January 12, 2015 was a great day of joy and happiness for Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka in particular because it was the day he realized his age long dream to see the burial of those Igbo men, women and children who died during the Nigeria vs Biafra Civil war which lasted for three years from 1967 – 1970.
It is believed that at the end of the civil war, no fewer than two million Igbo lost their lives. And according to Ezeonwuka their spirits are not at rest hence they were buried according tradition of their ancestors and consequently causing problems to the living Igbo because it is against the law of tradition of Ndigbo to abandon the death unburied.
Their restless wandering spirit he says poses the youth and use them on the negative side of life as kidnappers, armed robbery, occultism, rituals, drug trafficking and other vices that have continued to pollute the image of Ndigbo before the outsiders.
The Ogirisi Igbo contends that the spirit of the Biafran fallen heroes are also behind the plight of the Igbo youth who have died in Sahara desert in search of greener pasture as well as those who are languishing in many prisons across the European and Asian countries.
According to him, the problem of disunity among Ndigbo and apparent failure to realize certain political interest in Nigeria are also traceable to the failure to accord the fallen heroes a befitting burial in line with our tradition as established by our fore fathers.
For a period spanning about 25 years Ezeonwuka who is the Ogirisi of Igbo land agitated for the burial of the Biafran fallen heroes using the media and other avenue to reach out to the appropriate quarters among the Igbo.
In one of the press conference he addressed in Oba he emphasized that the fallen heroes are angry with Ndigbo in their spirit world because having fought for and paid price with their lives they expect nothing more or less from us other than given them a well deserved burial rites
On many occasions he made attempts to draw the attention of Ohaneze Ndigbo and state Governors to perform the burial to no avail. “I spoke with Governor Ezeife, Governor Mbadinuju, Governor Ngige and Governor Peter Obi during their regimes respectively on the issue but they didn’t accept to do it” he added
Recalled that there was a time some people bought the idea and a committee was set up to approach Ohaneze among others but Ohaneze under late Ambassador Ralph Uwechue showed no interest, and there was noting the committee could do following non interest by the people and the bodies that matter.
And as providence has it, all his efforts have to wait until the emergence of Willie Obiano as Governor of Anambra state in 2014. Reports have it that Ezeonwuka sold the idea to the governor Obiano shortly after he was sworn in on March 17, 2014 and the new governor bought the idea and fulfilled it by sponsoring the burial in a colorful ceremony held at Ekwueme square in Awka the Anambra state capital on January 12, 2015.
Not only that, January 12 has been declared as the day of honor in memory of the fallen heroes.
The Ekwueme Square ceremony attracted notable Igbo leaders, including the former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, many war veterans, including those that commanded brigades and battalions before and during the war, as well as delegates from all the fives South Eastern states and traders’ associations in all the major markets in Igbo land.
The event began with an inter-denominational service presided over by the Catholic Bishop of Awka, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, and his Anglican counterpart, Rt. Rev Alex Ibezim, assisted by clerics from other denominations.
Governor Willie Obiano, in an emotion-laden speech, said there was hardly any family in Igbo land that did not lose somebody in the war, but commended the people for overcoming the pains with passage of time.
Obianor said: “The story of the war was a story of profound loss, but beside every story of loss sits a story of success, glory and abundance. We are quick to climb over the pains of an awful experience and rebuild broken walls of friendship that will open fresh doors of hope.
“We do this with ease because we are a people of faith. We believe in the centrality of God in the affairs of men. We are bold enough to accept the cruel verdict of fate and bury our dead with fanfare. Our culture upholds the centrality of burial as a crucial epilogue in the narrative of life.
“It is this belief that prompted many citizens of this state to approach me, at the inception of this administration, with a request for a formal burial of our brethren who died in the civil war and the World War II. They died courageously because our people do not acknowledge fear. “Today, we honour them in words and deeds.
“We offer them a final resting place; a sanctuary where their memory will forever ruffle the leaves of time. Today, as we lay down their memorial stones, we bring closure to the wanderings of our brothers and sisters whose great souls had yearned for the dignity of a formal burial over the last half a century.
“As we light our candles and whisper our prayers to ease their passage to eternity, we cleanse ourselves of the pain of their death and plant the trees of forgiveness in their memory. And in doing this, we open a new page of a brighter history for our people.”
National chairman of ALL Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, recalled that the former Biafran warlord, late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, was always calling for a memorial for those who died during the war, noting that when he reminded Governor Obiano of Ojukwu’s wish, he gladly promised to do it.
Umeh who is the Senate candidate of APGA in Anambra Central senatorial District ahead of the February general elections said that having performed the memorial, Igbo would begin to see clearly because they had done what was expected of them since the end of the war.
Expressing his feelings on the Awka ceremony Ezonwuka said in ecstatic mood that with the burial of the fallen heroes his has a accomplished the major part of his job as the Ogirisi Igbo adding that as Ogirisi his main obligation is to give spiritual directives on Igbo affairs.
He said that his emergence as the Ogirisi Igbo is not by accident but by the act of providence noting that he has started the agitation for the burial of the war victims long before the Eze Nri His Majesty Eze Obidiegwu Onyeso who is the Custodian of Igbo culture and tradition conferred him with the honor as the Ogirisi of Igbo land in 2012.
“As Ogirisi, I am in other words the Spiritual Leader of Ndigbo and as the architect of what happened here at the Ekweme Square today I think I have done part of what is expected of me and my beat regards goes to the Executive Governor of Anambra state His Excellency Chief Willie Obiano Akpokuedike who considered it right to do this burial.
“The Governor has shown that his has the interest of Ndigbo at heart other governors of other Igbo states and those of Anambra before him refused to do but he has done it, forever the legacy and the interest of a better condition of Ndigbo will be credited to him and that is what we expect from a leader”.
Saying that he lacks enough word to thank governor Obiano on this development he informed that what happened at Ekwueme square has covered the burial of the fallen heroes in entire Igbo land and thus what remains is for very community to bring the names of victims for the construction of epitaph where they will be immortalized.
The Igbo spiritual leader who is the proprietor of Rojenny Games and Tourist Village Oba near Onitsha in Anambra state said maintained that Ndigbo have been set free from the encumbrance resulting from the wandering spirit of the war victims and thus the sky henceforth will be the limit of Ndigbo in their endeavors both collectively and individually.
“Let’s watch and see how things will turn around for us from now onwards because the land has been cleansed and sanitized and the interest will always reflect positive changes in everything we do on business and politics as well as other areas”
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