The death of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu on Saturday, 26 November, 2011 in a London hospital has brought to an end an exciting career and life that were intricately intertwined with the history of modern Nigeria. The passage of Dikedioranma Ndigbo into immortality in deed marks the end of an era in our body politic.
As we celebrate the life and times of Ikemba, we are reminded of the immortal words of Williams Shakespeare: “When beggars die, there are no comets seen, but the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes”.
Eze Igbo Gburugburu was a true prince who was born into the aristocratic family of the legendary Sir Louis Phillip Odumegwu-Ojukwu in Umudim Nnewi of present day Anambra State. He attended choice schools and was offered the best education that was available both in Nigeria and abroad during his time.
Imbued with higher national ideals, Ojukwu enlisted in the Nigerian Army after a short stint with the Public Service of the then Eastern Region, thus becoming one of the first university graduates to do so. This singular decision was later to properly position him for the frontline roles he played in the political history of our great country.
His role in the Nigeria-Biafra crisis had been well documented. And I strongly believe that history will be fair and kind to Ikemba for standing up against injustice. He will be remembered for his fearlessness, courage, outspokenness and stoic belief in justice, equity and fairness.
As Doleres Ibarruri, the Spanish revolutionary once said, “it is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees”. Ojukwu died on his feet and refused to live on his knees.
Ikemba is like an avatar that cometh once in a generation. His place in Nigerian history is already assured. With his death, the nation has been robbed of the services of a great legend and charismatic patriot.
As we mourn, we must take solace in the fact that he did not die in vain. In the words of Danny Thomas, an American philosopher: “Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It is what you do for others”. Odumegwu-Ojukwu lived for the people in whose hearts he will forever reign.
With the demise of the great Ikemba, Ndigbo have lost a political treasure; Nigeria has lost a gallant soldier; Africa has lost a statesman of uncommon abilities.
Adieu the great Ikemba Nnewi!
Adieu Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu!
Adieu the Peoples General!