Many people know the name Ojukwu as being synonymous with the Civil War, very few know his other sides that laid the foundation for a united Nigeria.
Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
The late Igbo leader and Ikemba Gburugburu, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, virtually resurrected from the dead last week. Venue was the Igbariam Campus of the Anambra State University already renamed after him in 2014.
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It was at the maiden edition of the annual Ojukwu Memorial Lecture, which was instituted by the university. The lecture was to keep Ojukwu’s memories alive as well as to also discuss socio-political issues in the country.
Held at the Chief Ben Nwazojie Law Auditorium of the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam Campus, the lecture was delivered by Prof. Anselm Chidi Odinkalu, former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission. It attracted a huge crowd from diverse backgrounds.
Setting the tone for the day’s business, Acting Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Greg Nwakoby noted that the lecture, the first in its series, was to lay a background for subsequent lectures for the future.
Nwakoby noted that after his appointment on March 12 this year, he discovered that Ojukwu was not placed in the academic activities of the university, adding that he subsequently made a proposal to have him in the academic calendar by instituting a memorial lecture in his honour.
He said the university Senate gave approval for the lecture last May and by June, the Governing Council gave a concurrent consent. He informed that Governor Willie Obiano, the visitor to the university whom he described as dynamic and pragmatic, gave his approval same month.
He described the event as the making of history, noting that Ojukwu was an illustrious son of Nigeria and an Igbo man of character who loved his country and people so dearly.
“This university was established in the year 2000 as Anambra State University and was in 2014 renamed Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University in honour of that great man who conspicuously and practically demonstrated his love for his people. It is in furtherance of the state interest in naming the university after him that we have resolved with the consent and approval of our visitor to institute an annual lecture in his honour. The essence of this annual lecture is to always keep in mind and refresh our memory of what Dim Ojukwu stood for,” he said.
The Acting Vice Chancellor commended the sponsor of the maiden lecture, Chinedu Obidigwe and Prince Chinedu Emeka, former Deputy Governor of Anambra state for their support for the event. He urged wealthy people from the state to fund the event on an annual basis. He said he deliberately decided not to make any financial request from the state government because Ojukwu lived, worked, laboured and showed love for all Nigerians in general and Ndigbo in particular.
The guest lecturer, Professor Chidi Odinkalu highlighted Nigeria’s historical perspective. He lamented that while many people knew the name Ojukwu as being synonymous with the Civil War, very few knew his other sides that laid the foundation for a united Nigeria. He said the lecture series must be sustained to drum home Ojukwu’s good legacies.
Speaking on the topic ‘Between Force of Reason and Reason For Force: Legacy of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu,’ Odinkalu centred the discussion on Ojukwu’s patriotism, politics of state creation and existence, political and military stratification, regional integration, self determination and humanitarianism, stressing that the reason and controversies surrounding the war, have not really gone away.
Odinkalu, while pointing out that Anambra is the heart of Nigeria’s civilization, asked people to
correct their erroneous conception concerning the civil war, even as he added that late Ojukwu truly fought for citizenship and dignity. He called on Ohaneze Ndi Igbo and other stakeholders to have it at the back of their mind when arguing for true federation.
He concluded by saying that memories and legacies built on Ojukwu’s life and the Nigerian Civil War were burdens of recollection, intellect and conscience.
“What they throw up may sometimes be unsettling and may not always hew to notional party line. Embarking on an inquiry into these requires us to respect those who have gone before us without sacrificing our responsibilities to those who will come after us. The memory of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is secure and will always be held with some reverence in these parts. Retrieving and examining it in the ambience of a university requires us to allow room for some irreverence. It may throw up some uncomfortable recall and could indeed or sometimes shatter views of the past that had been protected with romantic bodyguards of a single narrative. If this helps us to forge pathways to a more sensible future, that would, hopefully be the greatest tribute to what was, after all, a most consequential life,” Odinkalu stated.
Governor Willie Obiano in his remarks proposed a rallying point for Ndi Igbo to project their voices through political awareness, adding that the Igbo have great minds and entrepreneurs to achieve whatever they desire. He said the enthronement of a new, better and prosperous Nigeria might not be achieved without recourse to the dynamics represented by late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Obiano, who was represented by the deputy governor of Anambra State, Dr Nkem Okeke enjoined all to live a life of legacy by doing what is right and shunning evil, even as he thanked the university management for instituting the lecture series in honour of the late hero.
Wife of the late Ikemba Nnewi, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, expressed appreciation to the state government and the university management for instituting the lecture series. She noted that the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) was one of the legacies of her late husband, cautioning that the party should be allowed to die.
Lady Bianca, who expressed appreciation to Nwakoby for initiating the memorial lecture, however, expressed displeasure with Governor Willie Obiano for his failure to attend the lecture personally.
Earlier, the chairman of the occasion and former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Chukwuma Soludo pointed that Nigeria remains a work in progress which can be properly understood and worked on, with adequate reflection of Dim Ojukwu’s sacrifices and contributions to the country.
Soludo said that Nigeria would remain in shambles if the federal government failed to restructure the country’s federal system, even as he described Ojukwu as an encyclopaedia whose contributions to Nigeria would remain indelible.
According to him, “If you don’t know him, have not heard or debated about Ojukwu and what he represents, then you are either not a Nigerian, not living in Nigeria or you don’t think about Nigeria.”