Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor

Nigeria-Biafra Civil War

34 Years Later


By Mazi Okwudirichiukwu Okwuchiukwu
Vanguard (Nigeria), November 05, 2003

Seventy years ago, November 4, 1933, a child that would help shape and influence the Nigerian state and lead Ndigbo in an immense way was born in Zungeru in Northern Nigeria to Igbo parents of Eastern Nigeria extraction, Sir and Mrs. Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu. And as if his future was discerned he was named Chukwuemeka, meaning "God has done well."

At ten Chukwuemeka Ojukwu was locked up at Tinubu Square police station and was later charged to court over students revolt in Kings College, Lagos, for his conspicuous role. This was in 1944 when the second World War was going on and the students were protesting over bad food.

The senior students with the likes of Victor Ovie-Whisky were manning the gate with cutlasses. An Englishman and a school-teacher named Mr. Slee; he dared the students, crossed their barricades, laughing at them as being unserious and amusing. The senior students could not do anything to him with their cutlasses and Slee was walking freely. This angered little Ojukwu whose duty was to be taking water and food to those at the gate. He could not stomach such insult and ran forward, jumped up and slapped Mr. Slee and there was silence everywhere but Slee would not make do with such. He called in the police and Ojukwu was charged to court after being locked up in police cell. That was when Ojukwu at ten hit the faces of the national dailies.

He was born a prince of the Nigeria’s first millionaire, Sir Louis Ojukwu but he longed to creating his own personality from being unhappy seeing people saying "that is Ojukwu’s son" hence he started making plans to seeing people say "that is Emeka’s father", a feat he later achieved. He later became an Oxford University graduate of History against his father’s wish of being a lawyer.

He was born with silver spoon and his father offered him a seat in his company but because of his hunger to serve his people, he abandoned his father’s wealth to cut his own world; and instead of being a director in his father’s conglomerate, he went into civil service and served as a District Officer. The dream and aspiration to serve Nigerians and humanity on a wider scale made him abandon the district officer post to join the Nigerian Army, which in his days was, according to him, the only Pan Nigeria institution with the police.

His choice of the military did not please his father and when he applied to serve in the Nigeria Army, the then Governor General of Nigeria, Sir Macpherson phoned his father and told him what his son was up to and both men agreed to stop him through frustration. He was told that if he wants to join the Army he had to start as a recruit with no regards to his Oxford University Certificate.

On realizing where his problem was coming from, he went to Zaria Depot to train as a soldier. Thus he became the first graduate to join Nigeria Army.

One day, his educational prowess caused a rift between him and his instructor who was teaching them parts of a rifle. He pointed at the safety catch and asked them what it was? And Ojukwu answered "safety catch" but was told by the instructor: "Damn fool, you sabi nothing" and another recruit says "saplica" and the instructor says "Good". "There is no such word in English language" says furious Ojukwu. This landed him in guardroom where he was tried and freed and was later recommended to be an officer.

In January 1966, Lieutenant Colonel Emeka Ojukwu who was then Commander of the 5th Battalion Kano in the North was appointed a military governor of Eastern Region (Present Anambra, Abia, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Balyesa states) by the only legally invited military regime in Nigeria led by Major General J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi.

As fate would have it, Ojukwu became the Governor of the Eastern Region during the most turbulent days of Post- Independence Nigeria, when the Hausa-Fulani mafia prosecuted the onslaught to dethrone Igboman from his frontline position. It was such that the Easterners (especially Ndigbo) became an endangered race in Nigeria; Ndigbo were killed in their thousands along with some few Easterners. They fled Northern Nigeria and Ojukwu protested to the Federal Military Government led by Ironsi and after several negotiations with the Federal Government and the Northern leaders he got words of assurance of their safety and bade the returnees to go back to north; only for them to face serious pogrom.

Ndigbo were killed like cows, properties looted and torched. Many people were killed and drowned at River Benue and Jebba Bridge. Some returned with chopped off hands and legs. Beheaded Igbo men and dissected pregnant Igbo women were parceled through trains and sent to Ndigbo and were termed "Ojukwu’s Gift". Prominent Igbo Army Officers were killed including the military Head of State, Major General J.T.U Aguiyi Ironsi.

Ndigbo and their eastern brothers met and protested the killings, and the more train arrives, the more beheaded men, dissected pregnant women, men with chopped off hands and or legs they received; and when it dawned on Ndigbo and Easterners that the basis of the Nigerian nation and unity could no longer be justified they, after failed peaceful attempts, invoked the law of the last resort, which is man’s inalienable right: Self preservation. They drew safety line for the endangered Easterners that once you crossed that line that your safety would be guaranteed.

The then Colonel Yakubu Gowon led coupist who usurped federal power saw this Easterners recourse to self- defence as a bid to secede and declared an onslaught called "police action" against the East. The federalist writers of history should be fair to the Igbo and Easterners that they did not start the war. That they participated in all the peace moves to avert the war, even to the famous Ghana meeting that resulted into what is known as Aburi Accord; where they raised a salient question "Could colonial creation done in exigence of the colonial interests remain at the expense of our lives?"

The Easterners under Ojukwu weighed, analyzed and appraised the Nigeria situation and union and submitted: "Let us separate a little from unitary but misconstrued federalism to confederation. Let us separate a little and live as brothers than to be head locked and be boiling". This prayer was accepted at Aburi ; and was the basic ingredient of Aburi Accord. But on returning to Nigeria, General Gowon led junta were advised by people with vested interests to abandon the Aburi Accord.

The Eastern Consultative Assembly met and weighed the situation of things and what the East were faced with, and gave then Colonel Emeka Ojukwu order to stand his ground. Which was renegotiable social contract against British imposed contract of Force Theory. We did not declare war against Nigeria nor any person but war was unleashed on us through Nsukka and Ogoja sectors. And as it goes that silence is not cowardice and there is limit of endurance in human soul the East invoked right of self-preservation and declared sovereign Biafran Republic. The Gowon coupists led federal government mockeriously declared what it called "police action" that it would overrun the East in a week, and this later proved to be a mutually destructive war that will take combined forces of Nigeria, British and Russia that lasted three years to end on one accord: NO VICTOR, NO VANQUISHED. The rest is now history. Colonel Ojukwu, who became General of the Peoples’ Army saw himself leading the Biafran Revolution and refusal to accept conqueror’s sword in Nigeria. And like a charismatic leader, he put in his best especially intellectually, finance wise and leadership know-how. To an extent that not a sane Igbo nor Biafran people would buy federalist history that he misled Igbo and the East. Ojukwu’s short-lived Biafra proved to the world that scientific and technological ingenuity and break-throughs are of no exemption to any meaned race and or people. Biafran scientists invented Radio Biafra International that was heard round the world from the back of a lorry. They invented Ajuana bomb, Ogbunigwe bomb, Ojukwu bucket (bomb), local pistols and rifles, armoured car, local refineries, amorka Airport (near Uli) with local airport facilities, local distillers e.t.c.

In fact, Biafra was/is a child of people’s desire to survive on the face of the earth and a philosophy laden with the concept of Mmadu - Let goodness exist, and a spirited response to man’s inhumanity to man aimed at making the world habitable for man through creations of an enabling Mmadu state. It is for this reason that Biafra, a nation sabotaged by her only neighbour beside Nigeria, Cameroun and was besieged by Nigeria, survived economic blockade for the three hectic years of the war till 1970 that the war ended. A war Biafra defiantly fought against Arab-Anglo-Russian-Nigerian powers and interests?

He lived as an exile for thirteen years and returned in 1982 with presidential pardon from President Shehu Shagari whose party (National Party of Nigeria) seized the opportunity to make an in-road into Igbo land.

At this point, be it asked if Ojukwu, who we shall from here address with his Ozo Revered Institution title "Dim" ever-misled Ndigbo? The answer is no! He joined the ruling party NPN upon his return and delivered Anambra State to the party; a feat the then Vice President, Pa. Alex Ekwueme who hailed from the same state could not perform in 1979. He contested for senatorial seat and won the election but was rigged out by his own Hausa/Fulani dominated NPN for they appeared uncomfortable with his rising profile and would not like seeing him back to power.

Ndigbo demonstrated their no regret loyalty to Dim Ojukwu over Biafra leadership with how they welcomed him back from exile and he happened to be the first and only Igboman to be honoured with a title by Ndigbo on the whole. He was given the title: Dike di ora mma - Warrior Acceptable to the Sovereign; and was presented with a Mercedes Benz car by Ndigbo. And Nnewi, his hometown crowned him Ikemba - The Power of a Nation, or Mighty of the Sovereign. In fact he had received more than a hundred titles round the Nation! He was subsequently, elected into the 1994-95 constitutional conference; that produced the constitution the military later doctored to suit their vested interest and unitaristic leaning.

Dim Ojukwu has since endeared himself to the mind of any typical Nigerian as a man who is a visionary leader and really saw ahead of his contemporaries. Love him, hate him, there are some shinning qualities you can not take away from Dim Ojukwu like being an avowed critic of injustice, disciplinarian, courageous and forthright, dogged fighter and source of inspiration; all these crowns him a role model.

Nigeria has come to terms with Dim Ojukwu, his performance in the recent presidential election - where he flew the flag of All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA - a party that meant well for the people and came third out of the seventeen presidential candidates is a salient acceptance.

Every Nigerian wanted Dim Ojukwu because what he said about three and half decades ago has today become a household truth. "It is better for us to separate a little than to keep close and burn ourselves up in the friction" says Dim Ojukwu.

The Nigeria that consumed civil war victims, MKO Abiolas, Kudirat Abiolas, Pa. Rewanes, Ken Saro Wiwas, Dele Giwas, Omotoshos, Yar’duas etc is a Nigeria that Dim Ojukwu detested and warned against. Had it been heeded we won’t be fools in our post-forty years of independence (assuming we’re truly independent). He wants us to talk and promised in his manifestoes that the first thing he would do if elected president will be convening of Sovereign National Conference.

"Some people who fought against me" says Ojukwu, "are now so happy to tell the entire world, you see, we agreed with what Ojukwu said years back. We haven’t yet faced the Nigerian problem". Speaking further, he said: "We can not find solutions to Nigeria by giving or excluding labels. What we must do, and I kept on saying, is that we get round the table to really look ourselves eyeball-to-eyeball and talk generally without guns behind us, let us talk as Nigerians. Let our leaders talk and get us an acceptable form of togetherness".

Regretting the Nigeria that never was, which Biafra in all ways surpassed he said: "My gratitude is this: That if I can even get Nigeria to imbibe the spirit of Biafra , then I would have made a great success of my life. My attitude is that in Biafra, we find an African people unleashed to the modern world and they take their places. That is the Biafra I want. Turn water to wine that is the Biafra I want. The Biafra I want is to live without importation. The Biafra I want is shout and let the whole world hear you from back of a lorry. That is the Biafra I want. The Biafra I want is the one people will say, "My God, black men are doing this?" That is the Biafra I want".

The import of this is that Dim Ojukwu was not happy that Nigeria fought a war to defend geographical map only to become a socio-economic dungeon and a stagnant nation where values do not count but crass materialism and elusive big brother Africa syndrome. This, Dim Ojukwu’s concerns about a nation that fought an internecine war for elusive Unity that could not prove itself a nation of the sovereign is a general concern today. There seems to be no tomorrows with the way things are going but elongation of a misconstrued federalism that makes our streets to be littered with fresh and dried cakes of blood and army of beggars and jobless hungry men. Every slightest problem leads to killings, maiming, looting, arson, assassination, murder, and thuggery. There is restiveness everywhere, in the East, West and North.

It is not a surprise that we are today having self-determination groups like Odua Peoples Congress, Movement for Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra and their likes. It is high time we convened a Sovereign National Conference! One is, therefore not surprised to hear Dim Ojukwu still weeping for Nigeria now that he is seventy.

"In November", says Ojukwu, "I shall be 70. I don’t know whether I really have anything to celebrate. I have not made up my mind what to do, if it is necessary. Do I celebrate servitude? Do I celebrate slavery? Do I celebrate another four years of Obasanjo? Do I celebrate the rape of democracy? Can I celebrate the castration of the Igbo people? I am not sure of celebration..."

However, on behalf of the well meaning people of Ndigbo, Nigerians and African at large one has something to tell the General of the Peoples’ Army, Dim Emeka Ojukwu, that he has course to celebrate his three scores and ten for having been vindicated alive; that his vindication has gone a long way to prove whom the real enemies of Nigeria are. Those whose co-conspirators, Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Benjamin Adekunle spoke their mind as having waged the war to possess the black gold of the Niger Delta and not for Nigeria unity as they initially concocted. No wonder they waged the war, only to empty the treasury and impoverish a nation blessed with rich natural and human resources.

Dear Ikemba, on behalf of myself, Biafrans, well meaning Nigerians, and true Africans you proved their creative ingenuity and posterity, I hereby confer on you at 70: THE LIGHT BEARER OF THE SOVEREIGN. Accept our warmest regards. May Chukwu give you more promising years for you to continue with your erudite and indefatigable struggle for the up-liftment of the masses. We know who our leaders are, you are one. Congratulations. Ka emesia.


MAZI OKWUDIRICHIUKWU OKWUCHIUKWU, is a political analyst and former National Co-ordinator, Concerned Youths of Nigeria.

Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor

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Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor