Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo
By Omololu Ogunmade, with agency reports
Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo has said in his several telephone calls with the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu, he had discussed the possibility of expression of remorse on the Nigerian civil war from the former Biafran leader, who passed on over the weekend..
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) from London, Obasanjo recalled particularly that at several times, he discussed the possibility of an expression of remorse from Ojukwu ``on the Nigerian civil war which in itself was a culmination of actions and reactions’’.
``I condole with his family and pray for the repose of his soul.’’ According to the former president, "In a way, his death marks the end of an era in Nigeria.” In his condolence message to the Ojukwu family, Obasanjo recalled that they were both junior –ranked officers in the Nigerian army at independence in 1960, adding that the news of Ojukwu’s death was received with sadness.
“It is with deep sadness that I received the news of the demise of my friend and colleague. “He and I were subalterns (low-ranked army officer below a captain) in the army at Nigeria’s independence in 1960. I condole with his family and pray for the repose of his soul,” he said.
“I was the first Nigerian Aide de Camp (ADC) to the governor general. Chief Ojukwu was Assistant District Officer then in Umuahia, Eastern Region. I had a long discussion with Chief Emeka Ojukwu at the party about the Nigerian Army and advised him to come and join the Nigerian Army. He kept his contact with me and later became one of the first set of Nigerian graduates to join the Army as a cadet,” Adebayo said.
Meanwhile, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) has lamented the demise of Ojukwu, saying his death “at this crucial time of national development,” was disturbing.
In a statement signed Monday by YCE President, Gen. Adebayo (rtd.), and its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Oluyemi Falade, YCE described the late Ojukwu as one leader who devoted his life to the fight against injustice and oppression and held on to his principles to the very end.
“Chief Ojukwu was a leader who devoted all his life to fight against injustices and oppressions. He was a man of strong principle who remained dedicated to his convictions until his last breath. He was a political icon and a man greatly needed by many people to build and enhance their respective political influences. He was forthright, courageous, outspoken and a true patriot. Nigeria will surely miss a man of this magnitude at this critical time of social, economic and political development of our nation,” the statement said.
Ojukwu died in a London hospital last Saturday at the age of 78. He was born on Nov. 4, 1933 in Zungeru, Niger State.
Ojukwu served in the Nigerian Army alongside Obasanjo until the civil war of 1967 to 1970 put them on different sides of the divide.
In his struggle to preserve the independence of the then Eastern Region where he was military governor, Ojukwu declared a sovereign Republic of Biafra also in a secessionist bid to carve the then Eastern Region as a separate entity from Nigeria.
In the declaration and during his public address to the people of Biafra, he said: “Having mandated me to proclaim on your behalf, and in your name, that Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent republic, now, therefore I, Lt.-Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria, by virtue of the authority, and pursuant to the principles recited above, do hereby solemnly proclaim that the territory and region known as and called Eastern Nigeria together with her continental shelf and territorial waters, shall, henceforth, be an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra.”
On July 6, 1967, the then military Head of State, Col. Yakubu Gowon, declared war and attacked Biafra in a bid to stop Ojukwu’s secessionist attempt.
The war, which ensued, lasted for 30 months as the Nigerian side insisted that the country would not be polarised.
The war ended in January 15, 1970, after the then Lt.-Col. Phillip Effiong, leading the Biafran side, surrendered to Obasanjo.
Before the surrender, Ojukwu had gone on exile in Cote d’Ivoire