Remembering Biafra’s fallen heroes
BY VICTOR UMEH
The Igbos have completely reconnected with the spirits of our brothers and sisters who paid the supreme price during the Nigerian/ Biafran war and their souls will now rest in perfect peace. These gallant fallen heroes and heroines were people who paid with their lives that the Igbo nation may survive and it is not something anybody can leave unattended to. Since their death, we have been struggling as a people to come back to our full strength. The war took a toll on us, but the greatest thing that happened as a result of that war was the planting of the seed of struggle in the lives of our people. Like the Israelites when they were marching to the promised-land, they faced so many tribulations and were able to overcome all of them over a long period of time. The Igbos are on their own similar long journey and it is not going to be easy. We have faced our own tribulations and the wars become a sore point that claimed a lot of lives. Our leader Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu when he was alive always asked for a formal memorial ceremony for all those that died during the war, but it was not done.
When Chief Willie Obiano came in the saddle through our party APGA, I reminded him that there is one unfulfilled wish of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and that was the war memorial. I told him that we can erect a war memorial and do a formal burial ceremony to bid our fallen brothers and sisters who fell during the war farewell. And Akpokuodike replied and said he would do it. When he gave me that assurance that he would do it, I kept talking about it at every gathering that this event will take place.
It was not something that could happen unchallenged because of the sensitive nature and the misunderstanding some people may put across to it, but he was bent on actualizing it. A committee was set up to work out the modalities. The chairman Col. Ben Gbulie was abroad then. I searched for him for almost two months before I got hold of him as soon as he returned.
I took him to His Excellency and he accepted to chair the committee. Other people like Col.Joe Achuzie, Col Nwaobosi, Col Udeaja and others that played pivotal roles during the war were co -opted into the committee. The former Chief of staff to Ezeigbo, His Royal Majesty Eze Bob Onyeama was a member of the committee in order just to reconnect with Ezeigbo’s wish. I want to pay a very special tribute to Ogirishi Ndigbo, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka (Rojenny). At a point, Chief Ezeonwuka became possessed with the idea that this thing must happen and he kept pushing for it. I told him it must be done as that is the wish of Ezeigbo. Ogirishi was also a member of the committee that planned this event.
This day is the finest hour for Igbo people in our struggle for self determination and self survival. We have acknowledged and paid t ribute to those w ho lost their lives in the struggle. We are now going to march on to the future with the full brightness of the sun we are seeing today. From now on, Igbos will see clearly and this ceremony will become a rallying point and unifying force for all Igbos. What we will continue to do is that while we are not wishing for another war, we shall not forget the one we have fought, echeta k a. W e a re very g rateful to the Governor of Anambra State, who put in everything both finance, time, the political will and courage to bring our people together to do this event. Initially there was apprehension everywhere that something sinister was about to happen in Anambra State. That there would be so much activism and rebellion here. We said there is no such thing. The Governor assured these anxious people that it is just for us to pray for those that have died; hold on ecumenical service and do the traditional thing. All these we have done and everybody have departed peacefully.
The peace we have recorded here today will continue to follow the Igbos in their struggle. Those who are dead have gotten their spirits reconnected to us. We are now one body one spirit one more time. Now, if you are coming out to fight for the Igbos, you will not risk abandonment, you will not risk anybody forgetting you. Those that died thought they have been forgotten by those they threw their lives to protect, but we have remembered them now. So that if tomorrow Igbo call you for service know that even if you soldier on and die, that Igbos will remember you; that is what we have done today. Nobody should be afraid of staking his life for the cause of Igbos. We have achieved a very rare unity of purpose today. We have reconnected with our people and we will move with them. Today, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu will be the happiest person in heaven because his wish has been accomplished.
There is a memorial epitaph containing the names of those who died. When you sacrifice your life to defend your people, your people owe you a decent burial. What we have done here today is a consummation of the Igbo spirit. We are renewed as a people, having used this opportunity to bid farewell to those Igbo sons and daughters who lost their lives, in a war of self defence. Our late leader wished to see this day, but it never came. It took a man of valour, Chief Willie Obiano, Governor of Anambra state to agree to do this. This event is a bridge to the past and we have reunited with the spirits of our brethren that lost their lives in the war in defense of Igbo people, with their spirits and those of us who are still alive, we will continue to work hard for the Igbo people.
What we have here now is a temporary site; we have identified the permanent site near the Central Bank along the Express- Way. A very big mausoleum will be built there so that anyone plying the Express- Way will see a very high tower and ask what this monument is and he will be told to go in and see the names of Igbos that died in an important war of self determination and survival. Thank you.