By Martin Ezimano
It was the gaffe-prone but nonetheless irrepressible former Nigerian first lady, Patience Jonathan that once stirred national sensation with her mourning declaration that though Ojukwu was dead, his manhood was still standing!
Unfortunately, Nigerians, forever enamored of the risqué, promptly hitched on to the sensational and thereby missed the prophetic.
For what is Ojukwu’s manhood but Biafra? (Please let us, at this stage, quickly disavow any responsibility for any opportunistic ministry that hereafter springs up around “Prophetess” Jonathan that would attempt corroboration from this article).
And we asked: what is Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi, Dikedioramma Ndigbo’s manhood but Biafra?
For, just like the mention of the Biblical Noah brings to mind the story of the Flood; and MKO Abiola calls to memory the epic of June 12; and Sani Abacha conjures into remembrance not only the brutal crushing of June 12 but also the bedroom metaphor of Indian apples; and Buhari today emblematizes for us hypocrisy writ large, nepotism in human skin, gross incompetence in power, etc etc, so does the name Ojukwu evoke for the Igbo particularly and Nigeria, nay the world, in general the 30-month grisly human tragedy that was enacted in the name of Biafra.
For Biafra remains a compelling metaphor of resistance against injustice, oppression, inhumanity….and genocide. The metaphor remains compelling because the issues it sought to address are, tragically, still here with us.
Yes, after the waste of 3.5 million Igbo lives, the sacrifice of suicidally heroic undergraduates, the socially-scarring and abominable massacre of innocents…and yes! the tongue-in-cheek Gowonian postwar pronouncement of “No victor, no vanquished,” the issues that provoked Biafra remain very much unaddressed.
Ojukwu, the father and founder of Biafra is now an ancestor. He died on November 26, 2011 and was buried on March 12, 2012. But before his transition, he had received presidential amnesty and returned from Côte d’Ivoire whence he had fled to at the fall of Biafra, contested senatorial and presidential elections, recovered his father’s property, participated in a constitutional conference and served as international envoy at the behest of Sani Abacha during the June 12 imbroglio.
Upon his death, he was interred with full Nigerian military honours.
To that extent, it is beyond question that Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, former Biafran separatist leader and warlord and General of the Peoples Army was at death a fully reintegrated Nigerian.
However, in 1999, whilst Ojukwu was still very much alive, a hitherto unknown small framed man suddenly broke into national consciousness simply by screaming the then taboo word: Biafra!
This man, a total contrast to Ojukwu in demeanor, bearing and articulation shocked the country with his calm and assured declaration that his mission was to actualize the sovereign state of Biafra.
Coming at the euphoria-suffused beginning of the new civilian dispensation under Olusegun — after sixteen years under military jackboots — none could make meaning of this man’s appearance.
Ojukwu himself, approached by the press, wasted no time in denouncing this upstart and renouncing any support or connexion to any secessionist attempt.
Ojukwu, ever the nimble wordsman, made the memorable statement that he was no more interested in “Biafra of land but Biafra of the mind” in which the Igbo remained in Nigeria whilst pursuing his potentials.
Undeterred, this new man, continually insisting that Ojukwu was his ideological father (much to the latter’s discomfiture), nevertheless made it clear that he had come to establish his Biafra through Ghandian nonviolent methods. And before long, because the desire for Biafra is a fire that subconsciously smolders in most Igbo hearts, this man’s tenacity won him and his movement converts.
This man, the undisputable father of modern Biafra is Ralph Uwazuruike. Leader of Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
To be continued….
Martin Ezimano is a civil rights attorney, litigation expert and political activist.