Please permit me to begin this tribute to General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu with a paragraph of quotation from William Shakespeare, who noted:
“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. As, first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse's arms And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school. And then the lover, sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side, His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history (William Shakespeare, “As You Like it” Act II, Scene VII)
This great Shakespearean quotation best sums it for me, our great patriot Ezegburugburu of Igbo land lived full life played his role exceedingly well and moved on in fulfillment of Shakespeare’s seven stages of life. Ladies and Gentlemen this is what life is all about so as we mourn the passing of this Illustrious Igbo son we have to put things in proper perspective. The passing of General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu marks an end of an era and the beginning of another one for the history of Igbos and the Nigerian nation at large. There is no doubt that Ojukwu was a Nigerian nationalist at first and had great passion for his country Nigeria. When he returned from further education in England, son of a wealthy father he had many career options available to him, he decided to join the Nigerian army and subsequently became the Commander of the 5th infantry Battalion of the Nigerian Army based in Kano. This speaks volumes about Ojukwu’s passion for his country Nigeria.
General Odumegwu Ojukwu broke ranks with the Nigerian nation following the massacre and genocide directed against his people, the Igbos in various parts of Nigeria. That incident precipitated the emergence of the Republic of Biafra and the resulting military conflict declared by Nigeria against Biafra.
At the end of the 30 months civil war, Ojukwu went into exile in Ivory Coast but was subsequently granted asylum by the government of Shehu Shagari when he made a triumphant return back to Nigeria an indication of the esteem, love and affection which Igbos and some other Nigerians hold for him, many if not most Igbos see him as a hero and a symbol of Igbo power and self reliance demonstrated in 30 months of total blockade by sea, air and land and combined military onslaught from Nigerian Infantry, Navy and Air force, with some help from Britain, Russia and Arabs.
Regrettably many Igbos died during the Biafra war mostly children due to starvation, hunger and disease, but many more of us have survived thanks to vigorous defense provided by the Biafran Armed forces under their Commander Gen Ojukwu, and yes the Igbos have survived !!! All Igbos must take pride in the fact that Odumegwu Ojukwu was a strong and inspirational leader who as a young man in his early 30’s took up this huge task to defend his people and their homeland thereby sending a powerful message that you can attack the Igbos in your home turf, but expect a fight if you encroach upon the Igbo sacred homeland.
Many of us are very thankful to Gen Odumegwu Ojukwu for saving our lives. For instance my hometown of Abatete (lovingly referred to as Abanna) in Idemili LGA of Anambra State is about 3 miles to the war fronts from Abagana to Ogidi sectors, the Nigerian Army was not able to penetrate the Biafran defense lines, no Nigerian soldier set foot at Abanna until the war was over. Yes bullets fired at the war fronts were hitting us and our markets parked with children and women were bombed on market days by Arabs flying Russian and British jets at very low altitudes, it was very clear that these pilots knew very well that they were bombing market places, yet the bombing was relentless and the bombers often make two or three rounds on their target before flying away but the front lines were never penetrated by the Nigerian soldiers. For all these we are grateful to General Ojukwu and the gallant Biafran Armed Forces.
In ending this tribute to Ikemba, let me say yes even as we mourn his passing we must remember that it is more significant that we celebrate the life of a great man who had the love of his people at heart to take up arms to defend them regardless of all the odds. On behalf of my family I send our condolences to Bianca and all the Ojukwu family. May Dim’s Soul rest in peace.