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Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu

Today, November 4th, 2014, would’ve marked the eighty-first birthday of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the ‘Ikemba’ of Nnewi, ‘Ozo Igbo Ndu’ of Igboland, 'Eze Igbo Gburugburu'. Ojukwu was born in Zungeru (in what is now northern Nigeria) to Lady Grace Ogbonnia Ojukwu and Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, a wealthy business tycoon from Nnewi (in what is today’s Anambra State), who is also believed to be Nigeria’s first billionaire, on the fourth of November 1933. Growing up in the North, young Ojukwu embraced a multicultural background and eventually mastered the Hausa language in addition to his native Igbo at a young age.

He was sent to school in the western Nigeria and after a confrontation with the police for having supposedly assaulted a white colonial officer for humiliating a black woman, he was sent to study abroad in the United Kingdom at the age of 13. While overseas, Ojukwu studied at various prestigious higher institutions including Oxford University. At the conclusion of his studies in 1956, he returned to Nigeria and assumed a position in the civil service. After a few dull and extraordinarily-mundane months in the civil service, Ojukwu quit and joined the army, becoming one of the first graduates to join the then-British dominated officer corps of the Nigerian armed forces.

Because of his education, he swiftly escalated the chain of command and eventually became a commanding officer, seeing action with the United Nations; peacekeeping forces in the Congo. In 1964, shortly before the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war, Ojukwu was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and was given command of the 5th Battalion of the Nigerian army stationed in Kano. Ojukwu’s actions in the years before, during, and after the civil war, earned him the respect and reverence of the Igbo people as he became their political “father”, much like Otto Von Bismarck was to Germany and George Washington to the United States.

After returning from exile in 1982, he was unanimously titled “Ikemba” (meaning “strength of the nation”) amongst his people in Nnewi. Pan-Igbo socio-cultural organizations also endowed “Ozo Igbo Ndu” (meaning “savior of the Igbo”) and “Eze Igbo Gburugburu” (meaning “the undisputed leader of Igboland”). Throughout the 80s and 90s Ojukwu worked for civil rights and championed the Igbo cause, and with the return of democracy in 1999, he made several unsuccessful attempts to run for the presidency. On November 26, 2011, while being hospitalized for a brief illness in the United Kingdom, Ojukwu passed away.

His death signalled a great loss to the Igbo people, as he was thoroughly mourned by men and women of all backgrounds. More importantly, as Ojukwu often spoke about in his latter years, his absence exposed the glaring vulnerability of the Igbo, as they are now a flock without a shepherd.

#Igbohistory him with the titles


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