An Unforgettable Lion!

By Ikenga Chronicles January 17, 2021

— Kenneth Ikonne

Some humans exude this kind of aura. Ikemba Ojukwu certainly did. When I was a student at Ife, he once came to deliver a lecture at the University’s iconic Oduduwa Auditorium. It was packed full, and the audience was hostile, as we waited. There were sporadic taunts of “Biafra”, “Biafra”, in apparent jest at the visitor’s failed effort to found a Republic. It continued even after the unfazed warrior had walked into the auditorium, accompanied by the Vice Chancellor, Wande Abimbola and Arthur Nwankwo, both now of blessed memory. But all the tumult was soon to dramatically turn to pin – drop silence once Ojukwu walked up to the lectern. Eyes blazing with imponderable fire, and with a face that combined the aura of both a Greek god and a lion – king, he cast a kinetic gaze at each of the three sections of the tumultuous auditorium.

The effect was melodramatic. Each section went deathly quiet as the muscular lion stirred them down. Having achieved attentive silence, Ojukwu then proceeded to thrill his hypnotized audience with the kind of oratory not seen since Cicero’s time.

“Mr. Vice Chancellor”, he bellowed, in a tone that was rythmically perfect, if not lyrical. “I have never before now been to your magnificent citadel of learning, but I have been vicariously present. I say vicarious because, several years ago, within the ancient portals of Oxford, the very first Vice Chancellor of this great institution, Professor Hezekiah Oluwasanmi and I, were inseparable friends. I have not been here before, but today, as I stand on thy hallowed grounds, I am breathless – the sheer suzerainty of the atmosphere; the sheer harmony of man and nature; the sheer architectural indulgence; all are worthy of Oxymandias. And all these are an indisputable testament to the truism that Baba (Awo) loved his children.”

At this point, the once hostile predominantly Yoruba audience exploded in paroryxms of ecstasy. “Ojukwu ni alagbara”, the electrified audience, now on their feet, chanted in a frenzy!

The fiery orator then paused, and let out a wry smile. In that instant, he looked disarming, and dark – ruggedly handsome, like the lion in this post! He then continued:

“The theme of this talk, is, in a sense, a toast to the sustainability of the unity of Nigeria. I know that some people in this hall might be bemused at the choice of Ojukwu to propose a toast in honour of the Federal Republic.”

At this point he paused again, dramatically, eyes blazing. He then bent toward the microphone and roared:

“But if not me, who uuuuu?”

The ‘who uuuu’ boomed in the amphitheatre in a reverberating echo. Then he paused again, and began to brag:

“I have been a rebel, i have been a soldier, an ex citizen, ex head of state, ex warlord, and ex military governor. I have been in dungeons where the dark walls of gruesome trenches were my most distant horizon, and from whence I heard my brothers’ bullets whistle past my ear in a murderous staccato. I have also been in ornate corporate boardrooms where the only language of discourse was high finance. And I have even survived the schizophrenia of “a little to the left, and a little to the right.”

The wowed audience of students, academics and professors roared in thunderous applause!

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