Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Last week, Nigeria's Ambassador to Spain and widow of the late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, in an interview with Saturday Sun spoke about her life with the late Ikemba and alleged a plot by her husband's brothers to take away her husband's property. She also spoke of a particular son of one of her husband's brothers whom she had not seen in the 23 years she came into the Ojukwu family, but who showed up during the burial and later came to inquire of Ikemba's will. But today, in response to her allegations, the Ojukwu family warns the Ambassador not to tarnish the image of the late Ikemba, and that in fact, the said property does not belong to her husband. And speaking through the same person she was referring in her interview, Dr. Ike Ojukwu, who happens to be the son of Prof. Joseph Ojukwu, the head of the Ojukwu family, the Ojukwus explained the position of the property in question and other issues she raised concerning the family. Excerpts: Can we meet you? My name is Dr. Ike Ojukwu, son of Prof. Joseph Ojukwu and grandson of Odumegwu Ojukwu. Last Saturday in an interview, the widow of Ikemba Nnewi, Her Excellency, Ambassador Bianca Ojukwu, alleged that members of Ojukwu's family want to take over the properties of the husband. What can you say to this? Yes. I did read the interview. It was a good interview. I also discussed it with the members of the family and the consensus was that they felt that some of the issues raised had to be addressed. So, I will talk with you for clarification purposes, information, in response to clear up some of the confusion on some of the issues raised. We do not want this to be a process that tarnishes the image of our late Ikemba and we do know that when a microphone is in front of any average person, you may get misquoted or say things that probably end up sounding in a different way than you intended. I want to approach it this way. As I said before, I have spoken to the members of my family and they are very much aware of our decision to address some of these issues. There are some main issues and message that they want to be put out, after that main message or issue, I will address the interview the way it relates to the issues in the family, point by point without taking too much of your time. I shall, as we go along, quote some members of the family and I am doing this for the reason that I do not want it to appear as if I am being isolated or the only person involved in this. The main message that they want put out is that the property being discussed belongs to Ojukwu Transport Limited, full stop. I will say it one more time, the property belongs to Ojukwu Transport Limited. They do not belong to Ikemba. They do not belong to Bianca. They belong to Ojukwu Transport Limited. Two, the Ikemba was a shareholder and a director and an illustrious son of Nnewi and Ojukwu family. In the Ojukwu Transport Company, his individual shares amounts to about seven per cent. He is not the only son of Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu. Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu died in 1966, had a will, which was read in 1966 and has not been seen up till now. At the right time, I will go into the reasons. This is the case. He was very clear about who his children were and he had decided who his children were. So, any insinuation that anybody is the only son, favoured son, natural son, unnatural son, geographical son, is nonsense. Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu knew who his sons were and made it clear, end of story. The other point the family/company wants to make is that Mr. Michael Omuojine is not a legally appointed agent of Ojukwu Transport Limited. I personally have sworn an affidavit, obtained a police extract and we've put it three public notices to this effect. The fourth point the family really wants to highlight is that Odumegwu Ojukwu, the founder of the company, the man who made all the money being discussed, in his will requested that a hospital to the tune of One Million Pounds as at that time (1966) be built in Nnewi for the benefit of the masses. This point gets glossed over in this seeming squabble over material items. That hospital is yet to be built. We have vowed that it will be commenced this year. Number five, which is probably the main message, is that we are warning Her Excellency, the ambassador, to be careful not to tarnish the image of Ikemba or the family. I will go into this in detail. We don't have any problem with the beautiful, intelligent ambassador. We are proud of her and we do care for her, but she should remember that she is the fourth wife of one of the sons of Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu. Nnewi/Igbo custom places certain demands on conduct. It is with great regret that we have to address this in public less than one year after the Ikemba died. I will now address some of the issues raised in the interview one by one. It is hoped that Ikemba's image would not be tarnished. There are five property listed in the public notice, apparently managed by one Mr. Emmanuel Omuojine. In 19 years, numerous requests have been made by the Board of Ojukwu Transport Limited for him to forward his so-called Power Of Attorney and management agreement and render accounts, to no avail. The property involved in Ikoyi, realising today's equivalent, approximately N200 million to N250 million a year, multiply this by 19 years. This is equivalent to about approximately N20 million to N25 million a month. Anybody saying that nothing was done when Ikemba was alive is talking absolute nonsense. Since the death of the Ikemba in November last year, accounts and records have been requested for all Ojukwu Transport Limited property with a view to bringing all of them under the control of the board through one agent in the meantime. Bianca and her agent rather than comply, decided to get a lawyer to write us a warning letter. Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu's surviving two wives, I am very ashamed to say, receive allowances of less than a N100,000 a month. Bianca, the fourth wife of one of Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu's sons, is sitting on rent money equivalent to N25 million every month. This is an outrage that cannot and will not continue. By the way, Emeka Jnr. has informed us that he and Ikemba's other children don't smell kobo of the money Bianca keeps to herself. If there is no compliance, the tenants and their supposed managers are to be served court papers in a matter of days. If this ultimately leads to Ikemba's name being disgraced for possible illegal management, Bianca is fully responsible. In the said interview, she said there was an arrangement in the management of the properties, with her husband managing about five and another brother of the husband managing about nine. Is there no such arrangement? No, there never was. I don't know what "management ration" means in English. Accounts of all the property in Onitsha are available every year and amounts to way below N10 million. People always say that Prof. Joseph Ojukwu manages the property in Onitsha with Eleodimmuo. This is managed by the Ojukwu Transport Limited. The professor is the chairman of the company. Yes, Mr. Eleodimmuo assists in the management. Management, management, management! He manages. The money is put in an account not consumed completely. I have a copy of the accounts. Omojume's appointment, I repeat, is not legal. If they say it is, let them produce the Power Of Attorney. Prof. Ojukwu manages. He and his children don't get a kobo, whereas the others 'manage' and chop the entire thing. Big difference. What is the structure of the company and who are the directors? The company was established by my grandfather, Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu. He had total authority there. The directors, until recently, were four: Prof. Joseph Ojukwu, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Engr. Emmanuel Ojukwu and Mr. Lotanna Ojukwu. Last year, it was decided that they'll expand the board. The directors nominated one of their sons each and so the board expanded. Unfortunately, the Ikemba died in November last year before being able to appoint or make known his own appointee. Numerous efforts have been made and it's at the advanced stage to help his own side of the family to be represented. I, personally, at one of the board meetings this year, nominated Emeka Jnr. and one of the ambassador's sons. I have to digress and remind you that Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Jnr. who attended the last Ojukwu Transport board meeting is in full support of our effort to recover the company's property and account. The current directors are Prof. Joseph Okwuabudike Ojukwu (chairman), Engr. Emmanuel N. Ojukwu, Mr. Lotanna P. Ojukwu, Dr. P. Ike Ojukwu, Arch. Edward N. Ojukwu and Lotanna A. Ojukwu. Why didn't the company pursue the accounts when Ikemba was alive? They did and I have the letters. The issue you raised is a very important one but you have to understand it would have involved legal actions with laundering of dirty linen in the public. I have to remind you that Ikemba returned from exile in 1982. He wasn't made a director until about 2004. That is 22 years after. The directors, during this time, were Prof. Ojukwu and Engr. Ojukwu and were not afraid of him. So, any suggestion that it is only when a man has died that people wake up, is garbage. So, this idea that you wait till somebody dies, watching that person cheating his brothers, does it mean then that if the person dies you let it continue? Let me make something clear: a lot happened after my grandfather died. If my grandfather were alive, none of his children would collect rent money to go and marry. He would insist that they work, make their own money to marry their fourth, fifth, sixth or whatever wife. A lot of things happened after my grandfather died that people would not have had the audacity to even try. So, it applies all round. That's it. She mentioned a son of the husband's brother whom she had not seen before the burial that came to ask for her husband's will. Do you know anything about that? That account is not correct. I am a shareholder and director in Ojukwu Transport Limited established by my grandfather and I have no apologies whatsoever. I did not just hear about him or read about him, I knew him, I travelled with him, he loved us and we loved him. I was born Ojukwu. I did not go looking for Ojukwu to marry. I did not go looking for the fame. I was born Ojukwu. My parents were properly married in every sense. Bianca claimed in the interview that she has been in Ojukwu's family for 23 years and never met me. Big deal. I have been a member of Ojukwu's family for almost 53 years. I owe nobody any apology whatsoever for being a director of Ojukwu Transport, being a shareholder, being a family member and wanting to help manage my grandfather's had-earned property. He would be very proud of me. I am a gynaecologist. I studied Medicine at University of Nigeria Nsukka and have worked as a doctor for 30 years, helping people. The suggestion that one only came to the funeral and asked for the will is a blatant lie. I paid for my own ticket from the United States to come for the funeral. There wasn't a single Ojukwu on the 40-man burial committee. I did not make one kobo and that's the way it should be and I am happy. Bianca should tell the world how much she profited from my uncle's death and funeral. Now, with regard to asking for the will, no will was asked for at all during the funeral. Two months after my uncle was buried, the board of Ojukwu Transport Limited, in wanting to help get some representation for Ikemba family, mandated and delegated me to meet and liaise with Emeka Jnr. and Bianca and ask them about the will to help guide them in selecting Ikemba's representation on the board, full stop, which I did. Now, as to the question that I was told that it's none of my business when the issue was raised, that never happened. When she said that something was done through the backdoor, this is both untrue and self-serving. When you say people, the ages of the engineer and the professor are doing things through the backdoor, is an insult. I know that when I discussed madam's interview with them, Engr. Emmanuel Ojukwu said: one, Ojukwu's Transport Limited owns the property. Two, Omuojine is not an agent of the company. Three, there is no management ration whatsoever that existed, whatever that means. And four, that time shouldn't be wasted in this press back and forth but one should just address the tenants and the so-called agent. If necessary, take them to court. Simple. As for Prof. Ojukwu, all he said was that everybody must give account, refund money taken and surrender property that were illegally held or face immediate legal action. She said that the Ikemba was a very fair man, always very accommodating, and did not try to lord it over his brothers. Ask them. Most of them are still alive. There is a right time to discuss these things. At the right time, believe me, there is an abundance of information, documents and letters that exist. She also said: "They may be his brothers but they have no right to inherit what is his." It is not his. What do you advice in this situation? My late uncle, Ikemba, has many relatives and friends that will be able to advice her. The other advice is to remind people: you may be the Ikemba's widow, you are not Ikemba. Very important. Also, being an ambassador doesn't give you any excuse to insult anybody or to grab any property that doesn't belong to you. There is a gentleman, Onyemelukwe or something from Nnewichi who supposedly advises her. One day, he is in the paper attacking Emeka Jnr.'s statement on his father's health. Another day, he's being thrown out of Ojukwu Transport's meeting because he shows up with a questionable note suggesting that he will act as proxy to Dim, when he was unwell. The same gentleman signed some public notice stating that he is a solicitor to Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu estate. On another occasion, he wrote a letter saying that he acts for Bianca and in another publication, he said he is Dim's lawyer. This doesn't concern me really but I will just suggest that this is not a case or issue for any charge and bail lawyer. I once again say, the only reason for doing this interview is to highlight some of these points and I won't repeat myself. The property don't belong to Ikemba. It is very important that you highlight that the man who made this money, set aside in his will, One Million Pounds for a hospital. Are these issues the reason your family members were not seen on the memorial service for Ikemba? No. Emeka Jnr. called me over a month or more ago that they have commenced plans for the one year anniversary in November and that will be the time when the mourning will end and the black dress will be removed by his widow. He later on informed me that he has discussed with the members of the family and they agreed with him that one year is appropriate. I'm not aware of the family being involved or in support of removing it earlier and that is probably why you didn't see members of the family there. I don't know who attended. I did not attend and that's all I can say. The best person to talk about it is Emeka Jnr. It really doesn't concern me directly. He is the head of that family and basically he is the person that decides now. I know there are some places they do it at three months, some other places six months, some other places the church allows you after six months but if you are following Nnewi and Igbo culture, I can't imagine how you can do it without involvement or indeed permission of your family. You are supposed to be somebody's wife but as I said, this doesn't directly concern me. You have to talk to Emeka Jnr. That's the Ikemba II of Igboland. Now, on the issue of the property again, it was said that Ojukwu was the person that recovered those property in Lagos and shouldn't that be a reason for her claiming them? Number one, recovering property belonging to the company, as somebody, does not make it yours. Number two, he returned from exile in 1982, the property were released in 1993, 11 years, despite his being a big NPN (National Party of Nigeria) member and so on. Other members of the family made numerous efforts. My humble self, I know how many times I went to Lagos, people I met with and I even flew to London once with regards to my grandfather's missing will and the release of these property. If he contributed to releasing it, good for him, we are grateful. It doesn't make it his and I must remind you that they were seized because of him in the first place. A lot of people suffered for years of not having any revenue from those property and that's all I will say. Recovering property belonging to the company does not make it yours. But in the will that was read, didn't your grandfather specify who takes what? I really can't go into the details but I know that some of the people that were there when it was read, executors of the will, I'm aware that two of them are alive, you can ask them. Akintola Williams is one and my father, Prof. Joseph Ojukwu, is another and that's all I can say. They know there have been attempts to reconstruct the will. The executors at a time had given their recollections. I have them somewhere in my files but yes, you are right. The will was read in 1966. It hasn't been seen since 1967. There have been accounts of sighting it here or there but it hasn't been seen since then.