Thousands gather in Nigeria for burial of ex-Biafra leader
DPA DAKAR/ ABUJA THOUSANDS of Nigerians travelled to south-eastern Nigeria on Friday for the burial of Biafran independence leader Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, Nigerian television reported.
Ojukwu declared independence for the region of Biafra in 1967. The resulting civil war killed more than a million people, but many Nigerians still see Ojukwu as a legendary freedom fighter.
After losing his independence bid and being officially pardoned by the Nigerian government following a 13-year exile, Ojukwu returned to the political stage and ran twice for president.
Ojukwu, who was 78, died in England last year, but his multi-day funeral was only taking place now.
Television reported that a military band was playing at the event. President Goodluck Jonathan also attended the funeral.On Friday, the Nigerian newspaper The Vanguard said Ojukwu would be remembered for his “fearlessness, courage, outspokenness and stoic belief in justice, equity and fairness.” The newspaper applied a William Shakespeare quote to Ojukwu’s death. “When beggars die, there are no comets seen, but the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” Last year, Jonathan praised Ojukwu as a man whose “love for his people forced him into the leading role he played in the Nigerian civil war.” Meanwhile, in a separate development, three sailors abducted when their cargo ship was attacked by pirates off the Nigerian coast this week are “in good health”, an armed militant group said on Friday.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said in a statement that the kidnappers had offered to hand over the hostages to the group and that it was likely to take them in.
It identified the three captured as the ship’s captain and its chief engineer, both Russians, and a Filipino crew member. The group also claimed it was behind the killing of four on-duty marine police in the oil-producing waters of the Niger Delta on Thursday.
Pirates opened fire on the Dutch-owned cargo ship off the Nigerian coast on Tuesday, in just one of a series of incidents indicating heightened piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said the assault targeted a Dutch-owned, Curacao-flagged refrigerated cargo ship that was anchored near the coast.
“The kidnappers have offered to hand these sailors — who are all in good health — over to one of our camps in Rivers State,” said MEND.
MEND, which has been fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue in Nigeria, said it was considering receiving the captives because “these men were not captured from a vessel related to the Nigerian oil industry”.