Human Interest

Biafra: Without Zik, there would have been no Igbo man alive – Jim Nwobodo

Human interest

By Our correspondent

A former governor of old Anambra state, Senator Jim Nwobodo has narrated how former Nigerian leader, Nnamdi Azikiwe, ended the Biafran war to stop what could have been a total annihilation of the Igbo.

Nwobodo, who spoke when the management of Awka Museum Foundation, Anambra state paid him a courtesy visit in his country home, Amechi Awkunanaw, Enugu, said without Zik, there would have been no Igbo man alive.

He added that it was Zik’s meeting with the then Liberia president, William Tubman that led to the end of the war.

The former governor, who used the visit to clear the tag of ‘saboteur’ against Azikiwe, said, he was very close to the former president.

He said: “So, one day, I asked him, Sir, why is it that they call you Sabo (saboteur). He laughed and said, ‘if not for me, there may be no Igboman alive today.’”

Nwobodo, noted that considering the fact that Zik was the most important Nigerian leader then (during the civil war), in whom Africans believed, he was prepared to stop the war and end the killings on the Biafran side.

“Ojukwu had invited Zik to a meeting in Portugal and when he arrived, he detailed two security operatives around Zik. Anywhere Zik went, those men were around him, giving information about where he went, what he did and said.

“Then, the former Ohanaeze president general, Ralph Uwechue, went to Zik. He told Ralph that he wanted to leave. Ralph approached those security men, gave them money to buy something outside. From there, Zik said he was going to ease himself and from there he left.

“Zik told me he didn’t want to do that but because he didn’t know why Ojukwu should ask him to come overseas and keep two security men around him. He wasn’t a thief, he wasn’t a criminal. Why should he do that?

“So, he left, went to London and stayed in his daughter’s house. While he was there, the president of Liberia, William Tubman, called him and said he wanted to see him.

“Tubman also called Gowon, and sought for permission to invite Zik over to Liberia. Gowon said no problem.

“So, he relocated Zik from his daughter’s house in London to a place he hired for him there pending the day he would leave London.

“So, the day he left, Zik didn’t want to use Nigerian Airways because when you enter a plane belonging to a country, you have already entered the country’s territory.

“But the only airline that was viable and available then was Nigerian Airways. Zik had no option but to use it. He had always thought that the plane would fly straight to Liberia. But it came via Nigeria. When the plane came to Lagos to refuel, passengers that would stop in Lagos, alighted while others went out to ease themselves.

“Then, one woman who was sweeping the plane, saw Zik and started shouting that Zik was in the plane. With this, people broke the airport rules and came and surrounded the plane. They were shouting that they want to see Zik.

“So, Zik asked the pilot to phone Gowon that he was in the airport. A surprised Gowon had to send outriders and vehicles to the airport to pick him.

“You see, in this life, you must do something good. When Zik came down, the whole airport went wild and there was commotion.

“Zik said when Gowon saw him, he couldn’t believe it. He, the Head of State, said “Sir, before we do anything, let us pray”.

“After praying, Gowon said that he would ensure that Zik would leave Nigeria safely. So, Gowon phoned the Liberian president and told him that he was with Zik. And that Zik would have arrived Liberia but was with him.

“Zik said that when the news of his presence spread in Lagos, people lined up the streets to catch a glimpse of him as he left Lagos for Liberia.

“The president of Liberia now invited Gowon to come so that they could all meet and make peace.

“In that meeting when Gowon came, Zik said to Gowon that he wouldn’t want to see any further killings. ‘You are the Head of State, whatever you command will be obeyed’, Zik told Gowon.

“Then, they agreed that they would end the war. It was Zik meeting with Tubman that led to the end of the war.

“So, Zik said to me that anybody that says that I’m a saboteur is saying that out of ignorance. So, he saved Ndigbo by that singular action.

“One thing that Gowon did that was great, was that he stopped the killing of the Igbo”, Nwobodo said.

The former governor, who could not hide his admiration for Awka Museum Foundation, promised to support any efforts that would ensure the return of the nation’s shared values.

The spokesman of the Awka Museum Foundation, Arthur Harris Eze, said they came to intimate the former governor about his authorized biography, which would cut across everything about him.

He disclosed that their mission was to build a befitting museum in Awka, Anambra State, to mentor the young to know that at one point or the other, Nigeria was great.

“This is because, unfortunately, most of the people of this generation they call Gen-z, people who were born after certain time, have never experienced this Nigeria.

“They don’t know that this country was at a point, lending money to some world powers. They don’t know that at a certain point, our money was greater than the dollar. They don’t know that at one point this country sat down and had a national development plan of 10-20 years.

“So, we need to mentor them to know that there was a point when this country was great and there must be a point where we become great again.

“We want to let them know that the history of this country has a number of heroes and heroins. And one of the greatest heroes of this country is Senator Jim Nwobodo, the former governor of old Anambra State.

“There has never been any governor, dead or alive, who has put on the ground, the amount of industries and academic institutions like he did.

“Unfortunately, the Nigerian factor has made it impossible for these things to thrive. They’ve all gone except the academic institutions.

“So, we need to mentor these young people to leave yahoo and mkpulu mmili and fast money, and go back to the drawing board and know there is a history for them to learn”. (The Nation)

By Ifeizu Joe

Ifeizu is a seasoned journalist and Managing Editor of TheRazor. He has wide knowledge of Anambra State and has reported the state objectively for over a decade.

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