By Nnorom Azuonye
I mee la Ojukwu, i mee la…
On Saturday, 26th of November 2011, I was at the TEDxEuston event in London listening to thought-provoking talks on the redefinition and reimagination of Africa.
The day was going well. I had listened to Lola Shoneyin’s insistence that perpetrators of sexual violence must all be brought to book, and that our young must be made aware of the consequences of sexually violating another human being. Kwame Kwei-Armah reminisced about role models and spoke eloquently about how many of our role models were people who fought the powers that were, people who challenged the status quo; the Martin Luther Kings, the Stephen Bikos, the Nelson Mandelas etc. But he reckoned that what was more important was building something – building institutions that would endure. I became excited about the TEDxEuston event when Paul Boateng in his talk somewhat responded the Kwei-Armah by saying it was not a choice for Africans whether to fight or build because if you don’t fight, whatever you have built would come to nothing. In my mind, I became appreciative of my mentor Esiaba Irobi’s words in Hangmen Also Die that stated, “No matter what we do, no matter how high we aspire, there is something waiting in the atmosphere waiting to destroy us.” This is why we must not simply build, but why we must fight to protect what we have built, or it would not stand. Then we broke for lunch and I received a call that announced the death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, a man who not only fought the evil in the atmosphere destroying many Igbo lives, but a man who also built something that would never die. I excused myself from the rest of the talks at TEDx and went home.
I mee la Ojukwu, I mee la…
Today, I hear voices of powerful men and women, from the North through the South, they sing his praises. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu has died. Everybody who is anybody rises to say Ojukwu was a dear friend. Ikemba Nnewi was a complex man, a great man, an imperfect man, but he was a hero of mine and a hero to millions of Ndi Igbo and non-Ndi Igbo across the world. He was a man who had the courage to stand up and say “stop killing my people”. There are some surely who write frivolous messages on the internet asking God to forgive Ojukwu for the blood that flowed through Nigeria and Biafra from 1967 to 1970, they must stop and ask, did Ojukwu do more than ask for the senseless killing of Ndi Igbo to stop? Was there anything agreed at Aburi that resembled baying for blood? Has the killing of Ndi Igbo stopped in Nigeria, even now? 44 years after Northern Nigeria drew the first blood the Northern Nigerian earth still drinks the blood of Ndi Igbo. Although one may stop and ask, why do Ndi Igbo continue to live in the north? Do our people not say that a war foretold does not reap corpses? Did Ojukwu not warn us about this many years ago?
I mee la Ojukwu, I mee la…
Ndi Igbo were forced into staying in Nigeria and have been screwed since then. They are still being killed in the North because they are too naïve to understand that they should not be living in the North. Inside every true Igbo person is a desire to be free, a desire to live in a country of his or her own where everything is a possibility. This is all Ojukwu wanted. This is what he lived for. This is what he died wishing for. It is right for every Igbo person to remember Aburi. It is right for every Igbo person to remember the events of May 30th 1967, July 6th 1967, and November 26th 2011. It is time for the sun to rise again in the heart and life of every Igbo person. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s voice rises from his yet-to-be grave, through every home, through village squares, through the social media, and through the church houses, he says, a sun sets but does not die, let the sun of Biafra rise again.
Sadly there are some Ndi Igbo and many Nigerians who pretend that Biafra was a fiction, or was a thing that occurred that should be forgotten. Avoiding to confront the ills Biafra sought to address means they will continue to eat at every fabric of the Nigerian society until it destroys Nigeria and Ndi Igbo within Nigeria. We must all look Biafra again in the eye, and answer the questions she raised in order to find our way and our children’s way into a safe, healthy and free future. There is a lesson in the timeless words of George Santayana, “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
I mee la, Ojukwu, I mee la.
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