Amuma na Egbeigwe edelu juuuu; Udo eji akpu Agu agbabie; Odenigbo Ngwo anabago; Ikemba Nnewi a gaba goo; Dikedioranmma nweru ka osi noru kitaa, Ezeigbo Gburugburu , ewooooo! Obu inaba ka anyi mezie gini? Onye ga na-ekwuru anyi? Onye ga abamba ka Agu ma oburu na ana emegbu anyi? Ewoooooooo! Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, ewoooooo!
– Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State
Lightning and thunder have been silenced; the rope used for dragging the lion has snapped; the Odenigbo of Ngwo has retired to bed; the hero loved by all is ill at ease, the overall King of the Igbo ewooo! If you retire to bed, what shall we do? Who will roar like the lion when we are oppressed? Ewoooooooo! Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, ewoooooo!
President, Gowon, Buhari, Nigerians Mourn Ikemba
By Our Correspondents
A star in Nigeria’s political firmament dimmed yesterday as Dim Chukwuemeka O dumegwu-Ojukwu lost his battle for survival after being hospitalised a year ago for age-related illness. He was 78.
His widow, Bianca, told THISDAY in a telephone interview that the Ikemba Nnewi died at the Bupa Kensington Nursing Home, London at about 2.30 am local time.
Expectedly, his death has opened a floodgate of tributes, with President Goodluck Jonathan describing him as one of the greatest contributors to the evolution of modern Nigeria and one whose love for justice, equity and fairness made him lead the Igbo into the civil war.
Others who eulogised the late Biafran warlord were Senate President David Mark; his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi; his Rivers State counterpart and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Chibuike Amaechi; and the Northern Governors’ Forum, headed by Niger State’s Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu.
Others were former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, who unleashed the federal might against the Biafran secession bid, championed by the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
A statement by the family yesterday signed by one of his sons, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, said the late Ikemba died after “a protracted and brave fight against stroke.”
“The people’s General, Ikemba Nnewi, Dikedioranma Ndigbo, Odenigbo Ngwo, Ezeigbo Gburugburu, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, died in the early hours of today (yesterday) in London,” it added.
The family thanked all those that stood by it during Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s illness, especially Jonathan and Obi whom it said “went above and beyond the call of duty to look after him.
“Besides paying the hospital bills, he visited London on a monthly basis to see him. He was there yesterday and only came back this morning to receive the news, whereupon he entered the next available flight back to London.”
At his Government Reserved Area residence in Enugu, the compound was calm as only the security men on duty were seen milling around the area.
One of the people in the residence who gave his name as Nicholas said they had not been formally communicated on the demise of Odumegwu- Ojukwu, noting that his wife was still in London.
Prior to being flown to London, Odumegwu-Ojukwu was on admission at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, after suffering from a stroke.
He was rushed to the hospital on December 19, 2010 and flown abroad in a German air ambulance five days later.
Jonathan, in a statement titled ‘Ojukwu's Place in Nigerian History is Assured’, lamented his death as a “great national loss.”
The president, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, condoled with the people of his home state, Anambra, his family and followers.
He urged them to use the mourning period to ensure that they give him a peaceful rite of passage befitting his greatness.
“President Jonathan believes that the late Chief Ojukwu’s immense love for his people, justice, equity and fairness which forced him into the leading role he played in the Nigerian civil war, as well as his commitment to reconciliation and the full reintegration of his people into a united and progressive Nigeria in the aftermath of the war, will ensure that he is remembered forever as one of the great personalities of his time who stood out easily as a brave, courageous, fearless, erudite and charismatic leader,” the statement added.
Obi, in an elegiac statement, bemoaned the loss of Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s for the Igbo and Nigeria.
The governor, in his statement titled ‘Our father is Gone’, said: “Amuma na Egbeigwe edelu juuuu; Udo eji akpu Agu agbabie; Odenigbo Ngwo anabago; Ikemba Nnewi a gaba goo; Dikedioranmma nweru ka osi noru kitaa, Ezeigbo Gburugburu , enwooooo! Obu inaba ka anyi mezie gini? Onye ga na-ekwuru anyi? Onye ga abamba ka Agu ma oburu na ana emegbu anyi? Enwoooooooo! Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, enwoooooo! (Lightning and thunder have been silenced; the rope used for dragging the lion has snapped; the Odenigbo of Ngwo has retired to bed; the hero loved by all is ill at ease, the overall king of the Igbo ewooo! If you retire to bed, what shall we do? Who will roar like the lion when we are oppressed? Ewoooooooo! Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, ewoooooo!)
“In the traditional Igbo society, the death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu would be ordinarily announced by the famous Ikoro drum, reserved for outstanding people in the society once in a century.
“This is what I have just done in the foregoing. We hereby, in consultation with the immediate family of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, announce his death which occurred in the early hours of today (yesterday), November 26, 2011.
“With Ojukwu’s death, the entire Igbo race, at home and in the Diaspora as well as Nigerians have lost a treasure. He was one of the most forthright personalities Nigeria has ever had. He believed in a Nigeria where justice and equity should reign and devoted his life to their pursuit of that ideal as if he was under a spell.
“While alive, Ezeigbo Gburugburu was such a subject of history that it makes little sense to start contemplating how history will remember him.
“He is worthy of Caesar’s own summary of his victory in Pontus (former Asia Minor), Veni, vedi, vici, (I came, I saw, I conquered). Ojukwu came, saw and conquered, leaving for us vital lessons in patriotism and nationalism.
“With his death, part of every Igbo man has also died. We shall continue to remember him in our prayers as we work out further details in consultation with his family and other stakeholders.”
Gowon, who was Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s lead antagonist on the federal side in the civil war, said his passing was shocking. He told THISDAY in Kaduna that he had long reconciled with the former Biafran leader.
Recalling his days with the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Gowon said they started together as senior military officers in the army, adding: “At one time, we were staff officers at Army Headquarters. A time came when it was difficult for him to reconcile what had happened to his people; one was really sorry for what had happened, but because of that he wanted to break away from the country.
“One felt otherwise and that brought about a break in the relationship for a while but it ended in a way that the people were able to reconcile and to live together to build a better country that made it difficult for him at that time to wish to break away from it.
“He became presidential candidate, not once, not twice, I understand probably about three times and that is Nigeria for you.
“Yes, we disagreed to such an extent but we were able to reconcile and agree again to be able to move forward. So we will miss him dearly and I wish him safe repose in the Lord. I am sure he would like Nigeria to be a better place for all Nigerians in the future.
“We had been friends, colleagues then temporarily, we disagreed and we said some uncomplimentary things about one another, but for the cause we both believed in more strongly, in the end we were able to reconcile.
“He looked for me when he was in the UK sometime in the late 70s and I was able to go and meet him even in his hotel. If you think we hated each other and we were such enemies, you are wrong.
“One of the great moments was when I visited him in his home sometime in April last year when we went for Nigeria Praise at the end of which I went to visit him. “I met his wife, Bianca, and some of the children and we sat down and chatted; that was total reconciliation.
“He went out and called himself a Biafran, but he came back as a Nigerian and also went into politics and sought to become president. If he had been elected, it would have been really something.
“There were great moments we had, every moment that we have had together in good times and bad times, it’s been great.”
The Senate described the late Biafran warlord as “the issue in Nigeria's evolutionary process” while Mark said Odumegwu-Ojukwu was “a dogged fighter who fought till the end to liberate the oppressed.”
Ekweremadu also said his death was “most excruciating and a grievous loss to the nation and Africa as a whole.”
Mark in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbodiyan, described the late Igbo leader as “a hero’s hero”, adding that “as a dogged fighter, Ojukwu fought till the end to liberate the oppressed.”
He said the deceased stood for justice, equality before the law, fairness and freedom to all citizens, adding: “No matter how much you loved or hated him, Ojukwu was a man who loved his people and was ever prepared to lay down his life for them to have a better life.
“He remains a legend. He was one of the very early fine military officers the nation had. He contributed to the evolution of modern day Nigeria. The nation has lost one of her best.”
Ekweremadu said the story of Ikemba Nnewi was like an interesting folktale which every well-meaning Nigerian would have naturally wished never ended.
He said, “A mighty Iroko has fallen and a big masquerade has touched the ground,” adding that “Ojukwu was a legend, intellectual, patriot, and a great statesman who contributed immensely to the development of the nation.”
Senate spokesman, Enyinnaya Abaribe, in a condolence message, said the Senate and indeed the entire nation would surely miss the late Igbo leader.
He said the deceased “saw tomorrow and his action and passion for a truly united Nigeria shaped our socio-political environment of today."
On his part, Amaechi expressed sadness over the death of Odumegwu-Ojukwu. The governor, in a statement by his spokesman, David Iyofor, described the deceased as an iconic national figure, a man full of courage whose contributions to the nation in spite of the civil war cannot be over-emphasised.
“Ojukwu had strong leadership skills; he was a fighter with the heart of the people, and his opinions kept the nation on its feet. In politics, he was a key player and would definitely be missed by many,” Amaechi said.
The Northern Governors’ Forum, in a statement by Aliyu, said Nigerians had lost a courageous man who would be missed for his immeasurable contributions to national development.
“Like most of our Igbo brothers and sisters who were born in Zungeru (former capital of Northern Nigeria), Ojukwu excelled in his sojourn on this side of the divide. He did well as a soldier and as a politician,” the statement said.
Aliyu said Odumegwu-Ojukwu would be remembered for playing a prominent role in the 1995 constitutional conference which gave birth to the current geopolitical structure.
Buhari also described the death of Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a painful loss to the country. Buhari, who spoke through his spokesman, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said Odumegwu-Ojukwu would be greatly missed for his fight for justice and credibility of the electoral process.
“It is a painful exit for a great man who has lived a great life. Ojukwu was an icon who had been involved in the fight for a credible electoral process in the country.
“At some point, he and Buhari had collaborated in the struggle to ensure justice and fairness in the electoral process.
“It is sad that the country is still involved in the battle to enthrone a free and fair electoral process at the time he died,” he said.
Atiku, on his part, said Nigeria has suffered a colossal loss at a time of strenuous efforts for unity and reconciliation.
The former vice president in a condolence message in Abuja by his media office, recalled that Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s role as a key actor in Nigeria’s political development cannot be easily forgotten.
According to him, the deceased was a tremendously respected and influential politician whose endorsement was frequently needed by others to build their political careers.
He said history had cast the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu into a role and he played that part to the best of his ability.
“Because of his tremendous influence on the hearts and minds of the people, the late Ojukwu was an icon in every sense of the word. Even if you disagreed with the Ikemba, you could not ignore his father-figure stature and colossal influence,” he added.
The All Progressives Grand Alliance, of which Odumegwu-Ojukwu was the chairman of its Board of Trustees before his death, thanked God for “this rare gift of a human being who lived an uncommon life of selfless service to humanity.”
APGA, in a statement titled: “Our leader has gone back to the Lord,” by its national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, said the deceased would be greater in death as he would remain a reference point for the coming generation.
The national vice chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (South-east), Chief Olisa Metuh, said Ojukwu was “our symbol, our identity and our undisputed leader. For our struggle, he gave his life. He will continue to live in the hearts of every true Igbo man for generations to come.”
Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State expressed shock and sorrow over the death of the former Biafran leader.
The governor in a statement by his chief press secretary, Chukwudi Achife, said Odumegwu-Ojukwu was a foremost nationalist and activist whose contributions to the political and constitutional development of the country would not be forgotten.
He described him as a symbol of the struggle against injustice, segregation and oppression against any group of people in the country, adding that his efforts had helped to lay the foundation for national integration and equality and unity.
A Rebel with Many Causes
He was many things to many people. He elicited as much passion as he did subdued bitterness from the variegated groups that make up Nigeria. Yemi Ajayi and Roland Ogbonnaya
capture the life and times of Ikemba Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, one of the last icons of Nigerian history, who passed on in a London hospital early yesterday at the age of 78
Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, former Chief of General Staff, the de facto vice president during the military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, could not have put it better. Describing what Ikemba Nnewi, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, meant to the nation while reacting to the news of his death, the retired naval chief said, “He was a dogged fighter; somebody who would doggedly pursue a cause he believed in.” That doggedness of purpose was a trait that ran through his life; from cradle to his grave.
For a man born of a privileged background that had his life cut out for him and could have spent his life lapping up the luxury arising from his birth, Odumegwu-Ojukwu, born on November 4, 1933 at Zungeru, Niger State, chose early in life to chart a different path for himself. His father, Sir Louis Phillippe Odumegwu-Ojukwu, was one of Nigeria’s richest men of his time. Sir Louis, a businessman from Nnewi in the present day Anambra State, was a transporter who made him wealth from the boom in the transport sector occasioned by the Second World.
Charting His Path
The rebellious streak in the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who first went to school in Lagos, showed early in his life. The young Emeka, barely 11 years old, made headlines when he fought a colonial teacher at his school, King's College, Lagos, for degrading a black woman. His action earned him a stint in prison from the colonial authorities. This action must have been one of the reasons that made his father ship him off to Britain at the age of 13 to continue his education at Epsom College, in Surrey. He capped his education with a Masters degree in history at Lincoln College, Oxford University.
On his return to Nigeria in 1956, to his father’s chagrin, he decided to pursue a career outside the family business. His first job was as an administrative officer in the Eastern Nigeria civil service. He was posted to Udi. Almost one year after joining the civil service, he quit to join the military, making him one of the few graduate Nigerians to join the force. The move was to push him into national and global limelight when years later, he launched the first and only secessionist bid in Nigeria.
In his book Because I am Involved, he wrote about his enlistment in the military: “My enlistment into the Nigeria Army, to say the least, startled everybody in Nigeria who heard of it. I went to Zaria and enlisted. I did that mainly because I didn't want any interference from the well-meaning influence of my father. I joined the Army, signed up, but I wasn't to be spared the embarrassment because it didn't take a week before my father was aware of it. And he did everything possible to stop the enlistment.
“That is why, despite my educational background, I was not enlisted as an officer cadet. The general idea was that it was agreed between the Governor-General and my father that the best way actually was to let me go into the army, and I would see for myself what the army truly was. I don't think that they took into full consideration the level of stubbornness I must have acquired from my father as well, because I remember that the question always came to Zaria from Lagos, ‘How is he getting on?’”
With his aristocratic background and education, it did not take him long to rise up ranks. Of the 250 persons in the officer cadre, 15 were Nigerians, with Britons making up the balance. However, in the lower officer cadre, of the 6,400 people, 336 were British. The late Odumegwu-Ojukwu, whose army number was N/29, was resourceful.
He was one of the early participants in the United Nations’ peacekeeping force, under whose auspices he was sent to the Congo, under the command of Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, an officer who was later to become Nigeria’s first military head of state. Shortly after his return from the peace mission, the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1964 and moved to Kano as commander of the 5th Battalion of the Nigerian Army.
Making of the Civil War
Two years after his arrival in Kano, the budding army officer was to be caught in the vortex of politics that had seeped into the military, especially with the exit of the colonial officers on the heels of Nigeria’s emergence as a flag nation after its independence in 1960, and it became a republic status three years after. There was growing dissatisfaction in the nation over the conduct of politicians in their struggle for power. The crisis reached a head with the upheaval in the Action Group that was the ruling party in the Western Region, now comprising the six states in the south-west as well as Edo and Delta states.
This precipitated the first military coup in Nigeria on January 15, 1966, and which was organised by five majors, led by Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. The coup claimed the lives of one of the parties in the power struggle in the Western Region, Chief Samuel Akintola, who was the premier, Nigeria’s prime minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and northern premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, among others. The coup was, however, a flop. But Odumegwu-Ojukwu, rallied officers and men under his command to support the forces loyal to the head of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Major-General Aguiyi-Ironisi, who assumed power as head of state.
A few days after he took over the reins of power, Aguiyi-Ironisi named officers to head the nation’s four regions. Odumegwu-Ojukwu became military governor of the Eastern Region while Hassan Usman Katsina was his counterpart in the Northern Region; Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, Western Region and David Akpode Ejoor was governor of the Mid-western Region.
Barely four months after the failed coup, there was unrest in the north over the killing of two of its political leaders, Bello and Balewa. People from the southern region became targets of attacks by northerners. Hundreds were killed and many buildings belonging to the south-easterners were destroyed. There was hardly any family in the zone that did not lose a member. As the body bags rose, there was growing angst in the south-east. The mood was retaliatory. However, Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who had become a colonel, strived to calm his people. Based on assurances from his counterpart in the north that steps were being taken to end the pogrom and that the safety of those who had not fled the region was guaranteed, he dissuaded his people from embarking on retaliatory attacks. But things worsened.
On 29 July 1966, the north executed its own counter coup. A group of officers from the area, including Murtala Ramat Rufai Muhammed, Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma and Martin Adamu, led northern soldiers in a mutiny. They killed Aguiyi-Ironsi who was on a state visit to Ibadan, the capital of the Western Region along with his host, Fajuyi. Then to accentuate the ethnic colouration of the coup, the masterminds, after two days of talks with Aguiyi-Ironsi’s deputy, Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, rejected him as the late head of state’s successor in defiance of military command. Rather, they made Yakubu Gowon, a colonel, the new head of state. Ogundipe, who was senior to Gowon, was sent to London as Nigeria’s High Commissioner.
In South-eastern Nigeria, the restiveness arising from the pogrom was yet to abate. Various efforts to douse the tensions failed. As part of the efforts to restore peace in Nigeria, Ghana organised a forum for the leaders from the various regions in the country to meet to talk peace. The Aburi Peace Conference which held in January 1967, did not succeed as the parties did not keep the Aburi agreements. On May 30, 1967, Odumegwu-Ojukwu seceded South-eastern Nigeria from the rest of the country and proclaimed the area a sovereign state with the name: Republic of Biafra.
“Having mandated me to proclaim on your behalf, and in your name, that Eastern Nigeria be a sovereign independent republic, now, therefore, I, Lieutenant Colonel 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.” The south-easterners could not have chosen a better man to lead their cause.
When on July 6, 1967 Gowon declared war and attacked Biafra, the south-east, led by Odumegwu-Ojukwu refused to recant. He got support from some foreign nations. After 30 months of civil war in which Gowon, with support from Britain, Nigeria’s colonial master, used every weapon, including food blockades, which led to massive hunger in the south-east, to humble the Biafrans, their commander knew that his infant republic would not survive.
On January 9, 1970, Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who had transformed to a general in the Biafran army, handed over to his deputy, Major General Philip Effiong, and fled to Côte d'Ivoire. There, Ivoirian President Felix Houphouet-Boigny granted him political asylum.
Life after Biafra
Odumegwu-Ojukwu spent 13 years in exile before President Shehu Usman Shagari, during the Second Republic, granted him official pardon. With his pardon, he returned to Nigeria in 1982, to a heroic welcome. No sooner had he returned to Nigeria than he joined politics. Odumegwu-Ojukwu became a member of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, lending credence to the rumour that his pardon had political undertones. Nigeria was on the cusp of another general elections and the race was expected to be keen. Given his charisma among his people, his membership of NPN was expected to garner more votes for the party in the south-east.
His foray into politics during the Second Republic was short lived. He lost his bid for the senatorial ticket of the party. About a year after his return, the Second Republic ended following a coup that produced Major General Muhammadu Buhari as head of state. Odumegwu-Ojukwu was among politicians detained and subsequently jailed by the Buhari junta.
Freedom, however, came for him about two years later when General Ibrahim Babangida, in a palace coup in 1985, overthrew Buhari and reviewed his prison term and charges.
His short romance with NPN kindled his interest in politics. He was part of the 1995 Constitutional Conference that was supposed to midwife the Fourth Republic. He remained an unabashed Igbo irredentist, replying his critics that he was first an Igbo before being a Nigerian.
After the return of democracy in 1999, Odumegwu-Ojukwu became the leader of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, a party whose sphere of influence remains within his former Biafran enclave, the south-east.
His obstinate nature also manifested in his romance with former beauty queen, Bianca Onoh, daughter of Second Republic governor of the old Anambra State, Chief C. C. Onoh. Despite opposition from his father-in-law, Odumegwu-Ojukwu refused to change his mind about the beauty queen. Both went ahead to get married despite opposition from Onoh. It took years for the former governor to come around to accept Odumegwu-Ojukwu as a son in-law.
When prominent Igbo leaders converged on Enugu on November 4, to celebrate Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s 78th birthday anniversary, little did they know that they were engaging in a last dance for the Igbo leader, who was then in a London hospital. They never had any premonition that Ezeigbo Gburugburu, as he was fondly called, was spending his last month on earth. Three months earlier, he had been rumoured dead. It took assurances from one of his sons, Okigbo to dispel the death rumour. “It is not true that my father died,” Okigbo who lives in London said. Like another prominent Igbo leaders and Nigeria’s first president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Odumegwu-Ojukwu read his obituary alive.
However, the man who had fought many battles and survived, including that of the heart, early yesterday lost the greatest battle of all after he was flown to London on December 23, 2010, when his health took a turn for the worse.
Ojukwu’s Politics: From NPN to APGA
Omololu Ogunmade writes on the political life of Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
Following the January 15, 1966 coup led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, which ended the First Republic, General Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, who emerged as the head of state, appointed Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu as the first military governor of the Eastern Region on January 17, 1966. However, on July 29, 1966, some northern military officers, including Majors Murtala Muhammed, Theophilus Danjuma and Martin Adamu, led a mutiny which was termed a “counter-coup” during which the head of state, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, who was on an official visit to the Western Region and the military governor, Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, were killed in Ibadan
After the demise of Aguiyi-Ironsi, Odumegwu-Ojukwu insisted that the most senior military officer, Brigadier B.A. Ogundipe, should take over the leadership of the nation so that the culture of military hierarchy could be preserved. But Ogundipe was easily convinced to step aside and was posted to the Nigerian High Commission in London while Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon became the head of state.
But Odumegwu-Ojukwu was unhappy with this perceived show of indiscipline in the army. On May 30, 1967, Odumegwu-Ojukwu, following the coup and the orgy of killings in the north in which south-easterners were the targets, declared Biafra a sovereign state, triggering a three-year civil war to keep Nigeria one. With defeat imminent, Odumegwu-Ojukwu left Biafra on January 9, 1970. He ended up in Côte d'Ivoire, where President Felix Houphouet-Boigny granted him political asylum.
After 13 years of political asylum, President Shehu Shagari granted Odumegwu-Ojukwu a state pardon. This offered him the opportunity to return to Nigeria in 1982. Upon his return, the people of his native, Nnewi gave him a chieftaincy title, Ikemba, meaning “Power of the People”, while the entire Igbo nation offered to call him Dikedioramma, meaning “Beloved Hero”. Before the 1983 general elections, Odumegwu-Ojukwu joined the ruling National Party of Nigeria and vied for its senatorial ticket. But he lost the election to a relatively unknown commissioner, Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe.
Following the return of democracy in 1999, Odumegwu-Ojukwu joined the All Peoples Party before he later quit to form the All Progressives Grand Alliance along with some other Igbo leaders ahead of the 2003 general elections. He became the presidential candidate of the party at the election but lost to the then incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Before he was flown out of the country because of his illness, he was an influential politician in the south-east. APGA, the ruling party in Anambra State today, became the party of choice because of his influence. For instance, at the heat of electioneering towards the 2010 governorship election in the state, Odumegwu-Ojukwu accompanied the incumbent governor, Peter Obi, to his campaign, pleading with the electorate to vote for Obi even if it would be the last respect they could accord him (Ojukwu). The plea paid off as Obi whose re-election was threatened at the time emerged winner of the February 6, 2010 election.
The Care Home Where He Died
From Simon Kolawole in London
Last Friday, Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was moved from the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, Reading – the British hospital where he was admitted on December 24, 2010 – to The Bupa Kensington Nursing Home, London, where he died in the early hours of Saturday.
Located in a quiet residential area in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the grand Victorian terrace offers care to the elderly who are in the “departure lounge”.
According to Bupa which operates over 300 of such homes in the UK, the facility “offers nursing dementia care and care for young physically disabled people as well as convalescence, palliative, Parkinson's disease care and respite.”
The care offers wheelchair accessible gardens to the rear of the home, and boasts a sensory garden, herb garden, water features, and shaded gazebo area.
All rooms are en suite, and have a smoke detector, telephone point, remote controlled television, 24-hour call system and thermostatic radiators, according to Bupa.
One of its major specialities is “palliative” – that is, active, compassionate care of the chronically and terminally ill, directed towards improving the quality of life.
Ojukwu was moved from The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust last Friday after the hospital had given him his “final treatment”, according to THISDAY sources.
The hospital, according to its website, has over 4,800 staff; 607 acute, 44 paediatrics and 57 maternity post natal beds; 204 day beds and spaces; and an annual budget of £290 million.
Before his transfer to Bupa, Odumegwu-Ojukwu had been at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, Reading for some months. The hospital is one of the largest general hospital foundation trusts in the country.
When rumours made the rounds that Odumegwu-Ojukwu had died last August, the hospital, aware of Ojukwu’s stature who it addressed as “General”, issued a statement.
The Public Relations Manager, Mr. Joe Wise, wrote: “We have been requested by the family of General Odumegwu-Ojukwu to clarify newspaper reports regarding his stay as a patient at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
“The Royal Berkshire Hospital is one of the largest acute hospitals and is nationally and internationally renowned for its high standards of care, using the very latest treatments and clinical equipment available.
“General Odumegwu-Ojukwu was admitted as an emergency patient from the Lynden Hill Clinic. He was suffering from a chest infection for which he received treatment. His condition is stable.
“Contrary to reports published in a number of newspapers: The General has NOT suffered any further strokes; he is NOT on a life support machine and has not been on one at any time while a patient in the Royal Berkshire Hospital; the General’s treatment is being funded privately.
“Any further media enquiries should be directed to the Public Relations Department, but further statements will only be issued at the request of the General’s family.”
Yesterday, the Royal Berkshire, which is about 66 kilometres away from London, refused to comment on Ojukwu’s death, as a spokesman said on the phone that “the matter was now in the hands of the family.”