Battle For Ojukwu’s Successor
Despite the exchange of words between Bianca, the widow of Dim Chukwuwmwka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and the leadership of pan Igbo-socio-cultural association, the Ohaneze Ndigbo, the funeral programme for the late Biafran leader has proceeded. Bianca was reported to have claimed that the Ohaneze leadership had neither visited Ojukwu during the period he was hospitalised in London nor paid a condolence visit since his demise in October last year. But Chief Ralph Ndigwe, spokesperson of the organisation, Chief Ralph Ndigwe said the leadership of the organisation went to Umudim Nnewi, Ojukwu’s hometown to pay condolence to the family as Igbo custom and tradition demand and visited the London hospital thrice while the late Biafran leader was on admission. He stated that Bianca might have been wrongly informed or forgot that they took those steps as a mark of respect for her late husband because of her tight schedule.
Last Friday, Ahiazu Mbaise in Imo State played host to the crème de la crème of Igbo society. The event was a colloquium held in honour of the late Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. The colloquium was one of the activities lined up for Ojukwu’s funeral programme. Ahiazu Mbaise was historical in the Biafran struggle. It was in this town that the Ahiara Declaration was declared during the civil war in 1969.
On Tuesday, February 28, Ojukwu’s body will arrive Umuahia, Abia State and will be taken to another historic site, the Ojukwu bunker. The bunker was where the late Biafran leader took refuge during the war when the seat of former Biafra was relocated to Umuahia following the fall of Enugu to the Nigerian side. Ojukwu’s remains would be taken to Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia State where people of the state will pay their last respect. Already, the state government has set up a committee to ensure the success of the Abia State part of the funeral programme.
Activities for the burial will later shift to Enugu on March 2 where Ojukwu’s remains will be received at the government house, the state House Of Assembly, his Enugu residential mansion CasaBianca and finally to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium.
The late Ikemba was military governor of the defunct Eastern Region between 1966 and 1967 with the capital at Enugu. He made the state his second home when he returned from exile in 1982. Located at Forestry Closed, GRA, Enugu, ‘CasaBianca’ (which literally means’ Bianca’s Place) was where the late Ikemba lived most part of his life since 1982 until his hospitalisation two years ago. The house was completed about five years ago.
Ojukwu will be buried later in the day at his country home at Umudim, Nnewi in Anambra State.
But just as the crisis between Ojukwu’s widow and Ohaneze is being resolved, another crisis is brewing, this time, for the successor of the late Ikemba. This was stirred by the recent conferment of Ijele-Igbo on the leader of the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafara, MASSOB, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike by the traditional ruler of Nri kingdom in Anaocha local government of Anambra State, Eze Obidiegwe Onyesoh. The chief title has pitched Eze Onyesoh against other traditional rulers for his unilaterally decision.
In 1966, Onyesoh’s predecessor, late Eze Tabansi Udene Nri-Jiofor, the then traditional ruler of Nri kingdom gave Ojukwu the ‘ofo’ staff (a symbol of justice) to prosecute the civil war.
Prophet Ramas Asuzu, founder of the Liberation Temple of the Absolute God said that Uwazuruike is too controversial and radical to be chosen as Ojukwu’s successor. He explained that as a result of MASSOB activities, Uwazurike is not in the good books of some individuals from varied political blocs. According to him, this would make it difficult for the Igbo to get the co-operation of other political blocks on national issues.
“Ndigbo need somebody that is acceptable both within them and outside as their leader. We need to return to the drawing board,” Asuzu stressed, just as he also faulted what he described as the hurried move to find Ojukwu’s successor even when he has not been buried, described it as shameful.
George Okoye, a former lawmaker also frowned at the planned installation of Uwazuruike as the Igbo leader, adding that if there was the need to adopt any successor to replace Ojukwu, one year should elapse after his burial before embarking on the exercise. Okoye alleged that beyond other considerations, the title being awarded on Uwazuruike has political undertone. “This man was in his house when the title was brought to him from what we were told. This is playing on the intelligence of all of us. The monarch (Onyesoh) should have made wide consultations before doing what he did.” He said the late Ikemba proved himself a hero by leading Ndigbo to war. “You can hate him for one or two errors, but he came to the rescue of Ndigbo when they beckoned on him. Whether we won or lost the war is not the issue. The issue is that history beckoned on him at a particular time and he proved himself a hero. That was the foundation of his personality in the Igbo nation and beyond.
“Many people have diverse opinion of him, but the important thing is that Ojukwu was the man who had what it takes in terms of Igbo leadership. Let these people who are talking about succession not insult the man. Let him rest before they start talking about succession,” Okoye contended.
A member of the House of Representatives, Uche Ekwunife suggested that elected and appointed officers of Igbo origin should come together and discussed the issue of Igbo leadership. “We can institute a democratic system of government whereby traditional rulers, elected and appointed officers from the entire five states of the southeast can vote in someone with credibility who can command the respect to lead Ndigbo. This position can be rotated through the five Igbo states using alphabetical order for a tenure that will last for four years. Other offices in the new forum will be rotated through the Igbo states as well. This will go a long way in giving us a united front and a formidable voice in the country’s affairs because until we organise ourselves better, only then can our voice be heard and respected,” Ekwunife stated.