Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Biography: Early Life – Death

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Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu BiographyChukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu (4 November 1933 – 26 November 2011 was a Nigerian military officer and politician who served as the military governor of the Eastern Region of Nigeria in 1966 and the leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra from 1967 to 1970. He was active as a politician from 1983 to 2011, when he died aged 7



C. Odumegwu Ojukwu Early life and Education

Chukwuemeka “Emeka” Odumegwu-Ojukwu was born on 4 November 1933 at Zungeru in northern Nigeria to Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, an Igbo businessman from Nnewi, Anambra State in south-eastern Nigeria. Sir Louis was in the transport business; he took advantage of the business boom during World War II to become one of the richest men in Nigeria. He began his educational career in Lagos, southwestern Nigeria.

Emeka Ojukwu started his secondary school education at CMS Grammar School, Lagos aged 10 in 1943. Hacher who assaulted a black woman. This event generated widespread coverage in local newspapers. At 13, his father sent him overseas to study in the United Kingdom, first at Epsom College and later at Lincoln College, Oxford University, where he earned a master’s degree in History. He returned to colonial Nigeria in 1956.

C. Odumegwu Ojukwu Early career

Ojukwu joined the civil service in Eastern Nigeria as an Administrative Officer at Udi, in present-day Enugu State. In 1957, after two years of working with the colonial civil service and seeking to break away from his father’s influence over his civil service career, he left and joined the military initially enlisting as a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in Zaria.

Ojukwu’s decision to enlist as an NCO was forced by his father’s (Sir Louis) pulling of political strings with the then Governor-General of Nigeria (John Macpherson) to prevent Emeka from getting an officer-cadetship. Sir Louis and Governor-General Macpherson believed Emeka would not stick to the grueling NCO schedule however Emeka persevered.


It wasn’t until an embarrassing situation between Emeka and a drill sergeant named Fort-Lamy wherein Emeka corrected the Sergeant’s mispronunciation of the safety catch of the Lee-Enfield .303 rifle that the British Depot Commander recommended Emeka for an officer’s commission.

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From Zaria, Emeka proceeded first, to the Royal West African Frontier Force Training School in Teshie, Ghana and next, to Eaton Hall where he received his commission in March 1958 as a 2nd Lieutenant.


1966 coups and events leading to the Nigerian Civil War

Lieutenant-Colonel Ojukwu was in Kano, northern Nigeria, when Major Patrick Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu on 15 January 1966 executed and announced the bloody military coup in Kaduna, also in northern Nigeria. It is to Ojukwu’s credit that the coup lost much steam in the north, where it had succeeded. Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu supported the forces loyal to the Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Major-General Aguiyi-Ironisi. Major Nzeogwu was in control of Kaduna, but the coup had failed in other parts of the country.

Aguiyi-Ironsi took over the leadership of the country and thus became the first military head of state. On Monday, 17 January 1966, he appointed military governors for the four regions. Lt. Col. Odumegwu-Ojukwu was appointed Military Governor of Eastern Region. Others were: Lt.-Cols Hassan Usman Katsina (North), Francis Adekunle Fajuyi (West), and David Akpode Ejoor (Mid West).


These men formed the Supreme Military Council with Brigadier B.A.O. Ogundipe, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon, Chief of Staff Army HQ, Commodore J. E. A. Wey, Head of Nigerian Navy, Lt. Col. George T. Kurubo, Head of Air Force, Col. Sittu Alao.

By 29 May 1966, there was a pogrom in northern Nigeria during which Nigerians of southeastern Nigeria origin were targeted and killed. This presented problems for Odumegwu Ojukwu. He did everything in his power to prevent reprisals and even encouraged people to return, as assurances for their safety had been given by his supposed colleagues up north and out west.

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After Biafra

After 13 years in exile, the Federal Government of Nigeria under President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari granted an official pardon to Odumegwu-Ojukwu and opened the road for a triumphant return in 1982. The people of Nnewi gave him the now very famous chieftaincy title of Ikemba (Strength of the Nation), while the entire Igbo nation took to calling him Dikedioramma (“beloved hero of the masses”) during his living arrangement in his family home in Nnewi, Anambra.

His foray into politics was disappointing to many, who wanted him to stay above the fray. The ruling party, NPN, rigged him out of the senate seat, which was purportedly lost to a relatively little known state commissioner in then Governor Jim Nwobodo’s cabinet called Dr. Edwin Onwudiwe.

The second Republic was truncated on 31 December 1983 by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, supported by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and Brigadier Sani Abacha.

The junta proceeded to arrest and to keep Ojukwu in Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison, Lagos, alongside most prominent politicians of that era. Having never been charged with any crimes, he was unconditionally released from detention on 1 October 1984, alongside 249 other politicians of that era—former Ministers Adamu Ciroma and Maitama Sule were also on that batch of released politicians.


In ordering his release, the Head of State, General Buhari said inter alia: “While we will not hesitate to send those found with cases to answer before the special military tribunal, no person will be kept in detention a-day longer than necessary if investigations have not so far incriminated him.” (WEST AFRICA, 8 October 1984)

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After the ordeal in Buhari’s prisons, Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu continued to play major roles in the advancement of the Igbo nation in a democracy because

Death

On 26 November 2011, Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu died in the United Kingdom after a brief illness, aged 78. The Nigerian Army accorded him the highest military accolade and conducted a funeral parade for him in Abuja, Nigeria on 27 February 2012, the day his body was flown back to Nigeria from London before his burial on Friday, 2 March.

He was buried in a newly built mausoleum in his compound at Nnewi. Before his final interment, he had about the most unusual and elaborate weeklong funeral ceremonies in Nigeria besides Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whereby his body was carried around the five Eastern states, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, including the nation’s capital, Abuja.

Memorial services and public events were also held in his honour in several places across Nigeria, including Lagos and Niger State, his birthplace, and as far away as Dallas, Texas, United States. His funeral was attended by President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and ex-President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana among other personalities




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