BECAUSE I AM INVOLVED – Odumegwu Ojukwu

I grew up in a family where equality was upheld. My sister, older than me by just over a year, always came first. She got the first pick of goodies, she got the first bicycle, the first cell phone, she was taken on the first trip to Lagos by air…hell, she even got the first pair of soccer boots my dad ever bought. As a kid growing up, this was disturbing because when I played with my friends or listened to older people talk, or just looked around me, I saw that the ‘man’ came first in everything especially if he was the first born son. See, the scenario at home wouldn’t have been an issue if big sis had been a boy; she was after all, older. But she was ‘just a girl’, I had heard one too many times. At home however, it was different. Dad made me understand by his actions, that big sis wasn’t just a girl, she was the first child. That was my first lesson in equality. But for my parents’ firm belief and advocacy of equality at home, I might have grown up undermining the women folk, or worse, resenting my lovely sister. Thanks to them, I stand proud today as a respecter and ardent admirer of women. I stand as a firm believer in fairness to all, equality and justice.

Fairness, Equality and Justice. The same values by which the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu stood throughout his spectacular life. Many times, I have been asked about my relationship with Ikemba Nnewi. While he struggled with ill health over the past couple of months, it only took a mention of my full name and hometown to prompt reactions like, “How is your uncle doing?”, “Is your grandfather still in a coma?”, or “Why don’t you grow a beard like your father? It will fit you oh!” In response, I’d smile and say something along the lines of “He’s very healthy…he even reads the papers now”, then regrettably (I admit) I’d set the records straight about my relationship or more truthfully, lack of a relationship with the great man. It would have been so very easy and I was sorely tempted, to grow a beard and claim ‘sonhood’ or ‘nephewhood’ of Dim Ojukwu but that would have meant denying my own identity. From the little reading I have done on him, I know that Ojukwu too was an advocate of roots and identity. He believed in independence – the truthfulness of man to himself and his origin, the ability of a man to lodge his own roots firmly into life’s soil and bloom to prime away from the domineering shadows of man-made and God-made influences. Only by being truly independent, as above stated, did he believe that a man could discover his own identity.

Ojukwu was born into affluence but he did not hang onto his father’s wealth with his last breath like many of us would have done. He had money and knew how to spend it. But he didn’t see it as a god among men. To him, money was a rod among men; a rod or staff that made the journey of life easier for whoever wielded it as well as the wielder’s fellow travelers. Ojukwu also loved people, especially those recognized by the society as suffering or under-privileged. Some say he only loved the Igbo people but they forget that he quit his position as Assistant District Officer of the Umuahia Eastern Region to join the Nigerian army, to his father’s chagrin. He was smart, wealthy, an Oxford graduate; he could have been anything he wanted to be but he chose to join the army as a cadet, one of the first graduates to ever do that. Ironically, the armory which served the Nigerian army in the civil war against the Biafrans was stocked up by Dim Ojukwu himself during his years as a Quarter Master General of the Nigerian army. The Igbos say that if a dog is spat on and beaten in the market place, he knows only one place to go for comfort – home. Before Ojukwu’s very eyes, the Igbo people suffered all manner of ignominious abuse, spite and faced utter annihilation – all vices that contradicted his core values. The Igbos had been beaten in the market place so he took them home for succor. This love of his enabled him spend his birthright – enormous wealth handed down to him by his father, the wealthiest businessman of pre-independence Nigeria – on a war which served to redeem the honor of the Igbo man.

The Biafrans lost the Civil war but I don’t believe it was a defeat. In my eyes, the Civil war served the purpose for which the Igbos fought. The Igbo man had been trampled on, his wife and children horrendously abused, his rights exorcised like errant demons. There was a desperate need for him to be respected again. For it to be known that he was no rabid dog to be kicked around in the dust. The Civil war served that purpose. Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu helped the Igbo man take that right back. All through his exile days, the days after his return to the country, and the latter days of his battle with ill health, the Igbos worshipped the ground he walked on. He was seen as the savior, Eze gburugburu. But he had done all he could, a father can only go as far as marrying a wife for his son and buying him a house to bed his bride in. He wouldn’t be expected to help the son bed his wife too, would he? The destiny of the Igbo man was put in his hands at the end of the war. While Dim Ojukwu lived, the Igbos were his children but now he is gone, they must grow. They must take that destiny and do well with it because so far, it hasn’t looked very good.

Comrade Uwazuruike, leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in his speech marking the announcement of Ojukwu’s death made certain demands of the federal government. Among other demands such as that for the creation of two additional south-eastern states, he demanded the implementation of the ‘no victor, no vanquished’ policy initiated by Gen. Gowon in January of the year 1970! I had to consult my calendar again to count how many years had passed since then before I began to wonder what Comrade Uwazuruike had been waiting for all this time. Any honest Igbo man would be the first to confess that among the three major tribes, the Igbos are the least integrated. As a popular saying goes, Igbo enweghi eze. An Igbo man who bears the title of Onwa na-etili ora would throw parties, make public donations and gorge his kinsmen with kegs upon kegs of palmwine but what would he do if a brother came to him in secret for a much-needed loan? What would he do if a government contract came his way which would destroy thousands of his townsmen’s means of livelihood but up his account by millions? We all know the answer. In the face of the true test of brotherhood, the average Igbo man would fail woefully. We couldn’t even agree on a consensus candidate for the 2007 elections!

The death of Eze gburugburu is not a call for Igbos to deliver ultimatums or threats. Ojukwu might have led the Biafran war but at heart, he was first and foremost Nigerian. As many are aware, he spoke Yoruba and Hausa very fluently. He believed in unity, equality, fairness to all and justice. The threat by MASSOB to unleash the fury of ‘our boys’ now that Ojukwu is no longer here to calm them demeans the legend of the man and what he represented. Ojukwu did not give his time, energy, money and life for another Boko Haram. His death is a call for every Igbo man to become involved. A call for bone-deep patriotism. Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s wish, I can bet, is for every man to kindle in his heart, a love for country and fellow countryman that would burn through every material and immaterial obstacles blazing the way for a better Nigeria, a better you and I. The state burial, monuments, foundations, threnodas, and elegies aside, this is the only way to truly honor him. Anything less would only send him on a spinning roll in his grave after he is buried. REST IN PEACE, IKEMBA NNEWI. KA O DIBA…



18 thoughts on “BECAUSE I AM INVOLVED – Odumegwu Ojukwu” by MCO II (@nitram27)

  1. Yeah!
    I was waiting for this.
    You write quite well.

  2. I am speechless now, tears running down the corners of my eyes. I’ve always thought i would one day have the oppotunity to interview the Great oracle. Now such will never happen. It takes a century to have people like Ojukwu arround. He was a god. gods dont die they transform into…

  3. I am speechless now, tears running down the corners of my eyes. I’ve always thought i would one day have the oppotunity to interview the Great oracle. Now such will never happen. It takes a century to have people like Ojukwu arround. He was a god. gods dont die they transform into… Now he watches the home he had warred for.

  4. thanks, kaycee. i hear u, adams…it’s more painful for me cos i already had plans in motion to meet him being his townsman and all, then he fell sick and travelled out. it only dawned on me that he could actually die without my ever meeting him when the first wave of ‘OJUKWU IS DEAD’ rumors blew across the country a some months ago. i mourned him then before i heard it was jus rumors. somehow, it made it easier for me to accept the death when it finally came. he was great but we will be greater!

  5. Beautiful piece and tribute to a great man!!!
    Ojukwu was a brave man who believed in equality and loved his people. He may had his faults (just like the rest of us) but he refused to be trampled upon and revolted when pushed to the extreme. the war as all wars came with its perils but very unfortunately the problems that resulted to the civil war are still looming in our great nation Nigeria….

  6. true talk, chetachi…true talk

  7. Very touching piece indeed and well written. I like your concluding paragraph.

  8. Yes, he was a man worthy of emulation, a man of the people. May his soul rest in peace. Wonderful piece sir.

  9. Okay, this is quite enlightning as I don’t think I know anything about him except that I always hear he started the biafran war, this has shed more light now, nicely written too

  10. He is at peace…Nice…

  11. Equality…in life, no two things are equal. We only try to make them be but nobody has ever succeeded. Odimegwu was no exception. He tried, really tried, although, at times, I believe he did whatever he did for ulterior motives. My own opinion sha.

    All in all, may he rest in peace

  12. Quite an expository piece…equality, justice and fairness are qualities that should be deeply entrenched in our culture and society at large. I think Dim Ojukwu was a dogged, resilient and true warrior though he was often misunderstood, but like a phoenix, he rose above the ashes of the civil war and once again established himself as a force to reckon with in the protection of the rights and the integration of the Igbo populace. Keep the flag flying!

  13. Nice one… I like Ojukwu but I can’t particularly say what I like about him. Well, I think his name, yes, it has to be his name. Each time I hear Odumegwu Ojukwu, I envision a warlord, a man who wants peace and justice for all and not just the Igbo people alone.

    MCO II this is a good one and I must say thank you, Uwazurike’s MASSOB crap is definitely not a way forward.

  14. I like heroes and this is a great tribute to one. Some ppl might not agree with you on some of his deeds but, I like to think that heroes are merely extraordinary mortals. Ojukwu has his place in history…

  15. Wow! Reading this, one would naturally think Ojukwu was a saint. MCO II, please read “Why we Struck” by Maj. Ademoyega.

  16. thank you, guys. Onyeka, i can understand your errr…’predicament’ but you might want to read the piece again before you think him a saint. I will try to read your recommended text while hoping that you will read “Because I am Involved” by the man himself as well as accounts of the Biafran war both by Frederick Forsyth and Alex Madiebo. We will have a lot to talk about after WE have read, my friend.

  17. A very beautiful and expository piece. Ojukwu deserves every accolade he can get, cos men like him are rare, apperaing at long intervals just like an eclipse…..

    Well done!!!

  18. thanks, lawal, for reading

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