From CHIDI NNADI and DAVID ONWUCHEKWA, Nnewi
The late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu family yesterday attended a Holy Mass service at the Michael De Archangel Catholic Church, Umudim, Nnewi, Anambra State to mark a year anniversary of the departed Igbo leader. Ojukwu died on November 26 last year in a London hospital after he was sick for about one year.
The one year memorial church service was, however, not like the burial of the late former national leader of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) held in the same church on March 2 this year as the service yesterday was attended mainly by members of the Ojukwu family, their friends and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) members.
The church service also exposed the acrimony that had hit APGA in recent times, as the camaraderie that existed among the factional chairman of the party, Chief Victor Umeh, Governor Peter Obi and Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu was lost at the ceremony. Umeh had arrived at about 10:15 a.m. and headed straight to the church while Governor Obi arrived about 12:15 p.m. and as he was exchanging pleasantries with those sitting on the front row of the church he merely shook the hands of the embattled APGA chairman. Umeh who was ostensibly not comfortable with the situation tried as much as possible to avoid the duo of Governor Obi and Bianca at the Ojukwu house.
The church service, which started at 10:00 a.m. saw the officiating priests drawing from the Bible to illustrate the life and times of the late Ikemba. Speaking, Governor Obi said the memory of Dim Ojukwu like those of other great men in history such as Napoleon Bonaparte, King Louis xiv, General MacArthur, Alexander the Great, King Philip of Macedon, among others, would forever remain conscious in the memory of men as they lived for something worth remembering.
Ojukwu’s son, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (Jr) promised to uphold the legacies of his late father. Obi used the occasion to call on Nigerians to always tell themselves the truth, saying that Ojukwu’s motto was ‘to thy self, be truthful’, adding that with this he lived the life of Ojukwu that enabled truth to permeate all facets of his life.
The Anambra governor thanked President Goodluck Jonathan for the honour he did to Ojukwu both in life and death, saying that the people and government of Anambra State would continue to be inspired by the life Ojukwu lived to work for the common good. He advised the Igbo to work closely among themselves, as he believed that more would be achieved in a true spirit of unity. Ojukwu’s widow, Ambassador Bianca thanked all Nigerians for the honour they had continued to heap on her late husband. Asked how she felt about the absence of Owelle Rochas Okorocha, an APGA governor at the ceremony, she said he might have had other more important state functions.
Ojukwu’s son, Emeka Jnr thanked Nigerians who had continued to stand by them. “We are removing our mourning clothe as part of the process. And I have given him one year. I would have preferred even giving him longer period. He touched many lives positively and he was a great father, great teacher, leader and hero,” he said. He added that the expressions on the faces of people at the event showed that his father live a good life. According to him, a date should be set aside to remember the late Ikemba annually as done for Martin Lurther of America and other great men in the world.
He said the presence of Chief Umeh and Governor Obi at the event signified the beginning of the end of APGA crisis. Chief Umeh on his part said nobody could remove him as the APGA chairman until his remaining two years in office expired. He said since the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had offered to mediate in the APGA crisis that he would sheathe his sword and wait for time. Also MASSOB leader said he could not stop to mourn Ojukwu, saying that the departed warlord was a major pillar upon which the Igbo race rested upon.
Uwazuruike said he was surprised that those who took front seats during the burial of Ojukwu had now disappeared as he assured Ndigbo that the Ojukwu legacies would be kept alive despite his demise. He said despite what he was doing physically to immortalize the name of Ojukwu he would use the last drop of his blood to protect the Igbo interest.