The fear of death drives all man – -Alexander The Great (356 –323 BC)
The inevitability of death, as the ultimate end of a man, defines human life and achievements. The mere mention of the word “death” brings great fear and unpleasant memory to many a people. To conquer the fear associated with death, a philosopher had proposed that man should strive to leave indelible imprint in the sands of time.
For Dim Christopher Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, fear remains nothing. He was the man whose greatest achievement in life was conquering of his own fears. Throughout his life and times, he strenuously and diplomatically stood for an egalitarian Nigeria where all men will live in peace, justice and fairness.
Indeed, tributes have rolled to celebrate Ojukwu since his death on November 26, 2011 in a London Hospital; from the cosmopolitan cities of Washington, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Wellington, Pretoria, London, to the hilly capital city of Abuja, and indeed throughout the world, the human race has never ceased to write tributes and eulogies for Dim Ojukwu. One striking attribute that resonates in all these tributes remain the patriotism and love Ojukwu had for his country, Nigeria. In some certain quarters, however, some Nigerians have been labouring to distort history and paint Ojukwu as a “tribalist” who set out to amass a kingdom for himself during the heady days of our national history.
The significance of history in every country is its capacity of reflecting the past, present and future; thus, it becomes expedient to set the record straight and hand over to the generation next, the accurate and precise version of their history. No wonder President Goodluck Ebelemi Jonathan has taken the lead in setting the record straight by authorizing that Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu be buried with full military honours befitting of a patriotic soldier.
As the heir apparent to Sir Loius Odumegwu Ojukwu’s business conglomerate, Ojukwu chose the road to national service against enjoying personal comfort and wealth. Reputed as the first Nigerian who left our shores without a national passport at the age of 13, Ojukwu had stood against the humiliation of a Yoruba woman at King’s College, Lagos before proceeding to acquire western education at Epsom College and Lincoln College, Oxford University, United Kingdom. Ojukwu returned to Nigeria in 1956 and served as the Administrative officer for Udi before his enrollment into the Nigerian military as the first MSc graduate in 1957.
He served diligently in the United Nations’ peace-keeping mission in Congo and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1964 as a result of his commitment to service; he was promptly posted to command the 5th Battalion of Nigerian Army in Kano, a post he held and used in suppressing the first military revolution in Nigeria. Prior to this, he had served as the first Quarter Master-General of the Nigerian Army.
Ojukwu who spoke flawless Hausa and Yoruba languages before his own Igbo language was appointed the military Governor of the old Eastern region by Major General J. U. T Aguiyi-Ironsi following the sack of the first civilian government of Nigeria by revolutionary soldiers; he discharged his command with all faithfulness until the northern coup which metamorphosed into full pogrom against the people of Eastern Nigeria; he courageously pursued dialogue and justice as means of building an egalitarian nation in which all Nigerians must freely live and vibrate in all parts of Nigeria without discrimination and insecurity. However, elements of disunity and bloodshed truncated his option of dialogue and forced the people of Eastern Nigeria to seek independence following the inability of the federal government diarchy of Lt Col Yakubu Gowon and Chief Obafemi Awolowo to guarantee the security life and property of Easterners.
For three years, Dim Ojukwu fought a civil war to make Nigeria stronger; he sacrificed comfort and the wealth of the Ojukwu dynasty in this regard. At the end of the civil war, he went to Cote d’Ivoire to guarantee the speedy healing of the national wound occasioned by the civil war. His triumphant return to the country in 1983 reshaped the face of Nigerian politics as he noted thus “Let us not make the mistake of thinking that this world is a prison. You are what you are for as long as it is comfortable for you. That is how I see it. I have continued to say that in Nigeria what we require is a nation that we can build together.” Dim Ojukwu preached the gospel of a greater Nigeria anchored on true federalism, decentralization of government, social progressivism, justice, equity and fairness. Living what he preached, he spearheaded the campaign for derivation in the 1995 constitutional conference which ended into the 13% derivation which oil producing states currently enjoy today.
As firm believer in due process and justice, he had elected to support the most senior military man to succeed Major General Ironsi after his assassination; he worked ceaselessly to integrate the Igbo people into project Nigeria after the civil war of man and guns, Ojukwu asserted “I still believe that the one thing that will bring peace, absolute peace, to this country, the type of peace we want attached to development, is to liberate Ndi Igbo and there is no better act of liberation than accepting that they have equal right in Nigeria”.
When life is done, it becomes time to go back to the Maker. For Dim Ojukwu, he came and contributed his quota in advancing the cause of justice and fairness in the Nigerian political scene. Indeed this is not the time to mourn Ojukwu because his legacies still lives with us. It is for us, the living, to celebrate Ojukwu, uphold and advance all that which were dear to him; we must deepen and practise all that he lived and stood for all his life.
To Dim Ojukwu, I join my voice with all men of goodwill to celebrate you today and always. We shall keep the beacon glowing and under God’s permission, make Nigeria work for all.
Jee nke oma, Dim Ojukwu!