By Emma Okocha
”It matters not who the voter, what does matter is who counts the votes”-Russian Dictator Joseph Stalin.
”As far as we know there is one state in Africa that never had one king for all.
That is my own state, the Ibo….most decentralized in our political and bureaucratic organization; since there is no salary for filling political posts, corruption is rare, since there is no Police, no party system, politicians are like priests, often very poor.”
– Eastern Nigerian Minister of Finance, Philosopher, Pioneer Nationalist, Mazi Mbonu Ojike.
”Only people who share worldviews can share dreams. The British created a political power configuration that would allow them ‘leave-and -stay’ in Nigeria. This arrangement made sense through some worldviews within Nigeria and did not make sense through other worldviews within Nigeria. The duty of a great leadership is to synthesize a common worldview to reconcile the peoples within the polity. Nigeria did not have such leadership. And things fell apart.
Neither Emeka or Gowon went into the army to rise to the rank of Head of State. Their persons or roles were not the theme of the drama. Plays are independent of the actors. Actors, although, can contribute differences in style, and so, influence dramatic outcomes. Still if they are not available,Â other people will play the role better or worse.”
– Dr. Ben.Chidi Osuagwu, Keynote Address celebrating the 70th birthday of General Odumegwu Ojukwu, Owerri, November 1st, 2003.
”In three years of war, necessity gave birth to invention . During those three years of heroic bound , we leapt across the great chasm that separates knowledge from know-how. We built bombs, rockets, and we designed and built our own refinery and our own delivery systems and guided them far. For three years, blockaded without hope of import, we maintained all our vehicles.
The state extracted and refined petrol, individuals refined petrol in their back gardens. We built and maintained our airports, maintained them under heavy bombardment, and after each raid we were able to recover and maintain the record as the busiest airport in Africa. We spoke to the world through a telecommunication system engineered by local ingenuity.
In three years we had broken the technological barrier, became the most advanced Black people on earth. We spurn nylon yarn, we developed new seeds for food and medicines.”
His father was the business emperor who traveled the United Kingdom without any traveling papers. He was in Kings College and therefore can be branded a Lagos boy. A graduate from Oxford he is the first Nigerian graduate to enlist and to command a Nigerian army formation, the fifth Battalion, Kano.
Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is the first African to appear on the front color cover of the world’s most influentialÂ documentary, the American Time magazine.
Kwame Nkrumah the late Ghananian President was actually the first black man to be featured on the Times black and white cover when that nation won its independence in 1957.[see Biafra Agony, TIME, August 23, 1968] Ojukwu was on the cover of the Times and for the last three years of the romantic decade of the ’60s was the headline, from the chilly landscape of the Scandinavians to the Siberia wastes of the Supreme Soviet.
His overthrowing charisma and his Biafra story held the front pages of the newspapers and on television screens, the blood curdling tragedy of the Biafran starving children, shocked the entire humanity. The Canadians with little bother for their own safety, rushed in food and medical supplies. Reverend Johnson founded the Jesus Line and for the first time the Christian west, ignored their lethargic governments, chartered their own aircraft and landed Biafra. They dropped food to the desperately hungry hinterland and took off with the kwashiorkor children.
The French doctors in revolution and on their own moved in to take care of the wounded, the victims of the incessant air bombardment;Â and that is the origin of the now world renowned humanitarian group, Medicine sans frontier- Doctors without borders.
There were other unforgettable Christian organizations like the Caritas, the World Council of Churches who braved the rocket infested skies to bring succor to Biafra. The Red Cross, in one of those savage contentions, had its plane brought down and into the Atlantic crashed the pilot, the heroic volunteers. Instead of going to the hungry children, donated tons of food and medical relief materials went to the fishes of the ocean.
The Russian Mig fighters responsible for all those Geneva contraventions were operating on the orders of the Supreme Soviet.Â The later regarded the survival of the young nation, as an unwarranted menace to the over all Russian interest in Africa.
Even though, the Russians had acknowledged Ojukwu’s socialist envoy, Justice P. K. Nwokedi, giving him the rare honor to address the Supreme Soviet Parliament, Leonid Brezhnev and the Communist leadership had made up their mind. Russian intelligence led by Romanov her Ambassador in Lagos had reported that the Biafran rocket had out distanced the latest of the red army’s artillery. It would therefore be in the interest of that Super Power to stop the Biafran revolution.
After three years of grit and blood, the war was over. As it is always with men of determined path,Â Emeka Ojukwu’s life has been a high voltage risk, full of dramas, a ballet, and also have featured on the edges, very rough Abariba head hunters’ dance contests with and against destiny.
Right from the day he slapped a colonial authority as a student in Kings College, to the day he declared Biafra; the day he passed the Midwest Command to Col. Banjo, on the day he personally directed field operations to ward off Federal land and sea assault on Oguta, and onwards to that final day of transferring Command to General Philip Effiong, before going into exile.
Indeed, it was a risk sending him to England to read. He attended tutorials driving a Rolls Royce to class and inviting his Professor to come riding with him.Â As a graduate it was a major risk joining the army from the ranks. A most risky undertaking was asking the escapee Easterners to return to the north, only to be slaughtered in September, 1966.Â Declaring Biafra no matter the justice of its cause was risky and returning from exile to join the NPN against the party of Zik, was a major risk.
His last campaign for the APGA gubernatorial quest was characteristically risky. Why would the Lion of Biafra be led and physically challenged as he lumbered from place to place, mounting one podium or the other, desperately campaigning for the Governor of Anambra , a state that providedÂ two provinces of the former Biafran entity?
In his evening years, the risk of losing another election at home will definitely force the re rewriting of his legacy, and history is usually unkind to world actors who suffered humiliating exits, or stayed too long on the stage. The victory of Governor Peter Obi in the last Anambra elections was therefore in many ways a major triumph for the last Eastern titan.
A final salute by the Anambra people to their general for his former services and also a signal to the Onye Ije to say Goodbye from the stage. For if the big masquerade fails to retire in time from the village square,Â the children would be empowered to throw sands his direction.