Anambra State politics has become a personalised game where the standard bearers are used as a weapon of war. And at the centre of it all is late Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who has become a kind of perennial victim. In Part 1 of an in depth interview with his first son Emeka Ojukwu Jnr, he spoke on how his father’s name and image have been abused.Question: Former Anambra State Governor Mr. Peter Obi saw your late father as his political mentor and APGA (All Progressives Grand Alliance), as a political party, made Ikemba the leader. In the 2010 Governorship election, your late father raised Obi’s hand as his last wish that he should be elected for the second term. And this has caused controversy. Are you comfortable with this?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: I do not think it will be wrong for anybody to say that Mr. Obi’s emergence as a political force is directly linked to the backing he received from my late father. I know what you are referring to and I would not want to go into the issue of who raised whose hands because we all know he was ill at the time. The fact still remains that Obi was Ezeigbo’s choice for that election.
On whether I am comfortable or not, I am not. This is as a result, amongst other things, of statements being made by Bianca (Odumegwu Ojukwu) and others at Governor Willie Obiano’s campaigns.Question: Is that why you have chosen not to join Obiano in his campaign for the second tenure even when, according to my sources, he had severally invited and approached you to join him, and a lot of activities are ongoing during Ezeigbo’s (post-humous) birthday celebration?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: It is one of the reasons. In the last three years, has Anambra State celebrated Ezeigbo’s birthday? Have they celebrated the anniversary of his death? Have any memorials been put up in his honour? Have any edifices or institution been named after him? Now on the eve of the election, it has become expedient to celebrate his birthday. To be honest with you, the stench of the hypocrisy has become nauseating. I was hitherto once an unwilling participant in this charade and I can no longer abide by it. You have a situation where my father’s memory was invoked to help usher him into office and once elected, all things Ezeigbo where promptly set aside. Billboards with his pictures were taken down, new party clothes and materials were printed without his image, while the incoming Governor was focused on creating his own identity. Now, three-and-a- half years later, Ezeigbo’s pictures are back in full effect in an attempt to use his image yet again for some people’s personal political ambitions.
Yes, I am aware of the invitations and I shall take my time in choosing to take a stand with the candidate of my choice. The truth is, I cannot go on a campaign with Obiano for one final reason, and that is because of some of the people he has chosen to associate himself with; people who speak from both sides of their mouth as long as it serves their own interests.
Question: Who are these people or such people that you are talking about?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: I know that you are aware of what Bianca has been saying and I do not want to associate myself with her. This is a woman who wants to create an impression that she loved Ezeigbo, but while Ezeigbo was sick she chose not to take care of him and rather pleased herself until she got tired of waiting for him to die. She had made many disparaging remarks about former Governor Peter Obi in an attempt to curry favour with Obiano, forgetting that when Ezeigbo was gravely ill, Obi, with the help of his friends, was able to get a private jet and took my father to England so that he could get the medical attention he received. She forgets also that it was Peter Obi and other well-meaning folks who were instrumental in persuading the then President Goodluck Jonathan to accord my father what was, in essence, a state funeral. I remain grateful for what he did for Ezeigbo and for the family. Keep in mind that regardless of whatever support my father might have given to him, it was not mandatory that he extend himself in that manner. After all his name is Obi and not Ojukwu.
Question: What do you mean by she chose not to take care of Ezeigbo?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: When Ezeigbo had a stroke, he was being “treated” at home. He was neither given a CT scan, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) nor subjected to any of the standard procedures applicable to a stroke victim. She insisted on having him treated in his bedroom by her doctor, against the wishes of the family for two weeks! At some point, family members were stopped at the gate from inquiring about Ezeigbo’s condition. On several occasions, I had to force myself in to see him. So all this grandstanding that Bianca is putting up is just to create a false impression about her relationship with my father and unsuspecting members of the public are buying into it.
Question: But we understand that Bianca was with your father when he was flown to England and made efforts at taking him from Wellington Clinic to another hospital known as Lynden Hill Therapeutic Centre.
All the evidence is available and well documented. First of all, the air ambulance provided only had room for one family member and it was decided that she should go with him in the ambulance.
You are right. Certain changes were made in terms of treatment centres. Lynden Hill Clinic was the third place he was moved to. We were dismayed by the decision, because you have to understand that throughout his treatment, he required 24-hour nursing care, and that particular centre was ill-equipped to handle a patient in his condition, even with 24-hour nursing. That was why he was transferred, yet again, to the Royal Berkshire when his health, predictably, deteriorated. Several members of my father’s immediate and extended family, including myself, made a concerted effort to have him moved to a neurological rehabilitation centre, where he would receive the sort of treatment he needed. But again, Bianca blocked our efforts, and on the 25th of November, 2011, a date I will never forget, without reference to the family, she had him discharged from the Royal Berkshire and transferred to yet another ill-equipped nursing home, this time in London, where he died a few hours later.
Question: Coming back to politics, for a minute, I remember that she was allied with the former Governor while he had problems with (Victor) Umeh, the former National Chairman of APGA. And now she is on the side of Umeh against Obi?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: Your question itself speaks volumes. Perhaps, this seeming flip-flop is due to the expediency of the moment. What I can tell you, again, is that it seems that at a point, it became expedient to her, for Ezeigbo’s treatment to be discontinued. As far as I am concerned, I know a man must die sooner or later. But in the case of my father, but for her actions, he would not have died that day. In fact, his remains were not immediately released to us until an investigation was conducted, because the circumstances of his death were deemed worthy of further investigation. We were told that because he had been ill for so long, a specific cause of death could not be ascertained and the result of the investigation was therefore inconclusive. But as far as we are concerned, she is directly responsible for Ezeigbo’s death. I wish to say that out so that my father’s spirit will allow me to rest. And that is why I have refused to show up, in any event, to do with Obaino’s re-election campaign in which she features prominently. I do not want to be associated with a person whose hands are soiled with blood.
Question: Going by your statements, would you subscribe to supporting APGA in this election?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: A political party is like a vehicle and the essence of joining a vehicle is to get to your destination. If the driver is not going to your destination, or if you are not comfortable with the passengers, then it’s either you have no business in that vehicle or you work hard to effect a change in leadership and attract the new members and or disenchanted people who left.
When Peter Obi left APGA, I spoke up against his move publicly. However, having said that, I was not in the meetings and discussions that led to his leaving the party. So in retrospect, I have to admit that you must walk in a man’s shoes before you know where it pinches him. So my support for APGA is not automatic. It depends on what APGA stands for. If it turns out that the party has been hijacked by some people due to personal interests and their ideals are not in tandem with those of my father and the original direction set for the party and change cannot be effected, then perhaps it is time to look elsewhere.
Question: Do you think that Ojukwu’s image even in death would better the fortunes of APGA presently?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: Most people who are using his image these days did not know Ezeigbo. Obiano did not know Ezeigbo personally. As I said before and I say it again, there comes a time when the stench of hypocrisy around the use or rather the misuse of his name and image becomes nauseating. The notion that Ezeigbo is the property of APGA is wrong. Ezeigbo is not and was never the property of APGA. He saw himself rather as the property of Ndigbo in particular and Nigerians in general. Ezeigbo did not fight the war for APGA. He fought the war for Ndigbo and for Nigeria.
You will recall that when Ezeigbo came back from exile, he did not join the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP), which was popular in the Southeast at the time. Rather he joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). This was because his underlying goal had always been to bring Ndigbo into the centre. So, APGA is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Question: Back to the 2010 campaign, your father at a time endorsed Emeka Etiaba instead of Peter Obi. Can you speak on that?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: What happened was that Emeka Etiaba and his group reached out to Bianca and had an agreement with her which made her support them. Obi reached out to me about what happened and he sent me with his convoy to my father. When I got there, Bianca was upstairs and I asked Ezeigbo why he had abandoned me and he asked me what I meant by that.
I told him that he asked me to go and work with Peter Obi as his eyes and ears and without reference to what he told me, he endorsed Emeka Etiaba. I knelt down at his feet and said why did you abandon me. He asked me to get up and I did and he asked, “where are my shoes?”, and Col. Emma Nwobosi helped us find them. We got up and left with the convoy provided by Peter Obi. We were at Dubem Obaze’s office and had a press conference where Ezeigbo endorsed Peter Obi for the second tenure. This was one of the reasons among others that I started having problems with Bianca.
Question: It appears that you had a running battle with Bianca from when Ezeigbo was alive to his death and even during the funeral?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: Actually, she and I had a good relationship earlier which later deteriorated and then severed to a point of no repair after the circumstances of my father’s death. At the funeral, Bianca did not want me to bury my father. She claimed to be the chief mourner; a claim which I rejected outrightly and it took the intervention of elders, especially Prof. A. B.C. Nwosu, former Minister for Health, who stood by me saying that such a thing will be an abomination in Igboland, and she had to accept her role as the griever, while I buried my father as the first son.
Even when my mother, Njideka Odumegwu-Ojukwu died, Bianca insisted that she will not be buried in my father’s compound and asked Ezeigbo to get a place outside our compound to bury my mother, but my father and I refused. Again the same elders intervened and that was why I built a guest house and buried my mother in front of it next to the main house.
Question: Shortly after your father died, issues of your family property became a problem and Bianca is presently in court with the Ojukwu family.
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: When you hear about Bianca being in court over our property, people do not know the story. The property in question belongs to my grandfather, not my father. Ojukwu Transport Limited (OTL) belonged to my grandfather.
Sir Odumegwu, my grandfather, has a surviving wife, Lady Virginia and she is therefore still alive. He had children, Joseph, the elder one; Emeka, my father; and Lotanna, the youngest. Joseph, my father and Lotanna all have children. I am in my 50s and some of these grandchildren of Sir Odumegwu are older than me. So for Bianca to show up to lay claim to certain choice property in Ikoyi as having been handed over to her and her young children by Ezeigbo is ridiculous and I wonder how that could be possible, given that Sir Odumegwu left all the property in question under OTL. OTL has a Board of Directors. My father was a director before he died and I am now a director. Being a director of OTL does not constitute having ownership of OTL property. A man cannot bequeath what he does not own.
Question: It is being alleged that every time, Bianca pushes forward one Robert Okonkwo, either to take a position you have recently vacated such as when you resigned as Commissioner, or one you are aspiring to. What is the nature of Bianca’s relationship with Mr. Okonkwo?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: I resigned from Peter Obi’s government for my own reasons. In the case of Robert Okonkwo, who is a cousin to the Ojukwu family, Bianca has always wanted to bring him up at all times and that explains why he came into Peter Obi’s government after I left. Bianca and Robert are in a better position to explain the exact nature of their relationship. Certainly though, if he is still living in the house she shared with my father, then she can only blame herself for all the rumours.
Question: But why is it that you do not see the wives of late Obafemi Awolowo or late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and their likes get involved in such political controversies, but Bianca appears to be different?
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: I am not them and I am not her. But I can hazard a guess and say that in the other cases, the people involved understood the significance of their husband’s legacy and the need to protect it, rather than to try to assume the role of their late husbands. Even as his son, I am always careful and understand that the love and respect shown to me by many is as a result of the love and respect they have for my late father, not because of anything I did. And I am therefore always careful not to cross that line and assume that I am him.
My late father served his people and his country well and made an indelible mark in the world evidenced by the outpouring of love shown by all during his funeral. It is time to allow Ezeigbo to rest.