Ojukwu: Ethnic Memoirs Vs Regional Dreams

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“Those who are unwilling to respect history always live a life of repeated regrets: double tragedy in the forerun (of events) and in the fore-arm (lessons)” – Dr. Khalifa Muktar in his book, The Palestine of Jesus, page 12, 1967.
“I remember your name perfectly (as Biafra); but I just can’t think of your (new) face (as MASSOB)” (emphasis mine) – William Archibald Spooner

Since my publication titled: “Odumegwu Ojukwu: Final Death of Biafran Republic (1967-2011)” which appeared on page 60 of The LEADERSHIP WEEKEND Newspaper, dated December 10th, 2011, various responses to it – over thirty, by way of text messages and direct phone calls – and other expressed sentiments in other national dailies with respect to Ojukwu as a person, painted him as a sovereign Igbo leader; and the Biafra which by fate he led in the late 60s was seen as, from start to finish, a sole Igbo affair or revolt. History contests this: poor memory brings setback.

In brief, most of the text messages even from highly placed Nigerians said Biafra wasn’t and isn’t dead yet on account of its historical collapse and surrender in 1970.
Indeed, MASSOB and its loyalists will be living in a fool’s paradise if they think that Biafra was firstly an Igbo sovereign power, and the late Ojukwu of great memories, its ethnic mentor. Ojukwu’s deputy, Gen Phillip Effiong wouldn’t have been a non-Igbo person in an exclusive Igbo republic called Republic of Biafra.

Philosophy, political science and sociology talk of “situational leader,” which is leadership brought up by certain peculiar circumstance. And Odumegwu Ojukwu was one in this respect vis-à-vis the Biafran revolt.

He had been the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria in 1966 which gave him the power to manipulate events and mediate courses. For example, there was no public consultations with broad elements and groups there to pull away from larger Nigeria. A situational demand had arisen and like a bandwagon, everyone joined. The recent events in Libya, a North African country from February, 2011 in attempts to dethrone the late Colonel Ghadafi was a clear? case of bandwagon revolt.

The East which Ojukwu had by fate led is now, from 1996, only about 70 percent intact from its old monolithic block. From the 1996 political re-structuring of Nigeria by the military administration of late Gen. Sani Abacha, a great portion of the defunct Biafra is now – for both administrative and geographical convenience – called South East; excluding certain large areas now existing as Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom and Cross River.

These are part of South-South Nigeria, outside MASSOB’s reincarnated dreamproject.

The then (old) Rivers State with its headquarters in Port-Harcourt since 1967 was loyal to Federal Nigeria; and it was, indeed, not an Igbo enclave in structural details. Parts of that corporate Rivers State is now Bayelsa State etcetera. Here, we are talking of Ijaw, Kalabari, Eflk, Ibibio, Igede etc ethnic nationals outside the Igbo tribal purity. The circumstances which made the late Odumegwu Ojukwu declared eastern Nigeria as Biafran Republic – out of Federal Nigeria, was because he was the military machine and being its military governor, hence a political leader within a regional area whose aspirations, he thought, must concur with his dreams.

To this effect, Biafra was his idea, but it structurally died long before Ojukwu physically died in 2011: a distance of 40 years from 1970! Biafra first met its death in 1970; second in 1983 when the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) – led federal government headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari gave Ojukwu the National Pardon after a wide consultation with even leaders of the opposition political parties, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN’s) Obafemi Awolowo; People’s Redemption Party (PRP’s) Aminu Kano; Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP’s) Nnamdi Azikiwe as well as Great Nigeria Peoples’ Party (GNPP) led by the late Waziri Ibrahim.

Biafra suffered a third death and was interned as Ojukwu played the National Politics since the return of organized politics by the military in 1999 – when it withdrew to the barracks, twelve years ago. Secession order, secession politics with Biafran name and in old Biafran design or ideal is long dead. Indeed, 41 years ago. The Igbo, in my opinion, should not reduce Ojukwu’s personality from being a nationalist, a personality he acquired some 28 years ago following his grand return to Nigeria in 1983 to pettiness. Ojukwu was much more than this picture.

Regional mappings toward political stability was what forced Ojukwu to adopt Gen. Philip Effiong as his deputy, to reflect a team whose ranking must be seen as all–inclusive. Gen Effiong came from an area which at various times between 1973 through 1991 and 1996 state recreation exercises or policy? was located in the present Cross River and Akwa-Ibom States.

Ojukwu was the governor of the Eastern Region in the like-manner the late Gen. Hassan Usman Katisna was the Governor of Northern Region, a pro-federal entity; while-Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo led the Western Region with its headquarters in Ibadan – which supported the federal soldiers too. The governors were the lords. Ojukwu was the lord of the East. The words of the military governors were laws. Moreso, there was a high level of illiteracy in addition to the wide fear that military autocracy was not challengeable. The governor therefore, remained the lord.

So, Ojukwu’s command was understandable before federal troops firmly kept them feet in Port-Harcourt and Benin. We must here, remember that Benin was the headquarters of the Mid–Western Region, created even before the 1967 war.

Therefore, it is a historical fact known to the world that Biafra died in 1970 when Gen. Effiong surrendered to federal forces led then by Colonel Olusegun Obasanjo, after Ojukwu had fled to Ivory Coast.

MASSOB whose clamour for a reincarnated Biafran regional traits is having a daylight dream-just having a fun with the name, as it does appear.

First, as Nigeria practices modern constitutional governance with respect to presidential democracy where the president has the whole country as his constituency, MASSOB would have to redraw the map of Biafra from its “ideal stance” to suit only Igbo group or purpose if it wants to claim the phrase. This is especially that it is already ethnically presenting Biafra with Igbo–speaking people as its ‘leaders’ however tin-gods they seem to be, by public admittance.

Convincing, for strategic reasons, the state Houses of Assembly in Rivers (Port Harcourt), Delta (Asaba), Akwa Ibom (Uyo), Cross River (Calabar), Edo State (Benin) etc which are all non-Igbo – speaking entities to share Biafra’s mission – in a new package and get endorsed politically, and executed constitutionally by these states is like climbing Mount Everest without climbing kits. MASSOB therefore, remains a day-dreamer in the actualization of a long dead project. Nigeria should be FIRST!
Mere debate of pulling away from mother Nigeria even by core Igbo areas or state–tier legislatures is an affront to Nigeria’s national constitution in its book form as a legal document; and in its territorial composition which the statute book defines clearly – Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Indeed, any motion for the “break-up” in this respect, let alone a debate on it in an House of Assembly amounts, to me, an effort in futility.

Let MASSOP and its types look for more positive ventures to invest their energy and money into. Let them struggle for a free and fair election; campaign for a credible federal leadership; transparent rule of law: upliftment of judicial ethics: excellent journalism practice and upright citizenship duties. Hatred and anarchy does not help federalism. They do not help anyone.

Let history be re-stated: the late Dim Odumegwu was by circumstance not unconnected to politics then, as the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria. The Ikemba of Nnewi – his country home’s chieftaincy title bestowed on him, was one of the political greats of Igbo nationalism after the late indefatigable Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, father of larger Nigeria’s independence from 1940s when Ojukwu was a toddler.

Adieu Zik, the Owelle of Onitsha, Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi. K. O. Mbadiwe, a great politician of Igbo extraction. Dr. Chuba Okadigbo – a dynamic politician of blue ideas, blue-prints in true federalism and national stability.

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