Ojukwu arrives to heroic welcome in Abuja
Former leader of the defunct Republic of Biafra, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, on Monday received a heroic welcome in death, at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
The remains of the late presidential candidate and National Leader of the All Peoples Grand Alliance, which arrived the Abuja airport in the early hours of Monday aboard British Airways, was received and honoured in a ceremony chaired by Senate President, David Mark.
Vice President Namadi Sambo, who represented President Goodluck Jonathan at the airport ceremony, said the late Ikemba Nnewi deserved all the honours he had been getting from all walks of life.
Rev. Father Willy Ojukwu and Archbishop John Onayekan, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, presided over a short church ceremony.
According to the Vice President, Ojukwu was a courageous man who fought with all his heart when his people faced pogrom.
He said Ojukwu provided fearless and principled leadership to the Igbos during the period of the civil war.
Describing Ojukwu as man of great intellectual and interpersonal skill, Sambo said the late Ikemba Nnewi was an advocate of a united Nigeria.
The remains of Ojukwu, which was conveyed in a golden casket draped in the national colours by an ambulance to the presidential wing of the airport were received by military pallbearers from Army Headquarters.
Sambo said, “No word can adequately describe the nature, character, legacy and lessons left behind by this soldier and gentleman.
“In all his life he displayed strong leadership traits. He was an epitome of service and sacrifice, a worthy example of public accountability and good governance and an advocate of good governance.
He added, “He stood up and fought for what he believed in. He stood up for justice and refused to compromise. He challenged inhumanity to man and when his kith and kin were faced with pogrom, he stood his ground and fought.
“He displayed physical and moral courage throughout his life with excellent intellectual and inter personal communications skills. He was an advocate of a united Nigeria.”
The pallbearers numbering eight were of the ranks of brigadier, colonel and lieutenant colonel. A Burial Party mounted a guard of honour while a Guards Brigade Band played as the body was brought in for military honours.
Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, Senators Uche Chukwumerije and Ben Obi accompanied the military procession as the pallbearers received the corpse and carried it to the centre of the ceremony.
Mark said it was proper that he should chair the ceremony since he and the late leader received their military pensions on the same day.
He said, “Ojukwu has continued to draw accolades from different parts of the country. He was a fine officer and gentleman. He was a compassionate leader. He fought for justice all his life. He was born with silver spoon in his mouth but ignored that spoon.
“The history of this nation cannot be complete without highlighting the role that Ojukwu played in the country. The best tribute we can pay to him is to be committed to justice and education. He has shown us that one can be committed to his ethnic group and Nigeria at the same time.”
First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, described Ojukwu as a man of great intellect, adding that Igbos were not alone in mourning him.
Keynote Speaker at the event, former External Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi, said the death of Ojukwu marked the end of an era. He lamented that the ills the late Biafran warlord fought against were still present in the country.
Former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, eulogised Ojukwu as a man of vision, adding that till today, Nigeria had not found a better solution to the problems that Ojukwu fought against.
Widow of the late leader, Bianca, dressed in black and dark goggles and looking sullen, was among family members that occupied the front row at the ceremony.
At the end of the airport ceremony, the body was conveyed to a Nigerian Air Force aircraft, Charley 130 Hercules (NAF 917) which had been waiting for the transmission of the body to Owerri, the Imo State capital.
culled from punchng.com