WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT OJUKWU -NWOKEDI
Barrister Joe Nwokedi is the principal partner of Interveners and Kedjoe Solicitors, a Lagos based law firm. An author and social crusader, he was also the leader of Igbo law students during his days at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos.
In this interview, Nwokedi says the late Biafran war lord, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was first Hausa, then Yoruba before becoming an Igbo.
According to him, someone was rented to tutor the Eze Igbo Gburugburu how to speak Igbo well in Enugu Government House when he became the governor of the Eastern Region. He also speaks on other national issues.
What is your reaction to his demise?
Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is a great loss to Nigeria as a whole and not the Igbo nation alone, as some people perceive it. Ojukwu was a man who frowned at injustice throughout his life. As a student at Kings College when he was still 11, he exhibited inherent ability to defend the poor and oppressed. So, he attacked a British Colonial Teacher that insulted a black woman who worked at the school as a labourer. His death is a colossal loss to Nigeria. So, nothing done in his honour would be too much.
How Nigerian was he in your opinion?
You see, Ojukwu was not an Igbo as many Nigerians think. Just like late Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ojukwu was first a Northerner because he was born there. He learned Hausa before any other Nigerian language or culture. Then he later moved to Lagos where he also learned Yoruba because he had both primary and secondary education there before travelling out to perfect his academic pursuit. So, as far as I am concerned, he was more of Hausa-Yoruba than Igbo. And by implication, he was a complete Nigerian -a wazobia. It may interest you to know that Ojukwu's surgeon in the East started when he was approaching thirty years.
That was when he was appointed the Military Governor of Eastern Nigeria. So, when I say he was more Nigerian, you should understand what I am talking about. He saved the life of the Emir of Kano Ado Bayero during the bloody coup of 1966, by stopping the coup from being executed in the north. And when he emerged the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Alliance (APGA) in 2003, he again picked Ado Bayero's son as his running mate. So it was just the circumstances of the Biafran war that made some people to view him as a tribal individual, which he never was. It was actually oppression, tribalism and sectionalism that he waged war against, at that time.
So, according to a version of his history, a teacher was employed to teach the Ikemba Igbo language at Enugu Government house so he would not mess himself up while addressing Igbo elders. So, Ojukwu was tutored Igbo as an adult, after he had perfected in other major Nigerian languages. Don't forget that his father did not live in the east then but at Ikoyi.
How Ojukwu would have reacted
As the Ikemba we know him to be, he would have gone to the north, personally, to intervene. Remember he speaks Hausa so well. He would also have gone to the President to advise him on how to stem the tempo of the incessant massacre and destruction of property there. You know he was not a violent man. Just like he did during the crises that led to the Biafra war, he would have explored amicable ways of ending the hapless orgy of violence there. He did it, as a young person before the civil war broke out, so he would have repeated same feat as an elder. Remember that during the Sabon-Gari, Kano crises, he did not ask the Igbos there to quit the city.
He only urged them to get equipped and fight back because Nigeria belonged to all Nigerians and that everyone should live freely as a Nigerian wherever he was. So, he would have intervened professionally. I am sure he would have approached the emir and even the sect. He was not a violent man. I'm sure he would have broken the ranks of the Boko Haram to dialogue with them. He was a man of dialogue.