By OZAH MICHAEL OZAH
GENERAL Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is dead but he remains a living issue in Nigerian political discourse. There is no writing the political history of Nigeria or the major issues confronting leadership in Nigeria without a liberal mention of his name and the principles he stood for.
It is doubtful if there is any Nigerian who has had so much written about him or his name more mentioned in written discourse on Nigerian politics than the warlord whose youthful face adorned the TIME Magazine in the heat of the crisis in the 1960s.To many, Ojukwu is synonymous with war, with Biafra. Dr. Kalu Ogbaa’s book, General Ojukwu, The Legend of Biafra, however, reveals that there is more to Ojukwu than just war.
The 353 page treatise published by Tri-Atlantic Books on Ojukwu’s role in the Nigerian leadership crisis that snowballed into the declaration of Biafra by Ojukwu and of war by Gowon traces Ojukwu’s steps from birth in Zungeru in Northern Nigeria through his education in King’s College, Epson College and Oxford University.
The book reveals Ojukwu’s revulsion for oppression. His early strong character formation built him into an anti-racist and anti-colonialist personality.
Dr. Ogbaa’s book is a brave, no holds barred must read documentary of the events that led to Nigeria’s fratricidal crisis of the 1960s. It is a detailed analysis of the causes and courses of the crises of confidence that nearly tore apart Africa’s most populous black nation and a probe into the personality and attributes of the man Ojukwu, the central character whose name became synonymous with the crisis.
A military officer, Ojukwu
found himself as governor of Eastern Region of Nigeria at a time when citizens of that region living in other parts of Nigeria were being massacred. He owed a duty to protect his people; but believing in the Nigerian project he toed the path of pacification and urged his people to forgive and return to their places of residence.
When extremism pushed him to the wall, he courageously took up arms to defend his citizens and ensured their preservation and self determination. Only cowards would have acted otherwise when they find themselves in Ojukwu’s shoes. The course he chose was the best in the circumstances and the cause in the best interest of the people.
The book studies Ojukwu as a student, administrator, soldier, governor and head of state, following him from Zungeru to Lagos and overseas. It also explores his career in the civil service as an Assistant District Officer in the army and the burden upon him as a leader of his people.
It exposes the conspiracy of silence against Biafra which shut the genocide perpetrated by Nigeria with British and Russian connivance against Biafra from global attention. One positive result of the tragedy of Biafra was that it led to the death of old Nigeria.
Like the Christian Bible says “Old things have passed away and all things become new.” For Nigeria, after the war things will never remain the same again.
Not even the world power supporters of Nigeria ever thought that Biafran resistance would be that prolonged.
The doggedness of the Biafran spirit was not in question after the war. Not even the employment of starvation as a legal weapon of war could easily dampen the fighting spirit of Biafra. It was in recognition of this that the “No victor no vanquished” principle was ingrained as the basis for peace and reconciliation.
One cannot agree more wholeheartedly with the author that the Biafra struggle was futuristic; it was not altogether for the time of its occurrence, the time then being not for Biafra alone.
It was for the vast future of Nigeria, to make the nation a better place for all. The circumstances that gave rise to that struggle were not far fetched from those that birthed the American Revolution. They were both attempts at self preservation and self determination of a people.