By Ikeddy ISIGUZO, Chairman Editorial Board
IN life and in death Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu will not stopping being amazing. Here was a man who cast aside his privileged position, went to war to impress on his compatriots that Nigeria deserved a better constitutional setting to progress.
They would not listen to him. They accused him of being over-ambitious. They vilified him. He stuck to his position that it was unacceptable for Nigeria’s future to be compromised. He wanted a stop to the killing of the Ndigbo in unprecedented waves of massacres that Nigeria made no efforts to stop.
He went to war to protect Ndigbo, and ultimately other Nigerians. He did not ask for more than that Ndigbo should be allowed to be. He led the war fro 30 months during which he used the zeal of youth, his passion, his commitment, his dedication in getting his people behind him.
It was not for nothing that his people loved him, forget the few, who in their haste to be re-habilitated in Nigeria would tell tales to diminish Ikemba. Where would Ndigbo have been today if Ojukwu did not stand up for them in 1966?
The massacres are on again. The same challenges of nationhood that Ojukwu saw when he asked for a confederal arrangement in Aburi in 1967 are on the increase. Ndigbo are being killed in the North again. Who will speak fro them?
New converts to a better constitutional setting for Nigeria vaguely refer to Aburi these days. They would not acknowledge the foresight of a man who saw the future and put his life on the line for it.
The late realisation of the progress that Nigeria would have made in the past 45 years, if each region was allowed to continue on the path it had elected is part of the challenges of governance today.
Complaints about poverty are also complaints about the inefficiencies that the absence of healthier economic competition among the confederating units has produced. The regions that erected the foundational pillars of economic and social developments in their spheres have withered under States that wait for monthly farming out of oil revenue.
Ojukwu foresaw the futility of running a unitary federation. The worries are everywhere. Federal and state workers earn the same wages. Politicians in urban Abuja make decisions for rural populaces with whom they are not in touch. Everyone is shouting about the rising cost of governance, without a word of acknowledgement of the sagacity of a man who had a recipe for these later day matters and offered it to his country.
The out pouring of praises for him in death is stunning. The army bore his casket. The President was at the events. The Vice President was there. People are falling over themselves to be identified with him.
Are Nigerians finally admitting they made a mistake going to war against him? Or are some simply glad that one more powerful voice that would ask questions, that would bring fecund ideas to the table was gone?
Whatever it, Nigeria has lost a prescient personality who spoke for everyone. His title of General of the Peoples Army might have come from the war, but it aptly encapsulated his tireless courage in standing up for the oppressed, wherever they may be found. Ndigbo are celebrating the departure of one, whose like make a rare appearance.
His passage leaves the type of vacuum that will cry for filling for a long time. It is noteworthy that Nigerians are just discovering Ojukwu in death.
See our special report on Ojukwu: Ojukwu Ijele Ndigbo (1933-2011)