BY AMBROSE EHIRIM
By Pastor Harold Ozioma Ikewueze
Freedom Press, Ibadan; 416 pp.,
I can visualize every image of his narratives around the enclaves where I partly grew up; though, I don't recall encountering him during the years he had written about, in what had gone down in the books as the most blood soaked event in the history of a national state and, what had led to its Balkanized process, a subject and theme I had written extensively, to near exhaustion in the past. He had written a biography, but his faith, courage, hard work and missionary engagements generated said publication with the choices that he had made.
He talked about his origin--his birth in a country his parents had adopted and a journey that had landed him inside his ancestral home, and would be overwhelmed by an ongoing pogrom and war that was intended from a 'diabolical and premeditated' act by Yakubu Gowon's-led vandals and genocidal campaign against the Igbo nation--to wipe an entire tribe out from the face of the planet.
But he had endured, learned and precocious, feeding from ants and things like that, and malnourished, suffering the ominous consequences of a brutal war he knew nothing about, of a tragedy that continues to haunt the nation on the infants and children that had perished from the Obafemi Awolowo orchestrated 'Economic Blockade,' which denied access to food and medicine to the Igbo children who had been desperately starved to death.
He also talked about his own personal experiences during the pogrom, about food on a ration, in some cases, nothing at all but ants, rats and other strange creatures that crawled around the neighborhood, consumed in their delicacies and served in their meals, a development never seen before in the entire land until the Nigerian vandals whose minds had been poisoned by hate and bigotry invaded the land to wreck havoc and cause all sorts of damage beyond comprehension.
He had mentioned his ordeal as if he was in combat, stories told the same way a child and any victim of the pogrom would have it, vividly recounted.
Not anyone could fathom what had unfolded, a shocking realization to any witness on the intention of the vandals and why they had harbored such a gruesome act and had thought the Igbo was the nation's lingering problems, therefore justifying the acts of genocide.
At his age, when war had erupted, he remembers and describes every detail of what had gone wrong and why the Igbo had been target for elimination as a murdering spree continued apace.
He talked about his dad being whisked away for battle, to defend the sovereignty of the Biafran Republic; and the hiding spots upon the vandals' arrival on a rampage, plundering and demolishing structures, and raping the women, and the men, murdered in the most brutal of circumstances.
He talked at length how ugly war was based on his own very experience, and how terrible the vandals had taken to murdering every Igbo including every creature in its surroundings in reference to the beast, Benjamin Adekunle (my emphasis), and a command on his orders to shoot at every creature, whether they moved or not.
The vandals were shooting at every creature and pillaging the land.
Mothers carried their dying children and belongings as they flee the advancing vandals.
Desperately starved children were seen housed in disused and abandoned dispensaries and maternity homes, most of them dead on arrival.
Food distribution centers were overwhelmed with sick and dying children.
All in all, over 90 percent of schools in the war affected areas were totally destroyed.
He had survived the pogrom after the body counts in an estimated 2 million Biafrans that had perished, on a case of sad reality and tragic in scope, over a thirty month period--the pogrom and the Biafra-Nigeria war.
Despite all the sensations in life and the misfortunes that came along with it, and while God's assignments waited for the chosen ones, he did not hesitate to talk about his love life, the days in college and the rascals he had to confront during ongoing fraternities, the bragging rights of boyhood and growing up, his teaching capabilities on a variety of subjects and the leader that he had been meant to be; he did not fail, he was equal to the task and now accomplished.
Harold Ikewueze puts into perspective, his thoughts, and personal accounts, reflecting the fate of the Igbo during the pogrom and what had led to the Biafra-Nigeria war. His book "A Worthy Risk," is immense and does not only cover his pastoral work, it's thoroughly examined from projects that begun his parents' sojourn, and making of the writer himself, to his amazing journey through life.
Ikewueze was born in Takoradi, Ghana, on October 27, 1965 during the administrative regime of Kwame Nkrumah. As a toddler, his parents left the shores of Ghana during the years of uncertainties in Nkrumah's government, arriving to his native and ancestral home of Amazano, the Orlu axis, now Njaba, in the Igbo landscape, where he grew up in the midst of stubborn and corrupt, customary beliefs and rituals--the gods of the ancestors, Agwuishi na Amadioha--witchcraft, animism, paganism and series of Christian denominations. And, despite all that, Ikewueze did not blink; he would make a choice. He had been aware and ready to face the challenges in his choice of a career, the determination to propel outreach programs and preaching the Gospel, the word of God, the ultimate that Jesus is Lord.
Ikewueze attended the Abia State University, Uturu, majoring in Banking and Finance and had looked forward to becoming a banker or a money manager. On April 5, 1986, the night Ikewueze saw himself as the Prophet Isaiah whom God had revealed to, the Message, spoken by the man he had adored, Dr. Uma Ukpai when the blood of Jesus Christ descended. It was the year he would earn his diploma in chemical engineering at the College of Technology, Owerri and won't be long before becoming president in Fellowship of the Students Christian Movement, the SCM. He would also serve as scribe to the SCM between 2012 and 2016.
I had met Ikewueze on social media platforms, taking note of his presence while he read my works, especially on the pogrom. I approached him and asked for his contribution to a symposium I was then organizing which he did, sending in a well written essay on the subject-matter. I had collected the pieces from remarkable Nigerians from all walks of life and all professions on the Public Square, I had thought their input and counsel on solutions to a troubled state like Nigeria would be helpful and had hoped the leaders would pay attention upon publication of the symposium. The subject was on the Sovereign National Conference the Goodluck Jonathan administration had once again opened up from the Olusegun Obasanjo era, which was deadlocked and discarded after the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa-led Human Rights Violation and Investigation Commission, and the possibilities of a national conference, henceforth. However, many such cases of a national dialogue had been held in the past; and while some have been in favor of sitting down and talk about it, some had argued it would make no difference to the ones previously held. That symposium is now a blueprint on related national discourses.
Ikewueze has taken a worthy risk knowing the outcome. The journey upon the vision. The extensive and tiring missionary work. The peoples servant and the ideal that hard work pays off in every aspect of life, eventually. Crusades and conventions all around the country with revelations of upbringing that entailed reading all sorts of literature, obedience and diligence, the attraction of Karl Marx, knowledge in editing and publications, numerous engagements on the pastoral order, and as the list goes on and on, concludes his fascinating story-telling brilliant biography with verses of the Biblical principles and citations--Mathew 22:37-40, Daniel 12:3, Isaiah 52:7, Hebrew 11, Colossians 3:13, Corinthians 12: 12-14, and others, to which he upholds.