Jaja Wachuku: Immortalising a legend of first, second republic politics

Posted by News Express | 10 September 2020 | 1,066 times

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•Legendary pioneer Minister of Foreign Affairs, late Dr Jaja Wachuku



God willing, when the proposed Abia Airport is completed before Governor Okezie Ikpeazu winds up in 2023, another legend of the Ngwa nation, Dr Jaja Wachuku, would have been honoured and immortalised. Ikpeazu has promised to name the airport after the pioneer Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The governor disclosed this while receiving in audience a socio-political group, The Ukwa-Ngwa Group (TUNG) in his Umuobiakwa country home recently.

Though the discussions surrounding the visit centred on different topics, especially the group's core objective of serving as a bridge between the people of old Aba Division and old Bende Division in “fostering unity of purpose and actions for the overall good of Abia State,” the affirmation by the governor to honour Jaja Wachuku through naming the (proposed) Abia Airport, is a critical news item no media man can overlook.

The governor, while narrating the footprints of the Ukwa Ngwa men in politics, said he would honour Jaja Wachuku by naming Abia Airport after him.

Gladly, the governor’s promise is coming on the heels of honouring another Ukwa-Ngwa patriot and former Minister of Works in the defunct Eastern Region, Chief Paul Ururuka.

It will be recalled that a statue of the late minister was unveiled last week at the popular Obikabia Junction.

Gladly also, Ikpeazu’s commitment to complete the Abia Airport is receiving a huge boost. Other things being equal, the state is looking forward to performing the ground-breaking ceremony of the project. He has assured that this is to enable the project team realise the project before the expiration of his administration.

The governor disclosed this while receiving in audience the project team led by its chairman, Chief Philip Orjiakor, Eskon PLC. The governor added that “his administration was very passionate in realising the first-ever airport that would be of international standard.”

If any honour should be offered, Dr Jaja Wachuku (January 1, 1918 - November 7, 1996) deserves it in multiples.

Jaja was a pan-Africanist and distinguished Nigerian statesman, lawyer, politician, diplomat and humanitarian.

He was the first Nigerian Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, as well the country's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

Jaja was on saddle as the Minister of Aviation between 1965 and 1966. It is on record that most aviation laws Nigeria used till date still bear his signature.

He initiated training programmes for Nigeria’s first crop of flight and ground officers and the Aviation Training Centre, Zaria, was established during his tenure.

Jaja left the Ministry of Aviation on principle. His visionary and upright zeal did not augur well with his party, NCNC.

Mr Blankson, the Nigerian Airways Board Chairman and also the Party’s Central Working Committee Chairman, on the leverage provided by the party, felt himself beyond ministerial control. This provoked Jaja to fire and remove him. The party demanded he should be reinstated, threatening that it would withdraw its ministers from the coalition government.

This prompted Tafawa Balewa, who had high respect and soft spot for Jaja, to reinstate Blankson and accept another ministry. But the principled Jaja refused. It is reported that Balewa even pleaded with Jaja's wife, Rhoda Wachuku, to plead with the husband, but Jaja maintained his ground and tendered his resignation from Parliament and as executive member of the government at mid-day of January 14, 1966.

Balewa was yet to accept Jaja’s resignation when the military struck barely 12 hours later in the January 15 ill-fated coup.

Jaja’s resoluteness and principle paid off later when the coupists surrounded his official residence at 7 Okotie-Eboh Street, Ikoyi. When Jaja looked through his window and inquired from the soldiers about their mission thus: “What are you boys doing here?”

A response from one of the military boys was: “Good morning, Sir. But haven’t you heard what is happening in the country?” And Jaja replied: “Yes. I know you boys have taken over the government.” The soldier replied: “Do not be afraid, Sir. We have come to protect you for being an honest government minister.”

The moral here is that resoluteness and leading a principled life pays. This is a big challenge for our contemporary politicians. This attests to the quote: “He who forgets and isn't forgotten is not dead. To be dead you need to forget and be forgotten.”

When the project is completed, Ikpeazu would have immortalised this legend. It is an honour well deserved.

•Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu, a public policy analyst, writes from Aba, viakeshiafrica@gmail.com

Source: News Express

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