Who is Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu?
Chief Chukwuwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was a Nigerian military leader and politician and the leader of the secessionist state of Biafra. He was described as a man with four personalities- a hero, a villain, a rebel, and a one-Nigerianist.
Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Early life
Odumegwu Ojukwu was born on November 4, 1933, in Zunguru, British Nigeria (present Niger State). His father, Sir Louis Phillipe Odumegwu Ojukwu, was one of the wealthiest men in Nigeria who resides in present-day Nnewi Anambra state. He built his wealth as a businessman in the transportation industry.
Emeka Ojukwu had a first-class education. He attended St Patrick School, a private primary school in Lagos State. In 1944, and at age 10 he enrolled into Kings College, Lagos, and was known as the youngest student in the school.
After two years, his father sent him to England to complete his education, which he did at Epsom College. While he was at Epson, Ojukwu was actively involved in school sports. He was a leader in the rugby and soccer team and a champion in the discus throw field event.
In 1952, Odumegwu Ojukwu got admission into Lincoln College, Oxford University, where he majored in history, and graduated with honors in 1955. He returned to Nigeria in 1956.
Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Career
When Ojukwu was back in Nigeria, he had the privilege of working in a high level of British colonial Nigeria due to his oxford degree and father’s connections with some top leaders. But he decided to join the civil workforce instead of relying on his father. Odumegwu Ojukwu got a job as an assistant district officer in Udi town, under the Nigeria civil service.
He was in charge of supervising community development in rural areas. He also served in the same position in Aba and Umuahia, making him popular among the people in eastern Nigeria. He was known as a community development leader who was fair in his dealings and quickly understood complex matters.
In 1957, Odumegwu Ojukwu joined the Army, and this decision earned him an enmity with his father that they didn’t speak to each other for over two years. However, Odumegwu Ojukwu was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant after completing an officer training in England at the Officer Cadet School at Eaton Hall.
To further his military education, he went to the Infantry School in Warminster, England, the Small Arms School in Hythe, England, and the Royal West African Frontier Force Training School in Teshie, Ghana. In 1958, he returned to Nigeria and was deployed to the 5th battalion in Kaduna.
In 1960, after Nigeria became independent from Britain, Odumegwu Ojukwu rose through military ranks.
In 1961, he became a Major and served in the Nigerian First Brigade in the Congo as part of a United Nations peace-keeping program.
After then, Odumegwu Ojukwu was the first Nigerian officer to attend the Joint Services Staff College in the United Kingdom.
In 1963, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was the first quartermaster-general in the Nigerian Army. In 1965, Odumegwu Ojukwu became the commanding officer to the Army’s 5th battalion in Kano.
Odumegwu Ojukwu and the Nigerian Civil War
In January 1966, a group of primarily Igbo junior army officers overthrew Nigerian’s civilian government in a bloody coup. After which, Major General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi (also an Igbo) took over power as the first military head of state.
Two days later, Aguyi Ironsi appointed military governors across the four regions, and Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu was made the military governor of the eastern region.
On may 29, 1966, the Igbos who were residing in the north were being massacred by the northerners. This was in retaliation to the January coup. The massacre of the Igbos continued until September of the same year. It was reported that between 8,000 to 30,000 Igbos were killed, and about 1 million Igbos fled back to the eastern region.
Meanwhile, a counter-coup was held on July 26, 1966, in which major General Aguiyi Ironsi was murdered, and General Yakubu Gowon became the head of state in his place. But the Igbos were still being murdered. This was a cause of great concern to Odumegwu Ojukwu and the Igbos.
Under the leadership of Yakubu Gowon, the Igbos felt estranged from the Federal military government, and they demanded to be separated from the Nigerian government.
General Yakubu Gowon initially agreed to this solution at a peace conference in Ghana but changed his mind when they returned to Nigeria. General Yakubu Gowon was unwilling to let the eastern region maintain a separate army, and Odumegwu Ojukwu was uncertain of the federal military government’s ability to protect the Igbos.
Between March and April 1967, Odumegwu Ojukwu began by separating the administration and revenues of the Eastern regional government from that of the federal government.
After much pressure from the Igbos, on May 30, 1967, Ojukwu officially declared the eastern region a sovereign state as the Republic of Biafra.
The Nigerian Civil War
On July 6, 1967, Yakubu Gowan declared war and sent federal troops to invade Biafra, resulting in a civil war. Initially, Biafran soldiers were in control of the war and held off the Nigerian soldiers. Federal troops were sent to Biafra until they were surrounded.
The federal troops cut off Biafran access to the sea, blocking them from the supply of food, medical aids, and ammunition. Also, the soviet built warplanes, cut supply lines, raided the Biafran urban centers, and inflicted heavy casualties.
Odumegwu Ojukwu did all he could to win the war, he asked for help from foreign bodies, and none came to his aid. He even negotiated a peace treaty, but the Nigerian government wouldn’t bulge, seeing that the Biafrans
have been kicked to a tight spot with their hunger strategy.
On January 9, 1970, after so many deaths and starvation, the war ended, Ojukwu fled to Cote d’Ivoire, where President Felix Houphouet Boigny granted him asylum.
Odumegwu Ojukwu return to Nigeria.
On May 18, 1982, Odumegwu Ojukwu returned to Nigeria after President Shehu Shagari pardoned him. He ventured into politics again and joined the National Party of Nigeria(NPN), where he unsuccessfully contested for the senator of Anambra state.
In 1983, he was imprisoned for ten months following the coup that brought Muhammadu Buhari to power. In 1993, he joined the Social Democratic Party to run for president but was not nominated by party members.
When Nigeria began transitioning from military to civilian government in 1998, Odumegwu Ojukwu and other former Nigerian leaders consulted Abdulsalam Abubakar, the military Head of State.
In 2003, Odumegwu Ojugwu formed a new political party, the all progressive grand alliance, where he unsuccessfully ran for president. He tried again in 2003 but lost to Umaru Musa Yar’adua.
Odumegwu Ojukwu personal life.
Odemegwu Ojukwu was married four times, and the names of his wives are Elizabeth Okoli, Njideka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Stella Ojukwu, Bianca Odumegwu Ojukwu. He has children, namely Emeka, Mimi, Okigbo, Ebele, Afamefuna, Chineme and Nwachukwu
Death Of Odumegwu Ojukwu
Odumegwu Ojkwu died in the United Kingdom after a brief illness on November 26, 2011, at age 78. The Nigerian Army accorded him the highest military accolade and conducted a funeral parade for him in Abuja. He was buried in a newly built mausoleum in his compound at Nnewi.
Ojukwu had several honors and titles bestowed upon him during his life, including the honorary chieftaincy title Ikemba of Nnewi.
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