Bianca, widow of the rebel leader, carries on her shoulders the Ojukwu legacy, which includes her own biological children, her stepchildren and the Ojukwu estate
I was invited by Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, the ex-Biafran leader, to review his book, “Because I am Involved,” which was launched on Thursday, July 20, 1989. The book was dedicated to his children – Emeka, Mimi, Okigbo and Ebele – as well as to his father, mother and “the poor and needy whose anguish ensures my continuing protest.” When I was first contacted, I thought the book would be his own perspective on the Nigerian civil war, a perspective that was not yet in the public space and still isn’t. This would be his magnum opus, I thought. But it turned out to be largely a book on the problems he believed had held Nigeria back: ethnicity, indiscipline, poor leadership and neo-colonialism.
In that review, I said in part, “Curiously, he finds space, too, not for one more politician, or social crusader, but for a lady whose ravishing beauty can take your breath away: Bianca Onoh, the 1989 Miss Intercontinental.” With the hunch of a reporter and the eyes of someone who was not entirely innocent in matters of the heart, I knew that there was something cooking between Odumegwu-Ojukwu and the beautiful woman, Bianca. It was not long before they began to make a public show of their fairy tale romance. It seemed at the time to be an unlikely arrangement, not one made in heaven. Ojukwu was a much older man, one whom many Nigerians saw as a rebel and Biafrans as a patriot. Bianca was a much younger woman from the rich and famous family of Chief C.C. Onoh of Ngwo in Enugu State. She had acquired a degree in Law from the University of Nigeria, and was exceptionally beautiful. It did not appear that they were made for each other but both of them knew what magical charm they found in each other. For her, it must have been Ojukwu’s easy charm, the magnetic pull of his chivalry and the image of the warrior as hero. For Ojukwu, when his eyes roamed over her figure, his heart must have thudded like a drum. Her femininity obviously responded to his masculinity. His reckless passion for her made the woman inside her to come alive. Ojukwu wrote and read poems to her, confirming the conventional wisdom that love and war are the major harbingers of eloquence. Bianca met with a stiff opposition from her father but she allowed her heart to decide for her head. She and Ojukwu got married in a lavish ceremony in Abuja. As it is often said, the rest is history. No, not yet. Even though Ojukwu is dead, their history is not. Bianca, widow of the rebel leader, carries on her shoulders the Ojukwu legacy, which includes her own biological children, her stepchildren and the Ojukwu estate, which was defined by the bearded man’s will. Since the will was released, there has been a fierce fight in the family. I have no idea whether the current opposition by Ojukwu’s children to Bianca’s desire to contest for the senatorial seat of Anambra South is traceable to the will. Or to her possible violation of the widowhood rule book or to the general suspicion, or lack stepmothers and stepchildren. It was Thomas Hardy who said that “a good wife is good but the best wife is not so good as no wife at all.” Is it the Ojukwu name that Ojukwu’s children are contesting with Bianca? Bianca had an illustrious surname before she exchanged Onoh for Ojukwu. Her father was a rich businessman and politician who became the short-term Governor of Enugu State in 1983. Bianca’s curriculum vitae is also rich: lawyer, beauty queen, personal assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Spain. Add this also to her portfolio: she still has, even now, an irresistible aura of femininity.
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Recently, Dr. Ike Ojukwu, director of Ojukwu Transport Company Limited, called a press conference to campaign against a woman who bears the same surname as he does. He said it “would be a let-down to allow a woman from Ngwo in 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.” Can I tell Dr. Ojukwu that Bianca is a daughter of the Nnewi soil by marriage to Ojukwu? The Constitution of Nigeria has no objection to her status as a woman and her eligibility to contest. By the way, when Ojukwu was marrying Bianca, his children did not display placards in Abuja or Nnewi against the marriage. Did they? No, they didn’t.
Another son of Ojukwu, Emeka Ojukwu Jnr, who is in looks a xerox copy of his father, was at the same press conference. He is said to be a lawyer and a member of the APC. This was his spit: “A young woman who was supposedly married to my father who is late, a young woman who could remarry tomorrow maybe from Abia State or later 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.”
Emeka Jnr looks in physique like his father but he lacks his father’s liberal mindedness. If his father, an Nnewi man, chose to marry Bianca, an Ngwo woman, both of them Igbos, what could be wrong with that? It is slightly surprising that he, an Igbo man whose father validly married an Igbo woman, can describe his father’s wife and his stepmother as a woman “supposedly married to my father.” That is the height of crudity, little-mindedness, incivility and disrespect to his famous father. It is a well-known fact that he was not favoured in his father’s will but Bianca is not to blame. His success in life should depend more on his own will than his father’s, anyway.
Emeka, in a rambling wild-goose-chase kind of justification, chooses to speculate about what may happen if Bianca marries a man from Abia or Sokoto State. Very infantile statement. The truth is that, as at present Bianca is still Ojukwu’s wife, bears his name and takes care of his children that she bore for him. These children are a valuable addition to the Ojukwu family. So is Bianca. Even at the time Bianca married Ojukwu, he was still viewed with suspicion, still treated like a pariah in some circles and even the NPN government that pardoned him never truly trusted him.
READ ALSO: Ojukwu’s family splits over Bianca
When he contested for the Senate election in 1983, they moved against him and ensured that, popular as he was, he failed the election. Their view was that a man who fought against Nigeria should not be allowed to sit in a Nigerian parliament to make laws for Nigeria. So, their marriage (Bianca and Ojukwu) was more a plus for him than for Bianca. Bianca, with her beauty, family pedigree and good education, could have had a thousand men seeking to eat out of her hand. Ojukwu was lucky to have her. You cannot say she was lucky to have him because, at that point, Ojukwu was still semi-untouchable.
As to be expected, Bianca’s brother has weighed in with support for his sister. From his residence in London, Dr. Umunnakwe Josef Onoh says that Ojukwu’s children are ignorant of the law, which is true, and that he handed over his sister to Ojukwu and not to his sons, which is also true. There is no law in Nigeria that says a married woman cannot contest an election in her husband’s state of origin and her own state of marriage. None. The electability or otherwise of Bianca as a senator representing Anambra South will be decided first by APGA, the political party to which she belongs, a party that was founded by her husband. If APGA chooses her as its candidate, then it will be up to the voters of Anambra South to decide her fate vis a vis the fate of other candidates of other parties.
I don’t know if Ojukwu’s children fought Bianca when Ojukwu was alive. If they did, it means they are courageous. If they did not, it means they are cowards. It is actually cowardly to fight a widow simply because her husband is dead. Bianca is not only a politician, she is also a widow. On the basis of political selection for the Anambra South senatorial seat, the Ojukwu sons have no point to score against Bianca. They are simply bellyaching. She is correct to seek to contest.
Having dismissed the point about the legality or otherwise of her political aspiration, I am left to discuss, even if perfunctorily, the cruelty of some Nigerians to widows. Widowhood is a cruel fate. A man and a woman have decided to live as husband and wife forever. Then suddenly the man dies out of an accident, or disease or age-related illness and leaves the wife husbandless. The geography of her world has changed automatically. She has to bear the family’s burden alone, become for the children both the mother and the father and take care of herself by herself. This is a tough road to travel and many women wilt easily, degenerate and die before ripe old age. In Nigeria, some relations add some insult to the injury of the woman’s loss of her husband by seizing the man’s property, if they can, or by generally intimidating and harassing her because they can.
Widows ought to be treated fairly but you find that those who torment widows are always ready to take away even the widow’s mite. That is what Ojukwu’s children are trying to do to Bianca. It is unfair, patently unfair.