From Marcel Mbamalu, Chuks Collins, Awka
The former Governor of Anambra state, Dame Virgy Etiaba has described the late ikemba Nnewi as her political mentor whose demise threw her into deep mourning. And that there was virtually no decision she took while in the Government of Anambra state that she did not seek and obtain his backing and support.
That she was really very close to him, and that was why she was taken aback by the comment of former President Chief olusegun Obasanjo, that he discussed the issue of apology for the Biafra war with Ojukwu.
She said it was the first time she would be hearing about such discussion, despite how close she was with Ikemba. She also questioned the veracity of the highly- popularised no victor-no-vanquished slogan in the face of the current controversy stoked by Obasanjo’s alleged advice to the late Ikemba.
She described Ojukwu as her political mentor, as deputy governor and, later, governor. She said it was unfortunate that the Nigeria of his dreams, where accountability, equity and justice will prevail, did not materialise in his life time
But sequel to the claim by Obasanjo, a top family member and military aide of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu at the time, Chief Anthony Udemefuna Ojukwu has described the claim as a huge falsehood.
According to the 72-year-old legal practitioner, at no time did Obasanjo hold such discussion with the late Ikemba. Insisting that, Emeka had no reason to apologise “for committing no offence,” he said most Nigerians were oblivious of the actual cause of the war, as it was fought even against the wishes of the late warlord and his subjects.
Udemefuna Ojukwu noted that Obasanjo was too far Ojukwu’s junior in the army for him to advise him on such matter, because Ojukwu belonged to a class of military intellectuals at the time. “Otherwise, why didn’t Chief Obasanjo come up with this claim earlier when he (Ojukwu) was alive?,” he queried.
Chief Udemefuna Ojukwu said that, having served under 18 Division of the Biafran Army at the time, and, as close as he was with his late cousin, he ought to have been informed of such serious discussion with the late Ojukwu, as claimed by Obasanjo.
“I was Ojukwu’s representative in 15 Division, and related with the commanders directly, though I had no formal military rank. The records are there for anyone to cross-check.”
He described his (Ojukwu’s) passing as a deep-rooted loss to the extended family of late Sir Louis Philip Ojukwu Ezeokigbo. He noted that the large family lost four sons in the war front, besides other casualties.
The septuagenarian, who read law at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), disclosed that the late Ikemba Nnewi descended from a family of nobles of the Ojukwu family tree.
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Chairman of Nzuko Ora Nnewi, the central Town union leadership, Chief Charles Agu-Onyeka- said that based on similar stories of the past he only believed it when a relation called him from London to confirm the sad news. He described it as very sad.
At the large gate leading to the expansive home of the Ojukwu’s sitting on the Nnewi-Ozubulu-Okija highway, everything was calm and quiet. It was only the gateman who gave his name simply as Dennis who manned the black painted gate. He expressed reservations at the news and the inquiry, pointing out that similar stories have broken out in the past but were later found to be false.
He said all the members of the family were away to Enugu , and that he was the only one at home and that he cannot make any serious comment on it for now.
Rev Fr. Hygy Aghaulor, who spoke on behalf of the Catholic Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Rev Hilary Okeke described it as a very loss to the nation, Nigeria and all men of goodwill. According to him, “Ojukwu was a man that stood out on issues without any pretence. He doesn’t prevaricate. What you see is what you get. Nigeria need such men at a time like this. A time when people talk about Boko haram and you don’t know whether they mean it or not; talk about the economy, reforms, electricity, development, quality life for citizens, good road network, a lot of things, yet you wont know whether they mean it or not. Nigeria needs men of open mind like Ojukwu, especially now”.
At the palace of Igwe Kenneth Orizu III , the Obi of Nnewi, the palace secretary Prince joseph Ikeotuonye said it was shocking news.
He said that the monarch was still in shock over the sad news that he was not yet in the mood to make public comment on it.
He also pointed out that the family was yet to formally inform the palace.
The mood all over the town was still business as usual apparently because the news was yet to circulate. The hustling and bustling business activities in the commercial city popularly called “Japan of Africa” were going on as usual.
But to Hon Tempest Udenze, the biggest headache in addition to the passage of Ikembe is poor condition of virtually all the roads in the community. He was worried that not minding that the late Ikemba was the national leader of the ruling APGA, they didn’t even honour him in life by rehabilitating the roads in his home area. “So who is expecting them to do it now that he is dead?”, he asked rhetorically.