AT about 3.15pm yesterday, the brown casket bearing the remains of the former Biafran leader and Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu was lowered into the specially built resting place in his Nnewi home. The earthly journey of the man his admirers called ‘General of the Peoples Army’ had finally come to an end.
But even in death, the Ikemba still towered like the hero he was. A staccato of gun salutes heralded his burial. Crowds surged, gaily dressed men and women, dignitaries in Akwa Onwu (Aso Ebi), governors, Senators, Reps. Members, businessmen, traders, traditional dancers and ordinary folks alike all struggled to catch a last glimpse of Eze Igbo Gburugburu—or, well his casket—before he was finally buried. Simply put, people came from all walks of life to bid the former military governor of old Eastern Region goodbye.
And they all agreed he was a man of rare vision, who deserved all the honour and more. To President Goodluck Jonathan who arrived at the St Michael’s Catholic Church, Nnewi for the burial mass about 11.45am, “the large turnout today of Nigerians from all parts and walks of life shows the quality of life of service to the people that the late Ikemba lived.”
According to the President, Ojukwu’s death was a very big loss not only the Southeast but also to the country as a whole, because of his wealth of experience that was really needed at this period of the nation’s development.
Jonathan admitted that he came personally because of what the late icon did for him when his own father died sometime ago. “Ojukwu came down to my village when my father died and I nearly wept when I saw him. That is why I decided to be here today with my family,” the President said.
He said the Federal Government delegation, which was led by the Vice President Namadi Sambo, was in Enugu on Thursday to participate in the late Igbo leader’s funeral rites.
In his homily, the Catholic Bishop of Orlu, Most Rev Gregory Ochiagha, urged Nigerians to embrace and emulate the lofty ideals the late Ikemba lived and died for. He said time had come when citizens should do a thorough self re-examination and then embrace morality as part of leadership demands, where leadership should be seen as genuine service to the people, not an avenue for accumulating wealth. .
According to him, the new generation of leaders should imbibe natural love for their followers, noting with emphasis that so called developments should no longer be on the pages of newspapers or television alone, but must be on ground for all eyes to see and acknowledge.
The cleric said the major problem of the nation was not corruption alone but gross selfishness and greed, insisting that all negative attitudes must change as a respect to the memories of Ojukwu.
In his speech, the Anambra State Governor Peter Obi commended the President for the love he showed to Ojukwu especially in trying times.
He said the love had indeed ended the Nigerian civil war, noting that there would not be any more wars.
Others at the funeral were Governors Sullivan Chime (Enugu); Theodore Orji (Abia); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Martin Elechi (Ebonyi); Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Patrick Yakowa (Kaduna) and Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo).
There were Senator Chris Ngige; Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal; his Deputy, Emeka Ihedioha; Prof Charles Soludo; Prof Pat Utomi; Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Chief Emmanuel Iwanyanwu.
Others were former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, Chief Sonny Odogwu, Andy Ubah, Victor Umeh, among many others.