The former Nigerian Ambassador to Spain and wife of Eze Igbo Gburugburu, the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu is not new to controversy. She is also not cowed by circumstances that could make her not to speak her mind the way it matters to her.
Last Monday, the former beauty queen stirred controversy that has garnered both praise and condemnation from the public, with her description of Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano as an “ingrate.”
The event was the second memorial lecture in honour of her late husband, held inside the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU), Igbariam, Anambra State. Obiano was absent at the event.
Bianca, who was apparently enraged by the governor’s absence, had thrown caution to the wind when it was her turn to address the audience. Rather than speak on the event of the day, she turned her fury against Obiano and gave him a piece of her mind.
Observing all protocol at the capacity-filled hall, which also included the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Nkem Okeke, who represented Obiano, she had expressed regret and consternation that it was the second time the governor would stay away from the programme.
Apparently referring to the role the late Ikemba played in installing the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) government in the state since 2006, through former Governor Peter Obi, who handed the baton to Obiano, the widow of the respected Igbo leader reminded the governor to be guided by history and not bite the fingers that fed him.
Turning to Okeke, she said: “Tell the governor that today is yet again the memorial lecture and posthumous birthday of that man he rode on his political structure to stardom and he is once more not present. Tell him that his actions regarding the man who everyone is here for, but he couldn’t find time as governor of his state to be here, is very much like that of an ingrate. Tell him that he shouldn’t be afraid because there are no evil spirits here to attack him.”
Her comments have since continued to elicit reactions, even from her immediate family. While there are those who have excitedly cheered her for her boldness, others wondered how the governor’s absence from a posthumous birthday could elicit such jabs, especially since Obiano sent his Deputy to represent him, to enable him attend other official engagements.
Interestingly, it was Obiano who signed into law the change of name of Anambra State University to Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University. He was also privy to the second memorial lecture.
Meanwhile, the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, which provided the platform that was used to disparage the governor, has also denied Mrs Ojukwu.
Also, Chief Emeka Ojukwu, son of the late Ikemba Nnewi, had distanced himself from Mrs Ojukwu’s outburst.
Indeed, it was revealed that the state government had continued to care for the family of the late Ikemba right from the days of Peter Obi as governor. The family is reportedly receiving a statutory monthly allocation, while the position of Special Adviser is said to be exclusively reserved for the family, as a way of appreciating Ojukwu’s contributions to the party and state.
Sources said this position was once occupied by Emeka Ojukwu, and when he left, one Robert Okonkwo, who was allegedly nominated by Bianca took over the position. Bianca is not only seen as the APGA leader’s wife but also as a member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT).
Possible Reasons That Stoked Tension Between Bianca And Obiano
Although it was not the first time Mrs. Ojukwu was said to have indirectly attacked the governor, many reasons have continued to surface on what possibly could have derailed the relationship that resulted in the recent brickbats. While some hinged it on a possible stoppage of the statutory allocation and position in government, others said it goes beyond what Obiano can handle.
Indeed, many who have closely followed developments in the state would readily agree that the vituperations might not have arisen because of Obiano’s failure to attend the memorial lecture and posthumous birthday ceremony of the late Ikemba, especially since he was represented by his Deputy.
The Guardian gathered that it might not be unconnected with a broken-down relationship that occurred, following Bianca Ojukwu’s inability to grab the Anambra South senatorial ticket of APGA in the 2019 National Assembly election.
Sources indicated how much she had wanted the position and had “recruited” certain individuals and groups to “pressure” the party to award the ticket automatically to her without having to contend with any other aspirant in the name of the party primary.
It was further gathered that most people were of the opinion that she would easily win the ticket, considering that her late husband was APGA leader until his death.
There was also the thinking that since Ojukwu’s death, Bianca had associated with APGA and has been participating in all its activities. Indeed, during the last governorship election, there was hardly any major political rally she did not attend to deliver powerful speeches.
Many political analysts were of the view that it was Ojukwu’s influence that made it possible for APGA to have the strong hold on Anambra State politics, and that one way to appreciate the late Ikemba’s contributions for APGA’s consistent excellent performance in the state, would have been to allow his widow to take Ojukwu’s name to the Senate. Her closeness with the governor was seen as another great advantage.
Things moved smoothly in her favour. Many prominent people across Igbo land were said to have come together in a bid to sponsor her for the race by contributing needed fund for her campaign.
However, hitches began to emerge, when the Ojukwu family held a press conference in Abuja, saying they were opposed to her becoming a senator for Anambra State. Their main reason was that she hailed from Enugu State and that it was improper for her to occupy a position meant for someone from Anambra South.
The dust raised by the press conference was yet to settle, when Obiano, who is the party leader, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT), announced that a level playing ground would be provided for all aspirants for the position.
Among the contestants were Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, Bianca Ojukwu, Chief Ifeanyi Uba, who was later disqualified on the ground that he did not obtain a waiver from the party to contest on its platform in line with its Constitution and Anslem Enyimba, a banker.
Obiano was said to have reasoned that the candidates were so formidable and qualified that anything short of equal playing field could affect the state going forward.
When the primary eventually held, Ukachukwu floored Bianca and was declared the winner and issued with the certificate to contest the election, to the former beauty queen’s dismay.
It is being interpreted that Bianca sacrificed much in ensuring the governor’s victory and had expected him to reciprocate the gesture. She was, therefore, disappointed that he could not bring his influence in the party and government to bear in determining the election, which could have been won for the first time by the party.
The source added that since then, cold war had begun. Some of the attacks that Obiano had allegedly suffered on social media are linked to the media team, the IBOM Group; she set up during the botched senatorial election.
We Will Not War With Her – Government
However, Anambra State government has said it would not engage in any manner of press war with Mrs Ojukwu who is revered in the state.
Mr. Don Adinuba, Commissioner of Information, said the state government was interested in accelerating developments that could uplift the people’s wellbeing, stressing that it would not want to be diverted from its focus.
Furthermore, a release made available to The Guardian from the Deputy Chief Press Secretary, Emeka Ozumba, also dissociated the governor’s wife, Eberechukwu Obiano from statements making the rounds that she had responded to Mrs. Ojukwu.
Ozumba said in the release that the purported statement was the handiwork of those not happy with the phenomenal progress the state had recorded in various areas in recent years, leading the whole country in such fields as financial resource management, security, education, peace and stability, among others.
He agreed, however, that Mrs. Ojukwu “choose an event to honour the husband to make remarks which infra dig, that is, incompatible with her status.”
Bianca’s Vituperation And 2021 Governorship Election
There are growing concerns that the deepening animosity should be checked, especially considering APGA’s desire to retain the state in 2021. Although sources have queried Mrs Ojukwu’s capacity to win the Anambra South senatorial election had the ticket been granted her, based on the presence of heavy politicians paraded by other political parties in the zone like the Ubas, the feelings are that prosecuting the election as a united front would impact the party’s chances.
A chieftain of the party, Slyvanus Okoro, stated that the implication of such public remarks showed that “even our BOT is not working together.”
He said: “We don’t need this kind of divisions in the party. Not after what we went through during the 2019 general elections in the state and other parts of the country that still linger here and there.
“I think if the BOT, which should show direction, is working together, it will help salvage this party and prepare it for the battle ahead. We cannot afford another round of crisis.
“Politics is about to give and take. It has never been smooth. It is filled with disappointments. What we didn’t get today, we can get tomorrow. We cannot leverage on lost opportunity to create an air of disunity. There are many opportunities we can create in the party if we work together.
“So I beckon on Iyom Bianca Ojukwu to sheath her sword. The lost opportunity should be used as an added political experience to prepare her in the future. Let us not pull down the roof of the house for our individual benefits.”