Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: You Cannot Negotiate to Be a First Child - Debe Ojukwu (II)

interview

This is the concluding part of the Debe Ojukwu interview.

What do you think could have been responsible for this alleged forgery?

Greed is the driving force behind it, because there are attempts to negotiate my patrimony.

I did not bribe God to make me my father's first son.

If someone emerges from that door and says he is my father's son and DNA confirms it; and if the person says he was born on August 2 1956, I will remove my cap and bow for that person because I was born on August 3 1956. And I will not argue with the person because first son comes from God and in Igbo land the first son own the father's Obi.

He holds the Obi in trust for everybody and it is not his private property.

First son is not by appointment or political appointment.

So, now I consider myself to be in an acting capacity for my late father.

Though you don't reckon with the document as a Will, can you tell us what you think could have been responsible for the overwhelming allocation of properties to Bianca?

It could be because the allotter did the allocation. (prolonged laughter).

That is the reason because the person who got the biggest share did the allocation.

I am doing my work and every body is envious of what I am doing, saying that I am the richest. But Emeka and his siblings did not even get anything from the document.

I understand that there is a property in Onitsha which was given to Emeka?

(Cuts in) That is mama's house.

That is my grandmother's house. It could not have been given to Emeka, because it is not my father's property, but my grandmother's property and my father and his siblings are supposed to share it.

Did you at any time in your father's lifetime envisage, that his Will would generate the kind of controversies it is currently generating, because people are beginning to say that they were not surprised about the development, because they felt that controversies lived with Emeka Ojukwu in his lifetime?

No, my father was not controversial.

They will always say that, especially because of the Biafran war.

Some said he should not have gone to war while others okayed it.

But when you look at it, he acted with reasons.

For instance, I could easily have allowed myself to be bought over; I could have even allowed my patrimony to be negotiated. What is at stake now is the negotiation of my patrimony.

When God sent me to the world as Ojukwu's first child, I did not negotiate with anybody. What I'm doing now is that I will never tolerate the negotiation of my patrimony which is not in doubt. For instance when that document was read, my father's widow said one funny woman emerged as my father's daughter.

But I have always known about that because my father told me about her.

When I was saying it I was not afraid of any contradiction, because I knew he had a daughter, whose mother is a northerner. He brought the girl's brother and told us that two of us are brothers. The brother's name is Bukar. And the girl's real Hausa name is Aisha. And the surname is not Hamar but Hamman-Maiduguri that was in the force. When my father died, I called Bukar and he came to my house here. I asked him to tell the mum to bring my sister that our father is no more. The mother was arranging for the uncles to come on a condolence visit. What prevented them from coming was what they were reading in the papers. They saw that the man on whose back they wanted to ride on to Nnewi, was having problems.

You're talking about the daughter from a northerner, even you, too, have been described as not of Ojukwu?

The lawyer, who read the document, said that I saw my father in 1982 when he came back from Ivory Coast. He said I appeared from the woods and said dad you are my father. He said my dad asked who my mother was and I said my mother is dead. The lawyer went further to say that my father said I should summon my mother's people but I disappeared till date and said that I had never been seen till date.

He also said that it was for that reason that my name was not included in the Will.

When people heard that, they disputed it, saying that I was always seen with my father. Another version was also that my father left my name out of the Will because I fought with him over JAMB office. And this lawyer claims to be a Knight because he uses the title sir. When they found out that I filed this caveat that I gave you, they posted on the internet that my father secretly did a DNA test and found that I was not his son.

When you say I am not his child, we should file out all the children and do a DNA like the way it was done on M.K.O Abiola's children.

They went further again to allege that I said I don't discuss Tenim's mother that she is a loose Hausa woman.

Why do you think they have done all these?

They have done many things because I filed a caveat.

I am a catholic and we have what we call grievous sin and venial sin.

When you have sinned you go to confession and the Rev. Fr will give you penance. They offended me for no just cause and by now they should have known that they were misled. Their father did not die, it was our father. We are talking about the children of Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and not children of Sir Louis Ojukwu.

Upon Ojukwu's demise, it is his children who are supposed to seat and discuss how he will be buried and not for someone to come and start imposing rules, by appointing a younger son the first son and making the first son a junior son.

When they are penitent, I will know.

But beyond the Will, what could have brought this deep seated division in the family?

It was the funeral that brought the division, because so many people were promised certain things.

But I can not because of a promise throw away my brother.

So for them when they come back, I will not say we will not go forward. The highest they can do is to have done what they have done by removing my name. Emeka and I before now, did not have any problem, it was the funeral that brought the whole issue. Let me show you something about someone, who they are now saying is the first son. (Showing Vanguard team massages on his Ipad sent by his younger brother Emeka when Ojukwu was hospitalized at Royal Berkshire Hospital. In the mails that were sent on different occasions, Emeka was enquiring from Debe, who was with the ailing Ojukwu, how their father was faring in London. In most of the mails, Emeka referred to him as Bros mi. In the massages, Debe was always giving Emeka, who was in Nigeria update on their father's state of health).

So when you now look at somebody who sent me all these mails, he now suddenly comes out and tell you he doesn't know me, perhaps, he has forgotten these mails are there, he has also forgotten that when his mother died, I played a major role.

So I am worried about the way they lied to the world because of pecuniary interests. With all these kind of situation, they have forgotten we have always been working together in the past; it was this funeral that brought the division because so many people were promised so many things.

For me, I cannot because of promise throw away my brother; but we are already in the same boat, we are already brothers and sisters and that will not stop us from going on, we will go on.

They went ahead to remove my name from the Will but thank God I am a lawyer and removing your name from the Will does not mean you are dis-inherited because the law is very clear and that is why anything you do, you must learn to do it well.

When I read law, I was sleeping at the Supreme Court in Lagos, I was reading all the Court cases and the Registrar at the Court would say this is how Gani Fawehinmi started, that Gani was always coming in to read and he would buy roasted plantain and be eating and reading in the library and he would leave by 6pm. That was how I was reading law, I did not just go to University of Nsukka to study law. When they wrote the Will, they thought it was very perfect but the law makes provision for un-mentioned children or what they call pretermitent children.

What is that?

When I was applying for the Caveat, the lawyer who reacted did not read Law very well; he did not know there is provision for what is called "unmentioned child", because if he had known there was a provision for that, the way he would have made this Will to be able to scale through is to try to assert that I was not given anything because I am okay, or that it has been decided that I should be dis-inherited and if you say somebody is dis-inherited, it does not mean that person is not your child because child's position is not something you negotiate. You can decide that in terms of your property, you won't give the child but that does not mean the child is not yours. We have seen examples of people that died and they gave their properties to charities, but it does not mean those children are not their father's children because there is no child that applied to be born. They didn't know about this clause, so when I now put it, they became jittery.

You are fighting a cause that is almost same with what Emeka your brother is fighting. Are both of you in tandem or in talks to challenge this document?

No, we are not working in tandem. Why should we.

Why should you not? Since the controversies on the Will started, has Emeka spoken to you, because as it appears the document did not favour him?

He has not called me since he has been playing this game that he is the first son of the family. How can he come now to talk to me? Now that I have gone for the Caveat Emptor, Emeka's statement was that the Will is fake and my own statement is that the purported will is a concoction but I have done what a first son should do. As first son, your duty is to protect the young ones.

If I say the Will was a concoction, I am right. I have done my right as a first son to do a Caveat and I am also challenging the Will, then you Emeka that mentioned that the Will is fake, what have you done or are you now saying the fake Will of your father should be admitted?

The reasons for accepting are very clear, it's either he is financially incapacitated which is the objective of those who do not want the family members to fight the purported Will. Incapacitate all the children. but I cannot be incapacitated and that is why I was able to follow it up to this extent.

The path you have followed which is the law suit in Court, don't you think it will create bad blood in an already polarized family?

Somebody went to forge your fathers Will and you are telling me that I should leave it. What we are challenging is a legal document. Ideologically, if they have read the Will at the house and they have not read it at the Court, I would not have had access to documents.

If they read the will at home, the Lawyer could have called few journalists and maintain it was Ojukwus Will, then journalists would have gone ahead to publish what was read out and if I challenge the lawyer, he could have told me am not entitled to it. Then journalist will go and publish all you get, meanwhile they will have a copy of that will, then after reading it, they will now go to Court and file it, then I will not know when they apply for probate, I will not know when they get the grant for probate because with probate, when you apply for it, you will publish in the papers. So if they had done it surreptitiously, I wouldn't have known. Everyone of us would have based our facts on what was read in the media.

How do you want your father to be remembered asides naming certain things after him?

The only way we can remember him and not in monuments is to realise that he lived for equity, he lived for Justice. The whole Igbo women are giving me an award and the whole Nnewi traditional institution is trying to confer on me a Grand Patron. The only way I wished he could be immortalised is to believe those things he lived and died for but not in monuments.

What burden does being an Ojukwu's son places on you?

Politically, leadership is not hereditary because you mature into it. To me, he is mere perfection so being his son challenges me to be perfect. That is what the burden as his son places on me.

If I were not his son, you can come in here and see me lying on the floor, but because I am his son, I have to try to be at my best, try to excel, even if I cannot surpass him, let me try and equal him. That is the burden and it is a very big one.

I always tell people that the shoes my father wore were distended and they were distended as a result of circumstances he found himself during the war, the war situation, that created the person he became and that is why I laugh at people who wake up one day and say they want to become my father, you cannot replace him because we don't have a war situation. Anybody that wants to be like my father needs to replicate the same situation for you to be him.

And being that I took after him in all respect, I found myself in the situation my father found himself, I may not act almost the same way for one reason, because I am older. When he acted in that situation, my father was 33years, but today I am 56years. I am wiser and even if that situation resurfaces, I will approach it in a different manner because I am more matured.

Like now I am having my own crises, one criminal sits somewhere and say I am not Ojukwus son, I am in crises and that crises is making me talk to the media, so for somebody not be in my kind of situation to say he wants to be like me, he will fail.

What do you think the future holds for the Igbo nation in terms of political leadership?

The future has a very good prospect and I believe the Igbos will always get their champions but the problem is that we are not united yet.

We need that unity, leadership is very easy if there is unity.

Everybody is a king in his house, to make a governor, everybody in his house has to surrender his kingship and give it to one man and aggregate leadership powers to him, that is what makes a leader very powerful. So the Igbos need to watch it, have some internal control to evolve leadership, not leadership by money.

We Igbos should have a situation whereby we bring our angels to be the foremen; even the other coordinating units in Nigeria would respect that person. It would be easy for other parts of the country to submit to the person. So we must go back to do an introspection, evolve a naturally peculiar election process. I was recommending that with the reality of the circumstances today, any person is queuing up to utilize Igbo leadership should surrender all his wealth to the people. If you want to become a Governor first hand over all the property you have acquired to your people, when we have taken it over, the Ohaneze will fund your campaign, they will support you. Funding your campaign does not necessarily mean money, if the people are really for you. So when we have that, the number of candidates we have automatically trims down, because once you do that, I doubt whether we would have two people remaining. And the person that emerges will be given a condition that he must not be corrupt, he must be just because leadership is about being just.

So, there is need to purge ourselves of our iniquities, purge ourselves from corruption to be attractive to other coordinating units so as to get that leadership.

What was your relationship with Bianca Ojukwu in the past and what is your relationship with her now?

I have always seen her as my father's widow. First of all, my mother and Bianca's mother were best of friends. It was supposed to be a life time relationship. My mother and Bianca's mother taught in the same school in Wudi and they lived in the same house. They were friends when my father started moving with my mother, Bianca's mother was aware of when I was born and she regards me as her son, that is the relationship. Building up on that, when Bianca started having children, I was the one doing the outing relationship in Lagos, I was the one financing it. I did the one of the twins and the one of the last born as well.

Each time they had the children abroad and they were coming back, there was nobody on ground and normally the whole Igbo would come to celebrate with my father, so I was the one throwing the party. I was doing that and my father was very happy with it and my father encouraged me. You know initially, my father did not have a traditional wedding with Bianca, they only had white wedding in church in Maitama at Abuja, so when it was the turn for the traditional wedding, I was the one that financed the outing ceremony. When the father died, I eventually buried the father alone, I did that. I was doing that because of my father and my father allowed me because he was putting me in a position that those things are supposed to be my responsibility, however excruciating it was because I had my own thinking and I knew those are things I was supposed to do.

So I did them very well and that was why when her father died and my late father was too old to attend those events, I made sure it was done properly. I have always taken her not like a daughter but a junior sister. You know when people are young and enemies begin to come in, they tend to poison people's minds; I believe her mind was poisoned. So if her mind was poisoned, it is now left for her to purge herself from that poison.

For sometime, I have not communicated with her, I have not communicated with anyone of them either because the role they played at the funeral was despicable. There are basic things I expected her to do, even if other people are trying to be over-bearing on her, she as the widow in the house should have risen up to the occasion. There was a day the Governor invited us, I was the one that met the governor, when the President also sent delegation, I was the one the delegates met.

So if all those things are happening, I expected her to overrule them because I was the one carrying him when he was sick, I slept four nights at UNTH, no other person slept like that except me with my eyes open. I was the one carrying him and even in the London hospital, I was the only person in this world that went with my whole family to his Hospital bed in London.

My daughters and my wife went to him at his hospital bed, so what are they saying? My father so much loved my children and you can see pictures of where he was carrying my children - that is somebody they claim did not gave birth to me but yet he is carrying my children. So I didn't have to start fighting anybody because I knew the enemies. What I expected her to do is to ask "where is brother", and then tell the people that my husband's son is not here and when others are doing dust to dust, let him do as well. But she did not do that but supported conspiracy and up till now, I do not know why she conspired against me.

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