SINCE Thursday evening when the remains of Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was brought into his Umudim, Nnewi country home, crowd control became a major issue as almost everybody in Anambra State wanted to a glance former Igbo leader before his committal to mother earth.
However, from Nnokwa, which is a neighbouring community to Nnewi, heavy presence of security men made up of mobile and regular policemen, soldiers and other paramilitary security outfits including men of the Federal Road Safety Commission(FRSC) had cordoned off the area.
At about 7.00pm on Thursday when The Guardian visited the Nkwo Nnewi and the Nkwo Triangle, a distance of about two kilometers to the residence of the late Ikemba, it was discovered that movements had been restricted, while those allowed to move were frisked and made to raise their two hands as they walked.
Yesterday, which was the climax of activities heralding the burial saw tougher and stringent security measures with an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) being stationed at the Triangular round about, a distance of about one kilometre to Ojukwu’s house.
Also, those with vehicles were made to park them some kilometres from the St Michael’s Catholic Cathedral Church premises, beside Ojukwu’s house where the funeral mass took place.
But crowd control became the biggest problem at the heavily policed area following the multitude that graced the funeral.
The St Michaels’ Church which sits about 3,500 worshippers was filled to the brim, but those outside the church compound were thrice those inside.
Inside the church hall was decorated in white and pink colours while over a hundred priests aside the bishops were present at the service.
In a bid to wade off surging sympathizers, who wanted to catch a glimpse at the fallen leader when his corpse was moved from the church in a funeral procession after the mass to the family compound beside the church, the police had fired several canisters of tear gas at the crowd, leading to people scampering for safety.
An unlucky lady had inhaled much of the substance and in the bid to escape collapsed. But the timely intervention of officials of the Red Cross led to her resuscitation about thirty minutes after.
As if that was not enough, several other sympathizers were horsewhipped and chased back while attempting to gain entry into the compound that was filled to capacity.
Some highly placed government officials, who also could not contain the excessive security at the entrance to the Ojukwu family compound made a detour.
At exactly 3.15 pm, the remains of Ikemba Nnewi were interred in the beautifully decorated tomb facing the family entrance gate.
Adorned beside the tomb was Ojukwu’s portrait with the pillars designed like an elephant tusk.
Aside the church service, the burial became a carnival of a sort as different dance groups entertained sympathizers.
Several groups also wore uniforms, T-shirt and vests of various kinds to mourn the ex-Biafran leader.
Former Biafran soldiers were also at the funeral in their numbers and well kitted. On sale at every corner were also books vests, caps, T-shirts, journals, newspapers and several others items on Ojukwu.
Also, yesterday, all business activities in the area also came to a halt as their operators closed shops in obedience to the appeal by the traditional ruler’s council of Nnewi as part of activities to honour the ex-Biafran leader.
Source: The Guardian, 3rd March 2012.