Nevertheless, there was yet another internal problem in Biafra. It was the problem of Ojukwu was always right. Any opinion that deferred from that of Ojukwu was a dissident voice and such people were also branded, saboteurs who must die. General Ojukwu was also all-knowing and treated almost like a demigod. Gowon who was not a graduate was not. Ojukwu’s voice was the voice every youth and elder would like to listen. His 1st class British training was his blood tonic while his good knowledge of history was a rider. He had very good command of good English and his deep baritone voice could faint a feeble mind. The fear of Ojukwu was thus the beginning of wisdom. Infact, General Alexander Madiebo the General Officer Commanding the Biafran army (GOC) stated in his book, “Nigerian Revolution; The Biafran War” (his own account of the civil war), that there was a meeting that was to be attended to review the war and Ojukwu said only three (3) persons were to attend the meeting and as they expected him to name the three persons, Ojukwu named them, number one; Chukwuemeka, number two person, Odumegwu and number three person, Ojukwu which meant that only one person, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was to sit down and take a decision that would affect the entire Biafra in the purported meeting. Madiebo said even though he was not satisfied with such a development he would not air it out otherwise he would be branded a saboteur and be executed. It was reported that Col. Victor Banjo and Col. Emmanuel Ifeajuna were executed in this manner after being branded saboteur and labeled coup plotters against the government of Ojukwu. They were called rebels too. Post civil war books reveal that the only crime of these young Soldiers was their difference in opinion against Ojukwu’s especially the opinion that it was appropriate to end the war in view of the unpleasant developments against the secessionist state of Biafra.
Again, another person whose death was shrouded with mysteries was major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu whose popularity was said to be gradually overwhelming or outweighing that of Dim Ojukwu. Madiebo reports that Nzeogwu always believed in the unity of Nigeria and was always fighting for liberation in his own somehow isolated course. This, it was stated aggrieved Ojukwu who was on the saddle and thus there was no love lust between Ojukwu and Nzeogwu. When he died at the Nkalagu battle front many doubts were created.
Whereas some people felt he was killed by the Nigerian (Federal) Soldiers who eventually took his corpse away to be buried in Kaduna.
Others viewed his death as clandestine and suspected a foul play pointing accusing fingers to Ojukwu.
Whatever its worth, Nzeogwu was swept away with the civil war.
Another issue that crumbled Biafra was hunger and poverty that buffeted the enclave. It was reported that after the Ahiara Declaration by Ojukwu on June 1st, 1969, precisely on June 30th, the Nigerian government banned all Red Cross aid to Biafra. Thus Biafra was land locked and faced all forms of economic blockade which were unleashed by Nigeria’s leadership. By this hunger was introduced as an instrument of war. Newswatch December 12, 2011 reported that chief Obefemi Awolowo, the then economic adviser to the federal government, ensured that Biafrans were starved and later in October, 1969, Ojukwu appealed to the united Nations to mediate a cease fire and accused the federal government of genocide. The federal side called for Biafra’s surrender.
Finally, Ojukwu escaped to Ivory Coast in a way and manner that suggested the proverb, “he who fights and runs lives to fight another day”. Lt. Gen. Phillip Effiong who took over from Ojukwu called for a cease fire on January, 12th, 1970 and surrendered to the federal side.
Dim Ojukwu thus lived 12 solid years in exile in Ivory Coast.
In January, 1981, the Nigerian government of President Aliyu Shehu Shagari opened talks with Ojukwu. It could be recalled that incidentally or dramatically his archrival General Jackson Yakubu Gowon was also on exile, his government having been sacked by the 1975 coup of General Murtala Mohammed. When Col. Bukar Sukar Dimka killed General Muhammed on 13th February, 1976 in a failed coup, General Olusegun Obasanjo was asked to continue with Murtala’s programmes and he therefore handed over to an albeit controversial civil rule of Shagari.
In a council of states meeting attended by General Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe on 18th May, 1982, President Shagari announced the amnesty for Ojukwu having announced pardon for Gowon on 1st October, 1981 earlier. It was reported that all the 19 states governors and the two former heads of state voted in support of the amnesty. On June 18 same year (1982), Ojukwu came into Nigeria in a triumphant manner. He was heralded by all Ibos including his enemies.
However, when Ken Saro Wiwa, another Hero of the Niger Delta and particularly of Ogoni was slaughtered by the Dictator General Sani Abacha Junta on 10th November, 1995, it was widely reported that Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu did “ntoor” to Ken, a sage, telling him or the Niger Delta people “Ken never die?”. It is on the basis of this that many Niger Deltans felt I should not have written to eulogize Eze Ndigbo Gburugburu. My take on this is that, people have their various ways of behaving maturely. The action or expressions of Dim Ojukwu during the slaughter of Ken was not well founded. It was misguided or misconceived. With due respect, it looked childish and vindictive but everybody will not behave like late Eze Ndigbo in such circumstance. And it is also good to note that I am writing good about Ojukwu to show the world that a well bred Ogoni man or a right thinking and civilized or educated man should not pay evil for evil. Good, it would have been an eye for an eye to write evil or say evil about Ojukwu simply in revenge for what he said when Ken was hanged but that will be childish and grossly sentimental. A philosopher once said, the death of any human should diminish the living. Death will come when it will come. It visits everybody whether Ken Saro Wiwa or Eze Igbo Gburugburu, whether through anguish, pain, in the comfort of one’s room, in the hospital, in one’s bedroom, through a struggle or in penury, in poverty, in riches or anywhere; whether by hanging or by a firing squad. The most important thing is the legacy leaves behind. Both Ken and Ojukwu were actor who left the stage after performing different given roles. True, both Ken Saro Wiwa and Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu had one thing in common, they were freedom fighters; they hated the injustices meted to their peoples and they did this at various time. They were thus heroes of their various struggles for the emancipation of their peoples. They need not act alike or think alike. They need not agree on all issues or agree on all philosophies. The bottom line is that they died as heroes in the evergreen memories of their followers. I salute them. But to end this long piece, may I wish the Ikemba Nnewi, the Eze Ndigbo and the Eze Igbo Gburugburu eternal bliss. The End
Barr. Gideon Kpoobari Girigiri