By Comfort Obi
Any true Igbo son who held, and still hold Ikemba Nnewi, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, of the blessed memory, in reverence, should be embarrassed by the turn of events in his nuclear family. They must be embarrassed by the gutter behaviour of a couple of the children he sired! And for women, especially Igbo women, they should rise in anger against these Ojukwu children, specifically, Dr. Ike Ojukwu and Emeka Ojukwu Jnr. Both men deserve no respect from any woman who has any self-esteem.
Ever since their father passed on, they have been dancing naked in the market square in a futile bid to humiliate his widow, and, indeed, their step mother, Iyom Bianca Ojukwu. The irony: They are fighting over an inheritance they contributed nothing to.
The Ojukwus are not the only members of a prominent family who try to publicly rubbish the names they bear in a fight over inheritances. It is like some of them cannot wait for their patriarchs and/or matriarchs to pass-on before they show who they are. We read their stories in the media, and shake our heads in disbelief.
Yet, none has been more embarrassing than what is going on in the Ikemba Ojukwu family. If Bianca was made of a softer skin than she has, she would have crumbled under the weight of the hatred the Ojukwus habour for her.
Her greatest weapon is that she hardly needs them to bask in the sun. Before she married their father, her husband, she already was a solid woman – a Lawyer. A dead – drop beauty. A national, continental and international Beauty Queen. She is also from a solid family – a daughter of a well-respected, no-nonsense, Ngwo son, the late Christian Onoh. Onoh was a state governor, and he was stupendously rich. By virtue of being an internationally recognised Beauty Queen, Bianca was a millionaire before she married Ikemba. By virtue of being an Onoh daughter, Bianca was a millionaire before she married Ikemba. While married to the Ikemba, she also became Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain, with her husband’s consent. So, from whichever angle one looks at it, at no time was Bianca a nobody – as a spinster, as a married woman and, as a widow. What is the problem then?
Until Ikemba’s passing, nobody knew that any of his children held his wife, Bianca, in contempt. If there was any such feeling, it was well covered-up. Perhaps, because of Ikemba’s status and his intimidating presence, none of his children dared rubbish his wife either publicly, or to his hearing. The open hostility started as soon as Ikemba passed-on. And since then, there has been no let – on.
Emeka Jnr, in particular, takes great pride in running his father’s widow down. It remains for him to publicly call Bianca a free woman. I think he has always doubted Bianca’s marriage to his father. But not only was his father’s “chasing” of Bianca public, the Court, the traditional and, the Church weddings were also public and well-celebrated. Ikemba never did his things in half-measures. Indeed, at the time, the doubt was: Will this wealthy Beauty Queen agree to marry the Ikemba? She was rich and famous. But theirs was a fairy tale love story. It was beyond beauty and fame.
Many women, including this writer, had for several months, watched in disbelief, as Emeka Jnr continuously painted Bianca in derogatory colours. But it came to a head recently when Bianca declared interest in running for the Senatorial election, under APGA, a party her husband was the leader until his passing, to represent Anambra South at the Senate.
That was all Bianca did. She cursed nobody. She never stopped anybody from aspiring to the same seat. On the contrary, she wanted to keep her husband’s name alive in APGA, something Emeka Jnr had since abandoned by freely defecting to the ruling party at the centre – the All progressives Congress, APC.
Just for emphasis, Bianca declared her senatorial ambition under APGA, not under the APC. Her declaration of interest to run for the Senatorial seat did not in anyway rubbish the Ojukwu name. Nor did it stop Emeka Jnr to also declare interest in running for the same seat under the APC if he has the liver and, yes, the clout. But his anger and that of Dr. Ike Ojukwu boiled over.
So, the Ojukwu brothers upped the ante of their contempt for Bianca. At a press conference addressed by Ike, with Emeka Jnr present, both men not only tried to disown Bianca, they tried to strip her of her dignity as a woman, a wife and, a mother.
Taking the first shot at her was Ike Ojukwu, a Director of Ojukwu Transport Company Ltd. For him, Bianca, a legal wife of Ikemba, has committed a cardinal sin by daring to declare her interest in the Anambra South Senatorial seat. His words: “It would be a let-down to allow a woman from Ngwo, Enugu state, to represent Anambra South Senatorial District. The district has several prominent people. Is she from Nnewi. She is from Ngwo in Enugu state. If you ask me, I would prefer someone who is a son of the soil, and because I come from Nnewi, I would like an Nnewi indigene to represent us.”
My brief response: This sounds like a sponsored press conference. By marrying an Nnewi man, prominent or not, Bianca is not only an Nnewi wife, she is an Nnewi daughter and, the mother of Nnewi children – in this case two sons and a daughter! Clear enough?
Then enters Emeka Ojukwu Jnr in a most disrespectful, insolent manner. Said he: “A young woman who was supposedly (emphasis, mine)) married to my father who is late, a young woman who could remarry tomorrow, may be from Abia state or Sokoto state. And you want her to come and represent us. I wonder if there are no other people in Anambra South that can represent us.”
My response: Did Bianca’s declaration stop others from doing so? In any case, isn’t Emeka a man? And is he not from Anambra South? Why doesn’t he take himself seriously and run for the seat? And imagine? He dismisses Bianca as supposedly married to his father. Supposedly? What guts? Bianca was properly married to Emeka Jnr’s father – court, tradition, church. And they have children together. Even if they didn’t have any, she was legally married to the Ikemba who was, till death, very proud of his stunningly beautiful wife. And Bianca, in turn, was, and is still proud of her husband. She was not only a loving wife while Ikemba was healthy, in ill-health, Bianca stuck to her husband, looked after him, and, in death mourned him the way Igbo women mourn their husbands. Whoever advised the Ojukwu brothers to address this press conference did them no good. They exposed them to public ridicule.
Emeka jnr. actually asked if anybody asked and/or consulted the Ojukwu family before Bianca’s declaration of interest in the Senate. Nobody needed to consult them. Only Bianca had the right to consult them. But they lost that privilege when they showed her, in no unmistakable terms, that she is not quite family.
At the press conference they spoke as if they were speaking on behalf of the Ojukwu family. Not true. Ikemba and Bianca’s children are bonafide Ojukwu children. Were they consulted before the ill-advised press conference?
The Ojukwu brothers have more serious issues to address than Bianca’s senatorial ambition. For instance, in case the Ojukwus have not heard, the unconfirmed allegation out there is that a couple of them were not quite the caring and loving family when the Ikemba was ill. This allegation will not be made against Bianca who stuck to her husband and gave him the needed care and love which he needed most. In death, unlike Emeka jnr, who rose to prominence (politically), becoming a Commissioner at one point, obviously, for being Ikemba’s son, Bianca is keeping the Ikemba political flame aglow. She did not abandon her husband’s party. Emeka Jnr has since abandoned Ikemba’s political legacy, APGA.
Yet, Bianca is being treated like an outcast. Since her husband’s passing, she has had no breathing space. Of course, the Ojukwu family is already famous thanks to their grandfather, Sir Louis Ojukwu and later, the Ikemba, but if Bianca goes to the Senate, she will only be adding to the fame, not subtract from it.
By referring to Bianca as an outsider in a family she rightly belongs to, the Ojukwus insulted not only her, but every woman and every widow. The Ojukwu wives should take their husbands up. The implication for them, really, is that their husbands think they are strangers in their matrimonial home, and may treat them as such some day. They should watch out.
As for Nigerian women and, Anambra women in particular, they should hold the Ojukwus to their words, and have it against them in case any of them dares to contest for any position in future, women should give them a red card. And they have an opportunity to teach them a lesson now.
Here is how.
Dr. Joseph Onoh, Bianca’s brother, in a statement he issued from London, in response to the diatribe against her sister, among other relevant points, taunted the Ojukwus thus: “See you at Bianca’s inauguration?” I wish. If she gets the APGA ticket, Anambra South women should call the bluff of the Ojukwus by voting massively for her.
Finally, I submit that the Ojukwus owe women an apology. I submit that they owe widows an apology. I, also, submit that they should get rid of their huge ego, purge themselves of bad belle, and apologise to Bianca. To publicly run her down means running down their father’s name, memory, the surname they bear, and everything the Ikemba stood for. For a man who gave them a name and prominence, the way they are treating his beloved widow is, to say the least, a shame.