A placard was inscribed thus – LIKE JESUS CHRIST LIKE IKEMBA – at Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos where thousands of great Nigerians trooped out while those more privileged took turns to extol the virtues of the great Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the Ezeigbogburugburu, the Ikemba of Igbo land. An innocent-looking young man in his late 20s displayed the hand-written message. I took notice while the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, read through what was undoubtedly the most-thought-provoking, memory-laden and eloquent tribute to a true icon of Africa.
On that historic February 23, 2012 clement afternoon, I doubted if many noticed the tiny placard. Truth be told, no mortal being should actually share comparison with our lord. But the message sent my mind racing through the greatest book ever – the Holy Bible. And it didn’t take long for my mind to settle on Moses as the best biblical character to compare the departed Igbo leader with.
Moses so loved his Jewish tribe that he killed and secretly buried an Egyptian for daring to fight his brother. Ikemba sacrificed his entire father’s wealth to protect his tribe and prevent a pogrom that was fast turning into ethnic cleansing by an enemy that had no moral justification to turn on a race that had given no less than any other in the cause of independent fatherland.
No one writer, however thorough, not even our own Prof Chinua Achebe, can summarize the exploits of the Ezeigbogburugburu in one write up. So, I won’t even try.
‘Let my people go’ … the phrase Moses sang severally to Pharaoh, was same message Ikemba constantly passed onto Gowon-led Nigeria while the Federal Army sweated to contain a dogged Biafra for 30 gruesome months.
The phrase, ‘no victor, no vanquished’ surfaced at the end of hostilities in 1970 while Gowon tried to calm waters and rebuild a nation battered and bruised beyond imagination. But Chief Obafemi Awolowo had other ideas – 20 pounds only to any Igbo man who had proof of commerce or account in any bank to rebuild with. 20 pounds! Add this to the starvation formula same Awolowo engineered to shrink Biafra to submission with and understand how united the hatred and gang-up to drown the Igboman has lasted.
Today, the Igboman, true to his doggedness and commercial vibrancy, borne out of resourcefulness and diligence, is counted amongst the riches in Africa. Beyond this commercial success lies the question – does that no-victor-no-vanquished phrase still hold water? Has it ever held water? Never!
Forty-two years after the Civil war, the Igbos are still treated like immigrants in a country they have shed more blood than any other tribe to behold. The Igboman will be found in any town in this country, however remote, in true spirit of one nation. Hence, he is the easy target whenever any ‘aggrieved’ sect decides to unleash senseless mayhem.
Unfortunately, some people (including Igbos) believe Ojukwu should not have fought the war. Space won’t let me give up to 100 reasons why the war was absolutely necessary and will only urge you to research, which this tabloid provides a handful, to convince yourself(if you belong to this dissenting voice) that the most worthwhile venture the Igboman ever ventured into is the civil war.
Beyond the civil war, what next? Today, what Ojukwu fought against still lives with us, even much more glaringly. The OPC in the West, the Militants in the South South, the APC in the North, MASSOB in the East, not to mention the dreaded Boko Haram, are evidences that it is living in fools’ paradise to believe Nigeria is ever one.
In Lagos, Yoruba landlords used to warn their agents not to give out tenancy to any Igboman. Until Igbos, true to type, built enough houses of their own in Lagos, this trend was brandished without any form of decorum. In every Federal establishment, the Igboman gets employment only as a matter of last resort.
Let me not get to politics, where Dr Alex Ekwueme was denied presidency after doggedly leading a G-34 that ultimately contributed to sending the draconian General Abacha to early grave while Olusegun Obasanjo helplessly played ludo in prison. Ekwueme, until 48 hours to PDP Convention, was conveniently poised to deny Obasanjo but the game play manifested just because of his Igbo origin!
Back to Ojukwu and Moses – Moses led the Israelites from Egypt towards the Promised Land. A journey meant for just 40 days eventually took 40 years. And most painfully, Moses never reached the land of Israel. The journey to Biafra has already taken 45 years. Like Moses, Ikemba, most painfully, won’t witness it. But question is – how long will it take? 10 more years?
I have lived long enough in Nigeria to know this nation has long lost it as a united entity, if ever it was one. Come to think of it, was it ever meant to be? The Hausaman is as interested in looting the common treasury as much as his Yoruba counterpart. The Igboman is not left out either, that is if he is ever given the chance, and neither is his ‘brother’ from South South. The Urbobo or Edo man has no mercy in his mind whenever he gets his turn. Little wonder then that a country blessed with such enormous natural and human resources continues to drift backwards while individuals from all spheres of engagements fattened their accounts in billions and hundreds of billions in foreign currencies.
Time has come for Nigerians to quit fooling themselves. This country must break up to move forward. This is what Ikemba saw over 45 years ago and decided to lead his people out of this fraud called Nigeria.
Does the Igboman have it at the back of his mind that Biafra is a project that must come to light? If he does, why should he champion development in all parts of the country without paying much attention to developing his town? Why should a man/woman from Anambra, for instance, own up to ten properties in Lagos or Abuja without owning even one property in Anambra? Yet, in any disturbance, and there’s always one, him and these properties are always targeted for destruction.
While he lived, Ikemba tried to pass this message to Igbos in various forums when he urged Nnewi indigenes, immediately he came home from exile, to industrialize their town instead of importing from Japan such goods as easily manufactured as toothpick. Today, Nnewi is the most industrialized non-capital town in West Africa. He shed uncontrollable tears on sighting new Trade Fair Market, where Igbos lavished money and where, true to the entity called Nigeria, the Igbos would abandon in face of inevitable disturbances.
Truth be told again, the entity called Nigeria has held back a hugely endowed tribe that otherwise would be exporting every form of technology to every country of the third world. This might seem bias but I urge you to genuine research on the Biafran efforts during the war in following areas:
Weapons Engineering and Construction, including Hardware and Software, upstream and downstream Biafran Technology Engineering; the likes of Ogbunigwe, ‘Sure Battery’.
Technical issues and challenges implied and related to the conduct and execution of the war, including policy implementation politics and development strategy.
Study and analytical details of the measure of quality control and assurance of materials, instrumentation and process engineering required for strategic and precision military intelligence… with respect to; weapons manufacturing and inspection.
Army/Military training and education; military strategy and war infrastructure development; tactical and diplomatic effectiveness and efficiency, military ethics and professionalism; management effectiveness and efficiency; purchasing and supplies – the standard culture of military discipline, integrity and puritanical attitudes.
When you do, you’d understand there’s another of God’s chosen people besides Israel. When the Igbos embrace God and do His wishes, in due time, Biafra will be a reality. Ikemba had tried to lead his people out of the caricature christened ‘unity in diversity’ but somehow, probably through our own sins, like the Israelites, a journey that might have lasted 100 days seems destined for 100 years. However long it lasts, the Igboman should start preparing himself. If he doesn’t work as assiduously as ever towards Biafra, then this great man we all mourn must have lived and died in vain. Already he left behind APGA in Anambrai. Will the Igboman learn to yield to voice of reason?
Imo State is already on track with the coming of Rochas Okorocha via APGA (and see his huge impact in so short a time!). What are Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi States waiting for?
Umu Biafra teta nu n’ura!