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The ‘Oyi’ of Oyi reached the pinnacle of his political career when a leading Nigerian opposition party, ANPP, picked him to be the vice-presidential candidate in April 2003 general elections. Dr. Okadigbo mellowed his Africanist ideological political convictions and adopted a very pragmatic approach to enable him to navigate the murky waters of Nigerian political landscape. With this mindset, he made remarkable effort, throughout his political career in Nigeria, to redefine Nigerian nationalism by building functional bridges across the many ethnopolitical alliances that divide the polity. He portrayed himself, first and foremost, as a Nigerian. He manifested great pride in his Igbo heritage by advocating for and upholding his indigenous value system anywhere and anytime he could.

On Friday November 21, 2003, Nigerian community in Washington DC celebrated the life of Dr. Chuba Okadigbo who recently died in Abuja at the age of 61 after a brief illness. Dr. Okadigbo, who is popularly addressed by one of his chieftaincy titles, ‘Oyi’ of Oyi, was the vice-presidential candidate of Nigeria’s leading opposition party, the ANPP, in last April’s general elections. Opposition parties have accused the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of orchestrating massive electoral fraud which swept many incumbent politicians back in power despite widespread allegation that the election results were rigged at all levels. Dr. Okadigbo and his party’s presidential flagbearer, Muhamadu Buhari, have been quite outspoken in their criticism of re-elected PDP strongman, President Olusegun Obasanjo. On the eve of Okadigbo’s death, the former Senate President attended his party’s political rally in the northern city of Kano to drum up support against malpractices of Obasanjo administration. The Nigeria Police deployed brutal force and teargas bombs to disband the rally thereby exposing the deceased Okadigbo with high concentrations of toxic fumes which subsequently made the ‘Oyi’ of Oyi very sick. On his way to seek medical attention at a hospital in Abuja the next day, he died in transit in the arms of his distraught wife.

The evening’s activities were commenced with a requiem mass at Nativity Church located on Georgia Avenue NW, Washington DC, which was officiated by Rev. Aham Nnorom. The rest of program for the evening was resumed at a popular Holiday Inn in College Park, Maryland suburb of nation’s capital. The wake-keeping banquet was a magnet for eminent opinion leaders of the Nigerian community in Washington DC metropolis as well as friends and well wishers of the Okadigbo family, near and far. The function was chaired by Chief Okey Abadom while Max Gbanite was the Master of Ceremony. The lengthy program for the evening was replete with tributes and encomiums from a variety of speakers who presented numerous aspects of their encounter with the eventful life of the deceased politician. Amongst others, Drs. Manny Aniebonam, Okenwa Nwosu and Bolaji Aluko took turns to highlight Dr. Chuba Okadigbo’s life career of phenomenal accomplishments in many fields of endeavor. As a youngster growing up in Nigeria, Chuba partook in the Zikist Movement and played activist role in mobilizing for the nation’s independence struggle under the aegis Africa’s premier nationalist leader, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.

Dr. Okadigbo had his post-secondary education in Europe and United States of America. He completed his doctorate degree in Philosophy and Political Science at the Catholic University of America and had a teaching tenure at Howard University, Washington DC, before his return to Nigeria in mid 1970s. He played active roles in the formation of NPP and NPN which, together with the UPN, were major political parties of Nigeria’s second republic. Before that democratic dispensation was sacked by military strongmen in early 1984, he had served in President Shagari administration as a special political adviser. He returned to the academia when he was banned from participating in partisan politics during the Babangida administration’s transition program to the abortive Nigeria’s third republic. Chuba Okadigbo was elected to represent Anambra North Constituency in the Senate under the auspices of Nigeria’s ruling party, the PDP. After initial setback, he succeeded in actualizing his ambition and became the Senate President. As a leader of the legislative arm of government, Dr. Okadigbo had running battles with the presidency which had the penchant for disregarding the constitutional stipulation on separation of powers. It is widely believed that his uncompromising stance against President Obasanjo’s excesses played a major part in having him replaced as Senate President on trumped up charges.

The ‘Oyi’ of Oyi reached the pinnacle of his political career when a leading Nigerian opposition party, ANPP, picked him to be the vice-presidential candidate in April 2003 general elections. Dr. Okadigbo mellowed his Africanist ideological political convictions and adopted a very pragmatic approach to enable him to navigate the murky waters of Nigerian political landscape. With this mindset, he made remarkable effort, throughout his political career in Nigeria, to redefine Nigerian nationalism by building functional bridges across the many ethnopolitical alliances that divide the polity. He portrayed himself, first and foremost, as a Nigerian. He manifested great pride in his Igbo heritage by advocating for and upholding his indigenous value system anywhere and anytime he could. Dr. Okadigbo bagged many traditional titles across Alaigbo and elsewhere in recognition of his stellar political career and contributions to making of a better Nigeria. His relatives and friends, who spoke at his wake-keeping event, eloquently lauded ‘Oyi’s humanity and role as a family man and father. Dr. Okadigbo shall be interred in his hometown, Ogbunike, Oyi LG, Anambra state on the weekend of December 6, 2003. He is survived by siblings, one of whom is Mr. Henry Okadigbo and many children.

 

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