OJUKWU IKEMBA : Tribute from well spirited Nigerians


IN this world, most people are not famous at all. Some people’s fame is ephemeral, some are famous for 5 minutes and are hardly remembered again. Most persons are not remembered at all a year after their corpse is interred. Remembrance becomes enduring only when one’s life’s work has relevance for many future generations.

Why do we mourn Ojukwu’s death? Why should we keep fresh our memory of him? Let us tell the world, as well as remind ourselves, of the man, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, and of his struggles on our behalf, and let us note some of the brave services he rendered us in a period of more than 60 years; selfless services for which we are indebted to him and should hold him in highest esteem.

Ojukwu lived a life filled with such deeds as legends are made of. Here are some: Consider the case of the Zulu hero, Shaka. When he was 13, Shaka attacked and killed a black Mamba snake that had killed a prize bull he was guarding. Like Shaka, Ojukwu as a boy exhibited the bravery and protectiveness that would win him fame as an adult.

Ojukwu: Anti-colonial Defender of the Racially Oppressed
In 1944, when he was 11, Ojukwu was briefly imprisoned for assaulting a white British colonial teacher who was humiliating a black woman at King’s College in Lagos, an event which generated widespread coverage in local newspapers.

For a schoolboy to fight a teacher is unusual, and requires great courage. For any black person in a colonial society ruled by all-powerful whites, a society which practices racial discrimination, such behavior required extreme provocation or extreme folly. For an 11 year old black schoolboy in such a society to fight a teacher belonging to the master race required extraordinary audacity.

And for him to do so in defence of another black person, and not of himself, showed a precocious race consciousness and a meritorious sense of racial solidarity. Marcus Garvey would have been proud of the lad and recognized him as one destined to do great deeds for the black race. Here was a boy to watch. And, when he grew up, Ojukwu did not disappoint such expectations.

After this event, his father, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, a millionaire businessman and one of the richest men in Nigeria, packed him off to England to an elite boarding school. From there he proceeded to Oxford University. After earning his Master’s Degree in History, he returned to colonial Nigeria in 1956 and joined the colonial administration as a District Officer. After serving a year, he made an extraordinary career move.

He resigned and enlisted in the Army in 1957, not as an officer cadet, but as an ordinary soldier. Nevertheless, he rose rapidly from the ranks and in 1964, became a Lieutenant Colonel, and was appointed the Quartermaster General of the Nigerian Army. All this he achieved within 7 years in a peace-time army, not in a wartime army where a high attrition rate accelerates promotions.

Soon thereafter political events pushed Ojukwu into political leadership when the coup of January 1966 led to his appointment as the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria. That was the platform from where he performed the great deeds that have made him famous.

Ojukwu: Hero of Aburi
Biafran leader, Lietenant Colonel C. Odumegwu Ojukwu, military governor of East Nigeria in this 1966 file photo. The first of these deeds was his brilliant performance in the negotiations at the Conference of Nigeria’s military rulers that was held in Aburi, Ghana, in January1967.

Beginning as a minority of one in a Supreme Military Council with eight other members in attendance, he prevailed on the SMC, first to renounce the use of force to resolve the crisis that had brought them to Aburi; and, secondly, to agree on a confederation arrangement for governing the country until a new constitution could be agreed.

Getting his colleagues to agree to the Aburi Accord was Ojukwu’s seminal contribution to Nigeria’s survival and to the security and progress of the entire population of Nigeria. However, the fruits of this fundamental contribution were not to be harvested. When the signatories returned to Nigeria, Gowon and his officials in Lagos refused to implement the terms of the Accord. This deepened the crisis and eventually provoked the secession of Eastern Nigeria and its quest for self-determination as the sovereign state of Biafra.

Ojukwu: Founder and War Leader of Biafra
The next great deed that Ojukwu did was to proclaim the sovereign state of Biafra on 30 May 1967. Before the new state could find its feet, Gowon, in repudiation of yet another part of the Aburi Accord, resorted to force and sent the Nigerian army to invade Biafra to bring it back into Nigeria. When the Nigeria-Biafra War began in July 1967, Ojukwu became Biafra’s war leader.

He led Biafra in a just war of self defence, a war of resistance to Nigeria’s aggression, a war to defend the Biafran People’s right to self-determination and to protect their very lives. With no resources to speak of, Ojukwu still managed to organize the Biafran people and the Biafran Army to resist the Nigerian invaders for 30 harrowing months until Biafra fell and surrendered in January 1970.

In those 30 months, Ojukwu did two other great deeds. To sustain the struggle, he mobilized the scientific manpower of Biafra into the Science and Technology Group (S&T Group) that achieved great things. Secondly he produced a Blueprint for a just Biafran society.

Ojukwu the war leader of Biafra:
Finding itself blockaded by land, sea and air, Biafra had to be self-reliant to survive. Its Science and Technology Group (S&T Group) rose to the challenge and, among other things, conceived and produced a type of air defence dust mine for use against MIG jet fighters. In October 1967, when Biafran troops at the Ugwuoba Bridge, near Awka. fired it horizontally on advancing Nigerian troops, its devastating effect earned it the name Ogbunigwe (mass killer).

On March 31, 1968, a Biafran army unit ambushed and, using Ogbunigwe, destroyed a 96-vehicle column of Nigerian soldiers. The humiliating Abagana defeat to Nigerian soldiers prompted General Yakubu Gowon to remove Col. Murtala Mohammed as the General Commanding Officer of the Onitsha sector.

In addition, Biafran engineers built airports and roads; designed and built petroleum refineries; designed and built light and heavy equipment. Biafra’s Research and Production (RAP) unit did research on chemical weapons as well as rocket guidance systems. It invented new forms of explosives, and tried new forms of food processing technology.

The Biafra coastline was lined with home-made shore batteries and with remote controlled weapons systems and bombs. Under Ojukwu’s leadership, and in less than three years, a Biafra that was being starved by blockade, achieved a great leap forward in black African science and technology. [see Wikipedia article on Ojukwu]

This achievement remains unique in Black Africa. In their half century of “independence” thus far, no other state in Black Africa has created any Science & Technology organization, let alone one to compare with the one created in Biafra’s 31 months existence.

This Biafran achievement remains an inspirational beacon for the Black World in this 21st century. It shows that if Black African states are still not industrialized today, the fault is not in us the people, not in the stars, not in our race, but in our neo-colonialist leaders and their chronic misleader-ship Fathers.Ojukwu: Proponent of a New Social Order
Even in the midst of war, Ojukwu encouraged the Biafran intelligentsia to investigate and articulate their people’s aspirations for their post-war society. This effort produced a document which Ojukwu presented to the nascent Biafran nation on June 1, 1969 at Ahiara village.

It became known as The Ahiara Declaration .The document eloquently and totally rejected the Nigerian social order for its neo-colonialist iniquities and inequities, and outlined the principles on which a radically different and just society would be constructed in Biafra. Ojukwu’s Ahiara Declaration invites comparison with Nyerere’s Arusha Declaration as a blueprint for a just and egalitarian Black African society.

Accurate picture

Unfortunately, despite these achievements, the proposed new society was not to be. A Biafran cartoon of the period, captioned “The Truth about the Nigeria-Biafra War”, gave an accurate picture of the war situation: it showed a trio consisting of President Lyndon Johnson of the USA, Prime Minister Harold Wilson of Britain and Premier Alexei Kosygin of the USSR holding Ojukwu immobilized for Nigeria’s Gowon to use as a punching bag. New Nigerians good morning

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