The remains of Ikemba Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, yesterday arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja in a British Airways plane accompanied by his wife, Bianca Ojukwu, Governor Peter Obi and other prominent Igbo sons.
In attendance at the ceremony in the Presidential Wing of the airport were President Goodluck Jonathan represented by his vice, Namadi Sambo, First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan, the Senate President David Mark and his wife Helen, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Speaker House of Representatives Emeka Ihedioha, the Defence Minister Dr. Bello Halliru, FCT Minister Bala Mohammed and the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Terence McCulley.
However, President Goodluck Jonathan who spoke through the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, extolled the virtues of the former Biafran warlord, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, saying that his penchant for justice, good governance, accountability, probity and professionalism became the hall mark of the Nigerian Army.
He said:” Let it not be said that Ojukwu died when the country needed his services most. Let it rather be said that Chukwuemeka Odumegu Ojukwu lived and served with all his might when the Igbos and Nigerians needed him most. No words can adequately express the nature, character, legacy and lessons bequeathed by this soldier and gentleman”.
Jonathan stated that the legacies bequeathed to the Nigerian Army by Chief Ojukwu as its first Quartermaster-General were unique.
Other dignitaries at the ceremony were Chief Tom Ikimi, Senator Chris Ngige, Secretary to the Government of the Federation Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Senator Uche Chukwumeriji, Professor ABC Nwosu, Lt. Gen. Chris Obiakor (rtd), Durban Onyia and other prominent Nigerians.
On his part, Senate President David Mark, noted that late Ojukwu had continued to draw accolades from Nigerians.
In her remarks, First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan noted that the late Odumegwu Ojukwu was not only an icon, but also the pride of his people and urged all Nigerians to emulate his good qualities, describing him as an accomplished Nigerian Leader.
The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, described the death of the late Dim Ojukwu as Nigeria’s loss of a political treasure.
In a colourful military parade held in his honour, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, said that Ojukwu was one of the first few Nigerian officers to enlist into the Army with a degree.
Ihejirika said that as at then the Army deport Zaria was meant for Primary Six holders, but Ojukwu joined with his degree and helped to shore up the image of the military which was then regarded as a profession for drop outs.
In his remark, Senator Chris Ngige noted that Ojukwu’s popular thinking was against regional arrangement and that was why he joined APGA.
On his part, the Chairman of APGA, Chekwas Okorie, said that Ojukwu was a selfless leader who identified with the poor and the downtrodden in the society and never had a house of his own until 2008. The house in Queens Drive Ikoyi belonged to his father and that was where he always lived.
Meanwhile, a condolence register was opened at the headquarters of the 82 division of the Nigerian Army in Enugu.
At a brief ceremony at the division, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Maj-Gen. Olayinka Oshinowo, wished the late leader a rest in peace.
In a related development, Owerri, the Imo State capital yesterday stood still for the late Igbo leader Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu when his remains arrived the state.
It was a fanfare-like atmosphere, rather than the usual mourning that the ceremony was, as his body touched down the Sam Mbakwe Airport at exactly 3pm and was driven in a motorcade through the streets of Owerri down to the Hero’s Square.
The corpse of Ojukwu was driven in a colourfully decorated chauffeured military cart with thousands of citizens of the state trooping out to pay their last respects.
Earlier at the airport, his corpse, accompanied by his wife Bianca, APGA national chairman, chief Victor Umeh and one of his children, Chukwuemeka Junior was received by the state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and the governor of Anambra State Mr. Peter Obi and his wife as well as Senator Ben Obi.
Besides the corpse arriving onboard a military Alpha jet with registration number NAF 917, a military ambulance NA459E01 was also on standby to convey him to the venue of the ceremony.
Governor Rochas Okorocha, in his tribute to Ojukwu at the ceremony regretted that the Igbos refused to take the opportunities which Biafra provided and represented.
“The locally-made bomb ogbunigwe, mobile crude oil refineries and several other inventions are today all reminiscences of a past that showed so much promise and yet underscores our failure to take advantages,” Okorocha said.