Sunday, 13 September 2015

On This Day 49 Years Ago: 13th September 1966 - The death of Sir L.P Odumegwu Ojukwu: A sons account by Lotanna P Ojukwu.

"My father died after trying to encourage and convince the would be Eastern Nigerian emissaries to Lagos to seek for a peaceful resolution to the conflict crisis that had already developed, which led to the massacre of Igbos in many parts of the country.

I was home on holidays from the United Kingdom when my father died. Sir Odumegwu had travelled to Nkalagu to see into the affairs of his baby, The Nigerian Cement Company.

Massacres of people from Eastern Nigeria were quite rampant at the time, and there were talks of possible secession. High ranking Eastern Nigerian government personnel and dignitaries were being assembled to go and negotiate with the Federal government of Nigeria for some form of reconciliation.

My understanding of the situation at the time was that the appointed emissaries were all quite reluctant and didn't want to embark on the mission.

Sir Odumegwu took it upon himself to see these emissaries individually and speak with them, encourage and convince them that they had to go and negotiate.

Sir Odumegwu and myself drove to Enugu from Nkalagu to see the emissaries and finally my brother ( Emeka Ojukwu) the then military governor. For a fourteen year old like me at the time, I observed that in most of the places and homes we visited, there was a lot of difficult discussions among the people. Finally, a very unusual and most surprising difficulty was when we visited my brother.

Our attempt to gain entry at the military governors state house gate was hopelessly halted. We were searched and delayed. Normally, Sir Odumegwu was expected and should have passed through when he came to the gate, but there we were. I left the car after a while and was busy running around the gardens of the state house while we waited for whatever difficulty to be cleared up.

One whole hour after we got to the state house,not even a call was put through to the military governor; neither did my brother even call. My father eventually became agitated and started wondering what was going on himself. We were all very anxious as to why the delay and why the military governor would not come down to see us and our father. That night, the delay continued and we did not start our drive back to Nkalagu until about 9pm or 10pm.

With all of that, one would begin to think about it that Sir Odumegwu, who had suffered two previous heart attacks in the last three years, still went around at that difficult time engaging the emissaries to convince them to go and negotiate . This agitated him enough, and the event at the state house capped it all. Through out our drive back to Nkalagu from Enugu, my father was very quiet and by the time we got to Nkalagu, somehow things were not so well anymore with him.

We all went to bed, but by 3 am my step mother woke me up to say that my father was ill and that we needed to call a doctor to come and help him. Apparently he had suffered another heart attack. It wasn't till 6 am that we got into a hospital with the limited medical facilities at the Nkalagu factory complex. My father lived only for a further day and died the next morning of 13th September 1966

So really he died trying to save Nigeria, trying to convince some high ranking civil servants to go for peace negotiations in Lagos

My father was completely detribalised . And for a man who made all his money and had all his properties in Lagos, it must have been a very anxious time for him. I can imagine what he would have suffered thinking that Nigeria would be torn asunder by the developments and seeing things get worse by the minute. It must have been a very anxious time for him"

Culled from the book In Quest of Perpetuity - Bio Sketches of Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu. Written by Ifeze

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