African StoriesNaija Stories

He Was Called “The Messiah of His Country”

One by one the stars faded into the light of the morning and the rising sun restored the true outlines of objects. The beautiful sun rested at Odim Hill.

People stood in groups, each of them telling the story based on how the situation has affected them. The jangling of bicycles and squeaking of rusty vehicles made the campus to smell of a great festival. Students trooped out of the hostels in their numbers, men and women from all corners of Odim and Odenigwe had begun to gather behind Balewa and Okpara Halls, now Freedom Square.

In the centre of the vast green soil, heaps of books from the school library lay higgledy-piggledy.

“They say Ojukwu is coming,” a smallish man with bulging bloodshot eyes said to the man who stood next to him. He wore a black foulard shirt well-tucked into his grey flannel trousers. I recognized him, a professor in the department of Chemical Engineering.

“I’m sure that Ikemba is going to put a long lasting solution to this problem. I heard he just returned from Aburi,” replied the man who stood next to the professor.

I stood with arms folded across my chest and my biceps formed thick knots. My senses returned to me when the growing hullabaloo slithered the voice of the lecturers whole. Clouds of powdery dust shrouded the face of the air for minutes.

There was an uproar, the crowd echoed the name IKEMBA! IKEMBA which means the power of the people; some called him ONYE NZỌPỤTA which means saviour or messiah.

My eyes caught a tall stocky man, completely bald, with a sloping sharp featured skull. On his jaw lay a jagged beard that looked like a bur.

He wore a loose khaki shirt well – tucked into his loose khaki trousers. The blackness of his shoes glistened under the sun. He walked with a swagger that showed a strong man in his prime. His voice pierced the soul like a sharp bayonet. Our eyes clouded with tears as he progressed in his speech.

A horizontal tricolour of red, black, and green charged with a golden rising sun over a golden bar flag was unveiled. The wind swayed it back and forth.

The messiah just freed us from the shackles of bondage and slavery. He stepped forward and lit a fire on the heaps of books that lay on the earth.

“Biafra till death!” were the words that came out of his mouth. We sang praises of his name.

We all stood like the Spartan army ready to devour our enemies with our bare hands like Samson did in the Holy book.

He led us with sincerity and truthfulness. He picked up the gauntlet to fight for our cause when our heads hung low in despair.

He is IKEMBA CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU, the messiah that will wrestle with the wind to see that, that which belongs to the Igbos will never get lost.

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