Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu
The will of leader of defunct Biafra, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, which was read at the Probate Registry of the Enugu High Court on Friday, November 30, appears to be just as controversial as the man himself had been in life, writes Charles Onyekamuo
A year after his death, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ezeigbo Gburu-gburu, and former leader of defunct Biafran Republic as well as former presidential candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) who died November 26, 2011, in a London hospital remained an enigma.
The mystery that surrounded Ojukwu’s life and which left many confounded while he lived perhaps explained why he even became more celebrated in death than in life. Many who fell over themselves to eulogise him at his funeral as one misunderstood Nigerian could never really be said to have shared his personal convictions. That is still contestable.
But, perhaps, what is incontestable is that Ojukwu’s personal convictions may have largely influenced his Will and its contents read by the Registrar and Probate Registrar of Enugu High Court, Dennis Ekoh on Friday, November 30.
Imagine that in what the late Ezeigbo Gburu gburu called his “Will and Last Testament” was a revelation of a hitherto unknown child called Tenni Hamman, who in fact was a product of his bedroom interaction with a Mistress of North Eastern Nigeria origin.
She was listed as the first of his eight children and was given his Jubilee Hotel on Zaria Road in Kaduna. Although Ojukwu’s young widow and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain, Bianca expressed surprise at the premises of Enugu High Court after the will was read on the emergence of a new member of the family even without conceding that it may be untrue.
If that was not enough surprise, what of Ojukwu completely omitting Sylvester Debe, his presumed first son from the list of the beneficiaries of the will.
But those who knew that Ojukwu worked in the colonial civil service briefly as District Officer in Udi before joining the military may not be totally surprised given Debe’s explanation that his late mother hailed from Udi and later got married to a man from Ezeagu, all in Enugu State may have known his onions.
The surprise perhaps made his wife, Bianca, who was present say afterwards that though she was not really aware of Tenni as a family member but that anybody the late Ojukwu calls his child should be his indeed. “So, we now have another member of the family,” she said.
On the day of the reading of the will, the arrival of the executors, Bianca and James Ezike as well as the witnesses and some family members was preceded by the display of the sealed envelope containing what Ojukwu called his “Will and Last Testament” by the chief registrar of Enugu High Court.
He thereafter opened the envelope with the agreement of Ojukwu’s wife, Bianca, the other executor, the witnesses and the family members present.
Both Sylvester Debe Ojukwu, a lawyer and a retired assistant commissioner of police thought to be his first son, and Chukwuemeka (Jnr.) who is now so recognised were absent. He was not even mentioned in the Will as Ojukwu’s son and neither was he given anything.
Bianca’s children who she said were taking their session examinations were also absent.
The Registrar who began reading at about 9.13am said names of his children mentioned in his will and recognised by him were Tenni Hamman, (daughter), Chukwuemeka (Jnr.) Okigbo, Afam Nwachukwu who are sons as well as Mmegha, Ebele and Chinenye (daughters).
In the will, Ojukwu gave his property known as Jubilee Hotel on Zaria Road, Kaduna to Tenni, while he bequeathed his properties at No 7 Forest Crescent, Enugu, Plot 20 Cadastral, B9 in Jabi area of Abuja, and the one at Kuje, in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to Bianca.
To Emeka Jnr., he gave his landed properly at Umudim Nnewi, Afam the landed property at the Traffic light area of the same town, while the other daughters, Mmegha, Chinenye and Ebele were given a hectare each of the six hectares he owned at Umuezeana, Umudim, Nnewi. The remaining two he said should go to Bianca if she didn’t remarry after his death.
He had also bequeathed all his personal effects, monies in banks and cars to Bianca for her upkeep and children’s welfare.
He said Trustees shall hold the remainder of his real estates in trust and shall sell same while holding the proceeds from the sale to pay all debts incurred during his funeral and other expenses.
Ojukwu, had also in the Will dated July 9, 2005 and signed by M.N.A. Ezemba directed that his wife take his seat on the board of Ojukwu Transport Ltd or may nominate any person to represent her and shall also retain his interest on 29, Queen’s Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos.
He also bequeathed his property at Lube Estate, Abuja, to his daughter Chinenye, even as he directed his brothers not to sell the Nnewi House at 1-3 Creek Road, Apapa, Lagos, but to appoint an agent who will be collecting rent on the properly and share the proceeds among them. He further said that the real properties left by their father could be shared. This he said is to foster peace amongst them.
Besides, he bequeathed his property at 56, Onwudiwe Street, Uwani, Enugu, to his nephew, Robert Diga, as well as the plot of land at Tinker’s Corner, Enugu, already registered with the land registry in Enugu.
But less than 24 hours after the will was read, the fireworks began to crack. First, it was Emeka Ojukwu (Jnr.) who fired the first salvo describing the will as a “fake” and the product of the imagination of his father’s widow, Bianca and lawyer, Emeka Onyemeluke.
He in fact said that Onyemelukwe was a personal lawyer to Bianca and not his father’s lawyer and that he had a copy of the original will written by his father and not what he described as the “fraud” presented as a will.
He had also said that he and his siblings were not invited to the reading of the will at Enugu.
“There has been rumours up to yesterday (November 30) that there is an attempt to read the will and that they intend to make changes in the original will. Well I have not seen the will that they read.
“Now there are issues that come to mind, why were they no members of Ojukwu family when the will was read? They were not invited and they were not told.
“She was here last Sunday when we removed the mourning cloth and since she knows that the will would be read she would have invited us or even put us on notice.
“Now the lawyer that is supposedly doing all this things is not our father’s lawyer. Mr Onyemelukwe is not a lawyer that is known to the family as Ezeigbo’ s lawyer. Remember when Ezeigbo was sick the same lawyer went to the press to claim that Ezeigbo is getting better and that he is now on exercise and would soon come home while he was lying. It is still the same Lawyer that claimed to have custody of the will. And I told everybody that it was not true and that since my father was flown to England he never lifted an arm or spoke a word until his death finally.
“How can the lawyer claim that he is Ezeigbo”s lawyer when he had already taken side with Bianca and doing the woman’s biddings and why would the will be read in Enugu instead of Anambra State? You can see all elements of suspicion in the matter.”
Ojukwu jnr. contended that the family members have the original copy of Ojukwu’s Will and know that what was read was a contradiction .
“We have Original copy of the will and we know where it is, even if you want to make some changes in the will it should be done before the beneficiaries and seeking their consents. Furthermore, when a will is amended without the presence of the people involved but only the presence of the person who ultimately benefited more from the changes, then it is a fraud and a charade,” he said.
With regard to Ojukwu Transport Limited (OTL), Emeka explained that Bianca is currently in court with OTL where she used the names of her two sons to drag the company to court.
“The claim that my father transferred his trustee membership to Bianca is false. First of all my father Ojukwu was not a trustee. His position in OTL is that of a director, not trustee. The position of director cannot be transferred to anybody. Even if it is transferred to me it would not hold. There is a laid down law or procedure for one to become a director in the transport company.
“For you to be director in Ojukwu Transport you must have to be Ojukwu blood and not through marriage into Ojukwu family. You have to have at least 10 shares . And you have to be voted into directorship by the board of trustees and a woman cannot be a director. Also, if you are a public servant you cannot be a director and even if Bianca is a director she has to resign because she is now a public servant by virtue of the fact that she is now an ambassador. There was a time my father had to resign as director and later he was voted in as a director when he stopped being a public servant. So there are many reason why this claim is spurious.
“The person that is claiming that the directorship was bestowed on her is right now in court suing Ojukwu Transport in the name of her two sons. There is a law suit right now and it is in the public domain where she is using the names of her two sons to sue the company.”
Again, Emeka said that the mysterious girl that benefited from the will is his father’s daughter, adding that his father Ojukwu had told him about the girl before now.
“My father had earlier told me about the girl in question and told me all that had happened before he died, so she is not a stranger and in the original will, she was reflected by my father.”
A night before the will was read, Ojukwu jnr recalled that he was away to attend a funeral ceremony when his security guards at the gate called him on the phone to report that the Anambra State commissioner for commerce and industry, Mr. Robbert Okonkwo, drove into the compound, ran to Ojukwu’s main house and hauled Bianca’s property and personal effects into a vehicle and drove off. He said it’s an indication that Bianca knew the will would be read the following day and that Ojukwu’s main house would be willed to him as the first son.
But amidst the controversy generated by the will however, Onyemelukwe who addressed journalists in his Kenyetta Road office in Enugu said Emeka Ojukwu (Jnr.) was talking insincere in his claim that he was not the late Ikemba’s lawyer having associated with him since his return from exile in 1982.
He said he prepared the will which he described as incontestable and that he was in fact the master of ceremonies at the younger Ojukwu’s wedding to the late Cyprian Ekwensi’s daughter at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Enugu.
He also said that all the legal documents pertaining to Ojukwu’s properties and the will were in his custody even as he explained the circumstances relating to Ojukwu disinheriting Debe. He said he sent the younger Ojukwu three text messages intimating him of the reading of the will before it was read.
He debunked the allegation by Ojukwu (Jnr) that he was not informed of the reading of the will and that he was not known to the family as his father’s lawyer, saying that it was an afterthought considering that he sent him three text messages to his three different phone lines on November 26, as he did to the executioner of the will, James Ezike, and witness, Mark Ezemba as well as the other brothers and sisters of Ojukwu (Jnr) and other children of Dim Ojukwu informing them of the reading of the will by 10am on November 30, at the Enugu High Court.
He said the claim by Ojukwu (Jnr) that he was not informed was not true having been sent three different text messages to three of his phone numbers.
He said he possessed the irrevocable power of Attorney to register No7 Forest Crescent in Independence Layout, Enugu which he did on July 24, 2009 with the Enugu State ministry of lands as well as the property at No20 Cadastral, B9 located at Jabi, Abuja both of which were given to Bianca.
He also said that he had Ojukwu’s brief and represented him in the Supreme Court matter, “Emeka Ojukwu Vs IGP, SSS” in suit No: SC/170/2006 when the SSS was trying to arrest him during the Obasanjo administration.
“The case was prepared by me and prosecuted from the High Court to the Appeal and to the Supreme Court. Yet, he said he didn’t know me as the father’s lawyer,” he said, adding that most of the documents backing up the properties the late Ikemba Nnewi willed out to his children are in his custody.
Ojukwu’s counsel was however at pains to explain why Sylvester Debe Ojukwu who is presumed to be the first son of the late soldier and politician was omitted in the will as one of his children.
“What happened is that Debe came to Ikemba (Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu) as a grown adult and said, ‘Sir, I have come to tell you that my mum said you’re my father.’ Ojukwu said to him, ‘Who is your mother’ and he said she was late but hailed from Udi in Udi council area of Enugu State. He also told the Ikemba that the mother remarried to a man in a community in Ezeagu council area in the same state before she died but had told him that he (Ojukwu) was his father. “He then asked him if she had no brothers or sisters that could traditionally bring and introduce him as the son of their sister sired by him.
“He didn’t even bring a photograph of his mum to guide Ojukwu as a reminder. But he left in the belief that he will come back with his mother’s kinsmen as directed but hasn’t done that till Ojukwu died.
“Before Ojukwu died and this issue came up before him, he said, how can he (Sylvester) claim he is my son and can’t point at any of his mum’s kinsmen and bring him along. We have a tradition. That is why Ojukwu gets mad with anybody who asked him about Sylvester,” he said.
This scenario he said influenced Ojukwu’s decision not to list him as one of his children in his will or bequeath any property to him stating that the late Ikemba declared that he had eight children namely, Tenni Hamman (daughter), Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, (Jnr) (son), Mmegha (Mimi) (daughter), Okigbo (son), Ebele (daughter), Chineme (daughter), Afam (Son) and Nwachukwu (son).
While Tenni Hamman he said was a girl Ojukwu had with her girlfriend from Nigeria’s North-East, Ebele was from one of his earlier wives, Stella Onyeador, while Emeka (Jnr), Okigbo and Mmegha were from Njideka his Nawfia-born wife, and the rest from Bianca.
Nobody he said knew about the will, neither Emeka (Jnr.) nor Bianca, but that he was aware that when the will was being written Ojukwu already had sight problems and would ask Bianca to bring the receipts and documents covering the properties to his library where they normally sit to discuss and would afterwards take the documents to his office to write.
He explained that it was the reason the codicil which was meant to correct the flaws in the first will was enlarged, adding that he was even taken aback that Ojukwu willed his Nnewi house to his first son, Emeka.
This he said was because Bianca was instrumental to building the storey building when Ojukwu’s bungalow in the compound collapsed and Ojukwu would go home and go to his friend’s house to sleep.
But Ojukwu, he said, told him that Emeka Jnr is his first son and in Igbo tradition the first son inherits his father’s house. He explained that Emeka (jnr) had been hostile to Bianca and that the bitterness manifested during the one year commemoration of Ojukwu’s death when Bianca sent some girls to clean the house before her return and Emeka sent them away. It was because of this, after some family members had intervened, that Bianca decided after the anniversary to pack her belongings out of the house.
He said it was unfortunate Emeka interpreted the after effect of his hostility to his father’s widow as having pre-knowledge of the content of the will.
But he said Ojukwu insisted something be left out of the will. That he said was the non-inclusion of the property at No 26 Sokoto Road, Onitsha, a property of about 40 stalls with a monthly proceed amounting to millions of naira which Ojukwu inherited from his mother and gave to his son to manage after UCO International Agencies Ltd developed it under a lease agreement which he prepared.
Ojukwu, he said, insisted that this property should not be included in the will since he had already given it to him and that it was not something new.
“So, it is not true that Ikemba Nnewi only gave Emeka the Nnewi house in his will. He felt he already had something to sustain him. But he gave Bianca the Jabi property and the Enugu property by deed of gift before he died meaning that even if these were included in the will, she inherited them from him before his death.
“There is also no way anybody can take them away from her. He also gave her his cash money and personal effects because he felt that after he had trained the other grown up children, he may not be around to train the younger children of Bianca and therefore gave her those personal effects and money to enable her train those kids in his absence.
“That is also the reason he felt Bianca should take over his seat at Ojukwu Transport Limited,” he said, adding that the article and memo of the transport company prepared in 1952 and with over 45 concerns in the conglomerate had no place where it said a woman can’t sit on its board.
Outside of the 29 Queen’s Drive property which he personally asked to be left to him because of his personal attachment to it having secured its release from the federal government after a lawsuit upon his return from exile in 1982. Ojukwu, he said, had fairly asked his brothers to pool the proceeds from the Transport Company in which he was the managing director with meetings held in his Enugu residence together and divide his share of the proceeds between Emeka and his siblings and Bianca’s children.
Views of his kith and kin
But mixed reactions from Nnewi, Ojukwu’s home town had trailed the Will read at the Enugu High Court November 30.
The traditional ruler of Nnewi Community, His Royal Highness, Igwe Kenneth Orizu III, said: “There is nothing to comment on. Should I reverse what the late Ikemba had done? If that is his wish do you want me to say his wish will not be done?
Chairman of Nzuko Ora Nnewi (Nnewi town union), Chief Charles Agu Onyeka said he was aware that the Will of the late Sir Louis Ojukwu, late Ikemba’s father had not been read which he said had made it difficult for his property to be shared till date.
“I thank God that Ojukwu’s children do not even depend on their father’s wealth. They struggle on their own,” he said, adding that one should struggle and not to depend on one’s father’s wealth.
With regard to Sylvester Ojukwu, the late Ikemba’s presumed first son disinherited by him in the Will, Chief Onyeka said there could be problem somewhere.
“Father and child can have problems and that can lead to a mistake on the part of the father. But the Sylvester you are talking about whom I know very well is a hardworking man as a lawyer. If his father gave him nothing he can still live. I know him very well.
“We do not need to misinterpret what the late Ikemba did. May be that was how he wanted it. I have seen a man who Willed his property to none of his children but outsiders. It is not a new thing.
“If you ask me I will tell you that Ojukwu will do something for Bianca because he loved her so much,” he said.
Skirting the Will Dilemma
Lagos-based lawyer, Omowunmi Falode highlights the many challenges that could undermine the execution of a will and lists an option that may help individuals avoid the pitfalls
In Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th Edition, a Will is defined as “A document by which a person directs his or her estate to be distributed upon death”. A will is ambulatory. Meaning that, it is revocable by the Testator and also that its takes effect after the death of the Testator.
After the death of the Testator, the Executors/Trustees take over the estate and distribute or manage some as directed in the Will.
It is in this sense that a Testator appoints people of impeachable characters as Executors/Trustees. Sometimes, the Executors/Trustees carry out the wishes of the Testator and sometimes they fail in doing so. So many factors contribute to failure to give effect to the wishes of the Testator. In Nigeria today, the wills of so many former public figures are being litigated upon in our courts. What are the causes?
1) Sometimes, the use of wrong words or ambiguous words has led to putting wrong interpretation to the intention of a Testator. This problem was put thus by Lord Atkin in PERRIN V. MORGAN (1943) A.C 399 where His Lordship said “I anticipate with satisfaction that hence forth the group of ghosts of dissatisfied testators who according to a late chancery judge, wait on the other bank of the Styx to receive the judicial personage who have misconstrued their will may be considerably diminished”.
2) Sometimes too, the right of a Testator to dispose his properties as he wishes is subject to applicable customary law. Meaning that a Testator cannot dispose his property in a manner contrary to how his customary law says such a property should be disposed. A good example is Benin Igiogbe custom. See IDEHEN V. IDEHEN (1991) 7 S.C (PT 111) PAGE 104. Islamic law also has some constraints to the right of a Muslim Testator to dispose his properties as he wishes. See AJIBAYE V. AJIBAYE (2007) All FWLR PT 359 PAGE 132.
3) In some rare cases, some Wills are suppressed by people a Testator had given copies to for safe keeping. They do this by conspiring with dissatisfied beneficiaries. This happens where there is a special bond between them that is above those they have with the other beneficiaries.
4) We have also heard and seen instances of forged/stolen Wills. Some beneficiaries do this when they are not satisfied with how the Testator distributed his estate.
5) The wishes of some Testators are frustrated by protracted litigation among the beneficiaries which sometimes result into the estate being taken over and managed by the Administrator General of the state. The usual consequences are that, the estate are wasted and often fall into ruin.
6) Some Executors/Trustees squander the estate of the Testator and leave the beneficiaries in penury.
7) Disagreement among the Executors/Trustees also frustrates the realization of the wishes of the Testator.
8) The wishes of some Testators are sometimes found unrealistic and impracticable and then changed by the agreement of the beneficiaries.
i. After drafting a Will, legal practitioners should make the Testator rewrite it in his handwriting. This will prevent forgery of the will.
ii. Instructions or directives given to the Executors/Trustees should be direct and specific. Executors/Trustees should not be given discretion. Phrases like ‘as my Executors wishes’ should be avoided.
iii. Testators should avoid ambiguous word and phrases like ‘my children, my wife, my first wife, my properties, my brother etc.’ Beneficiaries should be mentioned by their names.
The Wills of some Testators create enmity in their family after their death. I do not think that such Testators are fair to themselves and their families by creating problems that they will not be around to solve. This is why I strongly recommend that Testators should have their Wills read to the beneficiaries before their death.
OPTION OF HAVING A DEED OF GIFT
A Testator should be bold enough to let his beneficiaries know the content of his will before his death. This will afford him the chance to know their reactions to it and have a chance to amend same where necessary. This also gives additional advantage of making the beneficiaries witnesses of the content of the Will, so that nobody in future will be able to dispute the Will.
This is where a Testator should consider the option of doing a “deed of gift” while alive to vest his assets on his beneficiaries with a condition that it will be perfected (registered) after his death.
Executors/Trustees should be made to execute undated deed of assent to vest the properties on the beneficiaries. The deed will be dated after the death of the testator and then registered.
NOT THEIR FATHERS’ WILL
CASES OF SIBLINGS CONTESTING THEIR FATHERS’ WILL SEEMS TO BE ON THE RISE IN THE COUNTRY. SUCH CASES ABOUND IN LARGE NUMBER IN the COURTS, WITH MANY DRAGGING ON FOR YEARS WITHOUT A SOLUTION. MANY OF SUCH SIBLINGS ARE NOW SWORN ENEMIES, WHILE ASSETS IN DISPUTE ROT OR REMAIN UNDER COURTS, ADMINISTRATION. YEMI ADEBOWALE examines SOME OF SUCH HIGH PROFILE CASES STILL DRAGGING IN COURTS
Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh
Though, this First Republic minister died over 46 years ago, his wives and children are still contesting his will in the court. Many of the property given out in the will are still being challenged. For example, the late minister’s company, Festus Okotie-Eboh and Sons Limited, six of his children and a firm, Maidaville Properties Limited are challenging Mrs. Alero Jadesimi (one of Okotie-Eboh’s daughters) and five others over the purported sale of late Okotie-Eboh’s prime property at 15 Kingsway Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, by Jadesimi. Okotie-Eboh’s children among the plaintiffs are Dr. Clara Akele, Mrs. Grace Oduro, Bawo, Emmanuel, Adolo and Lawrence (who are directors in the company). Jadesimi claims to be the rightful owner of the Ikoyi property, according to the will, and reserves the right to sell it. But the other children are disputing this.
This is another First Republic minister whose will is still a subject of dispute amongst his two wives and children. One of such cases challenging his will is before Justice L. Duduyemi of the Lagos High Court.
Evan Enwerem, former governor of Imo State and former President of the Senate died in 2007. Five years after, his will is still a subject of dispute with several court cases involving his two wives and children on-going. Enwerem had two wives - Cristina, his Portuguese first wife and Vivienne, his second wife, who was the First Lady in Imo State when he was the governor. The cases are still at the High Court level.
Even the will prepared by the man called “Timi The Law” has remained a subject of intense dispute, six years after his death. The late legal luminary, Rotimi Williams, must be turning in his grave. His children (all from the same mother) have torn his will into shreds and are in court battling over his estimated N26 billion estate. The war over the will is getting messier by the day. The children have filed several cases in court while numerous petitions have also been lodged with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over the issue.
Ladi and Kayode are on one side, while Folarin and Tokunbo are on the other side. Their wives are now sworn enemies, so also the grandchildren.
Theophilus Shobowale Benson
The will of TOS Benson, lawyer and First Republic minister of information became a subject of dispute few weeks after his death. In fact, it is being claimed by some of the factions in the dispute that the will has disappeared. Only recently, some of his children sold a building in Jibowu, Lagos, claiming it was lawfully willed to them by the late politician, but others objected to it and went to court to challenge it. The case is before Justice O. Gbajabiamila of the Lagos High Court. Two of his children, Soji and Soga Benson are equally unhappy with the handling of late TOS Benson estate. They are pointing accusing fingers at the executors, including Mrs. Opral Benson, Lionel Olusegun, Mrs. Abimbola Cadoso and Hewitt Adeboyega Benson. Also, Jennifer, one of TOS Benson’s daughter is unhappy that she was told to vacate “according to the will” one of her late father’s house in Ikoyi. She is also challenging this.
Gbolahan Mudasiru, a retired Air Commodore and one-time military governor of Lagos State died in London on September 23, 2003, leaving behind a will of crisis. A dispute involving some members of his family and the Trustees of the Will is still in court. It began almost immediately he breathed his last. Challenging the Will as next -of - Kin and beneficiaries of the estate of the late Air Commodore are Mrs. Foluke Mudasiru (his wife) two of the sons and his daughter, namely Tolulope Mudasiru, Mrs. Openifolu Tejuoso and Oladapo Mudasiru. The respondents are Ibrahim Abdullahi, Ladi Cole, Olufunmilayo Coker, Mrs. Olusola Sowemimo and Mr. A.C. Mkparu - the Trustees, and the Probate Registrar.
The court was invited to consider and resolve “Whether the Will captioned Trustees/Executors was the last Will of Mudasiru and not a forgery, riddled, as the family argued, with omissions, irregularities, misnomer and alterations which were not in character with the accustomed thoroughness and perfectionist tendencies of Commodore Mudasiru.”
It is also being asked to decide “Whether the Trustees appointed by him were also Executors of the Will.”
THINGS MY FATHER TOLD ME, EMEKA Ojukwu JNR
JUST LAST WEEK THE FAMILY OF DIM CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU ENDED ITS ONE YEAR MOURNING PERIOD. THE FIRST SON, EMEKA OJUKWU JnR., SPOKE TO EMEKA OSONDU, ON THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HIS FATHER AND OTHER FAMILY MATTERS
Last Sunday your family had one year remembrance of late Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu people had expected that the South East governors would have been present. But it was only Governor Peter Obi?
Let me clarify something for first. What happened on Sunday was the removing of our mourning cloth. It was not the remembrance. You remember my father died on the November 25, and was buried in March. The remembrance would be around that time. We as a family decided to give him one year of mourning from the day he died and that was why. We celebrated mass on the 25th. It is more of a private family matter or ceremony with some few close friends of the family. It was not supposed to be for the general public as such.
A lot has been said about this in many ways, but basically what happened was that the family made it clear that it is going to be one year and nothing less than that. And she suggested that she wanted to do it before one year due to her engagements and the family said she is free to go abroad for her engagement, but when it is one year, she has to join the family. She insisted and that was why you did not see family members as it was last Sunday. But when the time came for us to do it she decided to come down and join us. I think, from the way I see it she got better advice from people and she realised that it was not right about what she did.
Rumour has it that your father”s will was tampered with. What is the position?
I have heard those rumours and people have asked me severally about it. Essentially my father’s will is known to me and there has been a rumour and people are saying that there has been changes in the will. We are not aware of such changes. But we are watching to see. There is a rumour about reading of the will severally three months ago. There was a rumour that the will had been read without some people involved knowing about it. I want to wait and see. Given that I know what my father said is what it is. You should also know that reading a will is a different thing from executing the will.
The family will have to look at it to see who made these changes and what the changes are. If it is a deviation from my father’s wishes then we will surely challenge it in court. I cannot discuss the details of my father’s will in the public, but we do have copies with us.
During the ceremony last week, Bianca explained that the absence of Rochas Okorocha was due to some other engagements?
Dr. Rochas Okorocha’s relationship with the Ojukwu family is excellent. Actually, he was one of the first people that came to us as the date was approaching and asked what we wanted to do. Whether we wanted him to be involved. And he has been coming since my father died. Him in particular know about this event and got closer. Some thing came up that stopped him from attending this function, but he sent a representative to the occasion and called as to tell us as soon as he knew that he was not coming with so much apologies. In fact, his assistance was great in every way. We do not have any issue with him. He has been fully with the family when my father died. He has stood with us at all those trying times, so I reject any notion that the family has issues with him.
How do you feel about the contributions of Nigerians to your father’s funeral?
I do not know what to use to describe it. It is only the likes of Achebes, Soyinkas that can find a word to describe it. It was indeed touching and the assistance have been amazing I must say. We are talking about a man who seemed immortal. He was larger than life. The notion that he was no more was indeed touching.
But the response from Nigeria was what sustained us and are realised that his life really meant something and really touched our lives. You see, one tend to take people close to them for granted and you may not know how great or respected he or she is because he is with you. The responds by Nigerians further opened our eyes.
It was really a wonderful thing to see what took place during his funeral. You know there were events of course in Europe and America and all parts of Africa and the far East. I will never forget it and I am sure where ever he is, he will know that he has achieved what he had come on earth to do. Maybe, he did not take us to the promise land but he certainly took us to the mounting and showed us the promise land.
Let us look at Ojukwu Transport Limited. How is it being Managed?
It is not a secret that since Sir Odumegwu died there has been isues in the family. And there have been squabbles here and there and several law suits. But Ojukwu’s tTransport Company has been moving along and we have been managing it well. Before my father’s illness, the brothers had made up and started working together. And they were having regular meetings and having discussions on way forward and on how to handle my grand fathers investments. Since he has passed away, obviously there is a vacum and my father happens to be one of the directiors of that company.
Recently we had one of Ojukwu’s sons filling a suit at the court against Bianca?
Are you referring to Debe?
He has taken my father’s wife to court. He has taken me to court. He has taken my father’s brothers to court and even my cousins to court. He has taken the AIG of police to court and even the army command has been taken to court. Almost every body has been taken to court with one claim or the other. I think you would have to ask him why he is in court with everybody. If there are issues within any family and there are bound to be issues, especially in a big family like this, it is best resolved within the family. Wheather you are from the outside, or you from the inside. Going to the court or going to the police or even going to the press will certainly not solve the problem. All you do is to aggravate the system and its not good and you will end up creating more enemies.
The National Chairman of APGA, Sir Victor Umeh, said he is going to expose things about Ojukwu’s death and the role of Peter Obi and Bianca?
Like I said before, internal issues about the family do not need to be discussed in the press. Some times we would not like it to be published. My comment on this is that I wait for Victor Umeh to shade more light and tell as what he wanted to expose.
Tell us about your father and your life with him at that tender age?
Certainly he was all that people said he was. Growing up, my father was a jovial person. He likes to play pranks a lot. He was a loving and wonderful father. We did not see him much, because of the civil war. When ever he comes we enjoy him so well. But you see, when begin to see activities and heavy presence of people around our house, we know that he is coming to see us. We got to spend a minor time with him in Ivory cost. He would play football, table tennis, play with people. He was indeed a wonderful father and a great one at that.
Can you recall an issue that took place between you and your father?
Sure, many of them. Some of them I will not tell you because it could be embarrassing. I will tell you one. You know that as you start to get old or coming up as a teenager you begin to see muscles forming, you will begin to feel great like a man. I came home and perhaps I went some where that I am not suppose to go and I came in and saw my cousins and my parents. He challenged me and instead of me backing down like it used to be, I spoke up and asked him what he meant and by that action something happened. His reaction surprised me. Instead of continuing with the augment he just looked at me and said “oh! So you are a man now? Good, good. Ok every body out.”
Every body went out and he locked the door and while I was looking at him, he started unbuttoning his shirt and I was just looking at him and I was about calling him daddy and what happened was a blow close to my chest and I landed on my back like a sack of rice. I couldn’t breath, I was trying to breath or say something then I got another one. I did not come home like about two days. He had to send for me before I came back home So he was that kind of person.
When he discovered that you are now a man, how was his approach to you later?
No by them I was not quite a man and that was why I jumped out through the window. One thing I really enjoyed about my father was honesty. He was an honest man. Remember when I was getting married for the first time and I asked for his advise, do you know what he told me. He said my son I am on my number three and I am not the best person to give you advice, so you just go and ask somebody that is still on number one. The man was indeed fun to be with.
But why did you choose not to be a soldier like your father?
Not that I did not want to be a soldier, I tried. When I came back to Nigeria I wanted to join the army even when I was in Ivory coast I wanted to join the army, He had always maintained that we are Nigerians. I participated in sports in Ivory Coast and I qualified for Olympics 100 meters. I was faster than some of the people that represented Ivory Coast then, but my father refused, insisting that I will have to join the Nigerian team and not the Ivory Coast team. I was about fourteen or fifteen years then. When I came back to Nigeria, I went to join the army but it didn’t work out for obvious reasons.
Your father, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu is no more. What are the challenges?
People now have expectations about you and what they expect you to do now as the head of the family. People want to prop you up, want to knock you down. But this is what life is all about. I miss him because there are things I would have loved to seek his advice, but he is no more and the burden of the family is now on me and I have no choice but to carry on. I told my father that he will never be disappointed at me because with his training and teachings I am well armed to carry on with the challenges that go with it.
Today I have to take some leadership actions and bring out money whether you have it or not and that is the way it is. It is now that I have come to realise the role my father was playing as it were and now I am playing similar roles. I know that the man was on a mission and I know that it was not a mission one can finish in a life time.
One of the ways to carry on from where my father stopped is this problem in APGA. We have to find a way to stop it and settle all parties. It would be wrong that in his absence the party that he gave his life for and nurtured would end up this way and the whole thing will derail completely. You were here last Sunday when Governor Peter Obi and Sir Victor Umeh met in my palour and shook hands and I feel this is a sign of good things to come. We will ensure that the matter is settled.