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Igbo Day celebration: Bianca Ojukwu urges Ndigbo to close ranks

…Thanks Ohanaeze for honouring late husband, father and father-in-law

By Chibuike Okafor

Former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain, Mrs Bianca Ojukwu, has urged the Igbo, especially the political class, to close ranks and work together in order to move the Southeast region forward.

The wife of the late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, gave the advice on Friday when fielding questions from journalists on the sideline of Igbo Day celebration held at Okpara Square in Enugu State.

She also thanked Ohanaeze Ndigbo led by Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu for the honours bestowed on her late husband, Dim Ojukwu; father-in-law, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu; and father, Chief (Dr) C.C. Onoh. Excerpt:

What does the Igbo Day celebration by Ohanaeze Symbolize?

The annual celebration of Igbo Day is a great opportunity for us as Igbo to come together and reflect on prevailing circumstances and celebrate all that is dynamic, heroic and noble about our heritage.

This year’s Igbo Day celebration had as its highlight, the honorific appreciation of legendary personalities of Igbo land who provided unrivaled leadership, progress and prestige to the Igbo nation.  They are all deemed heroes in their various fields of endeavour.

Three distinguished members of your family were honoured at this occasion. What are your feelings on this?

I am particularly proud for the ‘Hero of Igbo Land’ honour bestowed on my father-in-law, Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, acclaimed as Nigeria’s first billionaire, who died in 1966. This is because I believe he has not been given sufficient recognition for the tremendous impact he made in the socio- economic and political space in Nigeria. This is a man who was conferred with an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 1947, an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) in 1952 and KBE (Knight Commander of the British Empire) in 1960 by Queen Elizabeth. Sir Louis Ojukwu sat as chairman of 15 multinational companies in his time, and was a founder and the first chairman of the Nigeria Stock Exchange. He was not only a titan of commerce and industry and real estate, but greatly influenced the politics of the era even winning a seat in the parliament. The son of Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, my husband, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, received the highest honour of “Grand Hero of Igboland.” The Ikemba as he is fondly known has transcended into the pantheon of Igbo gods for the heroic role he played in the history and survival of his people. Generations yet unborn will be reminded of his valour. His place in the history of this nation is assured for all time. My father, Chief (Dr) C.C. Onoh, lawyer, philanthropist, real estate mogul and former governor of the old Anambra State is generally acknowledged as the founding father of Enugu State. He was Wawaland’s most formidable foot soldier and his heroic roles and sacrifices in the evolution of his people are unquantifiable. As you can see, not only did the people of Ngwo, his community, turned out here to honour him, but people trooped in from far and wide to celebrate this recognition. Our families are thankful to Ohanaeze Ndigbo on this occasion for the honour bestowed on these three illustrious sons of Igboland and indeed, Nigeria. Ohanaeze has done the Igbo

nation proud with the posthumous recognition of so many distinguished sons and daughters of Igboland. It is hoped that under the dynamic leadership of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, the apex organization is poised to promote a vibrant synergy on all fronts among the Igbo across the seven southern states.

What do you consider to be the challenge facing Ohanaeze and the Igbo in general?

The greatest problem we have is the lack of synergy and cohesion within our own socio-cultural and socio-political space, which is at best contradictory. There is a latent disconnect among the leadership and peoples across the South Eastern states. An Igbo man from say, Imo State, even Enugu, cannot dream of vying for a political position in Anambra State. Even a woman that is married to a citizen of the state, pays her taxes in the state, will be buried in that same state upon death will still be hounded and reminded, when she contests for political office, that she is not a native of the state, and, therefore, should not aspire. If you suggest that an airport be named after Dr M.I. Okpara in recognition of his monumental contributions to the development of Eastern Nigeria, they will still remind you that he is from Abia State, forgetting that the international airport in Abuja is named after Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. If you suggest that it be named after an illustrious indigene of the state, for example, Sir Louis Ojukwu, that is when the real debate will begin because you will be reminded that Elon Musk is a better choice because he is far more ‘current’. The double standards have bred nothing, but confusion and a deficit of cohesion and solidarity across our states. This is the bitter truth. It’s a regrettable and retrogressive attitude. Charity must begin at home if the zone is to make any appreciable progress. This is not the situation among the Hausa and the Yoruba. We must bridge this gap first in order for a healthier, more progressive socio-political relationship devoid of prejudice, rancour and resentment to thrive across all Igbo-speaking states.

This seemingly intractable situation, if effectively tacked, will be Ohanaeze’s greatest achievement.