By Wale Akinola
Even after burial,tributes have continued to pour in for the late Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State said, at the weekend, that the large hearted leadership of the Ikemba Nnewi, whose remains we buried on Friday, guaranteed the unity of Nigeria.
The burial of the deceased Igbo leader marked the end of the almost two months of burial rites which took place in several parts of the country including Lagos where he lived from infancy to adulthood.
In his own tribute, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), suggested a return to ‘Aburi’ for “frank talk” on Nigeria.
A former aviation minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said people who shared the former Biafran leader’s ideas would continue “the fight” where he stopped.
In a tribute, entitled A “REBEL” WITH A CAUSE, Fashola noted, “His brave and large-hearted leadership guaranteed the continued unity of Nigeria in the aftermath of the civil war because, in the words of Winston Churchill: `It takes courage to stand up and speak. But it also takes courage to sit down and listen”,
The governor, who recalled his childhood experience of the civil war and his admiration and romantic notion of Ojukwu’s bravery, said the former Igbo leader did not choose to go to war against his country but was compelled to do so because of the love he had for his people, Ndigbo.
“Much has been said about the fierce and unparalleled love Ojukwu had for his people; never in Nigerian history has this been more vividly demonstrated than in the action he took on their behalf. It is instructive that in no account of the Civil War that I know of has Ojukwu ever been described as one who acted in self-seeking interest”, he said.
Describing the deceased as a brave and iron hearted soldier “who chose the path of confrontation with Davidic courage to pursue a cause in which he had absolute belief”, Fashola recalled that his personality as one whose acts on his conviction began to manifest in his early years when, in 1944, as a student of King’s College Lagos he assaulted a British colonial teacher for humiliating a black woman and, in 1957, when, as a young graduate of Oxford University, he left a promising career in the Nigerian Civil Service to join the Army.
“Both acts speak to the mindset of a man who was not afraid to act on his convictions. Later events have proven this to be so – from the audacious act of secession to his fearless and widely publicized criticisms of inhuman and undemocratic acts since his return to Nigeria from exile”, the governor said.
“ON ABURI WE STAND”
In his tribute entitled, “On Aburi We Stand”, AgbakoBa said we go back to ‘Aburi’. “Aburi is a town in Ghana, north east of Accra. But in 1967, it became a metaphor for Ojukwu’s solution to prevent the brewing political unrest and war in Nigeria”, the former NBA president added.
“Aburi hosted the peace meeting between the Federal Military Government (led by Col. Yakubu Gowon) and Eastern Nigeria leaders (led by Col. Emeka Ojukwu). It held on 4th and 5th January, 1967 and was chaired by Ghana’s Leader, General J.A. Ankrah. Ojukwu’s memo was to form the bedrock for the “Aburi Accord”.
A type of loose federalism, (call it Confederation) was agreed with devolved power to the Regions. It is deeply regretted that the Aburi Agreements were not followed and led to the unfortunate Civil war, with over one million dead. No other event has equalled the terrible magnitude of Nigeria’s loss and pain in the Civil war.
“Resource Control agitation, 13% derivation, Niger Delta militancy, MOSOP, MASSOB, OPC, IYC, Islamic Bank, Boko Haram terrorism, 3rd Term, Rotation, continuing cries of marginalization, Revenue Allocation review agitation now coming from the North, development and economic challenges, the emerging capital allocation wahala etc show that we must very quickly restructure Nigeria.
“So going back to Aburi is important. No visas, no tickets, no foreign trips at all. We don’t need to go to Ghana. All we need is frank talk. I support an inclusive National Conference, sovereign or unsovereign. It may even be driven by the National Assembly. But we must talk. It is a fitting epitaph that the man who “rebelled” against motherland, now provides in death, a good opportunity for a strong united Nigeria”.
‘WE WILL FIGHT ON’
Fani-Kayode said, in his tribute to Ojukwu: “You stood firm and fought hard for your people when it mattered the most. Nothing else counts. A product of Epsom College, Oxford University and the illustrious and wealthy Ojukwu family from eastern Nigeria. The father of Biafra. What an extraordinary and noble heritage. We knew your father and your father’s father. They also made their mark.
“Unlike many others who have hailed you only in death, you were man enough to stand up and say ‘no more’ and ‘never again’ when your people were faced with genocide. The Igbo fought like great men and lions because they were led by a great man and a lion. We shall continue the fight where you stopped, Ikemba”.