By Uduma Kalu
Had four wives, romantic poems and controversial marriages
Dim Chukwuemka Odumegwu Ojukwu, hero of the Biafran war, had many appellations among which are the People’s General, Lion of the Tribe of Biafra, the Hero’s Hero, the General’s General, Dim, Ezeigbo Gburugburu.
But nobody gave him a title for being a romantic or a lady’s man. In fact, a senior editor once replied his colleagueon why Bianca fell for Ojukwu, an old man. The editor told the female editor that had the lady herself met Ojukwu, she would have fallen for him as well. Because no woman could resist Ojukwu’s aura and oratory.
Ojukwu had all its takes to attract women. He was from a wealthy family and was educated in Oxford. His voice was poetry and could spin women’s heads. It is said that he combined romantic poetry with love letters, and deployed very soothing words for his women. Ojukwu was said to have attended the Silverbird beauty pageant where Bianca was crowned and wrote a love note to her witha flower inside. He came prepared.
He defiled all the camp rules for Bianca. You don’t woo a queen nor date a man if you are a queen. But both of them fell for each other. While Bianca refused to let go of Ojukwu and lost her Miss Beautful Girl. She was also Miss Intercontinetal . She also disagreed with her father over Ojukwu. For Ojukwu, Bianca was another Biafran war. The only difference was that there was no Aburi.
His skin was rich and glowed. Obinwa Nnaji, former editor of Daily Satellite Newspaper and a one-time Lieutenant in the Biafran Army Engineers (BAE), at the Umuakpu-Omanelu sector on the Owerri-Port Harcourt road, said in a tribute, “He was blessed with a rich glow and prosperous skin – so robust and plump like tomato puree ready to burst if needled.
Watching him at close range in Ibadan several years ago during a cocktail party organised by Spectrum Books for its authors, I was amazed that he had managed to keep such attractive chocolate arms and skin. Little wonder, women came and stuck to him like chewing gum.”
The family of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu may have common traits that have marked them since time. They are known warriors and are given to polygamy.
According to Chief Anthony Nnadozie Udemefuna Ojukwu, 73-year-old Ikemba Nnewi’s first cousin, their family is known for polygamy. He also gave an insight into Ojukwu’s women. “Look at Bianca. What she wanted in a man might be very different from what Njideka or Stella wanted. But what I want to assure you is that these four women were alike. They were all beautiful women. Emeka loved beautiful things and beautiful cars. He was a man of courage and was handsome, which was an irresistible combination. Ojukwu married four wives in all, but he was married to each of them one at a time. He married early. You know he was a young, rich and handsome man, with a lot of prospects,” he said.
Ojukwu’s first wife was Elizabeth Okoli from ‘Nnukwu Awka’ (in Awka town) in Anambra State. She was a senior Nursing Sister, by profession. They got married between 1956 and 1958. Elizabeth’s father was the first Nigerian Post-Master General in Nigeria. He wedded her in court when he was a D.O., and they lived at Udi, Enugu but mainly at Aba. But the marriage suffered, maybe because she did not have a baby; so they divorced.
The marriage lasted for about two or three years, “but I cannot pin down the real cause of the divorce. Elizabeth later married one Dr. Onuorah, whom she had children with,” the cousin said.
Ojukwu’s second wife was Njideka, daughter of the once famous C.T. Onyekwelu from Nawfia, Anambra State. She had earlier been married to one Dr. Mends. His mother, Elina-Nwamama, was very popular then in Onitsha. Njideka had a set of twins for Dr Mends, a boy and a girl, before they quarrelled and separated.
Njideka and Ojukwu were said to have met through their fathers who were friends and business partners. After their first encounter, they met again three years later at a tube station in London. A relationship ensued soon after wards and culminated in a marriage, which produced three children, two of whom were named Emeka (Jnr) and Okigbo.
Njideka had said Ojukwu, “ is just a very kind man, very polite, not intrusive. He cared less about what happens in the kitchen; he just settles for whatever you offered him. He respected me and my opinion a lot. Later, when the children get across to him, he would ask them what my opinion was on issues and I loved him immensely in return.”
Another woman in Ojukwu’s life was Victoria, whom he met during his sojourn in Cote d’Ivoire. They were married till the early 80’s when Ojukwu was granted a state pardon by the then Nigeria’s president, Alhaji Usman Shagari.
Njideka and Ojukwu had what was called ordinance wedding then and the reception was in the family house, Eastern House in Lagos. Ojukwu married Njideka when he was the 5th Battalion Commander and they stayed on till he was appointed the governor of Eastern Region. The marriage ended in separation in Cote d’Ivoire when Ojukwu decided to marry a second wife. Njideka left him angrily.
It was in Cote d’Ivoire that the taste for female beauty in the Eze Nd’Igbo Gburugburu began to manifest. First, it was a fling with a little known damsel called Victoria. But the affair that really occupied his heart was with Stella Onyeador, sister of society lady, Angela Onyeador. According to reports, Onyeador warmed the ex-combatant’s bed for about 10 years before the relationship ended without producing any child.
“Emeka now became engaged to Stella Onyeador from Arochukwu in Abia State, who was Njideka’s chief bridesmaid during her wedding and my classmate in the university at Enugu Campus of University of Nigeria. She’s a lawyer by profession and moved to Cote d’Ivoire to join Emeka where he lived. She later came back to Nigeria with him in 1982. He asked us to perform the traditional rites at her father’s compound. If they did court marriage over there, I wouldn’t know. I will only tell you the things that I can swear for in court.
They later quarrelled and even went to court because they were fighting for the custody of a girl-child they adopted while in Cote d’Ivoire. Emeka was eventually awarded custody and ownership of the baby because the court said that under French law, a woman is not eligible to adopt babies, which was the case then in Cote d’Ivoire. They eventually separated. She died two years ago.
“When Stella left the picture, Bianca came, in 1989. But when Bianca was hustling with other girls to enter, Stella was still with Emeka. She was then in stiff competition with former Governor Sam Mbakwe’s daughter, one Barrister Onwuelo’s daughter from Nnewi and another beautiful girl, who I can’t recollect her name.
They were four at the time and mostly had pedigree. They were all graduates of law. Eventually, Bianca won with beauty and brains too. They had a wedding in the Catholic Church, though you know that there’s no way you can wed in the church without a certificate from the court. She was the only one he wedded in both cases. She has a set of twins for Emeka, and another boy too.”
In Ivory Coast, Ojukwu was described by Kanayo Esinulo, a journalist, as upbeat and constantly admired by female folk each time he stepped out of his Yamoussoukro residence. Even his late wife, Njideka, did not mince words in a newspaper interview when she blamed the women in his life for her leaving Ojukwu in Ivory Coast. Njideka herself was said to have been attracted to Ojukwu when her betrothed, who was Ojukwu’s cousin, took her to see Ojukwu. Njideka left her man for Ojukwu.
Another story of Ojukwu sexcapades was also related by Esinulu. One breezy evening Ojukwu drove through the beautiful boulevards of Abidjan. Ojukwu asked him in Igbo language ‘Kanayo onwe li ifuinulu ekwulu maka mu?’ ‘Is there anything you have heard said about me?’ I braced up and replied immediately ‘No, Your Excellency. ‘So onwelono ife inuluekwu lu maka mu? He repeated the same question and still got ‘No, Your Excellency. How on earth can I claim to have heard Sir…’
‘Kanayo, onwero no ihi nuru? (You mean you never heard anything.) I persistently replied His Excellency in the negative.
Ojukwu then broke the calabash. ‘Ha si na onwele ife meru umuwanyi diplomats. Ha si ni melu ma ima ni imero, then imesia.’ Translated, it means: ‘I am being accused of having affairs with wives of diplomats. Well, if you are being so accused and you know you haven’t done it, the best thing therefore is to do it.’
The General was once said to have escaped being roped into a controversy after his return when he was sheltered by a famous monarch in Igboland. It was during his return to Nigeria in the 1980s and everyone was falling head-over-heels to give him a befitting reception.
So, he found his way into the home of this notable chief, and began writing poetic verses and love letters – thus leading to the collapse of the chief’s marriage to one of the sisters of a top political figure in the Second Republic. Nnaji explained another scene he witnessed in Ojukwu’s house in Enugu. “And right there before us, Ojukwu made for his Princess of Nnewi and Ngwo and he planted a mouthful of kiss. We averted our eyes, but subconsciously, the writer peeped to record this gracious moment that might not be played back. The queen and king of love swallowed each other’s saliva, and in the warm embrace which was more than a bear hug, sent signals to the visitors that this is my wife in whom I am well pleased.”