In a very long and revealing Interview with Chidi Nnadi of Sun News Online she talked on how the late hero Odimegwu Ojukwu was a family man, dignitaries that attended their weddings and battle of the property with her husbands family. See the interview below;
It is two years since your husband died, how are you coping without Ikemba?
Well, to the glory of God, I believe I have been coping very well though his death created a large vacuum in my life and his family. But every day we try to see how we can deal better with the challenges created as a result of his absence. However, all in all, I would say that I consider myself very lucky having married Ezeigbo. Since he died two years ago, his friends have been very kind and supportive.
His community and the people of Nnewi in general have been quite supportive and his children, who missed him very much in the beginning, are gradually coming to terms with the fact that he is no longer there. Nonetheless, there are few challenges that come up occasionally because of his absence that have created for me the need to play multiple roles, assume multiple responsibilities. This was because Ezeigbo was very critical to a lot of issues, especially within communities, within various organizations, within his political party, and believe it or not, within the church. He had great affinity with many religious organizations; so now I have to, at least, try to fill in some of these roles he had played in his absence; for instance, the Biafran war veterans whose welfare was dear to him until he died; APGA and, of course, some of the non-governmental organizations he was involved with. So, you can see the work he left behind is enormous, but I am beginning to realise that God has been very merciful to me because the workload he left is getting a little easier as the days go by.
You said your children are gradually coming over the death of their father, how did they feel in the beginning when he died?
It was very, very hard for the children because my husband was a very playful father. He used to spend a lot of evenings with them, he would play cards with them, he would conduct a spelling bout with them, get them to read the newspapers, and sing some songs and even offer them his back to ride on, play donkey squads. So, the children knew him, not just as a father, but as playmate. His period of sickness was very, very hard for them because each time they were on holiday they would come to his hospital in London where he was to see him, hoping that within a very short time, he would be well again to come back home to play with them, but sadly that was not to be. And when he died and his body was eventually brought, I opened his coffin and gave them the opportunity to see him again, my son looked at him and said he should go well. He then promised me that he would try to cope in the absence of the father. And since then, he has been really trying to mature. He will always ask me, though he is very young, whenever he sees me, “are there any problems?” or “is there anything I can do?”
And their father’s death has made them a lot more responsible and with each passing year, of course, it is very difficult, but I believe they are coping well.
What about APGA, how has the death of Ojukwu affected the party?
Well, his death as everybody knows really gave room for crisis to erupt within the party. In the past, he used to be the mediating factor, all problems were taken to him and his word was final. But in his absence, it became harder to contain and the crisis became protracted. And, of course, when it came, it became difficult to resolve because there were competing interests and it seemed that the members of the party were in disarray, they were disillusioned. And the factors that led to the crisis needed to be dealt with for the party to survive. On my own part, I tried what I could to, at least, address some of those issues, frankly. I called on the feuding parties to at least look back so as not to destroy the house that we had all laboured to build. It took quite some time, but the strength of APGA lies essentially in the fact that it transcends an ordinary political party; more than anything, it is an ideology, it is a philosophy. And the members of the party have bought into that philosophy, into that vision as propounded by those that were really behind the party. And this was what made it possible for a reconciliation to take place because without that reconciliation, it would have been impossible for the party to bounce to reckoning and public acceptance. While the crisis lasted, we had two choices, you come together as a family and pick up the pieces or you face disintegration; so we saw the need for sacrifices to be made. I must commend the efforts of so many people who came in to mediate for the crisis to end. Their names perhaps I may not mention here in this interview, but there are so many concerned individuals who really came in to help. The governor himself, Mr Peter Obi made huge sacrifices, it could not have been easy for him, but he made a lot of sacrifices and eventually all of us sheathed our swords because we realised that would be the only way the party could survive for us to at least continue to keep the legacy of APGA within the Igbo states, particularly Anambra State where our late leader, Ezeigbo came from. So, we all came together and agreed that for the benefit of the party, we were going to work together to achieve a common goal. And I must commend our party members for their loyalty and also for their commitment because a lot of them were aggrieved, but when the chips were down, a lot of them came together and buried their hatchet to work together again to achieve a common goal and that is what makes APGA what it is today.And you can see the impact and result in the Anambra governorship election where the people supported the party to retain the state. We are like a family, APGA is more than a political party, APGA is a philosophy which every Igbo person should aspire to associate with.
What kind of man was your late husband?
Well, first and foremost, let me begin by saying that many people may not understand this, but he was a very simple man. He didn’t have many needs as such. He was not one given to luxury. His friends would come to visit him, he would be quite willing to, regardless of what car they drove into his house, he would be willing to sit in the front and asked them to drive him around town so he could just look around and see how people were. He didn’t try too hard to become what he was, an icon of the people. He only aspired to live for his people, Ndigbo, what would always move the Igbo nation forward. You touch one man unjustly anywhere in the world; the adrenaline of Ezeigbo would be running hot. He always tried to step in to see what he could do to make other people to be happy. Again, he likes to read quite a lot, and he had a lot of friends who were Reverend Fathers and funny enough, their discussions were not mostly centered on religion, they would seat down and talk about so many other things, though you can’t beat him in discussing religious issues. He liked associating with people alot. So, he would rely on others when he is not able to get out in getting about what was happening in town. Like today is worker’s day, are there protests or are they marching? Is there anything interesting going on and, of course, whenever he would get into a car and drive out, once he winds down the glass, his car becomes surrounded with people. He would spend a lot of time laughing and discussing with them over several issues, his camaraderie was unequalled, he could not just go out into town to walk around without attracting a crowd to himself. So essentially, he was a man who really, more than anything, craved to live a simple life.
What about the time he came to marry you, you were a lot more younger, is it that you didn’t care about his age?
Well, when he came to marry me; for me, I did not really give that a thought, the age difference was not a serious problem for me because we seemed to get along very well. We had a lot in common, and our conversations were flowing very well. More than anything, I was looking for a man who was good natured and had good social attributes.
Ezeigbo was an embodiment of all I wanted in a man and his humane nature was second to none. So, he was all I needed and I fell for it. For instance, if I needed to go out, he would always say, well, be careful, you could go. He gave me every attention and love a good husband could give to a lovely wife; so, these are my treasures and if I had to do it all over again, I would still search for him and marry him 100 per cent. I really would not need to explain it twice.
So, how did you meet Ojukwu and at what point did he propose to marry you?
I met him for the very first time at Ngwo, when he came to my village. My uncle had passed on, my father’s brother, so he had come on a condolence visit with a large entourage. So, when they drove into our compound, the people around the village were so excited. There was the news all over the place, Ojukwu is here, Ojukwu is here. So, when he came in, there were still quite a few people within my father’s compound in the village who were still there from the funeral ceremonies. So, I was the one who was supposed to go to welcome them and present refreshments. I found that we had garden eggs but no kolanuts, so it was a little bit of a crisis. So, we had to quickly send for the kolanut to come. So, I went out and apologized to them; please the refreshments will soon be here, it is just that I feel compelled to wait for the kolanut to arrive before refreshments can be presented without kolanut being served first. He was sitting next to the man who will be his best man, essentially his best friend, Chief Mark Ezemba. And apparently he had said to the man, they say this is one of Chief Onoh’s daughters, she is so traditional, how did she know that it is important to present us with kolanut. So, apparently a conversation ensued and eventually the kolanut arrived and the refreshments were presented. I went over to him and I shook his hand, and he asked what my name was and I told him, and then greeted other members of his entourage. And that was the first time I met him and apparently from that meeting, he started talking with his friends about the possibility of our marriage. The next time that I saw him, he did not mince words, he said to me, “I am going to marry you,” which I thought was a little funny at that time, that was our second meeting. Our second meeting actually was at an event. He had invited me to the launching of his book. He had called me and said to me, “I would like you to come to the launching of my book.” And I said, come to the launching of your book? He said yes. And I said, I really cannot come. He said to me that it is very important that I come because a chapter in that book was dedicated to you. As I hadn’t seen the book before, I thought this was very funny. So, I said, what will you be writing about. He said to me, “well, you must come, when you come to the launching, you will see the book and perhaps you will know what I am talking about.” So, when I eventually arrived at the launching, he was waiting for me, and because he was waiting for me at the entrance, when I alighted from the vehicle, he opened the door for me. He was the one who walked me into the hall(laughs). So, there was a lot of applause and that generated a lot of cheers, and it was a talking point and it was after the book launch that he said to me, “I am going to marry you, you may not know it but I will.”
So, when he said that, how did you feel?
Of course, I didn’t take it seriously because I was still a student at the university and there was absolutely no way that I was going to abandon my studies. I just felt it was one of those things that people say, but I really did not take it seriously at the time. But subsequently, it became clear to me that it was not just an intention for him, but he approached it really as something almost in a vocational way. And he was systematic and tried to do everything that needed to be done to give me time to think about it, to give me space really to get used to him, to know him and also to come to terms with the idea because we actually knew each other for quite some time before the wedding actually took place.
How were you people dating because this GSM had not come, were you people writing letters?
Then, of course, you are quite right, there was no GSM, so we essentially had to rely on writing letters. Whenever anybody was coming down to the East, he would send me a letter or a parcel and people that were going to Lagos, of course, I would give them a letter or any package to send to him. So, a lot of our communications were done by letters.
With all these impact Ojukwu made in your life, you are still very young, will consider marrying again?
I think the first priority of every widow remains the well-being, the welfare of her children. At this moment, my own priority is not different. I have young children that need my care and need my presence, and at this moment, in addition to my work, they are my focal point. When you have lost somebody that meant the world to you, as a widow, you know really that you’ve been blessed and you are not searching for a replacement because what really matters is securing your home-front, ensuring that your children are well taken care of, they get the education that they need. And it is for that reason that marriage, another marriage is not anything that you are considering because you are trying to consolidate really the gains of your marriage, your children and to make sure that you raise them up in such a way that you will be proud of and that you know that your husband wherever he happens to be, will be proud of and that is a tall order. So, that does not really give room for me to think of perhaps another matrimonial arrangement.
What have you to say on the claims by some members of your late husband’s family that he did not actually marry you?
I think that is laughable because my marriage first and foremost, which took place at Our Lady’s Queen of Nigeria Catholic Church in Abuja, was a celebrated ceremony with ‘who is who in Nigeria’ in attendance. The reception was at the Hilton. In fact, it had a glittering galaxy of Nigerians, most of them are still alive today.
Then prior to that, I had the registry wedding which took place at the marriage registry in Kaduna in 1994, the same year of the white wedding. And a small ceremony to mark the registry wedding took place at Apo Legislative Quarters. At the same time, and, of course, with the church ceremony, Cardinal Onaiyekan was present and is still alive now as Archbishop. And there was a third ceremony being the traditional wine-carrying, ‘Igbankwu’ ceremony which had all the five governors of the South-East in attendance. It was a huge cultural event with titled chiefs, traditional rulers from all over Igbo land, all the dignitaries from Igbo land, from outside, from all over Nigeria as a matter of fact and beyond; all of them were there at Ngwo. The traditional ceremony took place precisely on the 16th day of April, it was on an Easter Monday. So, for anybody, and what is interesting about this ridiculous assertion is that those that are making the assertion or asking me to bring proof of my marriage with their brother were present at the wedding in Abuja, and present at the wine-carrying at Ngwo, and even dressed in the uniform depicting their family outing. All the pictures are there to prove it, the video is there to prove it, you can look at the pictures yourself. Look at this picture, you can see Senator Pius Anyim, you can see Governor Rochas Okorocha, all of them came to Ngwo. So, for people to wake up and start suffering from selective amnesia just because there are cases in court where property and who gets what is concerned is ridiculous. The fact remains that I was married to their brother at the registry, at the church and traditionally in my father’s compound. I remain the only woman that Ikemba married or went through these three forms of marriages with, I’m the only one, and it is on record. Therefore, for them to wake up and decide that what happened never happened, I believe it is really unfortunate for them because there is no iota of truth in that assertion and it does not depict them in favorable light because they were there.
Recently Governor Peter Obi renamed the Anambra State University after your husband, how will your husband feel about this where he is now?
I think wherever he is today, he will be a very happy man because he was somebody who always liked intellectualism, academics and institutions of learning. So, to rename a university after him, I think it is an enduring legacy really because it is a monument, a monument in terms of the fact that so many students would pass through the institution of learning and they would remember him specially. And being somebody who treasured education, somebody who always encouraged education, I believe that it is the most befitting form of remembrance. So, I believe that wherever he is, he will be happy. And I commend Governor Peter Obi for a promise fulfilled because when Ezeigbo died, the governor did say to me this was an intention he had, but he wasn’t specific on which institution or what kind of institution, but he was quite frank that he was going to remember him in a fitting memory. And I really on behalf of the family want to express our appreciation for his noble gesture and honour for Ikemba, our departed party leader.
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