How Ikemba Died in London

Twenty-two days after his 78th birthday, former Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu succumbed to the cold hands of death.

The family said in a statement that their patriarch died of stroke in the Royal Berkshire Hospital, United Kingdom, in the early hours of yesterday.

The National Chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), the platform on which Ojukwu sought to become president in 2003 and 2007, and which Board of Trustees (BoT) he headed, Chief Victor Umeh, said the former warlord, passed on at about 2.30 a.m. yesterday.

Ojukwu had been flown to the London hospital almost one year ago, precisely December 23, 2010, after he suffered what doctors called “massive stroke” and went unconscious.

He was initially treated at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu, before the trip abroad in an air ambulance.

Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu
Tributes poured in, in torrents, yesterday, as the death of the man who led the Igbo on a secessionist bid in the name of Biafra between 1966 and 1970 spread across the country.

President Goodluck Jonathan said the memory of the late Ojukwu would live forever, given the “uncommon qualitative leadership he gave to his people”.

General Yakubu Gowon, who was Head of State during the civil war, said Ojukwu, after Biafra, joined to move Nigeria forward.

The governor of his home state, Anambra, Mr. Peter Obi, in a statement, entitled, `Our father is gone’, said the Igbo and the nation have lost a treasure.

The family statement, announcing the man fondly called `Ikemba Nnewi’, his traditional title, was signed by his son, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

Entitled, “We thank God for Ikemba Ojukwu’s productive life on earth: Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is dead”, the statement read: “After a protracted and brave fight against stroke, the People’s General, Ikemba Nnewi, Dikedioranma Ndigbo, Odenigbo Ngwo, Ezeigbo Gburugburu, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu died in the early hours of today (yesterday) in London.

“We thank all those that showed concern in our period of difficulties, starting from the President of the country, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR. We thank, in a special way, the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi who went above and beyond the call of duty to look after him. Besides paying the hospital bills, he visited London on a monthly basis to see him. He was there yesterday and only came back this morning to receive the news, whereupon he entered the next available flight back to London. He even had to fly Economy Class since other classes were fully booked. We thank him for the sacrifices.

“We thank all Nigerians for their solidarity, especially those that continued to pray for him. May you continue to pray for the repose of his soul. Further details shall be made available”.

He was born on November 4, 1933 in Zungeru in today’s Niger State.

When Igbo leaders converged at the GRA, Enugu residence of Ojukwu on November 4, 2011 to mark his 78th birthday in his absence, little did they know that the funeral of Eze Igbo Gburugburu was coming so soon.

But what appeared to be a premonition of his death was made during the well-attended ceremony organized by the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, Chief Ralph Uwazurike, when it was announced that the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Valerian Okeke, would leave for London to pray for Ojukwu and anoint him.

Although several speakers, including the clergy, prayed fervently for his quick recovery and early return to his fatherland, the mood of the people that graced the occasion conveyed the impression that the ex-warlord may not return alive.

The National Chairman of Ojukwu’s All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, told the audience that the Catholic Archbishop would depart for London to pray for Ojukwu as other prominent members of the clergy including bishops from some orthodox churches had done since Ojukwu was flown to London on December 23, 2010 aboard a German Air Ambulance hired by Anambra State government.

Okeke actually traveled to London in the second week of November and anointed Ojukwu, prayed for him and returned to Nigeria, last week, but details of his trip to the hospital could not be ascertained. Sunday Vanguard learnt that when the former Biafran leader’s condition deteriorated, last weekend, Governor Peter Obi left for London to see him. He was said to be on his way back to Nigeria when he heard of Ojukwu’s death, yesterday morning, and returned to London where he joined the wife of the former warlord, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu, and others who had taken care of him in the hospital since the last one year.

Ojukwu was hit by what medical experts described as “massive stroke” on December 1, 2010. He was attended to by a team of medical experts who battled to resuscitate him at home before he was moved to the ICU of the UNTH, Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu.

From the time Ojukwu was attacked by stroke, up till the time he was moved to London, he was said to be under “generous support” by his wife, Bianca, the APGA and the governor of Anambra State “From the time he was attacked by stroke till the present day he has been under generous support by his wife, Bianca Ojukwu, the APGA and His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, Governor of Anambra State. When he first took ill on December 1, he was immediately looked after by two Professors of Medicine here in Enugu namely Professor Vincent Ike, a Consultant Cardiologists and Professor Augustine Nwabueze, a British-trained Consultant Neuro physician,”APGA National Chairman, Umeh, said while reacting to the allegation that Ojukwu had been abandoned by his associates on account of his ill-health. “Under their close watch, Dim Ojukwu was managed with excellent medical knowledge within the first two weeks and when he slipped into coma on December 19, 2010 he was immediately moved to the UNTH Enugu where he was taken in by the Intensive Care Unit of the Teaching Hospital.

“Before he slipped into coma efforts were initiated and intensified to fly him abroad. We had to go through the process of getting visa and arranging Air Ambulance to evacuate him from Nigeria. When the situation was deteriorating, efforts were intensified in all these directions and successfully on December 23, Dim Ojukwu was flown to London by a German Air Ambulance that came directly from France to Enugu to take him. He was accompanied on that trip under very critical condition by his dear wife, Bianca Ojukwu and his Chief of Staff, Prince Bob Onyema. Two of them with the Ambulance Team left Enugu airport for London under very critical condition.

“In London, he was immediately admitted at the London Clinic where he was moved into the Intensive Care Unit, ICU. From December 2010 to March 2011, Ojukwu remained in the ICU of London Clinic. It was by the mercy of God that he went through that process and recovered consciousness and came out of ICU. There is no gainsaying that all the people he met at the ICU, I mean co-patients including those that came in after him all died except him to the Glory of God.

“When he recovered sufficiently at the London Clinic, he was moved to Wellington Hospital still in London where he stayed between March and May this year. There his recovery was intensely facilitated. When he improved substantially, he was again moved to Lydenhill Therapeutic Centre in Twyford which is very famous in the world for physiotherapy. All these three hospitals mentioned enjoy excellent facilities with very brilliant doctors and other professionals.

“At the Lynenhill centre, he had chest infection due to cough and he was quickly moved to Berkshire hospital that was nearby the Therapeutic Centre and he has since been there under excellent care and he is responding to treatment. All his medical bills from December 23 when he was moved to London and around these various hospitals, had been promptly paid by the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi till date.”

Umeh also explained that while in London, Bianca remained with Ojukwu except on the occasional times she visited Nigeria to see her children and take care of the few house needs before going back to London. He said: “Since Ojukwu’s movement to London I as the National Chairman of APGA and my wife have visited him in February and also visited him after the election in May where I went to brief him on the outcome of the elections. The governor of Anambra State had also visited him. When I was in London, our new Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha came on May 13 with his wife and I took them to the hospital where they saw Ojukwu.

“Other notable members of our party have also visited Ojukwu in London since then. The acting Nigerian High Commissioner to London, His Excellency, Ambassador Dozie Nwanna who hails from Awka, since Ojukwu’s arrival in London on December 23, became part of the daily routine for monitoring his health, first as the Nigerian High Commissioner to London and two, as an Igbo man including his wife.”

The APGA chief further said: “Former Health Minister, Dr. Tim Menakaya, Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and so many other Igbos had visited Ojukwu in London, adding that at the London Clinic and Wellington hospital “Ojukwu is known as a General and excellent and qualified professionals took special interest in him and they said they have never had such a patient in their history going by the way people had been coming to see him, that he must be a famous man.”

How Ojukwu left for UK in air ambulance

AT the Intensive Care Unit of UNTH, medical experts declared that Ojukwu had a cerebra-vascular accident otherwise called stroke. The hospital only tried to sustain him for few days and in the process prepared him for the critical journey to London.

On December 23, Ojukwu began his last journey to London, the United Kingdom aboard the German Air Ambulance. He was evacuated from the Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu at 1.52 pm to United Kingdom by Flight Ambulance International of Germany hired by Anambra State government. The flight was said to be the first international aircraft to move from the airport which was granted an international status by the Jonathan-led Federal Government mid last year.

Being an international flight, four officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service were at the Enugu airport to stamp Ojukwu’s international passport, that of his wife, Bianca and his Chief of Staff, Prince Jonathan Bob Onyema, who accompanied him on the medical trip.

There was a mild drama at the UNTH while Ojukwu was being taken to the Enugu airport when his aides and family members at the hospital cordoned off the ICU to prevent journalists from taking pictures as he was being evacuated.

His movement into the Enugu State Emergency Management Response Team ambulance at 10.55 a.m. that fateful day was handled with caution as medical experts warned that the life supporting machine could stop functioning if mishandled. The former Biafran leader was brought to the airport at 11.40 am accompanied by Governor Obi, APGA chieftains and his family members among others.

He was driven to the Air Force Wing of the airport where the air ambulance was stationed. The Enugu Air Force Commander, Air Commodore Jacob Gbamwuan, had given approval for the use of the Air Force Wing as a mark of respect for the then ailing General.

The slow but steady journey from UNTH located at Ituku-Ozalla to the airport at Emene, Enugu was described as very smooth but the journey, which normally takes about 10 to 15 minutes, lasted for about 45 minutes as the ambulance driver drove with strict caution.

On arrival at the airport, Ojukwu was driven close to the side of the air Ambulance which had touched down at 10.45 am and headed straight to the Air Force Wing of the airport. The crew members immediately evacuated him into the white aircraft marked D-CSIX.

The air ambulance itself, according to an aviation expert, was an Intensive Care Unit with sophisticated medical facilities that could sustain a patient airborne for several hours like a normal ICU of a first class hospital.

The Ikemba’s aides confirmed on December 24, 2010 that Ojukwu arrived the London Hospital without hitches and was accorded first class treatment by medical experts there until he gave up the ghost in the early hours of yesterday.

78th birthday

When Ojukwu was celebrated by his associates at his 78th birthday in Enugu on November 4, 2011, the gathering was a carnival of sort. Igbo leaders who addressed the gathering, poured glorious tributes on him. Those in the gathering for his recovery believing that a miracle could happen for Ikemba to return alive.

Bianca, who returned from London a day before the event, was present and she stood firmly to collect the numerous tributes showered upon her spouse. Former Biafran officers, politicians, clergy men from different denominations and members of the Chief Ralph Uwazurike-led Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) attended the occasion en-masse.

Although Uwazurike said Ojukwu’s birthday celebration would continue even after his death, the manner in which the Ikemba was revered at that event gave the impression that he was indeed loved by Igbos and could be rightly described as an icon that would ever be remembered by all Igbo.

Gowon: After Biafra, he joined in moving Nigeria forward

Gowon, yesterday, described the demise of Ojukwu as a rude shock. According to him, the late Ikemba Nnewi was a reliable friend. “The passing away of this man of excellence is shocking. Whether we like it or not, Ojukwu will be remembered as a man who tried to have a country of his own but when he couldn’t succeed returned and joined in moving Nigeria forward. He tried to become president but unfortunately he couldn’t make it,” Gowon said in a tribute.

“Really it is sad he is gone. I wish his soul reposed in the Lord and pray that God will give his family and entire Nigerians the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss”, the Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria during the Ojukwu-led Igbo secession between 1967 – 70 said.

Former Minister of Communications, General Tajudeen Olanrewaju and foremost traditional ruler, Igwe Alex Nwokedi, in their reactions, described Ojukwu as a leader with a difference.

Ojukwu’s love for Ndigbo will live forever—Jonathan

Jonathan, in his own tribute, expressed sadness and a deep feeling of great national loss news of the passing away of Ojukwu.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr Reuben Abati, said the memory of the late ex-warlord would live forever, given, essentially, the uncommon qualitative leadership he gave to his people.

The statement said Jonathan joined Chief Ojukwu’s family, the government and people of his home state, Anambra, the entire Igbo people of Nigeria and his friends, associates and followers across the country in mourning him.

According to the statement, the president urged them to be comforted by the knowledge that the deceased Biafran warlord lived a most fulfilled life, and has, in passing on, left behind a record of very notable contributions to the evolution of modern Nigeria which will assure his place in the history of the country.

“President Jonathan believes that late Chief Ojukwu’s immense love for his people, justice, equity and fairness which forced him into the leading role he played in the Nigerian civil war, as well as his commitment to reconciliation and the full reintegration of his people into a united and progressive Nigeria in the aftermath of the war, will ensure that he is remembered forever as one of the great personalities of his time who stood out easily as a brave, courageous, fearless, erudite and charismatic leader”, the statement said .

Jonathan called on Ojukwu’s family, his associates and followers to make his rites of passage a celebration of his most worthy and memorable life spent in the service of his people and the nation.

Ojukwu’s death, a reminder of Nigeria’s unfinished business – Tinubu

Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) national leader and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said Ojukwu’s death marked the passage of one of the movers of Nigerian history in the 20th century. But he added that Ojukwu’s death should remind everyone of Nigeria’s unfinished federal business and the urgency to fix the problem, once and for all.

“Ojukwu’s death once again reminds all of us of the unfinished business of Nigerian federalism. If only for his memory, and to ensure that Nigeria never has to suffer again any crisis like the civil war, we must all rise as a people to fix Nigeria’s special challenges. That is why Nigeria must, as a matter of urgency convoke a sovereign national conference, where all these issues would be resolved”, the ACN leader said.

He said that federal-related tensions still persisted, 31 years after the civil war (1967-1970), just proved the depth of the feeling of marginalisation and perceived unfairness by critical stakeholders in the Nigerian union. The former governor said though Ojukwu was a controversial figure, he made his mark during the era of the titans of Nigerian politics and governance.

“Ojukwu, the Ikemba and Eze Igbo Gburugburu, meant many things to many people. But his greatness was that he stood his own such that, even with the constellation of stars of his age and time, he still made his mark – and profoundly so. You might love Ojukwu and you might hate him. But you could never be indifferent about him nor could you ignore him,” Tinubu said.

He said the late Biafrian war leader was a revolutionary, almost from the womb.

A chapter has closed – Ogbulafor

A former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, who described him as a very close friend of his late father, Eze J.J. Ogbulafor, stressed that Ojukwu was a very great man who meant well for the people of Igbo, adding that with his death, a chapter of history has closed.

Ikemba’s death a rude shock- Nwodo

Another former national chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, described Ojukwu’s death as a rude shock. Nwodo, a former governor of Enugu State, said, “Here unfortunately is the end of an era. An era when men were men, who leaved and fought for what they believed in and were ready to pay the supreme sacrifice for their believe. Ikemba was a leader made in this mould”. The former PDP boss also noted that Ojukwu was blessed with great erudition and communication skills that assisted him greatly in prosecuting the Nigeria Biafra war, adding that the legendary ingenious Biafra Technology can be ascribed to his leadership.

Ojukwu was the issue — Senate

THE Senate said Ojukwu was the issue in Nigeria’s evolutionary process.

In a statement by the chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia Central, the Senate noted that the upper chambers and indeed Nigeria as a nation will surely miss him.

According to him, “Dim Ojukwu was a visionary leader whose passion for a Nigeria where every federating unit would be proud of belonging to was unparalleled. He saw tomorrow and his action and passion for a truly united Nigeria shaped our socio-political environment of today.”

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