Nigerian States declare public holiday for Ojukwu

Ojukwu burial Ojukwu

Feb 27, 2012 – Nigerian States declare public holiday for Ojukwu

Igbo traders will shun markets on March 1 and 2 in honour of the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

The late Biafran leader’s remains will be buried on March 2 in Nnewi, his home town. The funeral rites, which started last week, continued at the weekend with a requiem mass in London and a public lecture in Enugu.

The remains of the late Ikemba Nnewi will arrive in Abuja from London today to a military ceremony at the federal capital.

Traders’ spokesman and Southeast Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (SEMATA) President Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo said the decision to shut markets was reached during the meeting of the leaders and representatives of markets, held at the White View Hotel, Awka, Anambra State.

He said markets would be closed as traders observe a sit-at-home directive as a mark of respect for the ex-Biafran hero.

Nwankwo said that markets in Enugu and Anambra states will be shut down March 1, when the remains of Ojukwu will arrive at the Enugu Airport enroute Anambra State, adding that traders in the country will shut down on March 2.

“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to all the leaders of the markets and traders in the country, especially from other geo-political zones to comply with the decision. No sacrifice made for the late Ojukwu will be too much that day, we are also appealing to traders in Anambra and Enugu States to comply with the directive of closing the market on March 1,” he said.

Ezenwankwo appealed to those who may want to use the opportunity to cause trouble by inciting the traders against their leaders, or causing confusion by giving contrary directives to the traders to desist from such act, stressing that traders should seek clarification from their leaders.

He said: “It is the duty of the traders to decide when their markets will be closed and when they will be opened; it is not a decision the Presidents and Chairmen of the markets can take alone. The traders were consulted before the decision was taken, and we expect full compliance.”

Ezenwankwo said that Anambra traders will hold a reception for the late Ikemba at the Alex Ekwueme Cenotaph, Awka, from where they will join the entourage to Nnewi for the interment.

Following speculations that the funeral will witness a bloody combat between the military and the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the movement said at the weekend there will be nothing like that.

Anambra and Enugu State governments have declared March 1 as public holiday for the late Ojukwu.

Abia State has also declared tomorrow as holiday.

The Local Organising Committee (LDC) Chairman for the burial and Anambra State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Dubem Obaze, announced the holiday yesterday in Awka.

He said Ojukwu’s body will arrive in Anambra State on Thursday. It will be flown in from London today.

Obaze also said the body will be taken to the Southeast states of Abia, Ebonyi, Imo, Enugu before arriving Anambra.

At 3pm on Thursday, Ojukwu’s body will arrive at the Dr. Alex Ekweme Square in Awka. Visitors will only be allowed to park vehicles at designated places.

He said there will be no role for MASSOB and local vigilante. The military, police, FRSC, civil defence personnel to take care of security.

MASSOB Director of information and communications, Uchenna Madu, said issues concerning security during Ojukwu’s burial had been settled.

He said an agreement had been reached between MASSOB and the military adding that soldiers would lead the security arm of the burial; MASSOB would complement them.

“Some people think there will be a bloodbath during the funeral of our late leader, Dim Ojukwu, but I want to assure you that there will be nothing like that,” he said, adding:

“Our leader, Chief Raph Uwazuruike, has ordered that we support the soldiers in making sure that Ikemba Nnewi goes home in peace and that assignment will must carry to the later.

“We must accommodate everybody to give Ojukwu a befitting burial. We want the best for Ojukwu, the soldiers will lead the operation our own will be to support them.”

Soldiers have taken over security in Nnewi while vehicles moving inside the large Ojukwu compound are being thoroughly searched.

Anambra State Governor Peter Obi has said that the best way to immortalise Ojukwu is for Nigerians to live up to the ideals he lived and fought for. He spoke at St George’s Cathedral, London, after the requiem mass for the late Ojukwu.

Obi said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of goodwill for Ojukwu by all segments of the Nigerian society and the international community.

During the mass, the celebrant, Rev. Fr. Professor Ike Obiorah, said the society needed men who believed in social justice as Ojukwu did. He called on Nigerians to strive to contribute meaningfully to the society rather than the culture of nihilism that is predominant in the society.

He recalled Ojukwu’s sacrifice for the good of his people and declared that Biafra was not dead as long as injustice remains in the country.

Ojukwu’s wife, Bianca, said she was moved to tears on the outpouring of goodwill that followed her husband’s death.

Ojukwu’s son, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Jnr., thanked God for the life of his father.

A wake-keep, which ended early yesterday, took place at The Enabling Centre, 640 Ripple Road, Barking, Essex. Speaking at the event, Ambassador Dozie Nwanna said the Igbo must remain thankful to Obi for his sacrifices for Ojukwu, especially in his last days.

At the service were: Obi’s wife, Margaret, Obi, Chief Victor Umeh, Dr. Tim Menakaya, Sen. Ben Obi, Gen. Isaac Obiakor, Ojukwu’s Chief of Staff, Prince Bob Onyema, the pilot who flew the last plane that brought relief materials to Biafra under the Joint Christian Aids, Phil Philip (83) and his wife, Jean Philip, among others. (the nation)