It was rather fortuitous that I happened to listen to the excellent Jerome Okolo give at a talk today at London’s TEDxEuston. His life story seemed to be one of a young man popping up in the right places but always at the wrong time.

And having witnessed the tragedies of so many different peoples, he then began to confront the unspoken tragedy of his own country; the Nigerian Civil War.

The man who came to symbilise that war, perhaps more than any other Nigerian, Dikedioramma Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, passed on today at the age of 78. 

Personally, when it comes to leading your people to war, I set the bar for leadership at Abraham Lincoln, a man who understood that more strength was required in not pulling a trigger when you had a gun in your hand than in doing the obvious. I am not sure that Colonel Ojukwu fully took account of the risks before leading his people to a war for which they paid an outrageous price.

But one must never fall into the temptation of blaming the shortness of a woman’s skirt for the rape she suffered. What happened to Ndigbo in that war was wrong. The killings were senseless and totally unjustified no matter what the ground rules were at the time. 

A country ought not to leave a matter like Biafra unaddressed because doing so then makes it ‘normal’. Ever since then, it has been one violence or the other visited on Nigerians either in Zaki-biam or Odi or on our bad roads and terrible hospitals…not to forget that most violent of government actions, unbridled corruption.

I am not a believer in inter-temporal punishments but I believe that even if you were not a party to the crime, you can help in putting right a wrong. 

The Ikemba’s passing is another teachable moment for Nigeria. We never have a shortage of these moments but we are consistent in never learning anything from them. This is a moment when we are once again reminded of the unresolved issues from our past…another chance to at least begin to understand that the rattling sounds we hear whenever we open the Nigerian closet is of skeletons that have been left unattended to.

I pray for the repose of Chief Ojukwu’s soul and that God will grant his wife, children, family and all who have come to look up to him in one way or the other the strengthe to bear this loss. I pray that God will grant him eternal rest and keep him in the palm of His hands for all time.


I am also tired of waiting for the Nigerian government to do what I think is the right thing. I often get the feeling that this is beyond them.

It is not right that I share the same passport with people who were brutalised in the name of keeping us all together. It cannot be…especially as the things that keep us together till today are not things any sane person would be proud of.

And so, on behalf of myself and myself alone (Feyi Fawehinmi), I want to say that on the off chance that these atrocities were committed in my name by even the most convoluted degree of separation, I say to my Igbo brothers and sisters, I am terribly sorry for the things that were done to you and your parents. 

Si kele onye nti chiri; enu anughi, ala anu

Those things were not right no matter the causes of that war. They go against everything I have come to know as just and right. 

To the 700 killed at Asaba who Jerome Okolo has managed to name individually and the 1 million others who might never be properly named, these things were wrong. And to me they will always be wrong.

I dont know how anyone else feels about these things, but I know how I feel.

I also hope we get to a point where we can sit down with our past, not to apportion blame, but to come to be able to realise the deep error of our ways and move on from them with the understanding that they must never be repeated.





3 thoughts on “Dikedioramma

  1. I hope we can really look at the real cost of the war when we want to give room for communal clashes again. Sometimes we need to stop and think about the real impact of the war ; the lost family ties, the dashed hopes, the unimaginable trauma certain children were made to go through. We need to learn sometimes that dividing the country may not be the way forward to attend to the myriads of problems we have. If you split Nigeria into fifty smaller divisions, you can never separate Ife from Modakeke. I really hope we find a way to nurture what unites us than fan the embers of our disuniting factors. Nice piece Feyi. To my Igbo friends on behalf of all “ofe- mmanu”, find it in your hearts to forgive us.

  2. Ojukwu did not take account of the risk before defending his people from annihilation ( not leading his people to war as you posit) because he believed there never would have been war if the key actors have fought on the part of equity and justice and showed courage and bravery in the face of pogrom and genocide by Gowon and his Northern blood-thirsty soldiers. They all chickened out and choose to support inequity and injustice on the Ibos, leaving Ojukwu as the lone shepherd against the ravaging wolfs.

    Aburi Accord would have prevented the war but Gowon rejected it with solid support from the West and Midwest. Awolowo, Enaharo, Ogundipe, Ejoor – key actors whose action would have countered the North all chose complicity and easy way out- all in the name of “One Nigeria” even when it was obvious that the coup was a Northern attempt to dominate Nigeria and subjugate the entire country.

    But guess what: wheel of justice rolls round: Jos is now centre of pogrom and massacre just like it was for the IBOs. And Berons, Gowons tribe ( whose fathers massacred IBOs during the couter coup are now victims in the hands of their Hausa.

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