BY UDUMA KALU
As news broke of the death of the Biafra leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, not many people knew that his first wife is dead or that his second wife, Stella died earlier last year.
Ojukwu actually lost his second wife, Stella Onyeador, who died in her sleep with no traces of any major illness last year. Ojukwu who attend the burial ceremony which took place at the deceased’s Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos due to ill health but he sent his brother to represent him. He was devastated about the loss of his wife Stella which was also reflected in the speech given by the brother on his behalf.
And just a year after her death, Ojukwu was hit by another blow of the death of his first wife, Mrs. Njideka Ojukwu, who died April last year after a brief illness at her residence in Onitsha, Anambra State at the age of 77.
Indeed, for decades, the labours of women during the Biafran war have not been showcased or documented. But the death of the ex Biafran Leader Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu has thrown up the place of such women which included Mrs Akanu Ibiam and Prof. rs Chukwuemeka Ike.
In a tribute to Mrs Njideka Ojukwu and mother to the former Anambra State Commissioner for Special Duties and Transport, Mr. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (Jr.), by Phillip Effiong jr, son of Ojukwu’s second in command, Gen Phillip Effiong, posted to various Nigerian listservs, the role of the women in the civil war struggle has come up.
Njideka was born on December 25, 1933. She was from Nawfia, Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State. She was the second child of the late Mr. C. T. Onyekwelu and the late Mrs. Malinda Nnuaku Onyekwelu.
Her first son said young Njideka epitomized hard work and kindness, character traits that manifested prominently in shaping her as an adult. But even as a school pupil, she took care of some of her siblings with love, dedication and great affection and kindness.
She got married to her first husband Brodie Mends, in 1955 and gave birth to her first and only daughter, Iruaku, in 1956. At 19, she met and got married to Ojukwu in 1962 and had to move from Lagos to Kano in 1965 where her husband was staying. The marriage was celebrated at Apapa, Lagos with reception at Sir Odumegwu’s Ikoyi residence.
Effiong in his tribute entitled, Mrs Njikeda Ojukwu(1933-2010) One of Biafra’s Unsung “Sheroes”, said, “Mrs. Njideka Ojukwu (Aunty Njideka), was the wife of late General C. Odumegwu-Ojukwu who stood by him throughout the entire civil war. She died last year (March 2010). How many of us were aware of this? How many pro-Biafrans and Biafran organizations celebrated her life and death on any significant level? Try to find images and reports about her Online. There is little or nothing. But who was she and have we failed to give her the recognition and accolades she rightly deserves? For those of us who flaunt ourselves as champions of the Biafran cause, have we been hypocritical in our disregard for the achievements of our Biafran “Sheroes”? I think so and in this regard I am also guilty.
“When the male “heroes” of Biafra were confused, scared and distraught, who gave them the emotional support, strength and encouragement that they needed badly? (And, yes, as human beings there were times they were scared to death.) It was their wives.
When they were in hiding and absent from the home for weeks at a time, who sustained and held the families together? It was their wives and sometimes their mothers too. Who cooked and took food to the warfront? It was these wives and mothers, the unsung heroines of Biafra. On the average, Biafran males from ages 13 and up were in one way or the other involved in combat.
This meant that the various directorates, refugee camps, hospitals and homes were heavily dependent on the managerial and sacrificial efforts of women. Is it not true that these institutions and facilities were immeasurably crucial to Biafra’s survival? So, why would someone like Aunty Njideka pass on and hardly receive any acknowledgement?
“After the war when the men lost their military means of livelihood, who sustained (or helped to sustain) the families through any and every form of business?
My own mother sold moi-moi, soft drinks and beer from our home, and also sewed clothes in our front veranda in Enugu. Would the men want to engage in such “petty” though quick and practical money-making businesses?