Obi urges patience on funeral plans
FORMER military President Ibrahim Babangida knows how to make the late Biafran leader, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, happy in death: ensuring that the Igbo produce President.
Gen. Babangida yesterday joined a long row of prominent Nigerians eulogising the late Ojukwu, a fellow soldier, who died in London on Saturday. He described the late Biafran leader as a “wordsmith”, a “great orator” and a “courageous” Nigerian.
Gen. Babangida, in a tribute he paid through his spokesman, Prince Kassim Afegbua, said of the late Ojukwu: “He was a man who felt the Igbo nation deserves more than it is getting and did give me his word that he was going to support me on the assurance that I would take a Nigerian of Igbo extraction as my running mate in the presidential contest.
“I was going to do that before the aspiration petered out. Despite that, I still believe in the presidential aspiration of the Igbo in future elections and one thing that would gladden the mind of Dim, even in death, is to see an Igbo man becoming President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the spirit of unity and stability.”
He urged the Federal Government to immortalise Ojukwu by naming a monument after him.
Gen. Babangida added: “The Federal Government should immortalise this great Nigerian by naming a great institution or monument after him. That way, his name and history will forever be preserved for the good of humanity.”
The ex-Head of State also recalled how he related with the late Ojukwu and the kind of leader he was.
The statement said: “At last, a great Nigerian, an extra-ordinary Nigerian, a wordsmith and great orator, a cerebral soldier and very courageous Nigerian, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, has just snapped.
“He was a Nigerian who was driven by his convictions and pursued his goal in life, believing in his convictions. He was a rare gem, a strong advocate for better society and strong believer in the equitable distribution of power and political bargaining.
“With Dim, my very senior colleague, there was no dull moment. I got really close to him during my regime and I remember vividly how we used to sit and discuss issues of nation-building and unity of our country after the civil war era.
“Even at old age, Dim still believed in the cause he fought for. He shared his sentiments about the country barely a year ago when I paid him a visit at his country home to inform him of my intention to run for the last 2011 presidential election. He was his vintage self, taking me down memory lane about the Nigerian situation.
“He could remember vividly also the role that my administration played in returning his seized property to him as well as those of several others as part of our modest contribution to healing the wounds of the civil war.
“He was his characteristic self, deploying anecdotes and wise sayings to underscore the import of our discourse.
“Dim Ojukwu’s patriotism about the oneness of the country was not in doubt. He believed that given the country’s diverse socio-political and cultural configurations, the nation-states within the nation must be given room to flourish in a mutually exclusive arrangement that would further the aspiration of the country.
“His understanding of the political dynamics in the country was extra-ordinary and, trust him, his rendition was usually in a class of his own.
“The nation will miss this solid voice from the East of the Niger, this leader of men who stood firmly by his people all through his journey in life. Dim was never given to prevarication nor was he the type that would genuflect on issues.
“It was easy for one to know where he truly belonged, and he would give convincing reasons why he would take such a position. Such a man should be immortalised and his history and entire humanity should be preserved for the present and future generations of Nigerians.
“My heart goes to his family, especially Bianca, his wife of many years, at this moment of grief and mourning of a departed dear husband, father, uncle and highly cerebral Nigerian. My condolences to the entire Igbo sons and daughters and Nigerians all over the world for the loss of a distinguished Nigerian who lived by his convictions till death separated us. May the spirit of the Almighty God grant him eternal rest in the hereafter. May He also provide the family the strength and fortitude to bear with this great loss.”
A former President of the Senate, Senator Adolphus Wabara, described the death of Ojukwu as a huge loss to the nation.
Wabara, in a condolence message to the Odumegwu-Ojukwu family, said the Igbo and indeed Nigerians at large are proud of the late Ojukwu’s contributions to Nigerian nationhood.
Wabara described the late Ojukwu as a “tower of pride to generations unborn”.
He added: “We take solace in the fact that his legacies will abide by Nigeria forever. No one, not even his ardent critics, will overlook his monumental contributions to Nigerian nationhood, his love for the downtrodden and his passion for the development of his people.
“I urge the family he left behind and the entire Igbo community to take heart and continue to bask in the glory of his indelible and glorious legacies.”
Former Head of State Gen. Muhammadu Buhari described the late Ojukwu as a tireless, focused and frank negotiator who kept to his words.
Buhari, in a condolence message by his spokesman Yinka Odumakin, said Ojukwu and himself were partners in progress, searching assiduously for solutions to the problems confronting Nigeria.
“In the process of our friendship and quests in each other’ houses and in all our transitions and engagements on and off the political scene, I find Dim a most forthright and honourable players,” the former Presidential candidate said.