THE BEST SENATOR NIGERIA NEVER HAD (2)
The last of such memos came in November, 1969, warning that should the Imo River basin fall to the Federal troops we might as well count the resistance as ended. It was prophetic. And true to his words, once the ominous signal appeared, as the 12th Division's defences began to collapse, Ojukwu took his leave.
As a man who did not believe in half measures, which guerrilla warfare symbolised, he did what any proud leader who was really in touch with the plight of his people should do at that very time: quit the scene and allow another commander to take over. After all, he was an experienced teacher of warfare and knew that flexibility is a principle of modern military campaign.
As the staying power of the resistance, the whole thing probably would have lasted a bit longer or taken a new shape was he still around and knew that the entire 31 Battalion (my unit), under Capt. Okenwa's command, was able to cross, fully armed, into enemy territory in the Ohaozara/Afikpo axis and assemble at Okposi on the night of January 9, 1970.
But as God would have it, Ojukwu knew the limit of power as well as the limit of human endurance and the limit of the kind of historic movement at the head of which he accidentally found himself. Biafra, as he kept explaining, was no 'separatist movement'. Biafra was rather a defensive mechanism of sorts that resisted, again, as he explained, 'until it proved unnecessary' and 'unwise to continue.' This, however, does not deny Prince Tony Momoh of his view (in Vanguard) that had 'the CNN been there, Biafra would have been a reality.'
Of course, one lingering question raised by the issue of Biafra as well the grim circumstances that culminated in it has to do with whether federalism is made for man or man for federalism; whether in case of a complete collapse of federal authority, the federating units or peripheral centres of power which were originally autonomous ethnic nationalities should stand arms akimbo, helplessly gazing into the void- a dangerous vacuum -indefinitely. In any case, Ojukwu, from all indications, hardly dreamt of secession ab initio.
In fact, as a member of the sprawling Odumegwu Ojukwu business empire with investments spread all over Nigeria, Emeka, as a thoroughbred product of aristocracy and capitalism, given also his cosmopolitan blood, was the last Nigerian to habour any thought of breaking Nigeria. If Ojukwu haboured any thought of either breaking Nigeria or unleashing war on her, would he have taken the risk of opposing Major Nzeogwu in the North - the very action that neutralised the January 1966 coup in that region? What was Ojukwu's take not just on the civil war, but also on wars generally?
In his work, Hannibal's Legacy, the British historian, Arnold Toynbee, says 'war posthumously avenges the dead on the survivors, and also avenges the vanquished on the victors.' That is to say that war is an ill-wind that blows no party any good. This is not different from Ojukwu's take on the same subject: 'Every form of war,' as he declared, 'is regrettable, because no war in history has ever solved the problem it set out to solve. Whatever solution there is emerges from a conference table…
War does not solve, it cowers and the problem remains.' How true of Nigeria! And being confident of giving a good account of himself in any discussion, Ojukwu had always proffered the dialogue medium as the best option for settling matters. In fact, all through his life, his main theme on the Nigerian Question was Dialogue, Dialogue and only Dialogue - the same theme Wole Soyinka has never ceased to harp on, and the same theme that encompasses Tinubu, Kanu,Ohaneze and Afenifere's recurring calls for true federalism. Any true national dialogue would ensure a Nigerian union based on fairness, fraternity, justice and mutual respect.
Nzeakah writes from Lagos