Most who responded to [last week’s] piece were confusing Sunny Odogwu with another kinsman of his, Sunny Sparkle Okogwu…
“Ughelli would be the Capital on my dead body|.”
-His Majesty Ogiame Atuwatse II A.K.A Godwin Toritseju Emiko
19th Olu of Warri
Chief Dennis Osadebay, former President of the Senate, Acting Governor General of the Nigerian Federation and the first and last Premier of the Midwestern Region on behalf of the Ibo-speaking people of the then Bendel State made his explicit pronouncement to the President General of Izu Anioma. “For the preservation of the rich culture and serene civilisation of Asaba, our people would prefer Abraka not Asaba to be Capital of the Delta State.” In arriving at that Resolution, Anioma took their time to consider the central location of Abraka; Abraka’s potentials for expansion; its gift of uncontaminated water and endowment… the green and wide space to grow the community to expand to a future megacity. Added to these advantages, Abraka is a borderline community sharing cultural affinities with the principal nations surrounding it, and also standing as the principal stakeholders of the Delta State regional grouping.
From the late Premier’s Residence at Strubb street, Cable Point Asaba, diminutive President General, Dr. Oka Orewa stopped over at Agbor his Biscuit factory and offered his delegation packets of Cabin Biscuits and continued on his way to Warri, and other parts of the Delta region. He was consulting and was on tour to explain to the leaders of the other groups the contending issues of the Delta State demand and the position of the Anioma nation on the location of the Capital.
Last week as we paid our tribute to the Late Sunny Iwedike Odogwu, we were surprised that even after the Column had attempted to sing some dirge in memory of his passage, most who responded to the piece were confusing Sunny Odogwu with another kinsman of his, Sunny Sparkle Okogwu who also ascended to the heavens some days before the former.
READ ALSO: Sonny Iwedike Odogwu: The end of an era
Sunny Okogwu was actually the elder brother to Mariam Nneka Babangida, the most accomplished Nigerian First Lady. Astute Athlete and a great jumper in his younger days at St. Patrick College, he was the super star at the annual Secondary Schools sports meetings at the Arcade playground Nnebisi Road. As he lifted up about to cross the bar, the girls will sigh and hold to their breasts in anxiety. Sunny Sparkle will deliberately hang up for three seconds in the air before landing on a sparkling thud of spectacle on the soft sand across the bar.
As the Anioma delegation and its P.G. visited the leaders and the palaces of the Delta nations; the Ojise of Asaba, Chief Sunny Odogwu was on red line communications with Chief Dennis Osadebay. He moved into the centre stage liaising with the military Government headed by his in-law and standing up for his people when the Urhobo lobby under General Ejoor and Chief Dafinone mobilized the Ibrus, etc and opposed the Anioma proposals which considered Abraka as the Capital of the impending Delta State! This revelation might sound shocking especially to those little minded marionettes and propagandists who over the years have repeatedly told the lie that the Babangidas during a pillow conversation decided to move the Delta Capital to Asaba. When the Urhobos mobilised against Asaba, Sunny Okogwu mobilised the reset of Delta and directed that Anioma took the case of Abraka to the Olu of Warri, and others. The Anioma delegation was in Warri when Deputy to Babangida, Admiral Aikhomu sent a secret note to the late Asaba Nuclear Scientist, Philip Onianwa: “It is the wish of the Ishans to ask the Western Ibos to remain with the Ishans, either still in the Midwest or the two friendly nations be allowed to coexist in a separate state away from the imperial ambitions of their expansive neighbors…” Sunny Okogwu who was married to an Ishan young lady was touched by that confidential note but was not going to defer from Osadebay’s lifetime wish. That was the second time he had refused Asaba Capital. In 1963 he chose to become Premier and gave up the Capital to Benin City for the same reasons.
After Chief Oka Orewa’s Anioma PG’S address to the Olu of Warri, we were not surprised that His Majesty did not waste our time. “Where the Western Ibos go, the Warri Kingdom will go, was His Majesty’s response. We were barely on our way when the Urhobo lobby went directly to the military government and with all audacity declaimed Abraka as the “Future Capital” declaring that the Urhobo had decided that Ughelli would be the Capital. Abraka according to them was an Urhobo peripheral border town!
Before Anioma could digest the bombshell, His Majesty the Olu of Warri ordered home his Itsekiri delegation to the Delta State holders meeting responding: “ Ughelli will be Capital on my dead body!”
Sunny Okogwu and the military waited till all the new states including Kogi that got Lokoja as its Capital before acting. Lokoja in 1900 was the Defence Headquarters of the then Nigeria when Asaba was the Capital of the Royal Niger Company. That was the guiding light when the Urhobo Lobby rejected Abraka and the Military called their bluff.
In 1991, when there was no Delta, Sunny Okogwu was the visionary who saw the Asaba Airport and at his death few weeks ago, the Airport’s Runway is completed. Now the Super Eagles can take off and return to Asaba after a continental joust in Johannesburg. Sunny Odogwu according to the aerospace Engineer Ifeanyi Okocha, was the man who paid the N40 million Naira seed money which was the beginning of the story of the Asaba Airport. He provided his own properties for the Airport to take off. When the opposition led by Dr. Ogeah, the Amartus and some youths rose up against the development of the Airport, the government went forward to provide another property and the rest is history.
At a time when Asaba is losing some outstanding legends whose contributions immediately after the beautiful city bled to death in the genocide of 1967, I shall on behalf of the community say the Asaba gratitude to a Titan, a Sports super star, a Community leader an unforgettable inspiration.
Meanwhile, Asaba and the Okogwu family should wake up and send a delegation to Kaduna and leaning on the tradition, demand for the Ojise’s body. If for any reason the Ogbueshi Nabo is buried away from his Papa’s land then Asaba and the Okogwu family should resolve all internal issues, and in the coming year resolve that we dedicate a day to celebrate the productive life and times of the Anioma last Titan. The Asaba Airport when fully completed should be renamed, Sunny Okogwu Airport. It was actually his baby and his life work.