"It was simply a choice of Biafra orenslavement...."

Special and Exclusive to
USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.comand NigeriaCentral.com

The man attracts extreme, fanatical devotion as well virulentdislike across Nigeria's political spectrum. He led Igbos, Ibibios,Annangs, and millions of other citizens of the then Eastern Nigeriain the bloody but failed quest to establish the Federal Republic ofBiafra, away from Nigeria. At the time, especially beginning in 1966until the declaration of Biafra in May 1967, the man whose name andpresence exudes charisma and catalytic influences, Ikemba ChukwuemekaOdumegwu Ojukwu (former Head of State of Biafra, 1967-1970) told meduring an exclusive interview that "we, the leaders of the EasternRegion, acted based on the decision expressed by millions of ourpeople through their elected representatives in Enugu, capital of ourregion (at the time)."

Theirmessage? The lives of Christian Igbo and other Easterners were nolonger safe inside Nigeria, especially in the Islamic North, in faceof waves of pogrom unleashed against Igbos and other Easterners since1966; which got worse in 1967.

Despite the torrent of lies and distortions of Nigeria's recenthistory, I believe, as do a majority of other informed Nigerians andinternational observers, that an incontrovertible fact of the1967-1970 war remains that Biafra was not declared to fulfil thefoolish talk about an alleged manaical ambition of Ojukwu to becomehead of state . Instead, Biafra as a geo-political quest, althoughunfulfilled at the time, reflected, in my opinion, the will andnatural inclination of any people, a traumatized group, courageousfolks, proud and determined people to fight for self-defense againsta zealotry of religion, ethnocentric prejudices, and a militarizedexpression of anti-Igbo pathologies.

The man still argues that many lessons of Biafra seem to have beenforgotten, reiterating that his people will never chose "slavery"over their natural tendency for freedom. Accordingly, USAfrica TheNewspaper and USAfricaonline.com sought and got an exclusive July,1999 interview with Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, former General andPresident of the defunct Republic of Biafra.

It was my third major interview with Ojukwu; the first being inhis house in 1988 when I was assistant editor of Platform magazineand Lagos and London-based journal, Africa and The World Journal. Inour team (and our publisher at the time) was one of Nigeria'sscholar-politicians, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, and the effortlessly lucidliterature and English scholar Dr. Chidi Amuta (currently, chiefeditorial and managing executive of the Post Express newspapers inLagos .

Interviewing Ojukwu reveals the man's oratorical flourish as wellas some ill logic on certain issues. His knowledge of history as wellas his irreverence is evident. He dismissed my question about U.SPresident Bill Clinton's policy toward Africa by stating, with adeafening clarity "he has none!" Republicans will be thrilled. But Idisagree with Ojukwu's view on this point. I traveled with Clinton'sdelegation to parts of Africa, March-April 2, 1998, and have read andfollowing definable, even if sometimes muddled efforts in Africa,Clinton has a policy on Africa. May be Clintonesque, in itsexecution.

In 1988, I once identified Ojukwu as the Lion of Biafra. Somedisagree(d); millions concur with my description and adjectivalflourish on the man. It's understandable. Why? There may never,essentially, be the Ojukwu without the vigor of contentions andpassion of intense admiration. He's always, and all ways the subjectof oppositional and fanatical pulls. There exist, rarely, gray areasabout this man. For example, reminds us that those who think he's"stubborn" should know it's part of the mark of great leaders. Gofigure.

For those who wonder why he offers an Igbo-first perspective, heappeals to them to "get your own Ojukwu." Some of his fellow Igboscriticize the "quality and direction" of Ojukwu's leadership ofBiafra. Others applaud him for "drawing a line in the sand" -a zoneof safety for Biafrans, Ibibios, Ikwerres and such other EasternNigerians, who at the time, championed and sacrificed for Biafra.Part of the realities of war is that many deny their roles in it.Ojukwu embodies the failures and success (survival) of theNigeria-Biafra civil war. Since the end of the war in 1970, there hasbeen a retinue of paper tigers and phantom commanders of the war,fantastic claims about military feats during the war.

There are over a dozen books on the war. Also, I have personallyencountered post-Biafra war weasels, malice-filled hagiographers andcowards who even deny their roles in defending their children inBiafra from an advancing, and certain killing machine of the "federaltroops" of Nigeria. To be sure, War is not pretty. It's lessons mustbe learned for posterity. Hence, my yet-to-be-published book, BIAFRA:History Without Mercy, will deal, without equivocation on such issuesand personalities such as the subject of our interview, Ojukwu.

Ojukwu who was in the U.S regarding the birth of his son,Nwachukwu, by his wife, former Miss Nigeria, Bianca, does not lookhis 65 years of tempest and struggle in this life. From wealth andprivilege to the combustion of war and wasted partisan politicalbattles in different areas of Igboland (1982-1983), from HisExcellency to a jailed political prisoner in Nigeria's atrociousKirikiri. he said Kirikiri had its "own unique lessons."

We talked with the Ikemba on a wide-range of issues coveringKosovo, Biafra, AIDS scourge in Africa, Nigeria's politics Nigeria'sPresident Obasanjo,

Prof. Wole Soyinka comments about his "direction", Nelson Mandela,African-Americans and their heritage, international business,President Bill Clinton's "policy towards Africa" and otherissues.

In this First part of the interview, the Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwureveals he wants to "hand the baton over" to a new crop of leader(s).I had the following interview with him in the company of theExecutive Editor of USAfrica The Newspaper, Chris Ulasi.

On balance, Ojukwu, however imperfect, remains hero for millionsand a reckless villain for others. Love or hate him , no one ignoresthe active and properly focused Ikemba Nnewi Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Prologue by Chido Nwangwu

EXCERPTS from my interview with Ojukwu, almost, 11 years later.

USAfricaonline: Why do so many people see you in different waysin Nigeria?

Ojukwu: My problem in Nigeria is that my line has been a strategyof love and friendship. When Ironsi died, (which is when I came outinto the open politically), Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu did not want totake over.

I said that Ogundipe was the number-two, the rightful number two.Having signed for the army, you've must accept death whenever andhowever it comes. I think we need to get into a proper economicdialogue with the ones in America responsible for trade and economicrelations. One thing worries me. We know that at least the cost ofliving and operating businesses is low in Africa, lower than in SouthEast Asia, I am worried that America, rather than work with Africa,and help Africa develop its infrastructure and work with the U.S.,America goes to the Southeast Asia.

We are allowed to focus on primary, agricultural products, whileother countries are supported to add value to other aspects ofeconomic production. Africa also need s a secure atmosphere forproduction. If we do this, it will improve our linking our states,countries with American companies, and government. We should do thesewithout being exploited.

AIDS in Africa, is ravaging Africa. What should bedone?

I don't know. I'm not a doctor. It's unfortunate. But we mustknow. Hence, in my little way, I'm trying to have an American firm dooral testing for HIV AIDS incidence in Nigeria. Nobody has trulyfound the answer to AIDS in Nigeria and Africa. The answers we haveheard about largely favor the rich. Their methodologies are difficultfor the poor folks to handle. We need to test everybody, schoolchildren, police, and army. Even if we've to quarantine certainpersons, we will need to do same.

How do think Nigeria will be able to make its economy moreindigenous?

I don't know if I will be misunderstand when I give my answer fromthe heart. What I really do believe. Privatization could be an theanswer if it is not a way of siphoning the country's money intocertain private hands. We can privatize to a point. But today,there's nothing in the oil sector that privatization will put in thehands of Nigerians. What you'll get will be Nigerians who largelyfront for international companies, mainly American companies.

There are areas of our economy where I will not supportprivatization. Certainly, when you're dealing with the NEPA, we needcompetition.

Communications, create many competing units and privatize as muchas you can; find Nigerians doing the business. But if it is having MaBell take over communication in Nigeria, then it is not what weshould do!

 Offer me a short response to these few names I'llmention: President Bill Clinton?

I don't know what you expect.

I don't expect anything, your Excellency. How would you assesshis policy toward Africa?

Policy on Africa? He has none. Why do I have to be rhapsodic aboutPresident Clinton's policies toward Africa?

Why do you say so?

Because there's nothing he has effectively done in Africa. He'slooking at Europe, NATO, Russia. Tell me, what has Clinton done forany part of Africa? What has President Clinton done for Africa,anywhere? Even South Africa has not benefited; their economy issliding. On economic matters he has done precious little, but thereis a lot of rhetoric.

Nelson Mandela?

Mandela, I grew up embracing as a hero; no matter what anyonesays, he's still a hero to me in my mind. But there's something Ifind in the Mandela situation which is not unlike the Jomo Kenyattasituation (in Kenya).

After incarcerating somebody, you effectively remove him from theevolution of things and [later] suddenly put him in charge.Generally, when that happens, the [public] reflexes are thoseof gratitude. On the African continent, Anybody who can stay inprison for 27 years and come out still lucid, is a great man; I honorMandela for that. But it appears to me that when finally the historyof South Africa is written his period will be one of delay, ratherthan one of action and purpose.

To African-Americans: I believe that we in Africa must enter intodialogue with our brothers and sisters over here [inAmerica]. Their economic situation is better than ours. We shouldcreate dialogue and the initiation should come from them. BlackAmericans can come to Nigeria, can call us by phone. I believe thatsomehow in trying to be American, African Americans have expended toomuch of their energy and have too little time to be African. Ibelieve that they can be the effective motors of our economicliberation in Africa. I will like to see them as the key investors inAfrica. And to invest you must have the money. I don't how much moneytheir situation in America allows them to invest internationally. ButI'll like to see them enter in joint ventures with us in Africa.

I'll like them to help create the entrepreneurial situation inAfrica, because they have been exposed. If they are serious aboutthis, they can become our windows to the world. We must learn toaccommodate them. We must encourage them to come back to theirnatural positions. We must learn to embrace them, because when theycome back they will do so as Americans, first and foremost.

Tell us your views on the Nigerian Civil War, onBiafra.

I regret the disabilities of the war. The overall pattern andrationale was honestly … it was a choice: it was either tobecome a slave of the Hausas in that time, or to do what we did. Andup till tomorrow, whenever I'm given the opportunity to choose choicebetween slavery and … (of course), I'll reject slavery.

It was a Hobson's choice for Igbos and other Biafrans. What elsecould we have done? Line up, bare our necks, shave it if possible,and say "come on" to the Hausas, Kanuris, Tivs, Fulanis and othermembers of the Nigerian army and civilians who were killing ourpeople of Eastern Nigeria, later Biafra? No!

Who are Ndigbo (Igbos), and what's their relationship withBlacks in the North American continent?

Ndigbo (Igbos) in the North American continent are a major part ofthe African-American population, who show the character of Ndigbo.They are those African-Americans who were brought from westernAfrica, those who landed on the eastern shores of the U.S. at a placecalled the Igbo beach; Ndigbo are those who, on landing in America,rather than accept to be slaves in America, walked backed to the seaand drowned; Ndigbo took over the entire island of Hispaniola ratherthan work in the fields of the U.S., as slaves. Some of them are inthe Caribbean region.

These are the Ndigbo; and there are more. Who are Ndigbo? Ndigboare a core part of the African-American community, today. And ourBlack brothers and sisters must know this.

Ndigbo are those slavers who were sold at a higher price. Everyonewho has come in contact with Igbos have always noted our strong senseof identity, we value our individual identity, and we do not brookany nonsense or oppression from any anyone. The Britishadvertisements for slave auctions who had all-genuine Igbos werethose whose prices were doubled.

Who are Ndigbo, you ask? There are only a few Igbo slaves whoworked in the fields, they are those who worked largely asstorekeepers, domestic support persons.

We've placed among Black Americans, the stock of Igbos, valiantand strong.

You have started making this comment about transfer of thebaton of leadership. What's the deal, and what do you really seek todo?

Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu cannot save Ndigbo; it's all of us who cansave Ndigbo; my work is to assist. at 65, I think that I've assistedquite a bit. The time has come for the baton to change hands.

What are the other underlying reasons?

When I returned from exile, in 1982. I was like a man who had runthe main portions of a relay race, I look to handing the baton tosomeone to continue the race. I challenge our people to take thebaton, and continue the race. 

How're Igbos faring, today?

Igbos have survived. We've survived the 1967-70 war we foughtdefending ourselves against the rest of Nigeria. Yes; we've survived,for so many months we were able to withstand the tyranny and tiradeof the whole world. We survived; proof of it? I'm here talking to youin Houston,

Texas. I'm the most free Igbo man in Nigeria because I speak mymind, entirely without fear or favor. And everyone knows this. Wenever declared war on anybody.

It has been said that Ojukwu's major fault is that he does nottake advice?

No no no, I've this love-hate affair, ongoing, with Ndigbo.Everybody advises Emeka Ojukwu until I don't take their advice. Thenthey'll say Ojukwu is stubborn.

There was in fact a point I said to some Igbos, "Go, and thank Godyou have a stubborn leader, otherwise we wouldn't have reached wherewe did."

I don't make any apologies for that (being seen and operating asstubborn). Many great leaders are also seen as stubborn. For example,Napoleon was very stubborn. Charles DeGaulle of France was verystubborn, General. MacArthur, an American, too, was stubborn andarrogant. That's the way [Ojukwu says, smiling].

I must thank you, Chido, and your team for your work, your loveand dedication to our people and the progress of Nigeria, Americans,and Africans. May I extend my good wishes to your numerous readershere in the United States and in Africa.

Thank you, Sir.

ChidoNwangwu, recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), isFounder and Publisher of first African-owned U.S.-based professionalnewspaper to be published on the internet, USAfricaonline.com.He appears as an analyst on CNN International and CNN'sInside Africa and publishes Houston-basedUSAfrica The Newspaper, NigeriaCentral.comand TheBlack Business Journalmagazine. Nwangwu has served as an adviser to the Mayor of Houston oninternational business (Africa)

Are weIgbosor "Ibos"?:The "Ibo" misspelling of the south eastern Nigerian Igboethnic nation of almost 32 million people reflect, essentially, apost-colonial hangover of British and Euro-Caucasoid colonialmiseducation,misrepresentations, and (mis)pronounciation preference. It is/wasjust easier for the White man/woman to say 'Ibo' rather than 'Igbo.'We must remember the late psychiatrist, pan-African scholar andactivist Franz Fanon's mytho-poetic and insightful words in his 1952book, Black Skin White Masks, that "A man who has a language[consequently] possesses the world expressed and implied bythat language." Should Igbos and other African nationalities,incrementally and foolishly give up the core of their communal andnational identity on the discredited altars of Euro-Caucasoid racistsupremacy and colonial predations? I have two modest answers: firstis No; and second is No. By Chido Nwangwu

Transcript CNN International Interview Sept 17, 2002 with Nigeria's President Obasanjo and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu on Democracy and Security Issues

Obasanjo's self-succession charade at his Ota Farm has turned Nigeria to an 'Animal Farm.' By USAfricaonline.com contributor Prof. Mobolaji Aluko
Is Obasanjo really up to Nigeria's challenge and crises? By USAfrica The Newspaper editorial board member, attorney Ken Okorie. This commentary appears courtesy of our related web site, NigeriaCentral.com
Obasanjo's own challenge is to imbibe "democratic spirit and practice," By Prof. Ibiyinka Solarin

Why Bush should focus on dangers facing Nigeria's return to democracy and Obasanjo's slipperyslide. By Chido Nwangwu
Obasanjo's late wake to the Sharia crises, Court's decision and Nigeria's democracy. By Ken Okorie

Sharia-related killings and carnage in Kaduna reenact deadly prologue to Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967. By Chido Nwangwu

Jonas Savimbi, UNITA are "terrorists" in Africans' eyes despite Washington's "freedom fighter" toga for him. By SHANA WILLS

Nelson Mandela, Tribute to the world's political superstar and Lion of Africa  
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's burden mounts with murder charges, trials

A KING FOR ALL TIMES: Why Martin Luther King's legacy and vision are relevant into 21st century.

Walter Carrington: African-American diplomat who put principles above self for Nigeria (USAfrica's founder Chido Nwangwu with Ambassador Carrington at the U.S. embassy, Nigeria)
Out of Africa. The cock that crows in the morning belongs to one household but his voice is the property of the neighborhood. -- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah. An editor carries on his crusade against public corruption and press censorship in his native Nigeria and other African countries. By John Suval.
How far, how deep will Nigeria's human rights commission go?

Will religious conflicts be the time-bomb for Nigeria's latest transition to civilian rule?
Bola Ige's murder another danger signal for Nigeria's nascent democracy.

Rtd. Gen. Babangida trip as emissary for Nigeria's Obasanjo to Sudan raises curiosity, questions about what next in power play?
110 minutes with Hakeem Olajuwon
Nigerian stabbed to death in his bathroom in Houston.
Cheryl Mills' first class defense of Clinton and her detractors' game 
It's wrong to stereotype Nigerians as Drug Dealers

Private initiative, free market forces, and more democratization are Keys to prosperity in Africa

Apple announces Titanium, "killer apps" and other ground-breaking products for 2001. iTunes makes a record 500,000 downloads.
Steve Jobs extends
digital magic

Johnnie Cochran will soon learn that defending Abacha's loot is not as simple as his O.J Simpson's case. By Chido Nwangwu
In a special report a few hours after the history-making nomination, USAfricaonline.com Founder and Publisher Chido Nwangwu places Powell within the trajectory of history and into his unfolding clout and relevance in an essay titled 'Why Colin Powell brings gravitas, credibility and star power to Bush presidency.'

Beyond U.S. electoral shenanigans, rewards and dynamics of a democratic republic hold lessons for African politics.

USAfrica The Newspaper voted the "Best Community Newspaper" in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston. It is in the Best of Houston 2001 special as chosen by the editors and readers of the Houston Press, reflecting their poll and annual rankings.

Gowon: Ojukwu would not have gone free if captured during Biafra-Nigeria war...

Biafra: Gowon's needless fights with history and Ojukwu. By Nkem Ekeopara
Obasanjo obsession with Biafra versus facts of history. By Prof. Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe
Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu: "It was simply a choice between Biafra and enslavement."
Biafra-Nigeria war and history to get fresh, critical look from a survivor
 'Biafra: History Without Mercy' - a preliminary note
Biafra: From Boys to Men. By Dr. M.O. Ene
Calling ex-Biafran soldiers traitors is nonsensical, as it is inflammatory and unpatriotic.
By Dr. Chuba
Steve Jobs and Apple represent the future of digital living
Nelson Mandela, Tribute to the world's political superstar and Lion of Africa  
By Prof. Chimalum Nwankwo

A young father writes his One year old son: "If only my heart had a voice...."
Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on the Iroko, is Africa's writer of the century. By Chido Nwangwu

Since 1958, Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" set a standard of artistic excellence, and more. By Douglas Killam
CNN International debate on Nigeria's democracy livecast on CNN. It involved Nigeria's Information Minister Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof. Salih Booker and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. Transcripts are available on the CNN International site.

5 students from Nigeria at Abilene Christian University killed in March 31, 2002 one-car accident. 18 year-old Kolawole Oluwagbemiga Sami was identified as the driver of the Isuzu which had 2 other men and 3 women. One of those female passengers in the 1994 Isuzu Rodeo SUV had an identification card stating her as Iyadunni Oluwaseun Bakare. She is also 18 years old. USAfricaonline.com special report by Chido Nwangwu
USAfrica The Newspaper voted the "Best Community Newspaper" in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston. It is in the Best of Houston 2001 special as chosen by the editors and readers of the Houston Press, reflecting their poll and annual rankings.

Osama bin-Laden's goons threaten Nigeria and Africa's stability. By Chido Nwangwu
Tragedy of Ige's murder is its déjà vu for the Yoruba southwest and rest of Nigeria. By Ken Okorie
What has Africa to do with September 11 terror? By Chido Nwangwu
Should Africa debates begin and end at The New York Times and The Washington Post? No
CNN, Obasanjo and Nigeria's struggles with democracy.
Why Obasanjo's government should respect
CNN and Freedom of the press in Nigeria.
Jonas Savimbi, UNITA are "terrorists" in Africans' eyes despite Washington's "freedom fighter" toga for him. By SHANA WILLS

Sex, Women and (Hu)Woman Rights. By Chika Unigwe

Africa suffers the scourge of the virus. This life and pain of Kgomotso Mahlangu, a five-month-old AIDS patient (above) in a hospital in the Kalafong township near Pretoria, South Africa, on October 26, 1999, brings a certain, frightening reality to the sweeping and devastating destruction of human beings who form the core of any definition of a country's future, its national security, actual and potential economic development and internal markets.
22 million Africans HIV-infected, ill with AIDS while African leaders ignore disaster-in-waiting

What has Africa to do with September 11 terror? By Chido Nwangwu
Africans reported dead in terrorist attack at WTC
September 11 terror and the ghost of things to come....
Bush's position on Africa is "ill-advised." The position stated by Republican presidential aspirant and Governor of Texas, George Bush where he said that "Africa will not be an area of priority" in his presidency has been questioned by USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu. He added that Bush's "pre-election position was neither validated by the economic exchanges nor geo-strategic interests of our two continents." These views were stated during an interview CNN's anchor Bernard Shaw and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield had with Mr. Nwangwu on Saturday November 18, 2000 during a special edition of 'Inside Politics 2000.'
Nwangwu, adviser to the Mayor of Houston (the 4th largest city in the U.S., and immigrant home to thousands of Africans) argued further that "the issues of the heritage interests of 35 million African-Americans in Africa, the volume and value of oil business between between the U.S and Nigeria and the horrendous AIDS crisis in Africa do not lend any basis for Governor Bush's ill-advised position which removes Africa from fair consideration" were he to be elected president.
By Al Johnson