General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was born on November 4, 1933 at Zungeru in northern Nigeria. His father Sir
Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, a businessman from Nnewi in present day Anambra State and a transport mogul was one of the
richest men in Nigeria and was knighted by colonial Britain.
Chukwuemeka began his educational career in Lagos and briefly attended Kings College before leaving for Epsom Boys'
College in England at age 13. He left Epsom at 18 for Lincoln College, Oxford. At Oxford University, he obtained
a bachelor's degree in modern history before returning to colonial Nigeria in 1956.
He joined the civil service in Eastern Nigeria as an Administrative Officer at Udi, in present-day Enugu State.
In under a year at the colonial civil service, he resigned and joined the military as one of the first and few
African university graduates to join the army. Owing to his educational background, Chukwuemeka was put on a fast
track which saw him becoming the Quartermaster General within a few years of joining the army. He served in the
United Nations peacekeeping force in the Congo under General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, and was promoted
to the rank of a lieutenant-colonel in 1964 and posted to Kano, where he was in charge of the 5th Battalion of
the Nigerian Army.
Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu was appointed Military Governor of Eastern Region On Monday, January 17, 1966 after the
military under General Ironsi took over the leadership of the country following the failed attempt to topple the
political class by a group of exhuberant young army officers . The assasination of General Ironsi, the systematic
murder of of tens of thousands of Easterners domiciled in other parts of Nigeria in May and July 1966 and chiefly
the failure of Yakubu Gowon to honour the Aburi Peace accord eventually led to the East declaring a sovereign state
of Biafra under the Eastern Nigerian Constituent Assembly and General Ojukwu's leadership.
Chukwuemeka Ojukwu is much remembered for the imagination he brought to the leadership of young Biafra in a difficult
war period. Under his leadership the latent resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Black African was brought to the
full attention of the watching world for the first time. Commenting on the the many feat achieved by the Biafran
Engineers including the construction of a functioning airport, effective weapons and 'novel' petroleum refineries
a British newspaper aptly described Ojukwu's Biafra as a manufacturing workshop as opposed to Yakubu Gowon's 'department
shop for the dumping of foreign goods'. The respected Professor Eugene Arene had this to say:
"I can make the assertion here that if what the 'Biafran' Scientists had achieved in weaponry and general
civilian goods manufactures (without any foreign technicians and inputs) and the tempo with which they did those
things, had been copied by Nigeria at the end of the Civil War in January 1970, when Gowon made his famous quote
'no victor, no vanquished", Nigeria might not now be where it is scientifically and technologically, still
very dependent on foreign inputs (in raw materials and personnel) for virtually all its so-called scientific and
technological advances." ~~ Professor Eugene Arene "The 'Biafran' Scientists (The Development of an African
Indigenous Technology)" - January, 1996
Some commentators believe that it was the fear of the catalytic effect a technologically advanced black Biafra
will have on the global power equation that motivated erstwhile colonial master Britain, the USSR and the entire
Arab world to take an active part in the war against Ojukwu's Biafra. Yet Biafra held on for 30 months during which
time all the scripts in the act of genocide were acted out including bombing of clear civilian targets and downing
of Red Cross and Oxfam relief chartered air planes. On January 9, 1970, General Odumegwu-Ojukwu handed over power
to his second in command, Chief of General Staff Major-General Philip Effiong, and left for Côte d'Ivoire,
at the invitation of President Felix Houphöet-Biogny one of the progressive African leaders who with the widely
respected Julius Nyerere had recognised Biafra on May 14, 1968.
After 13 years in exile, Ojukwu returned to Nigeria on an unconditional official pardon in 1982 and was accorded
a hero's welcome. His people of Nnewi gave him the now very famous title of Ikemba of Nnewi. Since his return the
Ikemba has not shied away from any issue that affects the well being of the peoples of Nigeria irrespective of
their nationality notwithstanding that the despot Muhammadu Buhari detained him without trial. For instance, he
had used the occasion of the lunching of his book 'Because I was involved' to demand the 'immediate release' of
Chief Gani Fawehinmi and other human rights advocates who were then being detained without trial by the Babangida
dictatorship. Aside from nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, Ojukwu stands out as the only other national figure who has
courageously spoken out against the senseless slaughter of Christians by Islamic fundamentalists.
At the height of the draconian military dictatorship, Ojukwu was quoted as saying:
'As a committed democrat, every single day under an un-elected government hurts me. The citizens of this country
are mature enough to make their own choices, just as they have the right to make their own mistakes'.
Owing to his charisma, oratorical prowess and deep philosophical and sound historical insight, Ojukwu is arguably
one of Africa's most sought after conference speaker. A former student activist Femi Ojedokun describes Ojukwu's
1987 visit to the University of Ife (Now Obafemi Awolowo University) at the invitation of the Students' union as;
'the day we all felt proud to be Africans after being subjected to the rulership of uneducated and shallow despots'.
The respect Ojukwu enjoys among the progressives in present day Nigeria is best captured in the words of distinguished
and erudite Yoruba journalist, Dr Dele Sobowale. Writing in the Sunday Vanguard of 15th April 2001 under the caption:
'Heroes of the 20th Century: Chief Emeka Ojukwu', Dr Sobowale wrote:
'If the truth must be told, Ojukwu fought the most just war of any leader in history. His people were the aggrieved
party; Gowon's dishonourable repudiation of the Aburi accords forced war on a reluctant Biafra and its leader.
And they fought the war like heroes every single one of them. "Courage is knowing you are beaten before you
start but moving forward anyway" said John Wayne. The prospects were daunting and a less courageous leader
might have excused himself and left the country. Igbos had always been inventive but the civil war and Ojukwu's
leadership brought out the best in them. Wiston Churchill would have called it "their finest hour". "Anger
supplied the arms" as Horace (65-8 BC) would have said. There is a great deal of danger for future generations
in confusing Ojukwu the hero with Emeka the celebrity. One amuses us, the other uplifts us. The hero is known for
achievements, the celebrity for well knowness. The hero reveals the possibilities of human nature. Ojukwu the celebrity
graces the front pages of our papers and magazines pushing up copy sales; the heroic Ojukwu resides permanently
in the hearts of all Igbo people and for that matter all Nigerians who realised that in 1967 and even now, Igbos
have got a raw deal from the Nigerian state. Deep in his or her hearts, every Igbo person yearns for another Ojukwu
to rise up and say "Never again". For a non-Igbo, Ojukwu is one commander I would gladly have followed
to war because his cause was just'.
The Ikemba is one of the few prominent Igbo who believe that the path to global acceptance does not lie in a denial
of their proud Igbo heritage. This is part of his response to a question on the Igbo and their relationship to
African Americans in an interview with the US Africa Online:
Ndigbo (Igbos) in the North American continent are a major part of the African-American population, who show the
character of Ndigbo. They are those African-Americans who were brought from western Africa, those who landed on
the eastern shores of the U.S. at a place called the Igbo beach; Ndigbo took over the entire island of Hispaniola
rather than just work in the fields of the U.S. Some of them are in the Caribbean region. These are the Ndigbo;
and there are more. Who are Ndigbo? Ndigbo are a core part of the African-American community, today. And our Black
brothers and sisters must know this. Everyone who has come in contact with Igbos have always noted our strong sense
of identity, we value our individual identity, and we do not brook any nonsense or oppression from any anyone"
In response to the call to provide a strong, visionary and decisive leadership in the present chaotic polity of
Nigeria, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu shall be contesting for the office of President under the platform of the
All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Predictably, APGA is the only party with a clearly defined and well articulated
manifesto and a practical social restructuring program of the more than two dozen parties. Before an estimated
live audience of eighteen million television viewers in the BBC program 'Hard-talk', Ojukwu articulated his mission
in these words: 'I have not come to rule, but to heal Nigeria'.