This decade, 2010 – 2020, which will soon disappear into history, is a painful one for Ndigbo. It is a decade that expired some of the brightest wards of Ndigbo. This period is a time that death wrecked a devastating havoc, and like a hawk responding to hunger, swiftly pounced on Igbo sons and daughters with courage, capacity, carriage and panache. As a matter of fact, this decade will forever live in infamy. This is so because, it eliminated our noble politicians; destroyed our amiable heroes, devastated our timeless economists and other outstanding academia and intelligentsia. Really, it has been a decade of painful harvest of deaths for Ndigbo.
He was one of the few people whose first or saw name rings a bell. First, Ojukwu at 12, challenged his White classroom teacher at Kings Secondary School, Lagos, over a protest for poor feeding. Second, after successfully completing his secondary education, his father, Sir Louis Ojukwu, obviously, the richest man in Nigeria then, advised him to study Law, but Ojukwu declined that directive and studied History. Third, upon his return to Nigeria, against all permutations, Ojukwu rejected all other jobs and opted for a career in the army.
He really caused a sensation here. He was in the army as a battalion commander in Kano when the first military coup was staged on January 15, 1966. General Ironsi who took over as head of state appointed him the military administrator, Eastern Region. Just six months after, Ironsi was overthrown. In a rather shocking move that was against the army’s procedure of ranking, Lt Col. Yakubu Gowon was announced as the new head of state ahead of his seniors who were about 10 in number.
As a disciplined military officer, Ojukwu rejected Gowon and made it clear that in the January coup that preceded that of July, Ironsi, who was the most senior army officer, took over charge. He therefore argued that, so also, let the most senior officer, in that case, Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, take over. Ojukwu equally mentioned names like Robert Adebayo, Hillary Njoku, Philip Effiong, Alexander Madiebo and few others as Gowon’s superiors. But that was like pouring water on a stone. There was therefore a supremacy battle between Gowon and Ojukwu.
Meanwhile, the killings of Ndigbo continued in the North. At the end, a meeting of Nigerian leaders was agreed in Aburi, Ghana on January 4/5, 1967. In the meeting, Ojukwu successfully argued that ‘Nigeria as currently constituted has not worked. It is not working. And it will not work. It is better for us to move away a bit and survive than coming together and suffocate in the impending implosion’. His proposition was agreed and it was signed that Nigeria would then be a con –federal state. However, on returning to Nigeria, things went awry as Gowon was forced to change his mind on what was already agreed on in Aburi. That is, the federal government side gave it a different interpretation. On his side, Ojukwu insisted that ‘On Aburi we stand’.
With the above stand, the war was made possible. The Nigeria – Biafra civil war lasted for 30 months from June 1967 to January, 1970. Shortly before the ended, Ojukwu zoomed off to Ivory Coast and was there for 13 years. On his return, he became a pan Nigerian and at the same time gave the Igbo a source of strength. As he put it, ‘I am back to give a sense of belonging. I have come to free the Igbo from siege mentality’. He did not form the Igbo party called APGA but he made popular and gave it its bite. Ojukwu was APGA’s presidential candidate for two consecutive editions in 2003 and 2007. Ndigbo, particularly the youths and market women, followed him. He fought for Igbo interests. He died November 26, 2011 and was given a befitting burial. It was a great loss to Ndigbo.
He was variously described as the Father of African Literature. Achebe was the man who revived and resuscitated African Literature. He also founded and edited the once famous and inspiring African Writers Series. More than anything else, Achebe’s books, especially Things Fall Apart, portrayed the real character of an Igbo man and Igbo nation in general. His other book, Arrow of God also showed how the Igbo revered their culture.
The fall of Ezeulu at the instance of the Europeans’ Christianity and its subsequent inflow of education also revealed how the Igbo are now abandoning their tradition for Christianity and modernity. Achebe wrote more than 12 fantastic books but four stood out. First, Things Fall Apart is generally regarded as Africa’s best book of the last century. Second, A Man of the People, which came out shortly before the January 1966 coup, correctly predicted the coup.
An analysis on the book stated it thus; written as a satirical piece, A Man of the People follows a story told by Odili, a young and educated narrator, on his conflict with Chief Nanga, his former teacher who enters a career in politics in an unnamed fictional 20th century African country. Odili represents the changing younger generation; Nanga represents the traditional West African customs, inspired by that of Achebe’s native Nigeria.
The book ends with a military coup, similar to the real-life coup organized by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Major Adewale Ademoyega, Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Captain Chris Anuforo, Major Donatus Okafor, and Major Humphrey Chukwuka’.
It was reported that ‘upon reading an advance copy of the novel, Achebe’s friend, Nigerian poet and playwright John Pepper Clark declared: “Chinua, I know you are a prophet. Everything in this book has happened except a military coup!” Prophetically, the coup came knocking and Achebe became a prophetic author! His third majestic book was The Problem With Nigeria which also predicted the fall of the Second Republic in 1983. And then, his departure gift entitled ‘THERE WAS A COUNTRY’.
It was a sort of his autobiography which have a vivid account of the Nigeria, Biafra Civil War and what could have become of the defunct republic it had succeeded. Achebe died March 21, 2013. Indeed, Achebe was one man who used his wettings to portray Igbo culture to the highest. His death was a big minus to Ndigbo.
His profile sounds so much like a poem. Number one, he was among the students that graduated from the University of Ibadan. He was there alongside Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna and Wole Ademoyega and others from where they wanted to enlist into the army. Their aim was to take Nigeria by storm and stage a military revolution.
His other colleagues succeeded in getting admitted. However, on the day Chukwumereije was getting ready to go to join his friends at the deport for military training, his White lecturer at Ibadan asked him what he was doing, he replied that he was leaving for a military training.
The White man put a second poser, why? The young man replied: ‘My mates and I would want to cause a military revolution in the near future.’ The White man laughed and laughed and laughed. In the end, he cautioned confused and embarrassed Chukwumereije not to join the army if really he wanted to cause any meaningful revolution in Nigeria because army all over the world was well regimented and would be the least and last place to use in any country to carry out a successful revolution.
Thus, Chukwumereije never joined his other colleagues for the military training. Well, it paid off well as nearly all his mates never survived the 1966/70 imbroglio.
Again, during the war, Chukwumereije was in the Biafra Broadcasting and Propaganda Team and he was the second in command to the popular Okoko Ndem. Their coinages, jingles and storylines made Biafrans to be alert to the cause of the war. After the war, Chukwumereije was among those who stood for the interest of the Igbo.
At the senate chamber, he was the voice of Ndigbo. He sponsored many bills that were aimed at ensuring that Ndigbo are not marginalized. He was the deputy chairman of the planning committee of Ojukwu’s burial. He died April 13, 2015.
It is not disputable that Dora Akunyili was the woman that transformed NAFDAC from a grossly unknown federal agency to an international award winning institution. Prior to her coming as the director general of NAFDAC, the agency was merely operating as one of the many federal agencies. With her, NAFDAC really went work and both Nigeria and Nigerians felt her influence.
It is doubtful if any Nigerian has ever received the kind of global and national awards that came the way of Akunyili. It must also be stated that it was her submission at the Federal Executive Council meeting that prompted the senate to invoke what later became known as a doctrine of necessity which covered on the then Deputy President Goodluck Jonathan, the powers of a commander in chief. She was an industrious and illustrious Igbo. She died June 7, 2014.
He was nicknamed the Socrates of Supreme Court of Nigeria in view of his quality approach to judicial applications. According his biography, Oputa was born on September 22, 1916 to Chief Oputa Uzukwu and Madam Nwanetu Oputa.
His father an Igbo chieftain married 10 wives and fathered multiple children of which Chukwudifu was the last. He started his education at the Sacred Heart School, Oguta from 1930 to 1936 and then proceeded to the Christ the king College, Onitsha for his post primary education from 1937 to 1940 where he obtained his West Africa Senior School Certificate Oputa furthered to the Yaba Higher College but had to leave for Achimota College, Ghana during the World War II where he obtained a degree in Economics in 1945.
He then moved to London where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of London and then a degree in Law by 1953. He was called to bar at the Bar-Gary Inn on the 26th of November 1953.
Oputa came back to Nigeria where he set up a private law firm and practiced for years, handling multiple high-profile cases including the Oguta Chieftaincy Title dispute in 1959 and the Amayenabo dispute in 1960.
He was appointed a justice of the then High Court of Eastern Nigeria in 1966 and promoted to Chief Judge of Imo State in 1976. Oputa was promoted to Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1984 where he served for five years before he retired in 1989. His stint at the Supreme court was commended by his fellow justices with former Chief Justice, Mohammed Bello, described him as “the Socrates of the Supreme Court”. He was recalled by Olusegun Obasanjo to head The Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission of Nigeria famously referred to as the Oputa panel to investigate human rights during the period of military rule from 1984 to 1999. He died May 4, 2014.
Most Igbo people believe that the December 31, 1983 coup staged and led by General Muhammadu Buhari was targeted against Ekwueme. This is because had the coup not taken place, Ekwueme might have easily succeeded the then now late President Shehu Shagari on October 1, 1983. He was also the thinker that put forward the creation of Nigeria into six geo political zones during the 1995 Abacha Constitutional Conference. In that conference, he also argued for the increment of oil producing areas from three to 13 percent derivation. He was a noble Igbo.
A publication about his life and times said; Ekwueme was a distinguished architect. He started his professional career as an Assistant Architect with a Seattle-based firm, Leo A. Daly and Associates, and also with the London based firm Nickson and Partners. On his return to Nigeria, he joined ESSO West Africa, Lagos, overseeing the Construction and Maintenance department.
He then went on to create a successful private business with his firm – Ekwueme Associates, Architects and Town Planners, the first indigenous architectural firm in Nigeria. His practice flourished with 16 offices spread all over Nigeria and was wound up in preparation for Dr. Ekwueme assuming office as the first executive Vice President of Nigeria. Dr. Ekwueme had presided over the Nigerian Institute of Architects and the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria.
He was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Nigerian Institute of Architects. Before Dr. Ekwueme gained national and international limelight as the Vice President of Nigeria in 1979, he was actively involved in the socio-economic development of his community.
In addition to his many public service roles within his community, Dr. Ekwueme started an active Educational Trust Fund that has been responsible for sponsoring the education of several hundred youths to universities in Nigeria and abroad. Dr. Ekwueme was a member of the housing sub-committee of the Adebo Salaries and Wages Review Commission]. He also served for many years on the board of the Anambra State Housing Development Authority On the national front.
Ekwueme was the first elected Vice President of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983 during the Second Nigerian Republic serving under President Shehu Shagari as a member of the National People’s Party (NPN).
Ekwueme participated in the 1995 National Constitutional Conference (NCC) in Abuja, where he served on the Committee on the Structure and Framework of the Constitution.
His famous proposals at the NCC for a just and equitable power sharing in Nigeria based on the six geopolitical zones have now come to be accepted as necessary for maintaining a stable Nigerian polity. Dr Ekwueme mobilized the group of 34 eminent Nigerians who risked their lives to stand up against the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha during the era of military rule in Nigeria. He was the founding Chairman of the ruling party in Nigeria and was the first Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees. Dr. Ekwueme was a prolific philanthropist, public servant, and a man of peace.
He was a member of the Board of Directors of Canada-based Forum of Federations. He was also a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of Elders. Dr. Ekwueme was leader of the team assembled by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for pre-election monitoring for the parliamentary election in Zimbabwe in 2000[He was the leader of the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU) observer team to the Tanzanian Presidential and Parliamentary election in 2000. Dr. Ekwueme co-led the 28 member NDI/Carter Centre sponsored Observer Team to the Liberian Presidential run-off election in 2005.[ Most recently Dr Ekwueme was called upon by the ruling party in Nigeria to head the Reconciliation Committee in the wake of intra-party discord and after the recent presidential election.
Secondary students of older generation will always remember his well detailed but witty novels like Toads for Supper, Bottled Leopard, Naked Gods, Sunset At Down, etc. Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike. According to the Wikipedia machine, he owed a little bit of his style to his Igbo cultural upbringing. He studied history, English and Religious Studies at the University of Ibadan and earned a master’s degree at Stanford University.
Among many of the younger generation, he was popular as the author of Expo ’77, a critical look at academic examination abuses in West Africa. Ike was a former registrar of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). He was given the Christian name of Vincent but later chose his Igbo name, Chukwuemeka as his preferred choice (meaning “God has done great”).He was raised in a strict home.
His father was a king, civic leader and disciplinarian who instilled in his son the necessity of civic duties and education. Chukwuemeka started early education in his native town. He left his town for further education at Ife-Mbaise and then from 1945 to 1950, he attended Government College Umuahia.
He started writing at Umuahia for the school magazine, The Umuahian, and he was also influenced by teachers that included Saburi Biobaku, who had honours in English from Cambridge. Some eminent Nigerian writers who attended the school include Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, and Ken Saro Wiwa.
After completing his secondary education, he studied at the University of Ibadan. While at the college, he was invited by Chinua Achebe to join the magazine club. He was a king, Eze Ndikelionwu of the great Aro town Ndikelionwu in eastern Nigeria, with the title “Ikelionwu XI” in his hometown of Ndikelionwu in Anambra State. He died January 9, 2020.
Other great Igbo wards that died within the decade were Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu, Ojo Maduekwe and Sir BSC Nzenwa. They were all great pillars and representatives.