled ''The Dogs of War'' which was later converted into a Hollywood blockbuster. (Femi Fani-Kayode, 2012).
14. Known for hypocrisy of the worst kind—of the psychiatric type—the Nigerians and their government came and poured encomium on that solemn occasion and afterwards. Empty words they were, forgotten before the breath forming them was even expired. Yes, if Dim Ojukwu in life was so correct about Nigeria, as they all now admit, why are these “mourners” and these eulogists not pushing his redemptive agenda to save comatose Nigeria now? If Dim Ojukwu “was all that” to Nigeria, why did they not support him in post-war times to salvage Nigeria? Many of them are actually celebrating. They have buried the head of Biafra; therefore, Biafra is finally no more…so they think. While the Igbo celebrated… (Oguchi Nkwocha, MD).
15. Even in death, Emeka Ojukwu’s presence looms and remains larger than life. As a complete exercise in courage and doggedness, the Ikemba was a lodestar, and will remain one especially for many of the present generation. He personified service and commitment to his people, Ndigbo. That is why he will continue to dwell in their hearts and minds. He will also dwell in the hearts and minds of many across the length and breath of Nigeria for whom he was a rare symbol of courageous leadership and political perspicacity. (Chief Emeka Anyaoku, 2012).
16. Notice how they studiously avoided the word, “Biafra”, as if on cue and under
threat of Treason charges? They would not even muster the courage to say that Dim Ojukwu led Biafra and that Biafra was correct then, was correct after, and is still correct now. They dared not call him a true Biafran or a Biafran icon. Yet, they were all willing to parrot on about how Dim Ojukwu fought against injustice, led the Igbo, blah, blah, blah: but no mention of Biafra. While the Igbo looked on and moved on… (Oguchi Nkwocha, MD).
17. I therefore, mourn the exit of this great giant, an Iroko, the symbol of Igbo’s resistance and pillar of hope. I mourn the transition of a great leader who personified history. I mourn a leader with irresistible aura and personal charisma, a man of great oratory, a star of our generation, a man of noble reasoning and infinite faculty. I salute the only Nigerian leader with multi-lingual potential; in fact, the only one that, while he lived, spoke Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba with ease and English and French in poetic style. (Senator Ben Ndi Obi, 2012).
18. Ojukwu has fallen yet he lives. He is buried, yet what he stood for, the Aburi declaration included, is not buried with him. Those ideals shall live and endure forever and shall be manifested in our lifetime no matter how hard the Nigerian state seeks to deny or resist them. The right to self-determination, the freedom to live in peace with our values and cultural identity unmolested and intact even in a multi-religious and multi-cultural state, the right to be free from genocide, ethnic cleansing, religious persecution and tribal bigotry and oppression and the right to live in a country where all people are equal regardless of their state of origin, religious persuasion or ethnic identity are ideals that Ojukwu symbolized and fought for during the civil war and indeed throughout his life. These values and principles live and are not dead and buried with him. (Femi Fani-Kayode, 2012).
19. Nigeria has never resulted in any positive returns to the Igbo or to Biafra. Rather, the results are more humiliation, more marginalization, more mockery, more deprivation, more subjugation and more killing and dispossession of the Igbo and Biafrans by Nigeria. They have certainly let Dim Ojukwu down—very much so—by allowing Nigeria to take, not just the lead but, the entire stage in the man’s final rites of passage.
I believe we read Dim Ojukwu at one time say that he wants to die as a Biafran, be buried and remembered as a Biafran. But this class of Igbo, all they wanted was to avoid any association with Biafra for a man who was made by Biafra and who, to the extent that one person alone can ever symbolize Biafra, was that symbol of Biafra. As usual, they were looking after their own personal interests; why even pretend that they were there to bury Dim Ojukwu? No; they only scheme to deprive a dead man of what he owns and prizes the most (Biafra) in order to please their assumed Nigeria-paymasters, figuring that he is now powerless. Shame! (Oguchi Nkwocha, MD).
13. Odimegwu Ojukwu’s return to Nigeria after many years in exile and participation in politics brought awareness to the plight of many Nigerians. (Michael Adeniyi, 2012).
20. This entire exercise has thus turned into the proverbial “the dead burying the dead.” But, don’t look therein for a dead Dim Ojukwu. Rather, see Nigeria there. Yes, Nigeria is dead alright. As are those insensitive and insensible Igbo who along with Nigeria sought to bury dead flesh. What they fail to understand is that Biafra lives on; therefore Dim Ojukwu lives. They cannot conceive of Biafra being actualized; they think that Biafra is dead, which only proves that they are the ones who are really dead. Because, Biafra never dies: how can you kill and bury a correct and right-eous concept? Biafra will be actualized; in our lifetime. (Oguchi Nkwocha, MD).
21. We shall continue the fight for liberation where you stopped. The battle has passed to the next generation. The threats of continuous threats of death, destruction, assassination, incarceration, detention, jail, persecution, misrepresentation and the manipulations and activities of the powers that be and the princes and principalities in the highest places in our land cannot stop or intimidate us for ''our weapons are not carnal but are mighty through God in the pulling down of strongholds''. May God bless and protect your precious and gallant soul as you join your ancestors in the great halls of Valhalla where the brave shall live forever. May God watch over your dear wife Bianca and your beautiful children and may your name never be erased from the annals of Nigerian history. Rest in peace, great and proud warrior. (Femi Fani-Kayode, 2012).
22. The death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is a low point for all of us. As we mourn his passing, we must not be lost on the significance of his immensely active and trail-blazing life. For living a worthy life that positively touched so many in our land, we must, as we mourn, also celebrate his life. (Chief Emeka Anyaoku, 2012).
23. I remember with nostalgia our struggle to recover the Vilaska Lodge from the Lagos State Government when they attempted to eject you out of your father’s property. I recall our trip to Kano to present your famous book, Because I am Involved. On our way to the palace of your great friend, the Emir of Kano, as soon as the good people of Kano noticed your presence, they lifted the car in which you and I were riding off the ground and landed us safely at the palace of the Emir. (Senator Ben Ndi Obi, 2012).
24. You will forever be remembered for all the efforts you made to bring the Igbos together, and the personal denials you suffered while you propagated their cause. Great leader, as you now travel to the great beyond, may the angels of God receive you at the portals of heaven; and may the good Lord grant your soul rest in His bosom. Amen. (Senator Ben Ndi Obi, 2012).
25. My enduring image of Ojukwu came from a calendar that heralded the January 15, 1966 coup. It, of course, featured Maj.-Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, as the new head of state, and the military governors of the four regions: Lt. Col. Hassan Usman Katsina (Northern Region), Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi (Western Region), Lt. Col. David Ejoor (Midwestern Region) and Lt. Col. Ojukwu (Eastern Region). They all wore the typical military stern look. Still, there was something distinctive and foreboding about Ojukwu. Perhaps, it was the feathered military cap. Perhaps, it was the brooding look. Maybe it was Ojukwu’s middle name, Odumegwu, a name that connotes and commands awe. (Minabere Ibelema, 2012).
26. "What all the Igbos and all of us who belonged to the old Eastern Region then are doing now is to celebrate Ojukwu's achievements as a governor and as leader of his people." Ojukwu did not win the Nigerian Civil War, he brought political victory to his people. "The Nigerian government may have won the military victory but the political victory was won by the Ibos because they established the fact that they are not a people you can ignore in the Federal Republic of Nigeria anymore." (Gov. Rotimi Chubuike Amaechi, 2012).
27. Dim Ojkukwu was one of the sharpest architects of modern Nigerian army. We salute him. (General Azubuike Ihejirika, Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, 2012).
28. As we mourn the huge loss of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu
Ojukwu the Ikemba of Nnewi as a leader, our condolence go to the family. From whichever prism we choose to look at him and his life, he was a historical figure in the history of Nigeria; the story of his life holds an important symbolism that should be understood in the efforts to cement Nigeria’s unity. May he rest in peace. (British Nigerian Councilors, 2012).
29. A good way to pay tribute to General Dim Ojukwu is to tell his stories the way he was certified in them given the crucial ethnic circumstances of Nigeria. Here is a man who came from a wealthy background but chose to work for the vulnerable population. Here is a man who abandoned his Oxford Degrees and the opportunities to live a high life to serve rural communities through community organizing. Here is a man who chose to train in Nigerian military as a recruit realizing he would fight injustices like a professional soldier. And he did. Let us adore his foresight, courage and persistence for his people to be counted in Nigerian affairs. He lived a hero. This man of the people never faltered. God bless his soul. (Dr. Patrick Iroegbu, 2012).
30. Dim Ojukwu was a man endowed with many fine qualities. Because of his multi-faceted and multi-dimensional gifts from the almighty, gifts which included the gift of garb, confidence, domineering presence and intellect, General Odumegwu Ojukwu would be remembered by many different people in many different ways. To some, he would ever remain the charismatic, young lieutenant colonel and governor of the defunct eastern Nigeria, whose sonorous voice and charming Oxford English accent and dominating presence, instantly swept them off kilter. A former Biafran soldier once averred that, during the Biafran war, many soldiers used to tremble in his presence just because he exuded an aura that electrified any environment he was in. (Alfred Obiora Uzokwe, 2012).
31. From son to father: Debe Odimemegwu Ojukwu wrote:
Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu
Dike Dioranma Ndigbo
Agu na Eche Ibe na Awka
Amuma na Egbeigwe
Ome Ife Suani,
1. I sat ensconsed in my little coin of vantage while you dominated and strangled the world like the colossus you are.
2. In comparison with your towering stature, my abject status pales irrefutably into total insignificance.
3. I must however confess that I had always felt secure and comfortable in my little world. For your presence shielded me from this harsh world.
Now that you are gone, my cover is blown for you have left me exposed and defenseless, armed only with your teachings and memories of the quality time we shared together – father to son.
I am sad but satisfied that you only left me to stay with your creator who sent you to me in the first place.
My promise is to follow your footsteps in order to fulfill my destiny. Debe Ojukwu, 2012).
Let me conclude the series on the “Quotable Measures of the Man: Dim Ojukwu of Nigeria (Parts 1 to 4)” by stating the obvious reality that Dim Ojukwu was a visible person and hero well cut out with measures of living for the other, well tailored, dressed up and inter-culturally shown and illuminated, embraced and expressed in the inevitable Nigerian situation. There have been several tributes, eulogies and commentaries on Dim Ojukwu before, during and after his passing and burial. Whether one looks in the newspapers, internet websites, magazines, books, journals and electronic media of different devices – for example, Youtube, Facebook, and twitter, or one delves into interviewing people who know him closely or listened to him make speeches and participated in events, one thing this writer discovered as a common phenomenon of him is the special focus he received as a unique and magnetizing person. He was generally acclaimed as a man of the people who made great strides in fighting ethnic and religious divides and injustices in order to re-shape Nigeria and its unity for everyone to belong and contribute.
At the end of his life and times, Dim Ojukwu emerged as the greatest hero and personality Nigeria ever celebrated. May all the causes he championed to unify the Igbo and strengthen Nigerian unity rekindle modern Nigerian leaders to do better. May the symbol of audacity of his mighty soul and heart for community development and nation building left behind keep us going as he rests in great peace, Amen. Adieu Dim Ojukwu.
Dr. Patrick Iroegbu is a social and cultural medical anthropologist and is the author of Healing Insanity: A Study of Igbo Medicine in Contemporary Nigeria (2010).