Friday, 24 February 2012

Farewell Ikemba: Lagos stands still as thousands celebrate Eze Igbo Gburugburu

The sun blazed down gloriously on the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos. There were well over15, 000 people, men and women, seated at the terrace of the expansive arena. There were youths, mostly traders of the Igbo extraction singing and chanting war songs.

They danced and sang with such energy that no one could tell where it was coming from.
Seated at the privileged rostrum was a roll call of eminent Nigerians – the list was too long. They came from various walks of life. They were united in one accord – to celebrate the life and times of the quintessential Ikemba Nnewi, the Eze Igbo Gburugburu who died last November in a London Hospital. It was the turn of Lagos – a city where Emeka Ojukwu grew up and had his early education before proceeding to Oxford in England.

The Lagos State government, under the watch of Governor Babatunde Fashola, in conjunction with Ndigbo, in Lagos had deemed it fitting to celebrate the former military governor of the defunct Easter Region who, according to Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos State governor, “soldiers on and never died.”

As early as 9.00am, people had started trooping into the arena. Many came with great expectations – to see once again and some the very first time, Emeka Ojukwu. On one hand, they were disappointed but on the other, they were not. Everyone present was greeted in an atmosphere which was quite electric. Dancing youths and their masquerades. There were very exciting speeches on Ojukwu that sent the arena into raptures. The occasion, chaired by legal luminary, Tunji Braithwaite, recorded no dull moment at all.

At exactly 12.55 pm, Fashola, the Lagos State governor who was the chief host, stormed the arena. With him was the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi and his wife. As the event wore on, Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha breezed in. Before his arrival, his deputy Martins Agbaso was already seated, same for the Anambra State deputy governor, Emeka Sibeudu.
Right on the podium were former generals: Governor of Old Western Region, Gen Adeyinka Adebayo, Rear Admiral Ndubusi Kanu, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Alison Madueke, Ike Nwachukwu as well as the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku. There were also captains of industry. They include insurance guru Joe Irukwu, Sonny Odogwu, Christopher Eze, Chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc and Paschal Dozie of Diamond Bank Plc.

Also at the occasion were Professors ABC Nwosu, Laz Ekwueme, Pat Utomi Commissioner of Economic Planning in Lagos State, Ben Akabueze, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, Ben Obi, Dr. Idika Kalu, Anya  O Anya, former governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Eze Ndigbo of Lagos State, Hycainth Ohazulike, Ambassodor Segun Olusola as well as the first son of the late Ikemba Sylvester Emeka Ojukwu.

There were representatives from the South West as well as non-indigenes of Lagos other than the Igbos. There were also traditional rulers from the South East, South West and the Arewa Communities. All the ethnic representatives came with various cultural dances which thrilled the audience. Students of Kings College, Lagos dressed in military gear made a military parade in honour of their fallen Old Boy.
The occasion which was anchored by Bisi Olatilo and Emeka Obasi was kick started at past with the National Anthem rendered by Laz Ekwueme and his band. That was followed by an opening prayer. Then there was presentation of kola nuts.

In his opening speech, Braithwaite, spotting an olive green jumper and trousers, remarked that his friendship with Ojukwu dated back to their days as youngsters living on Tokunbo Street in Lagos. He told the audience that Ojukwu did not fight his father land but corruption, injustice and lies.
“I want to correct some impression about Emeka,” he said. “Some people say he declared war against his fatherland. There is nothing farther than that. He declared war against lies, injustice and corruption. You too should declare war against corruption and lies in Nigerian so that we can have justice in the land.
“ Today, Nigeria is standing at the point it was in 1967. Unless care is taken, we might be fulfilling some apocalyptic prediction on Nigeria. But God forbid it. Some people say we cannot sit down to discuss the future of Nigeria. I can’t imagine an infantile thing like that. I say it is not the duty of the National Assembly to determine whether we shall talk or not because the National Assembly is a product of corruption,” he said.
Speaking in a similar vein, Asiwaju Tinubu said: “Today, Nigerians are gathered to celebrate a personality, not to mourn him.” He described Ojukwu as “a great man. He’s portrayed as restless soul, a man who was constantly engaged, a great soldier and thinker, a man of scholastic brilliance who attended one of the best schools, Oxford University, but chose to serve Nigeria in the military. He will be remembered as a fine officer and gentleman. After the contributions of our great nationalists - Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, no Nigerian has affected our history like Ojukuw did. He was a man who served with passion in nation building.

“Today, we say goodbye to a man who sacrificed his life but never succumbed to adversary and was never consumed. He carried on, no mater the situation; his voice never drowned in the face of adversary. He was courageous, smart enough to know when to war and to compromise, when to negotiate and when to exit. Dim Ojukwu soldiers on and never died.”
Also speaking, Governor of Lagos, Fashola, said: “Where will I begin and end it? What lessons did Nigerians learn from the civil war? I ask the question because today, we are still fighting. I want to know if Ojukwu would have loved to see Nigeria broken.”

Governor Obi who preferred to sing his eulogy on Ojukwu in Igbo language said in his song that “the Igbo spirit will not be muzzled because Ojukwu’s spirit was not muzzled. The Igbo spirit will not die as confirmed by the crowd that gathered to celebrate Ojukwu.”
Governor Okorocha of Imo, waxing philosophical, said: “Today marks the end of an old era and the beginning of a new era. But contrary to what people say, Ojukwu is not dead; he lives on because great men never die. We will continue with his struggle because Ojukwu means justice.”
Emeka  Anyaoku told Daily Sun that “today is a great day and a great thing that Lagos State is honouring Emeka Ojukwu. Apart from being the undisputed leader of the Ndigbo, he was a great Nigerian patriot. So it is right for Lagos State to celebrate his passage.

“The celebration of Ojukwu’s life is on. It took place in Zungeru, his birthplace, it has taken place in Calabar, and today, Lagos Sate is doing the same. I think it is right for as many places as possible in the country to celebrate his life because he was a very dedicate patriot.”
He insisted that “Ndigbo will miss his inspiring leadership and Nigerians will miss his perceptive comments on the politics of our country. I would hope that the federal government of Nigeria will think of a memorial to Emeka Ojukwu because he was a great patriot.”

Speaking to Daily Sun, the Chairman, Organising Committee of the event, Chief Mike Umeh, a board member of Nigeria Football Federation said: “It was fitting that we orgainsed this event in honour of Ikemba because he was a great man. What we are doing today was a fitting farewell to him. It has become necessary to organise it in Lagos because he had his primary and secondary school education here at Kings College, Lagos. We recall that his father, a famous businessman, lived and worked here.”
Senator Chukwumerije concurred with him, saying “Ojukwu was rooted in Lagos, he was socialised in Lagos. That is why Lagos is his second home. His spirit will appreciate what we are doing here today.
“ We stand here today to celebrate Nigeria’s last patriot. We have come here not just for Ojukwu but for all of us Nigerians.”

General Ebitu Ukiwe described Ojukwu as a “ very firm man; a very committed leader of the Igbo race. If I were to meet him again in flesh and blood, I will say well done and fare thee well; I bid you well.
“ As he goes away, I will enjoin all men and women to open their eyes and choose their role models from the society. There are many who have left their footsteps on the sand of time. Ojukwu is a good example of the models.”

Speaking to Daily Sun, deputy governor of Anambra State, Emeka Sibeudu said: “I want late Ikemba Nnewi to be remember as a hero in this country. He was an icon. I don’t think we will have such a leader in this country again. But if God gives us a leader that will be like Ikemba, Nigerians should appreciate him so greatly.
“Today, we are in Lagos to celebrate the burial rites of Ikemba – a man who, once you mention his name in any part of the world, people will know that you are talking about a great man – a leader. He was a man that defiled all odds for this nation. He fought for Nigerians to actually know that they are Nigerians. That was why he went to war. He didn’t go to war because he wanted secession but for Nigerians to be proud of their identity.”
Ojukwu’s first son, Sylvester Emeka jr described his father as “a consummate politician, a loving father and a compassionate husband.”

He told Daily Sun that he was excited by the atmosphere at the Lagos leg of the burial rite of his father, saying it was electric.
“I’m so happy to be part of this event. Few years ago, his small feet trod the streets of Lagos. Few years after, he soldiered on, on the sands of Lagos.  In his last days, he resided in Lagos. Lagos was a place where he fought for his property. The turn out today is an eloquent testimony that the people of Lagos State accepted him as a very dignified resident.

“ I’m going to miss my daddy. I miss him so much in the physical. But In the spiritual, I still feel him because we were very close. I always told him that he was the regular police but I’m the mobile police. I wish him a safe passage.”
Friday February 24, 2012
culled from

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