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.
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.
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.
‘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.