A tribute to Professor Austine S.O. Okwu at 92: A take a look at how a diplomat who signed as much as serve his nation ended up serving his folks. From a assessment of his ebook, In Reality for Justice and Honor: A Memoir of a Nigerian-Biafran Ambassador.
By the late Fifties to early Nineteen Sixties, the British have been fatigued with ruling Nigeria. For governance, they’d divided the nation into areas, provinces and divisions. Nearing the date of their departure there have been lengthy listing of companies at hand over to the locals.
The Ahoada Interview
In 1958, Austine S.O. was amongst a number of younger males who utilized for a senior service job. As he sat right down to fill within the job software type, he considered what the fortune-teller foretold about him. How in November, or maybe December, of 1924, he would not descend out of the womb till family members, vehemently against British sort schooling, made an exception and pledged to divinity that he could be permitted to comply with the footsteps of the white folks, and despatched to high school.
Weeks glided by and some candidates, Austine amongst them, have been invited to Enugu, in Japanese area, Nigeria, to face a civil service fee headed by Mr. Felix Iheanacho.
‘State your title, date of beginning and hometown,’ requested the lead interviewer.
‘Sir, I’m Austine Okwu, born November, maybe December, of 1924, from Egbu Owerri.’
‘Younger man, make up your thoughts, select a month and a date,’ stated one other interviewer.
‘Delivery registry didn’t exist once I was born, and my dad and mom didn’t go to high school.’ Common contemplating the period, and the questioning proceeded.
‘In what methods are you able to assist sustain legislation and order within the division?’
S.O. moved to the sting of the picket chair the place he sat, braced each shoulders and with eyes large open acknowledged, ‘The difficulty is twofold. First, good insurance policies usually flip dangerous by their inhuman executions. Second, even dangerous insurance policies may very well be changed into good by their humane interpretation and implementation to assist the group. The collective well-being of the ruled,’ he continued, ‘is a very powerful cause for governance.’
Swept off his seat by such a spontaneous response, the chair got here across the desk. ‘Sensible!’ he stated and embraced S.O.
After three months of orientation which included a near-death expertise throughout ten days at Man-of-Warfare Bay camp coaching within the Cameroons, the place Austine practically drowned when throughout swimming drill he tried to the touch the underside of a bay of the Atlantic Ocean, he was posted to work as an officer in Ahoada division, underneath Tony St. Ledger.
Immediately, fortune adopted him within the type of a home in an space reserved just for the European expatriates. Additionally given to him was a Steward, and a midsized automobile appropriate for a midsized storage. Feeling completed, S. O. married Beatrice Chuke of Obosi.
Ahoada catapulted Austine into full public service within the numerous Igbo group. On behest of the colonial directors, Austine oversaw the gathering of taxes, upkeep of legislation and order, monitoring of elections, and the assessment and adjudication of public petitions.
Everyone took discover when the brand new assistant division officer smoothed out a dispute about chieftaincy issues between the divisional officer, Tony St. Ledger, and Mpi, an uncompromising chief within the division with sturdy Igbo values. On account of this accomplishment, Tony felt at dwelling with Austin and visited steadily.
The day Tony St. Ledger visited
Someday, when the Owerri solar had begun to wane, and households have been hurrying to beat the upcoming darkness, a knock got here on the door.
‘Pricey, somebody is knocking on the entrance door,’ stated Austin to Beatrice.
A tall, agile Steward, eavesdropping, rushed to open the door and went out of sight once more.
‘Please have a seat, Mr. St. Ledger,’ Beatrice stated as a tanned white face gained entry into the lounge.
Sitting throughout on the eating desk, the division officer, and Austine chatted and chuckled.
‘Did you see what’s within the latest Nigerian Gazette?’ Tony requested.
The agile Steward resurfaced, set a cool stout beer, a pitcher and a rabbit head opener in entrance of Tony, then docked within the kitchen and started to pluck fowl feathers.
‘No,’ answered Austine, his eyebrows raised in nice shock.
‘The Federal Authorities of Nigeria is in search of International Service officers for diplomatic service, and I feel you might be fitted to the job. I’ll make the calls in your behalf.’ He tipped the final drop of beer into his mouth and leaned again within the chair.
Thrilled, Austine obtained up, hurried to the fridge, and claimed a bottle of beer for himself and one other bottle of stout beer for Tony.
True to his promise, Tony made calls and obtained the help of many Igbo kingmakers, together with Chief Jerome Udoji, the then Secretary of Japanese Nigeria. All agreed S.O. was to go to Lagos, to work with the Federal Authorities within the Ministry of International Affairs.
The journey to Lagos, Nigeria
The knowledge of the deity had come to come back fruition. On the native barber store, S.O. had his hair trimmed, with a aspect observe to the left. Within the morning earlier than departing to Lagos, family members gathered to want him farewell.
‘When a fish will get mature within the head it crosses the river to the ocean,’ stated James Osuji, an uncle. ‘Like Moses and Abraham, who guided the Jews, our ancestors shall demolish all obstacles in your method,’ declared Lawrence, an older brother. ‘And will you always remember Ndigbo, your folks.’
The following day Austine packed a leather-based field and traveled to Lagos, the place a federal activity power waited for his arrival.
His interview in Lagos was quick and intense, and so was his keep. After the primary query, it grew to become clear to him that the capital metropolis of Lagos was not prepared for one more Igbo character wanting to serve his motherland.
‘What made you permit Ahoada Division and the Japanese area?’ the primary interrogator demanded.
‘To serve the motherland overseas with distinction,’ he replied.
‘Aren’t you simply one other formidable Igboman, attempting to take over Nigeria?’
Sweat broke out on his brow as his hand moved to regulate his grey bow tie. He who endured Man-of-Warfare Bay coaching is not going to succumb to hostility, S.O. swore in his thoughts.
‘Carried out,’ stated the chairman of the federal activity power, Alhaji Sule Katagum, with the wave of a left hand. Unsure concerning the end result of the interview, Austine went dwelling and waited.
Many days later, the information got here, the federal civil service fee had really useful S.O. to the Nigerian overseas ministry. Title: First Secretary and Head of Chancery to the Nigerian Excessive Fee. Orientation: 3 weeks. Vacation spot: Ghana
September of 1961
In September 1961 S.O. boarded a flight and left for Ghana, his host nation, headed by an formidable Nkrumah, a pan-Africanist, who dreamed of a day when he wouldn’t solely rule his enclave however rule Nigeria and maybe Africa.
Austine not solely survived, however relished the tough and tumble of Ghanaian politics. Each alternative to him grew to become an event to showcase Nigeria to the world.
In the meantime, again dwelling, main ethnic teams, the Igbos within the East, the Hausas within the North and the Yorubas within the West have been locked in mortal fight, an environment which disintegrated into civil conflict within the 12 months 1967.