The Ojukwu I knew – Soyinka

Ojukwu and Soyinka

Lasun Alagbe

Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has revisited his early encounters with the leader of the Biafran side in the Nigerian Civil War, the late Odimegwu Ojukwu.

He said he did not initially like Ojukwu because of the class aura that surrounded him (the deceased) but his disposition changed when he went into the Biafran battle with determination.

In an interview in ‘Saturday PUNCH’, Soyinka says, “He was a mixture. He was very conscious of his class. He belonged to an affluent family. He had an affluent father who was a businessperson. He was sent to the best schools for education. I think he went to Oxford University. When he came back, we met as young people. He was older than I was. In the beginning, I didn’t even like him at all. Before I went away, I knew he was very class-conscious, rich, and wealthy. He drove a sports car while I rode along on my father’s bicycle. I remember very well. We used to meet in the same areas, seeing that we had mutual friends.

“But, when he came back – and this happened to so many young people – he definitely felt a sense of mission to the Biafran cause. He tried to rise to that occasion as fast and as determinedly as he could. I thought that for somebody with that background and those challenges, that he didn’t do too badly. He made some terrible decisions though. He also had to accept responsibility for the entire scenario – going to war. However, all the people in leadership at that time were culpable. But, in my view, we on the Federal side, had a greater culpability.”

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