As a strong fan of late Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu, I must say that I have a lot of respect for you, mainly because of the many things you have in common with the former Biafran leader.
Ojukwu was intelligent.
You are intelligent.
Ojukwu was courageous and fearless.
You are courageous and fearless.
Ojukwu had a strong passion for Igbo interest.
You have a similar passion for Igbo welfare.
Ojukwu was educated in one of the best institutions in the world.
You had your education in a highly distinguished university.
Ojukwu was an orator
You are an orator
Ojukwu was from a very noble parentage and son of first Igbo billionaire.
You are of noble parentage and son of a highly revered traditional ruler.
Ojukwu made a lot of sacrifice for Igbos.
You equally made a lot of sacrifice for Ndigbo.
Ojukwu lived and died in pursuit of Igbo cause.
You are currently in pursuit of Igbo cause.
As an intelligent man and orator, Ojukwu used his intelligence and oratory to build bridges and make friends and sympathy for Ndigbo, even among their enemies.
You used your intelligence and oratory to attract international attention and sympathy for IPOB and Igbos in most countries of the world as well as world organizations like the United Nations. That is what it should be back home.
Not to create enemies for Igbos, and turn their friends to their enemies. Which is unacceptable to the generality of Igbos. Here is where you parted ways with Ojukwu. And where I disagree with you.
In the context of the Biafra-Nigeria war, Gowon was technically Ojukwu’s greatest enemy. But not once was Ojukwu heard to have insulted Gowon or spoken to him or about him in a derogatory, much less insulting language from the beginning of the crisis until Ojukwu died. On the contrary, Ojukwu continued to call and refer to Gowon as “my friend Jack”, the same way he called and referred to Gowon right from their young days in the military.
Ojukwu used his intelligence and oratory at their best during the arbitration meeting at Aburi, Ghana, at the instance of then Ghana head of State, General Archibong, where Ojukwu again used his intelligence and oratory to secure a favourable agreement for Biafra in the famous Aburi Accord.
It was when Gowon and his team returned to Nigeria that it apparently dawned on them that Ojukwu had mesmerized them at Aburi, hence Gowon’s rejection of the Aburi Accord. Even then, Ojukwu never reacted insultingly to Gowon for his breach of the Aburi agreement. Rather, Ojukwu used Gowon’s breach as propaganda to attract sympathy for Biafra both from the Nigerian side and foreign countries. That is called diplomacy, and you have a great dose of it.
Take another case of late Awolowo. It is on record how many Igbo politicians pitched tent with him and suffered political losses for him, people like S. G. Ikoku and others. It was even rumoured at the time that one of the plans of the Igbo military of the 1966 coup was to release Awolowo from prison. Although the coup was quashed, it turned that it was Ojukwu as Military governor of Eastern Region who released Awolowo from the Calabar prison just before the war.
Thereafter Awolowo declared that if the East was allowed to secede from Nigeria, the West would also secede. But soon after, he and the Western region teamed up with Gowon against the same Igbos and used his position as Minister for Finance, to recommend economic blockade against Biafra. Even then, Ojukwu, either during or after the war, never spoke aggressively or derogatorily against Awolowo for his apparent treachery.
When Awolowo eventually died, Ojukwu paid a condolence visit to his residence during which Ojukwu penned down one of the world’s most enigmatic condolence message describing Awolowo as “the best President Nigeria never had”, a remark that that had an impact in closing the political gap between Igbos and Yoruba.
Take the case of Zik and Ojukwu and the story that made the round during and after the war about Zik betraying Biafra, which was neither here nor there. But then, Ojuwku was never known to have insulted Zik or made any unbecoming remarks about him, neither then nor any time thereafter until Ojukwu died.
When Ojukwu returned from exile in Ivory Coast after the war and joined the NPN instead of the NPP led by Zik, Ojukwu never for once criticized Zik, only said that his reason and intention for joining NPN was to reintegrate Igbos into Nigerian political mainstream.
On his part, in 1983, when Zik was said to have been rigged out in the presidential election by the NPN, he did not start insulting president Shagari or other members of the NPN. His only remark was that “history will vindicate the just”, and no Igbo man in NPN dared to challenge him on that. The only Igbo who responded to the remark was late Prof. Chuba Okadigbo, who was erroneously accused of referring to Zik’s statement as “the ranting of an ant.”
But Okadigbo was quick to refute the accusation, and denying making such a derogatory statement about Zik of Africa and that he was misinterpreted by a Yoruba journalist who had an interview who mistranslated an Igbo remark made by Okadigbo that “onye no aruru nso na Oanu uda arura na ada”, meaning that only people near a procession of ants can hear the sound of their movement. In other words, only people involved in the election can testify that the election was free and fair.
The point here is that no Igbo full-blooded Igbo man or woman has ever been known to insult or Zik of all Igbo leaders because Zik is regarded as a sacred personality, a spirit-man, not only by Igbos by entire Africa and beyond. So that is why Igbos see it as a sacrilege each time you speak so disrespectfully, worse still insultingly about Zik.
No Yoruba man or woman ever does that Obafemi Awolowo who the Yoruba adore like a god, just as no Hausa Fulani can do such to Sardauna of Sokoto who they venerate as a demigod. Yet between the these two, Zik was a primus inter pares.
At a time when and Ojukwu was not comfortable with the affairs of Ohaneze Ndigbo, he did not start to insult the Ohaneze leaders or criticize them because of his love and respect for Ndigbo and did not want to wash the dirty linen of Igbos in public.
It was a similar scenario at a time Kinsley Mbadiwe had a political misunderstanding with Zik. As a show of sympathy, Mbonu Ojike, Mbadiwe’s kinsman accepted to testify against Zik in his court case against the colonial masters over the affairs of African Continental Bank. But before the D-day, Mbadiwe approached Mbonu Ojike and persuaded him against standing against a fellow Igbo in court as that would be a disgrace to the Igbo nation. Mbonu Ojike heeded the advice and avoided giving testimony in the court, thereby securing Zik’s acquittal in court. That was Igbo spirit in action.
All his did was to fall back on the Igbo Improvement Union, (IPU) which had been in incubation stage than under the leadership of Barrister Ugochukwu Agballa and got it formally inauguration at a grand ceremony held at Royal Palace Hotel with Ugochukwu Agaballa emerging as President-General.
The IPU was to play another significant political role for Igbos during the time Igbo governors fought against the candidature of Peter Obi as vice president. It was the Igbo Improvement Union that took up the challenge of rallying support for Atiku-Peter Obi ticket in Igbo land and across Nigeria.
When Dr Ekwueme was the BOT chairman of the PDP and Ojukwu was the BOT of APP which eventually metamorphosed to APC today, Ojukwu never traded words with Ekwueme for one day. Everywhere they met, they exchanged warm pleasantries. That is the Igbo Spirit.
Before and during the war, Ojukwu employed his intelligence to rally the people of the former Eastern region because he realized that the more people we had, the more we would be able to defend our land. When he created Biafra, he did not call it the Republic of Igboland. He called it Biafra after the Bight of Biafra located off Rivers State shore as create a sense of oneness among easterners and to put Biafra on the world map. Ojukwu must have intended to create a Biafra with no borders and where Igbos, Ijaws, Ibibios, Igala, Efik and other ethnic groups in Biafra will see themselves as brothers without borders, just like the national leader of Myetti Allah said of the Fulani in West Africa who he said should not need travel passports or visa to enter into any country in the region.
So what am I not saying?
What I am saying is that it is high time you strategized your action plan in your noble pursuit of Igbo cause because your strategy so far has proved grossly counterproductive. It just does not and cannot work when you about insulting everybody, Igbo leaders and non-Igbo leaders alike and in doing so creating enemies for Igbos, forgetting that politics is a matter of enlisting support for your cause.
We cannot get Biafra if we are at war with Ohaneze which is the cultural symbol of the Igbo nation and rooted in every community in Igbo land and every State in Nigeria and every country in the world. To fight Ohaneze is, therefore, to bring disunity among Igbos which is counterproductive to our quest for freedom and justice.
So also we cannot achieve the Igbo dream by being at war with other tribes and ethnic nationalities whose support and sympathy we should court, and not forgetting that millions of Igbos are living in all these places and that when you antagonize their hosts, you are creating enemies for our people there. See what is happening now. Any negative remark you make against any of these tribes, Igbos bear the collective blame and antagonism.
In Lagos, Igbos are being accused of being the brains behind the looting and destruction of property. All because of what you were accused of saying. But we know that Igbos were not responsible. It happened all over the country. The same thing happened in Rivers State where Governor Wike has recently proscribed and declared war on IPOB members.
Recall that when the South-East governors proscribed IPOB two years ago, Governor Wike did not join them to outlaw IPOB. But because of what happened at Oyigbo during the END SARS protest which was blamed on your incitement, the governor has now turned against IPOB.
Bear in mind that the more we dish out all these tall orders and threats, the more it would look as if IPOB is really a terrorist group which we all know it is not. A group does not become terrorists by merely carrying flags and preaching freedom and justice for their people.
What we are saying, in essence, is that we cannot achieve the Igbo cause by alienating and antagonizing ourselves. Or by being too hard on leaders of other tribes and ethnic nationalities. It is by persuasion, correction and mild rebuke of known saboteurs. Let us learn a lesson from Ojukwu as I presented above and realize that we require the collective support of all Igbos as well as the sympathy of other tribes and ethnic nationalities to achieve the goal we want.
As a young man of immense ingenuity, academic prowess and world-class eloquence, you should use these rare attributes to RECONCILE Igbos, not divide them. Take this course, and you would have become the greatest hero Igbos never had. I know you can do it.
Mazi Omife I. Omife
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