NIGERIAN INTELLIGENTSIA'S REACTIONS
Ojukwu, the sacred object of admiration for the diehards but a b?te noire for a few who disliked his abrasiveness, continued to draw fascinating discussions from various ethnic groups on the internet. To his devotees, Ojukwu was a hero, who magnanimously prevented ethnic cleansing of the Igbo tribe out of his love and compassion for his people; they proudly defended every decision and action Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu took when he was alive.
However, to his detractors, who sometimes use trenchant words to describe Ojukwu, he was a villain, who was driven by selfishness-a word they use often to demystify the man. As piffle as their thoughts may be, however, the debate on the mystery of the man, Ojukwu, who many could not decipher, continued even in his death, evoking strong emotions on both side. Nevertheless, the majority of Nigerians expressed love for Ojukwu without reservations.
In the global reactions to Ojukwu's death, Nigerian intelligentsias from all stripes weighed in with varied emotions. They explicate in their expressions the feeling of what could have happened if someone like Ojukwu did not emerge to save his people.
No one illustrated the emotions better than Prof. Charles J. Mambula1, Chair of the Dept. of Management, School of Business at Langston University in Langston Oklahoma, a non-Igbo, who said, 'Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was a visionary leader. He will be remembered as the transformational leader, who left an indelible mark of not being ashamed of his identity, no matter whom he was or where he came from. The example left by the Ikemba of Nnewi is that, whatever your tribe is, it is worth fighting and dying for. Although, lives were lost through sacrifice to uphold honor and unity through collective effort, history was made and a legacy was left for future generations to follow and learn from the phenomenon.'
'The wisdom of the Ikemba speaks for itself, years after the civil war was fought, the carnage and pogrom, ethnic rivalry, religious bigotry and discrimination did not stop in Nigeria or Africa! Igbos are still victims in Northern Nigeria. As a Northerner, I completely detest the treatment of Igbos. On many occasions, the Igbos have been attacked for no reason other than they are very daring, independent and entrepreneurial. The hatred for the Igbos in Northern Nigeria is a reminder of the Nazi's hatred for the Jews during the WWII and examples of the evil of ethnic cleansing experienced in other parts of the world. The Igbo people are very adventurous and creative people. They are very competitive and creative and can indeed be a threat to indigenes where they reside, but that is not why they should be attacked. Ojukwu was making a point, if they were not wanted, the Igbo should be left alone to form their own country and stay in peace. Ojukwu had faith in his people and wanted them to realize it. Only a fearless leader like him could do it. He risked his life and took the challenge and in all honesty and principle, he was not wrong in doing what he did,' Prof. Mambula continued.
Prof. Ugbo Mallam, a retired professor and chair of business department at Paul Quinn College, echoed, 'Ojukwu was one of Nigeria's transformational leaders who ignited followership and commitment for a cause. The history of Nigeria and the West African region, as a whole, will be incomplete without a chapter or more about OJUKWU/Nigerian Civil War. After Ojukwu's return from exile, his goal for Nigeria was STABILITY and for Nigeria to remain a GREAT and PROSPEROUS nation. Nigerians at home or abroad, born or unborn, should learn from the history of OJUKWU and live in PEACE and UNITY.'
Agonizing over Ojukwu's death, Prof. Herbert Nwankwo uttered, 'The announcement of Ojukwu's passing came in like some bad dream or joke that we expected to go away as suddenly as it came. At first, I said here they go again. Then in a rapid frenzy I searched around for validation of the news. When it became obvious that it is true, words could not explain my shock. I am very concerned with where Igbo is headed now that we do not have anyone we can readily trust to speak for us. Now that he is dead, there are questions as to who will take his place and what would become of Igbo going forward.'
'The Ikemba lived a momentous life beyond compare. In death, his aura is destined to loom even larger than all his lifetime accomplishments. The effusion of emotions, from all and sundry from all parts of Nigeria and on the international scene, portends not only a life of greatness but also an existence of immense worth. He was an astute student of history and also ended up living a life of history. As like many before him, he may not have accomplished all his life's desires. There are reasons, however, to believe that, in death, he shall actualize the key essence of his life's quest,' Dr. Okenwa Nwosu emphasized.
Chief Ken Jerry Ike echoed the following statement: 'Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu was a true son of Igbo man who fought the course of Ndi-Igbo until his death. He was a courageous Igboman who dared all efforts aimed at cleansing his ethnic group. Ojukwu is a name that will remain indelible in the hearts of every Igboman. His death has created a colossal vacuum that will be hard to fill in Nigerian politics.'
Geoffrey I. Nzeadibe, National Chairman of Pan Ndi-Igbo Foundation USA (PNF- USA, Inc.), regrettably expressed, 'I send my heartfelt condolence message to Ndi-Igbo all over the world in general and to the immediate family in particular, of Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu concerning his death. Ojukwu was a true son of Ndi-Igbo who spent a great deal of his life championing the course of Igbo man and promoting his good qualities. The Late Dim Ojukwu may not have won all the fights he took against any oppressor of the Ibo man, but he sure never shied away from any one. Ndi-Igbo lost a true and real noble man. May his soul rest in perfect peace.'
Nze Godwin Ihegboro emotionally stated, 'The entire Nigeria citizens must mourn for this great African, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu. Without him, maybe, our nation would have been worse than Rwanda or Sudan. Without his actions, I wonder what would have become of Ndi Igbo and the Nigerian nation today. We have lost a great Igbo and Nigerian hero. We owed him a lot as Ndi Igbo because he went to the war for us and not for himself. He led us during the war to avoid the ethnic cleansing of the Igbos. He will be remembered for ever by all of us who knew what went on during the war, including me; he saved my life and prevented the intended ethnic cleansing.'
In a succinct tribute, Collins Anozie opined, 'A great man has passed away; the man who defended Ndigbo. General Odumegwwu Ojukwu was a man of peace, service to humanity and yet firm and decisive on issues of public interests. We loved you so much.'
In an esteemed homage to Ikemba, Chief Tony Okpara wrote, 'Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, You answered the call to action at such a tender age, when most of your peers were still trying to 'find their feet,' to rescue your people from unprovoked annihilation and pogrom designed to wipe out the Igbo ethnic group from the face of Nigeria. Dim, you were a Man of the People!'