Thursday, June 30

Unforgettable Words of Late Minister, Ojo Maduekwe...It's Idiotic to Talk of an Igbo President..SHAME!!!

Unforgettable Words of Late Minister, Ojo Maduekwe...It's Idiotic to Talk of an Igbo President..SHAME!!!

Late minister, Ojo Madueke

Ojo Mbila Maduekwe, lawyer and politician is not a man you can forget in a hurry. He was as controversial as they come, but he was also a man of wit, humility, and a public servant who served Nigeria religiously in the last 17 years of his life.

We reported it here earlier today that former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe, who is a stalwart of the opposition Peoples Democratic Patty, (PDP), passed away at about 7:00pm on Wednesday at a hospital in Abuja.

A close source of the politician who was recently appointed the secretary of the PDP Board of Trustees, revealed that Maduekwe was returning to Nigeria from the U.S via Dubai when he fell ill. “He fell ill while on air from Dubai and he was rushed to the hospital as soon as the plane landed in Abuja, but he died before doctors could do much,” he said.

Below are a list of things you might not know about the lawyer, influential politician, non-career diplomat and was a controversial man of wit, humility, and a public servant who served Nigeria religiously in the last 17 years of his life.

1. It is Idiotic to talk of an Igbo President.

In the countdown to the 2003 presidential election, there was sustained agitation from the south-east that Nigeria must produce an Igbo president. The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign Staff of Biafra (MASSOB) had been formed by Ralph Uwazuruike, while the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) had also been founded by Chekwas Okorie. While MASSOB wanted to revive Biafra, APGA sought to produce an Igbo president.

However, Maduekwe, a PDP stalwart and a die-hard loyalist of Obasanjo who was clearly planing to run for a second term, misfired when he said it was “idiotic” to talk about an Igbo president. He was saying, basically, that the campaign should be for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction and not “an Igbo president”, which would suggest the Igbo wanted to have a different president.

A lot of Igbo commentators descended on him, and he was accused of calling his fellow Igbo “idiotic”. Some started calling him “Mr. Idiotic”. Every explanation that his words were misconstrued did not hit target, and he must regret making the statement in the first place, no matter his semantic sophistication.

2. We Defeated your Rag-tag Biafran Army.

As minister of foreign affairs under Yar’Adua, Maduekwe was caught in the middle of a messy storm. Nigeria’s ambassador to the U.S at the time, Oluwole Rotimi, a retired general, was recalled after writing a stinging letter to Maduekwe in which he made racist remarks.

Maduekwe had written a letter to Rotimi and his deputy requesting to be briefed on the preparation for the inauguration of Barack Obama as US president in January 2009. Rotimi was said to have felt insulted to be invited along with his deputy. He complained, although not to Maduekwe. The next thing, he wrote a letter in which he said: “I, Rotimi, was Quarter Master General in the Nigeria Amy that saw to your defeat in Biafran Army”.

On getting to hear about the altercation, Yar’Adua recalled the ambassador and appointed someone else in his stead. It was a sad episode that reopened an old wound, but the furore was soon over.

3. The Bicycle Minister.

Maduekwe got a fair share of media bashing, and controversy never departed from his doorsteps. As minister of transport under Obasanjo, he had recommended that Nigeria should explore every means of transportation, not just buses and cars. He suggested the use of bicycles – which is very common in the advanced world and is considered to be environment-friendly.

The headlines the following day were damaging: “Maduekwe says Nigerians should go back to using bicycle.” The general opinion was that he was taking Nigeria back to the Stone Age with this proposal. Some journalists nicknamed him “Ojo oni keke” (Ojo the cyclist) in jest.

But he nearly got himself killed while trying to lead the way. He started the habit of riding bicycle to the weekly federal executive council (FEC) meeting to create awareness (this was long before Boris Johnson became mayor of London and popularised cycling to office). On his second try, Maduekwe was knocked down by a commercial bus. He smelt a rat and stopped cycling on the roads of Abuja!

4. PDP had Obesity.

In a recent interview, Maduekwe highlighted the problems of the PDP, which lost power after 16 years on the seat.

“The failure of PDP was that after it had managed to keep the military out, it did not make the transition from being a ruling party to being a governing party. The issues of ideologies were not addressed. What is the philosophical, ideological glue that has brought together this wonderful pragmatic coalition?” he said.

“The party became too large and obesity is a problem whether in physical form or in politics and there was no strong opposition. I think if it was an APC at the time when we were in government, we would still have been in government by now. Because the APC would have held the members accountable and we would have been a lot more disciplined. But because there was no opposition at the time, the opposition had to come from within the party. It was like a titanic that would never sink. PDP was like an unsinkable ship and now the rest is history.”

5. Ojo is an Igbo Name.

For those who thought Ojo was an Igboman answering a Yoruba name, they are in for shock.

“The name ‘Ojo’ is Igbo because in my part of the Igbo area – Ohafia in Abia State – it is a common name but the original name for the person called Ojo is Mbila. What I have on my certificate is Mbila.  Mbila is the Igbo name for water yam. Water yam is highly revered in Ohafia and Igbo culture because it is the yam that does well in the soil when other yams are not able to,” he said in a recent interview with ThisDay.

“The usual tradition was if a farmer wants to soften the soil before planting other yams, he will plant water yam. Mbila can survive under any condition and it also makes way for other yams. Those are the qualities that were celebrated in the history of my family. The name is Mbila but the celebration of the name is Ojo. Those who are from my village still call me Mbila.”

6. A gap of Eight years between my elder sister and I.

Maduekwe often described himself as an “eagerly awaited child” because his parents waited for long to have him. His parents had a boy and two girls. They tried to have another child, and by the time Ojo arrived on May 6, 1945, there was already a gap of eight years!

“My parents and other siblings were all excited when I arrived. I was born in the year my father graduated from the theological seminary in 1945. He had finished from Hope Waddell Training Institute in 1928 where he was a contemporary of Nnamdi Azikiwe,” he said.

In one of the rags-to-riches stories, Maduekwe hawked bean cake (akara) to keep the family together when his father became incapacitated.

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