Legends they say, are not born every day neither do they die as they live forever, encircling our times and space with their memories and chivalry by which we remember them.
Same goes for Dr Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo, a legend in all modes by which legends are identified and cast. Okadigbo, towers above a number of statesmen, dead or alive who traversed the earth. Stamping his imprint upon our weathers, he did not do this with machetes, guns or magic, though he was magical and dazzled many with it; it was not the magic of the dark arts, no! Okadigbo was simply brilliant! But brilliance wasn’t his only value; permit me to add intelligent and unsatisfied, allow me to say he was the most colourful politician in Nigeria after Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. He was our mixture of Steve Thaddeus, Ted Roosevelt and John Dewey.What shall I, as a young man, not say of Chuba?
I was not yet born when he had started waltzing through the Nigerian political trail as a man determined to etch his name in the sands of time, however, as I came of age, I came to see him as a gift to this country, one that was rare indeed. Sadly, since this brilliant mind passed on, there has been no attempt at a memorial, no lecture, no colloquium in his name. One would have expected that several schools in the country would have honoured the legend with a department, an institute or even had a name change for the university.
There is no plaque or statue despite the luminous ideas he helped churn out, ideas which helped in catapulting the Igbos from near obscurity in the aftermath of the civil war to game changers in the Second Republic. Ideas, which helped, form the first party in Nigeria that was national in spread (NPN).
Ideas, which made the Second, Third, and Fourth Republics tick! In other countries, the likes of Chuba would have a number of memorial lectures in his honour; there would be busts of him grinning handsomely.
There would be streets, boulevards, monuments and institutions named after him as well as Academic Chairs. Maybe we have forgotten how, at the young age of 32, he had already become an Associate Professor of Philosophy by the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC or that he blazed the academic trail in far away America where he served as adjunct assistant professor of politics, the Catholic University of America, Washington DC and Howard University, Washington DC.
Are we so quick to forget Chuba’s role in bringing NdiIgbo back to political limelight after the civil war via his negotiating with Zik’s NPP to enter the accord, which preserved the Second Republic for at least four years, or the dexterity he employed in ensuring that one of our illustrious sons, Dim Ikemba Odimegwu Ojukwu, who had been away on exile returned? Do we suffer from amnesia that we forget that he offered to lecture students of political science in a number of universities for free imparting in them knowledge that many in other climes would have paid millions for.
Or can we forget the many children he sent to school to earn the golden fleece, children whose parents could not eke out a meal, children who today, are the stars in their society, courtesy Chuba! Maybe our memories are so short, that we cannot remember Chuba’s membership of the 3rd and 4th national assemblies where he was a senator and senate president. Maybe we have forgotten the brilliance by which he marshaled out his debates, like Thaddeus Stevens (US Congressman, 1792-1868), the oratory, permit me to use the modern day street terminology, the swag! We cannot forget the panache with which he led the Senate then, the knowledge and fiery intellectualism he deployed to the extent that his tenure though short-lived, is described as an extraordinary epoch in the history of legislative bodies in Nigeria. Chuba fought for democracy, he stood for its norms, while others played deaf and dumb under civilian dictatorship as characterized by the Obasanjo administration, Chuba would have none of it and though he paid for it, he remains an example of a profile in courage.
Let’s remember that Chuba was a nationalist, an icon of nation building. He believed in building political bridges nationwide, thus his choice of NPN as against NPP, the ANPP as against APGA. That even the emergence of President Buhari, though in 2015, can actually be said to have been given birth to in 2003 when he and Chuba teamed up to offer Nigerians a better option. May we not also forget that it was in the struggle for a better Nigeria, that struggle against the forces of totalitarianism, that Chuba died that democracy may thrive! Chuba Okadigbo surely lives on, but there are more ways to honour this son of our great nation!