DAY OJUKWU RESURRECTED IN PORT HARCOURT
Weeks after the burial rites of late Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu were concluded, the Eze Igbo Gburugburu resurrected in Port Harcourt recently. The event was the forum of the Federated Correspondents Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Rivers State. The newsmen had organised the forum to reflect on the vision of the former Biafran leader. At the colloquium, the chapel reflected on the roles of the late Emeka Ojukwu during and after the civil war and brought out what it termed the 'lessons for our leaders and generations.'
Four speakers in their respective classes were invited to do justice to the topic. They included Barrister Uche Okwukwu, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rivers State, Hon. Uche Onyeagucha, former member of the House of Representative, Hon. Omenazu Jackon, National Chairman of African Renaissance Party, and Mr. Opaka Dokubo, Chairman, Rivers State Council of the NUJ.
In his opening speech, Okwukwu, who was chairman of the occasion, held the audience spellbound with his fiery remarks. Speaking with fire in his words, he lamented that his kinsmen in Rivers State had failed as a result of ignorance to see the truth about the Nigerian-Biafran civil war, insisting that the death of Ojukwu had brought the truth about the war to the fore.
Hear him: 'This year is my happiest year on earth. We have suffered persecution since after the civil war. Anyone who talked about Biafra before now was treated like an outcast. It had been so for years.'
He described the late Emeka Ojukwu as a brave and courageous man who, 'despite his great university educational attainment, joined the army. He was brave and courageous to say what he wanted to say.'
He recalled the calculated events that led to the war, the Aburi Accord, regional autonomy and other events. Okwukwu pointedly said that there were unresolved issues in the country that could lead to the experiences of Sene-Gambia, Malaysia, Sudan, or Russia, insisting that such issues might affect the country and lead it to collapse. 'I don't care where I find myself, as far as it is a place where justice can be found.'
The young lawyer took a swipe at the Abandoned Property policy, which was adopted by the government of Rivers State, describing it as unjustified. He made a strong call that the issue of 'Abandon Property' in Port Harcourt be revisited and such property returned to their owners. He also said the body of Amainabo of Bonny kingdom should be returned for proper burial, after he was allegedly taken away on the strength of suspicion that he supported the Biafran struggle.
'After the civil war, the General Yakubu Gowon administration announced the policy of 'Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, and Reconciliation,' secretly enacted the abandoned property decree, and withheld the property of the Igbo in Port Harcourt – from Borokiri to Mile 3 through Aba Road axis. It also impoverished the Igbo by withholding their hundreds and thousands of pounds in all the banks in Nigeria and paid them a paltry 20 pounds. Today, the Igbo are tenants in the Port Harcourt that they built since the 1930s, with hard labour and struggle during colonial times. But unfortunately the Nigeria government then was preaching one Nigeria as Gowon is preaching today. But we often forget that only the truth will set us free. Until Nigeria reconciles with the truth she can not stand,' he said.
He therefore re-echoed the call for a sovereign national conference to resolve all fundamental issues plaguing the country. He noted that 'Ojukwu did what is right; he opted to be poor that we might be rich. He made himself a servant leader. He consulted the people of the former Eastern Nigeria to speak with one voice.'
He insisted that with the menace of Boko Haram staring everyone in the face, the nation must discuss to find a lasting solution, adding: 'If we don't discuss now, what happened before will happen again.'
Another interesting speaker of the night was Uche Onyeagocha, a vibrant and stimulating societal commentator, even when he was in the legislature. He challenged Nigerians to stop pretending even as he enjoined them to say their minds boldly. He too added his voice to the call for a sovereign national conference 'to decide how we are going to live in or break up Nigeria. The National Assembly and state assemblies cannot discuss on our behalf, because of their party affiliations. Let's call a national referendum on Nigeria and decide whether it will be or not be. That is the only way forward, because too many people are speaking from both sides of their mouths. Let's not pretend; Nigeria is a failed state. We need to discus how we can save her.'
He advised the minorities in the East to stop romancing with the idea of South- South, noting that God is wise enough to bridge the three major tribes in the country with minorities.
'The South- South is between East and West, Middle belt is between North East and North West; everyone should join the larger group which was made by nature,' he counselled.
Onyeagucha also challenged the 13% reduction on oil derivation fund call by the North. He charged the Niger Deltans to wake up to the challenges of the North, insisting that they should come up with a minimum of 50% derivation based on the hazards arising from pollutions and deprivation.
He said Ojukwu's death could not stop the agitation for Biafra. According to him, since Ojukwu died, the Igbo all over the world had closed ranks as what he stood for was a matter too close to them.
Chief Omenazu, in his brief speech berated those who do not keep agreement, insisting that such people were 'irresponsible.' He said: 'Ojukwu was called a rebel and hated for his boldness. Now, women and children are killed everywhere. Why are we living in fear in Nigeria?'
He described Nigeria as a failed state which needs to be addressed at a national conference. He therefore called for a people's constitution, saying the country had been run for years without the people's consent. He therefore urged Nigerians to arise and write a constitution of their own.
In his comments, Dokubo expressed sympathy with the Nigerian state. He commenced his speech with a series of questions. 'Is it true that God did not want us to live together? We are so different in many ways. I am wondering, are we not meant to stay together as one family?' He sought to know if the problems of those countries that broke up were over. He said Ojukwu did not go to war for the sake of war. 'We celebrate him today because of his fairness. This is the time the nation should think deeply; we need to talk about peace and equity,' he urged.