THE DAY OJUKWU WAS CROWNED OGBOSO 1 OF BIAFRA—Reminiscences of the Root of the Present Igbo Political Predicament

Nwankwo T.  Nwaezeigwe PhD, DD

Odogwu of Ibusa, Delta State

President, International Coalition against Christian Genocide in Nigeria (ICAC-GEN)

Email: [email protected]  Link us up at for more breath-taking news and articles and your financial support


On Saturday 23 October, 1982, Ojukwu attended the Anambra State NPN Convention in which C.C Onoh was nominated at the Convention, where in addition to Ojukwu, Drs. Akanu Ibiam and Michael Okpara, former Governor and Premier respectively of the defunct Eastern Region of Nigeria were present.59

During his address to the Party stalwarts Ojukwu claimed that his assignment was reconcile the Igbo and integrate them fully into one indivisible Nigeria.60 In what appeared as a further confirmation of Ojukwu’s full membership of the NPN, the BBC on Wednesday October 27, 1982 announced that Ojukwu would formally declare for the NPN on the November 4, of the same years.61 That BBC pronouncement was to attract reactions from several people. As would be expected, the Pro-NPP news media the Satellite took the lead. In a comment, the paper:

“The other Saturday, Chief Ojukwu turned up at a convention of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Anambra State wing. Had he stopped at this, just as he did during the Imo NPP nomination of Governor Sam Mbakwe no eye-brows would have been raised. But the Ikemba of Nnewi went more than a step further, talking of Chief Christian Onoh and Chief Austin Ezenwa in next year’s gubernatorial race.”62

As if unperturbed by the feelings of the people about his person, speaking at his home town, Nnewi during his 49th birthday anniversary, Ojukwu stated about his plan of chasing people out of the Government House, Enugu. As he put it: “Now that I am back, such people cannot stop me from moving forward, but may join me not as leaders but followers when they like.”63

In what appeared to be a summary description of Ojukwu’s political flirtation, Duro Onabule in a commentary wrote:

“No observer of the Nigerian political scene requires an Oxford University degree to know the eventual political destination of erstwhile Biafran leader Emeka Odumegwu. This is despite his (Ojukwu) theatricals since his exile in Ivory Coast. So far in these theatricals he has been devious, unpredictable and conflicting which was scarcely disguised as an NPN show. There was the public snub for the State Chief Executive in Enugu. This was followed by the publicized visit to him at Nnewi by Imo State Governor Sam Mbakwe, who incidentally, apart from occasional amusing traits remains one of the few astute politicians around.”64

It was therefore clear by Ojukwu’s overt association with the NPN and the concomitant utterances that he was in for no friendly deals with the NPP leadership of his State. As the crescendo of the polemics increased, the political atmosphere of the State became charged. It was clear that the NPP chieftains possessed more erudite men of letters and pen able to confront the hosts of their NPN counterparts.

Apart from the ABC Radio and Television which, more than any radio and television stations in the country paraded the most astute and seasoned newscasters and commentators, the State-owned newspaper the Daily Star, the Governor’s personal newspaper Satellite  displayed what could be described as a marten-piece of intellectual and investigative journalism, parading such men as Cecil Goz of the “Pen-Point” Column, “The Doubting Thomas Diary of Didymus” fame by Sam Chike “Political Gossip” by Chika Onwudiegwu and the occasional pen-pushing brain-thrilling “Sledge Hammer” by T.C. Chigbom, and a host of other infrequent outbursts by the lot of unsung Igbo Fourth Estate intellectuals.

The NPN-controlled Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Radio Nigeria (Federal Radio Corporation) the Weekly Trumpet and the Daily News all of which were based in Enugu, were no match to them.

On Thursday 23 and Friday 24 December 1982, the ABC in a marathon news commentary that took more than two times the normal allotted time, gave Chief Ojukwu the most valiant and humiliating vituperation of his life comparable only to “Okon Okon Ndem-style Biafran propaganda machine, Christening Ojukwu the Ogba-Oso I of Biafra, meaning the number one escapee from Biafran battlefield.

The commentary made a paltry all the towering ego of the ex-Biafran leader. In response to this utter humiliation of their revered political leader, a band of thugs ridding on a motor-cycle invaded the ABC transiting station situated at Ngwo town near Enugu and set it on fire.68 The burning of the transmitter was to keep the ABC off the air for a couple of weeks. A further consequence arising from this naked arson was the special broadcast by the State Governor Chief Jim Ifeanyichkwu Nwobodo, titled “Ojukwu can’t save the NPN” in which he stated inter alia:

“I have kept quiet these days since Ojukwu’s return from exile but he had been making direct and indirect attacks against my person and the Government of Anambra State because some people are misleading him. When the time comes the people will be constrained to unfold all about him and people will then close their ears; and by that time he will go and sit down.”65

There was no doubt that the above statement portrayed a certain level of respect for the ex-Biafran General, judging by the level of provocative attacks against him and his Government and Party by the latter. For Governor Jim Nwobodo to still speak of Ojukwu, a man who singularly initiated the policies that sustained a war for thirty months, of being deceived by people, proved that he was yet unprepared to hold the bull by the horn.

By his actions and utterances since coming back from exile, it was obvious that Ojukwu had taken the unilateral decision to deliver his Igbo kinsmen into the hands of those same people that killed their relations in millions during the 1966 pogroms, the civil war, and even continued to kill them till date in ten and hundreds. To do this however, he had to first destroy their existing political identity, second, destroy the image of their existing leadership and third coerce them where necessary by force and intimidation into his self-imposed leadership for onward delivery to the Hausa-Fulani controlled NPN. But as Chief Sam Mbakwe, Governor of Imo State later stated:

“Ibos are a primordial family. We are together as Ibos by choice and not by force. When Ibos decide in full agreement of all our authentic leaders and in a consensus of all our people to join any party, no matter what it is called all Ibos will move together. We can never be divided by opportunistic renegades from within or by collusion with rampaging outsiders.”66

It was therefore clear that Ojukwu was bound to fail in his leadership bid by force and intimidation.

But as was often predictable in such situations, the burning of the ABC-I transmitting station was just a tip of the iceberg on the impending political deluge. Seven days after the ABC inferno, that was precisely the New Year day, the targets were the offices of the Director-General and his deputy, the Director of Finance, Audit Department and part of the Board room.67 A note said to have been left by the culprits who styled themselves the “Third Citizens” warned that the New Year (1983) would witness more acts of vandalism all aimed at the agencies of the State Government.

The further event was the arrest of a messenger with the ABC for aiding and abetting the arson on the administrative block. The messenger, Christopher Ogbodo who then resided at 13, Kaduna Street, Ogui New Layout, Enugu, was charged before the Enugu Chief Magistrate’s court for allegedly setting fire on the administrative block. All the same, neither the court nor the inquiry set up by the State Government could produce any positive evidence regarding the real perpetrators of the arsons. Thus Anambra State entered the year 1983 with a sacrament of fire and threat to lives and property.

The coming of January 1983 had seen Chief Emeka Ojukwu declaring that he would make his formal political speech on January 15 at Aba, during which he would declare his political stand. Being that the people already knew his political stand, such anticipated speech only served to engender the already charged political atmosphere. Ojukwu’s choice of Aba, a city still regarded as the centre of Igbo solidarity and ethnic consciousness. It was one of the Igbo cities where the spirit of Igbo identity and unity ran high.

The people’s support for the course of the Biafran struggles and any Pan-Igbo cause was yet to be equaled by any other city of its status. Thus in matters of the politics of the Second Republic, they were fully behind the Azikiwe-led Nigerian People’s Party (NPP). And their State Governor Chief Sam Mbakwe was himself an accomplished Aba-based legal practitioner who ceaselessly fought for the rights of his Igbo kinsmen in the celebrated Abandoned Property saga in Rivers State.

It was therefore clear that Ojukwu’s choice of Aba was informed by the reason of its strategic historic status as the centre of Igbo force of unity. Thus to him, his ability to court the support of the city of Aba would mean his true recognition as the new Igbo leader. But as poor a visionary as he was, the Aba adventure turned out to be politically unpalatable for the ex-Biafran leader.

In the first place, the expected January 15, historically the day of the first military coup d’ etat in Nigerian and the official date of cessation of hostilities between Biafra and Nigeria, was later changed to January 14. The reason for this change would no doubt have been the result of pressure from the Government and NPN top officials who might have felt quite uncomfortable with the said date as soon as the news of the anticipated speech was broken in Aba. On the day of the speech, sensing that not even the presence of the heavily armed policemen could deter the threat of Enyimba-City, the State Governor Sam Mbakwe was compelled to make a broadcast appealing to the people of Aba to allow Ojukwu to go on with his so-called speech. This was how the Weekly Star reported the episode:

“As the Governor’s speech was being relayed over the IBS now and then, columns of heavily armed anti-riot policemen in army jeeps moved through the streets of Aba. A surveillance helicopter, painted in white and orange colours, with an inscription 5N ALD hovered over the town of Aba. At exactly 2.45pm, the Ikemba and his entourage under heavy guard entered the Aba township stadium. He was given a 42-gun salute by the organizers of the rally who called themselves “Igbo Solidarity Forum.”68

The specific nature of the rally and the ensuing speech was Ojukwu’s formal declaration for the NPN. Advancing his motives for joining the NPN, Ojukwu said that he joined the Party because, first he was convinced that it was the only Party that could reintegrate his followers properly into the Nigerian fold. Secondly, to him the NPN was the only Party where democracy was fully practiced and where political intimidation was absent. Thirdly, the NPN is not made up of men who could only bask with you in times of proper prosperity and desert you in time of adversity.” Finally, the NPN was the only Party which could afford the people if Imo and Anambra States their fair share of the national cake.70

Immediately after Ojukwu’s declaration for the NPN, he was made a National Vice-Chairman of the Party.71 In a press conference that followed his declaration, he stated once again that, he had no apologies to offer anyone if his present political stand ran counter to what he fought for or what Biafra stood for. He further emphasized that his resolve first to install an NPN State governments in Anambra and Imo states, and second, to make the Igbo share the political power with the North and economic and bureaucratic power with the west; adding that by the present NPN culture of zoning the North would have the Presidency between 1979 and 1987, while the Yoruba would have theirs in 1987 and probably the Igbo in 1991. Concerning the faith of the Igbo officers who were not reabsorbed into the Nigerian Army and Police, Ojukwu merely said that most of them had already lost touch of what it was to be in the force.72

Reacting to Ojukwu’s claim that one of his reasons for joining the NPN was to reintegrate the Igbo, his erstwhile second-in-command, Col (Major-General) Philip Efiong in what appeared like a long sermon stated:

“We have all witnessed, in the last few months, deliberate attempts to falsify history and desperate efforts in some quarters to lay unholy claims to the leadership of the Igbos. Among some of the controversial issues employed in this series of historical lies, is the reluctance to believe that Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Ikemba of Nnewi, could voluntarily gloss over the incompetence, mismanagement  economic misery plaguing the people of Nigeria with the cry of integration I was eventually convinced that some elements, with no respect for the conscience of the Igbo and the entire people and their neighours and lead them into to the Ikemba one would have through that after 13 year of absence he would not embark on a campaign of ‘integration’, a subject of which he is most ignorant and conspicuously unskilled. Integrate who? Integrate the people who have been here through thick and thin or integrate those that fled the country to comfort and convenience, abandoning you to fend yourselves! For one thing this shows the narrow-minded view of a person who to all intents and purposes aspires to national leadership.”73

Major-General Efiong was no doubt competent to speak on the issue of Igbo reintegration, given his position as Biafra’s number two strong man, even though being of Efik extraction of the Eastern minority groups. He was in fact the man who handed the Igbo back to the Federation. Thus the above sentimentally coated assertions could therefore be said to represent part of the views of the minority groups regarding Ojukwu’s inadvertent romance with the NPN. Think of this. It took one from a seemingly and often regarded anti-Igbo zone to express his overt disappointment in the prevalent style of Igbo leadership being advanced by Ojukwu.

It would be recalled that the Daily Star in an earlier comment regarding the tensed situation in Aba on the day of Ojukwu’s declaration for the NPN wrote:

“The panicky situation which enveloped Nigeria was not necessarily because a free citizen of Nigeria wanted to make a public speech. The tension emanated from the fact that for some inexplicable reasons, the name of Emeka Ojukwu has been associated with crisis of violence….Emeka Ojukwu’s name was linked with the losses, agencies and tribulations of the civil war because his incorrigible intransigence, vaulting ambition and amazing greed for power prolonged the civil war. Lives of children, youths, old men and women were wasted with wantonness, in horrifying intensity and extensity.”74

It was obvious that at the time of the above comment critics of both the paper and NPP might have consigned it to the waste basket of history as misguided propaganda trumpery. But as it later turned out to be, the Daily Star was eventually later vindicated.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *