Monday, 27 February 2012

Ojukwu’s body arrives today ...As Lagos celebrates him

On Thursday, the Pan-Nigerian spirit was displayed as the people of Lagos State and, indeed, other Nigerians gathered at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos, to pay their last respect to the late Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
The grand occasion organized by the Lagos State government and the Igbo in Lagos as part of the funeral activities for Odumegwu-Ojukwu attracted eminent personalities.

Major markets in Lagos were shut down to enable market men and women honour the departed Igbo leader. The event recorded large turn out of people that the usual traffic gridlock along Lagos-Badagry highway was absent.
Eminent Nigerians that graced the occasion, chaired by renowned lawyer and politician, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, were Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State, his immediate predecessor in office, Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Ekiti State, Niyi Adebayo, Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha, and the former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku.

Others included former military governor of defunct Western Region, General Adeyinka Adebayo (rtd), the Oko monarch, Prof. Laz Ekwueme, Prof. Pat Utomi, former governor of old Imo State, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), former Chief of General Staff (CGS), Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, distinguished economist, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, Prof. Anya O. Anya, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, Senator Ben Obi, Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs, former Health Minister and member of Odumegwu-Ojukwu Burial Central Committee, Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu, an APGA chieftain, Chief Martins Agbaso and Ambassador Musiliu Obanikoro.

The event witnessed dances, war songs, choral musical renditions as well as speeches eulogizing the virtues of Ojukwu. Beyond these and other cultural performances, the Lagos event was significant in so many ways.
Ojukwu was a man most Nigerians had regarded as a tribal leader. But over the years, his import and significance have come under sharper focus and his actions have also become clearer to most Nigerians.

Those, who vilified Ojukwu in the events of 1967-1970 have, with time, come to appreciate the man and what he stood for. What Ojukwu did in those dark days of Nigeria’s history was eloquently captured by Braithwaite, who rightly observed that “some people erroneously alleged that Odumegwu-Ojukwu waged a war against his fatherland. What Odumegwu-Ojukwu did was to declare war against injustice, corruption, deception and lies.” He pointed out that what Ojukwu did over forty years ago “would have received wider international blessings if it were to be now.”
There is no doubt that Braithwaite’s observations are in tandem with the current realities of the Nigerian situation where after 50 years of independence, the nation’s statehood is still being questioned and even contested with arms as represented by the current Boko Haram’s insurgency.

Also, Governor Fashola, who spoke in the same vein, said that “Ojukwu was a man whose courage and sacrifice are worthy of emulation.” He maintained that the late Biafran leader “had deep love for his people. He was one of the greatest Nigerians, who insisted on true federalism. He was resilient, resourceful and committed to his people.”
Other speakers at the occasion praised Ojukwu’s sterling qualities and attributes in superlatives. It is an irony that at the time of Ojukwu’s death, the events of 1967 and thereabout are being replayed. What Ojukwu saw over 40 years ago is what most Nigerians have come to terms with now.
Ojukwu took up arms against Nigeria because of gross injustice to the Igbo people. He did not depart from fighting for justice and freedom till his death. On his return from exile, Ojukwu continued to fight for true reconciliation of the Igbo with the rest of Nigeria. His entry into politics was an attempt to reintegrate the Igbos to the mainstream of the nation’s politics.

All his life, he stood for equity and social justice.
The fact that Lagos State, a Yoruba state, accorded this honour to Ojukwu is, indeed, exemplary and commendable. It is a bold step towards cementing the nation’s unity. Let other groups emulate the Lagos example. The large-heartedness exhibited by Lagos State government in giving Ojukwu a befitting honour is worthy of praise. What Lagos has done in respect of the Ikemba is in keeping with a one Nigeria spirit. This is time for honest reflection on Nigeria. The Lagos ceremony has presented an occasion for a sober reflection for all Nigerians. That Ojukwu’s essence has become clearer in his death is an eloquent testimony that the secession he carried out some decades ago was not in vain. Let Nigerians use his death to address those ills he fought against and deliberate sincerely on Nigeria’s future.
Monday February 27, 2012
culled from

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