Ojukwu- The President Nigeria Never Had

As we pray for the recovery of Ikemba for the good old days just before the war, the man is a leader amongst equals in and outside the military. It has been said and written many times that we should not wait until a man is dying before rushing them abroad for treatment when we can provide a suitable hospital in each of the six geopolitical zones of the Country specializing in different areas. The wear and tie of taking them abroad only make their situations worse since they must have some stability to make the journey.

Let us hope this is not a goodbye as others.

Children tend to have certain memories adults forget or care little about; and for those children in the Eastern Region then, it was when Ojukwu became a military Governor that he abolished differential treatment on scholarships for none indigenes. Fair to say, school fees in the East was not waived or free for indigene and scholarships had to be reserved. No matter how long it lasted, that temporary relief gave many Nigerians a head start. Yes, Western Region had the same thing in place, but that did not take away the intention of Ojukwu as a dedicated Nigerian.

When Ojukwu had a master, it did not make a difference in what but it came from some far place like Oxford in England when many of his cohorts were happy with high school education. Many of them got to the height of their careers in private businesses and government while this man settled for the Army. In those days, the caliber of children going into the Army was those from poor homes and with no opportunities. Asking us to go into the military is like forsaking your dearest. The only exceptions were doctors and nurses because their humanitarian services were not limited. In the case of Ikemba, we just could not wait to hear him speak wondering about the vocabularies that would come out of his mouth.

It must be quickly pointed out that in the North, the royals go into Army and many of them were highly educated in Arabic. The problem is transferring Arabic training which was geared to prayers into English practical adaptation of everyday life. In other words, most Arabic scholars were Muslims religious men while most English scholars may not even be Christian religious men. Indeed, some of those that went into the Army from both South and North had political power in sight, as some would later say of Ojukwu.

There was this aunt of ours that told us if she had known that Ojukwu was going to be the rebel leader, she had the power to crush the little kid with her foot on his way to primary school in those days. She never suspected that the little tiny kid would become Ojukwu the war hero to many of us. The way she talked, you would think she had that power herself. Ojukwu later gave us his own story about growing up in Lagos and how he had to be sent home to Nnewi because he was behaving badly with difficulty identifying with Igbotic ways.

Don’t blame our aunt, she must have heard us singing the praises of Ojukwu just before the war as secret lovers of that young handsome man. We used to listen to Radio Biafra and sometimes got carried away with Ojukwu propaganda.
You come by road we finish una
You come by sea we finish una
You come by air we finish una
What did we know until Ojukwu bombed Row Park and our eyes become opened that this war was for real and could have taken many of us as it did many people that lost their lives as the war itself progressed or degenerated.

The man Ojukwu hardly talked. In those days, men that attended universities had so much knowledge, only God has more. The fact that he was a soldier did not diminish any of his polished or imagined sophistication. So it is strange that some of us will grow up to disagree with this man in any area of his philosophies. Could that be the same Ojukwu or we just grew up and become educated like him?

Our point was made when he took those soldiers to Aburi. It was a mismatch from start. An Oxford educated hero taking some soldiers to Aburi. We actually forgot that he was a soldier too or refuse to accept that he belonged in that khaki uniform. Even when we see him as a military governor, this one has a touch of class and decency. If it has to do with his father and upbringing, children like us cared very little about those. The man himself is a dignified hero.

As we waited for the result from Aburi, we knew he had them by his fingers. When they brought the agreement to bureaucrats they yelled and threw their hands in the air. He had them real good. It could not be implemented as it stood and had to be renegotiated. He must have known that he took advantage of their soldier mentality and low caliber of class and education. On Aburi we stand, declared Ojukwu.

Therefore no matter what our differences is with Ojukwu later in life, that awe we had for him never disappeared completely because it actually inspired many of us as children. Some of us rationalized that if Ojukwu had not gone into politics after he returned from exile, he could have remained bigger than life. When he returned, Lagos was at a standstill no matter what part of Nigeria we came from. Everyone wanted a glimpse of him. He remained majestic, quiet and thoughtful or so we imagined.

So the first mistake was joining the National Party of Nigeria. Though many of us might have been greatly disappointed, we still gave him the benefit of doubt. That was, if he had not agreed to their terms he would still be in exile. Knowing Ojukwu as we did some thought that would not be him. Nobody dictates to Ojukwu. No way!

As Ojukwu went further into politics, he fell from grace of a national hero loved or respected for his stand no matter which part we sided with during the war to a regional hero. Even then, there was no agreement on him within his region. In retrospect, many wondered if it could have been better for the Igbo Nation if he had accepted compromised Aburi agreement instead of insisting on everything.

By Farouk Martins Aresa

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