David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
One of the foremost agitators for Biafra and former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, Dr Dozie Ikedife joined his ancestors on December 18, 2018. Until his death, Ikedife was the deputy chairman of the Supreme Council of Elders of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (SCIPOB). And since after his death, the agitation for Biafra from his own camp seems to have suffered a setback with reference to his own inputs.
But his first son, Mr Dozie Ikedife (Jnr), who was deputy governorship candidate on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last gubernatorial election in Anambra State in 2017, in this interview revealed all he knew about his late father’s activism. Excerpts:
It is over one year now since you lost your father. How do you feel?
I lost my father on December 11, 2018. And it just looks like a very difficult experience for my family, losing the patriarch of the family. And it is even more difficult because of the relationship we enjoyed with him. He was a father to us. We played with him a lot. We shared a lot of moments. And he was our confidant and advisor. He was a kind of man we could go to at any time with any subject and any problem and he was always willing. His job was to listen and advise us, proffer solutions and solve our problems. His death left a major vacuum.
Your father was an activist in terms of fighting for the Igbo. And he left big shoes in that regard. So, what happens to those shoes?
Well, his shoes are too big for any of us to try to fill or even for
all of us to fill collectively. But the most important thing for us
is that we have been living our lives based on the legacies he left
behind. We are also trying to maintain his legacies. He taught us a lot about public service, being humanitarian. Above all projecting our culture projecting our tradition and taking care of humanity. So, we are just trying to maintain his legacies. We live everyday. We try to maintain his legacies through the life that we live and through the works that we do. That is what is going on.
When your father was alive he fought many “wars” projecting Igbo interest generally. Do you believe in the ideals and philosophy of your father. And to what extent have you tried to continue from where he stopped?
I believe in a lot of things my father believed in. The major of it
is humanitarian. My father was always ready to lend a hand to somebody in need. He was always willing and ready to fight and protect the weak. He was always read and willing to project the ideals of Nigeria, the ideals of getting up do your best everyday. He was deeply a religious man and he loved medicine, of course, quite political and a leader in the community. So, he taught us a lot and we learnt a lot from him and we have been trying to imbibe the things that he taught us in our daily activities. I live in the village. I’m in the community and when my father was alive, he always had an
open gate. Our gate was always open for people to come in and when they come in they left knowing that their problems could be solved. So, we have maintained that and our gate is always open. We do a lot of work in the community, helping the less privileged, being mentors to many people around as my father did and just guiding a lot of people in the community, working hard to help develop our community.
He fearlessly talked about self-determination for the Igbo. Do you still share the same view?
Yes, our father was one of the founders of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and he was a leader in IPOB till he died. He will tell you that Biafra means so many things to different people. I don’t think that he was ever thinking that there would be a nation called Biafra again. But Biafra exists in the minds of many Igbo people. So, to that extent I agree. Biafra is a thing of the mind; it’s a thing of consciousness. You know, the Biafra in you makes you get up everyday and work hard to achieve for yourself and to achieve for your community. The Biafra in you makes you get up and want to help the man next to you, the man who
is weaker than you, to lend your hand. So, for my father Biafra meant a lot things to different people. And he would always say that the Biafra in you will make you sit at table and have dialogue for any difficult situation. So, he believed in dialogue and I believe in dialogue and I also believe in a united Nigeria. I believe that Nigeria is on the right path to greatness. So, many of us have Biafra in our minds, but we are working for a great Nigeria.
Your father had many followers those who believed in him. What do you have to tell such people because they regretted the demise of your father?
Well. My father enjoyed relay race as his best sport, the idea of you set up and you run with a baton. And you run as fast as you can and cover some distance, then hand over to the person next to you. When you hand over that baton is not in your hands anymore. Then the next person continues the race and hopefully run a good race and hands over to the person ahead of him. So, to that extent, Dr Dozie Ikedife lived a fulfilled life, thoroughly
fulfilled and he has handed over the baton now. He handed over the baton to many people who came around him because those that came around him always left with some form of fulfillment. They always left with some thing that could save their lives. So, to that extent he mentored a lot of people and the people that he mentored will carry on from where he stopped. And I expect that people that held him in high esteem, that looked up to him will carry on with the teachings with the things that he taught them. And life will continue.
Based on what your father believed in, do you think he will be happy to see the way Nigeria is moving today?
My father would be the happiest person in his grave, if in 2023 an Igbo man becomes the president of Nigeria. That’s what he dreamed of. That’s what he always wanted for Nigeria because he felt that Igbo man would help to play a major role as president of Nigeria, to build that Nigeria of our dream. So, I think he will be very happy in his grave in 2023 when an Igbo man is elected president of Nigeria.
Do you think Igbo are prepared to produce a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023?
Yes, I believe so. I believe that a lot of Igbo people are well
positioned to become president of Nigeria in 2023. But only one person will emerge. So, it’s for us to support our Igbo brothers in different political parties that have the aspiration to become president. We have to support them, to give them the push, to give them the extra courage needed so that they can throw their hats in the ring and by the grace of God one will emerge as president. So, I think we are ready and that’s the Biafra of my father’s mind.
If one asks you what you have lost since your father’s demise what would you say?
Honestly speaking, I will always like to tell people around me to go to my father’s grave and ask him why he had to die. My biggest regret is that he died. You know I spent a lot of time with him. I spent the greater part of last 10 years living with him, waking up everyday and having some form of conversation with him, some form of engagement with him, learning from him. And I learnt a lot from him. And, of course, he died at 88, but I wished he lived till 98. But in all, my father lived a fulfilled and good life. And he always felt like God loved him more than he loved others. So, that’s why in his prayers he
would always say, “God thank you for all you have done for me and please do for others as much as you offered me”.
People said your father was an APC man?
My father was never an APC. He never registered with APC. I brought APC to my family. And because of the kind of family we have, we always unite around issues. We discuss extensively and then take a position. We are only united around me to support APC. And he was a very busy person. I ran an election on the platform of APC. My mum is a zonal woman leader of APC. And my father had hosted President Muhammadu Buhari in his house on about three different occasions, supported Buhari financially in his presidential ambition over the years. So, Buhari was a presidential candidate of his choice. And he was quite happy when Buhari was elected president of Nigeria. He attended some APC’s presidential campaign rallies and he attended some APC’s presidential town meetings in 2015, he was the chairman of
APC presidential campaign town meetings in Onitsha and he delivered a keynote address. So, he supported the presidential ambition of Muhammadu Buhari. But he was never a card-carrying member of APC.
Have your father’s admirers deserted you?
Well, that’s a tough one, I can’t say that the people that cared for my father have deserted the family or deserted me. People come in and out on a daily basis. We have enough people coming around to discuss national and local issues and to discuss state matters. And my father trusted a lot of people in very special ways. He treated people with a lot of respect. And he took interest in the success of people. So, these people he mentioned and guided and nurtured will find it
difficult to desert us as a family because they are part of our
family. We have one big united family under him. So, when he died a lot of people came to support us and people have
been coming from far away and around. We have received tremendous amount of support and love from people that were close to my father when he was alive.