BECAUSE I AM INVOLVED
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Ojukwu. A colourful, fabled, and controversial figure in Nigeria for decades. Even after death. Hero to millions, and villain to millions too. Famous leader of Biafra during the ill-starred Nigerian civil war. He wrote this book some 25 years ago, and his restraint and decorous language is outstanding in the work. One would have expected him to rail against – or just respond – to his many critics and detractors, but generally he does not do so. Ojukwu hailed from an outstanding family with pedigree – and wealth; and was classically educated in Europe. There is ample evidence of this in this book with the plethora of eclectic, classical allusions and ideas. Why then would a man with such exalted background join the army in those days? Much has been made of this in some quarters over the years, but the author glibly narrates this event, amidst many others as something rather par for the course. And of course, Ojukwu would be an important officer in the army when chaos, pandemoniun and brutal murders held sway in 1966 as the country experienced its first coup d’etat. It was a time when the Igbos (Ojukwu was an Igbo though he spoke major Nigerian languages fluently) were viewed with suspicion by so many; the coup was even perceived as essentially an “Igbo” one. Ojukwu would find himself in a position where he had to champion the interests of the “EAST” who were largely Igbo. The rest is tragic history, as war broke out, claiming horrific number of casualties. Ojukwu in his suave urbane manner dwells on many of these events, which alas included the conviction for treason, and execution of those quite close to him – like his own half-brother, and Banjo. The author points out that as a leader he could not be weak at such a time (decision). Indeed the image of the author as a tough, unsmiling, uncompromising man persisted for decades. But his human side becomes evident as he refers to the then Bianca Onoh (his gorgeous future wife) in this book. He praises her to high heavens! No doubt the great man was smitten with her since she was around 20, and though he was decades older than her, he married her later on. Such are the intriguing twists and turns of history… Ojukwu is now dead, but he is very much part of Nigerian history. As mentioned earlier, the author shows admirable restraint in this book; for example another revered figure during this time, Obasanjo had cast some aspersions on his (Ojukwu’s) person, yet in this book, the author praises Obasanjo even calling him ” Omo-Oba”. We might also add that despite the “testimony” of many that Ojukwu had “abandoned” Biafra and “run away” at the last minute, the author calmly explains in this work that he had actually gone for further international “help” for his beleaguered Biafra.