For many great men who had traversed the planet earth, hardly did any of them have more than two very important dates in their lives. Ordinarily-speaking, man born of a woman is naturally associated with two eventful dates; the day of his birth and the day he joins his ancestors in the world beyond. But in the case of the former military governor of defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria; Late Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, there exists an outstanding difference. Because of the distinctiveness of his rare and unique personality, it stands evidently incontrovertible that late Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu had, willy-nilly, unprecedentedly contributed immensely in shaping the course of Modern Nigeria. His social and political engineering in the firmament of the Nigerian dynamics was inevitably captured and recorded by history and unequivocally constitute landmarks in Nigeria’s March to Nation-hood. Many contemporary writers and commentators have already written and said much about Ojukwu’s date and place of birth, his privileged family background; with a golden spoon, not silver, and, of course, the bourgeois elitism that surrounded his brilliant academic career, culminating in his displayed astuteness in intellectualism and capped his pursuit with a masters’ degree in History. With his rare intellectual background, Dim Ojukwu, driven by a combination of vision, selflessness, determination, ‘patriotism and humility willingly resolved to enlist into the Nigerian Army as a mere recruit. By that singular act, Dim Ojukwu carved a niche for himself as the first University graduate of African extraction to join the British Colonial Army as an ordinary recruit. Some writers, purely for selfish destructive reasons, had insincerely and most unpatriotically labeled Dim Ojukwu as a rebel and an ethnic jingoist. This is an indecent and unacceptable manifestation of parochialism of an intolerable dimension. Such narrow-minded writers had pitiably failed to appreciate the fact that the Late Dim Ojukwu, as a Battalion Commander of the Nigerian Army in Kano, as at January 15, 1966, had bluntly and successfully refused to recognize the military coupd’etat plotted by the late Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. He condemned the coup as he reasoned that, even though the political conflict, intolerance, and rivalry between the Late Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo and Late Chief Samuel Akintola had turned the defunct Western Region of Nigeria into a regional disaster and catastrophe, resulting into uncountable deaths and equally threatening the corporate existence of the new Independent Nigeria, Military Coup was not the solution to be applied to the ‘Wild West’. When the Late First Military Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria; Major-Gen. Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-lronsi, eventually took over the reins of the country after Late Kaduna Nzeogwu had surrendered to espirit de corps of military regimentation and superiority, history recorded another significant date for Dim Ojukwu as the first military governor and Chief Executive of the defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria. On July 15 1966, Nigerian Military Officers of Northern Nigeria extraction, led by the then major Theophilus Danjuma, staged a counter-coup, during which they killed Major-Gen Ironsi who was a guest of the Military Governor of defunct Western Region, Lt. Col Fajuyi. The Danjuma-led coupists also killed Fajuyi who had attempted resisting the killing of Gen. Ironsi as his official guest. As at the time of the Northern-plotted -Danjuma led coup in July 1966, the most Senior Nigerian Military Officer, after Gen. Ironsi, was Brigadier Ogundipe, of Yoruba extraction. In the established culture of military leadership and sequence, leadership of the Nigerian state should have naturally been trusted upon Brig. Ogundipe. But the Northern Military Coupists installed Lt Col Yakubu Gowon, a relatively Junior Officer to Brig. Ogundipe. This act was, for sure, not acceptable to Dim Ojukwu, who saw it as a contravention of military discipline and ethics. As a well-bred intellectual and quintessential soldier, this was an overt injustice and flagrant display of indiscipline and its attendant impunity that had to be resisted. With the successful over throw and killing of Gen. Ironsi, the North broke lose and embarked on a rampage that ended up as a pogrom targeted at ethnic cleansing of the people of forrrier eastern Region of Nigeria, especially Ndi Igbo, resident in such Northern cities as Kano, Kaduna, Maidugiri, Bauchi, Sokoto, Jos, Zaria, Markurdi and the smaller towns. As the Military Governor of former Eastern Region, that period was the most challenging in the life and times of Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu. He found himself between the devil and the deep blue sea. He was principally committed to the Unity of Nigeria but at the same time he had to do something in order to stop the orgy of wanton massacre of Easterners in the North. The situation in the North compelled Dim Ojukwu to embark on wide consultations. The outcome of the consultations with leaders of the defunct Eastern Region was the declaration of the Federal Republic of Biafra on 30th May, 1966. This date became water shed in the political history of Nigeria. It is equally important to state that the 30th May, 1966 declaration of Biafra spontaneously gave rise to Gowon’s administration splitting the country into twelve states; with the former Eastern Region being divided into three states; (I) East-Central State, (2) Rivers State and (3) South-Eastern State. It should be mentioned that for thirty months, starting from May 1967 to January 1970, Dim Ojukwu, as the General of the Biafran Army and Head of state, sustained the struggle for his people’s protection against total annihilation. He achieved this uncommon feat despite total blocade by the Federal government of Nigeria and hostilities by both Britain and former soviet union of Russia. The Magic behind Dim Ojukwu’s sustenance of a struggle that Gen, Gowon had boasted would be crushed in less than forty-eight hours was his vision, transparency, discipline, selflessness and ingenuity throughout the war, the people in the ‘Biafran’ enclave never witnessed short -fall in fuel supply. Yet Biafra had no functional refinery. The International air-port the former Biafran war-Lord constructed at Uli was one of the busiest in Africa. Yet it operated only in the nights because of air-raids. The Electronic Explosive device called “Ojukwu bucket ‘or Ogbunigwe’ which had the capacity to kill hundreds at a time, was purely an indigenous creation; courtesy of Dim Ojukwu’s wonderful ability to harness talents amongst his people. The Ojukwu Bunker at Umuahia which housed the administrative headquarters of Biafra after the collapse of Enugu, and which measures 29 feet underground and was built only in ninety days despite incessant bombardment of Umuahia, is a super-master architectural edifice that is capable of dwarfing the famous Hanging Towers of Babylon. As Ojukwu’s body is brought to Enyimba International Stadium at Aba Today; Tuesday 28 February, 2012, Governor T.A. Orji and the Local Organizing Committee for this burial of ‘the people’s Leader and Hero, invite all Abians and admirers of heroism to come out en-masse and give honour to whom it is due and at the same time urge all Nigerians to conduct a critical frank study of those virtues that were inherent in the Late Governor of Former Eastern Region of Nigerian State. The Abia Local Organizing Committee for the burial of this quintessential leader must have to express immense gratitude to His Excellency; Governor T.A. Orji (Ochendo), for graciously providing enough fund for the L.O.C to accord befitting honour to our former military governor of defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria. May the soul of Ikemba find peace in the bosom of the Lord, Amen!
(Okwubunka of Asa)
Chairman Sub-Committee on Media & Publicity.
Abia State Local Organizing Committee For the Burial of Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu