By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
God willing, when the proposed Abia Airport would be completed before Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu winds up in 2023, another legend of the Ngwa nation, Dr Jaja Anucha Wachuku must have been honoured and immortalised. Gov. Ikpeazu has promised to name the airport after the first Aviation Minister of the country.
The governor disclosed this while receiving in audience a socio- political group, The Ukwa- Ngwa Group(TUNG) in 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 Dr Jaja Wachuku through naming the 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 Dr. Jaja Wachuku by naming Abia Airport after him.
Gladly, the governor’s promise is coming on the heels of honouring another Ukwa Ngwa nation and former Minister of Works in the defunct Eastern Region, Chief Paul Ururuka.
It will be recalled that statute of the late Minister, Chief Paul Ururuka was unveiled last week at the popular Obikabia Junction.
Gladly also that Gov. 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. Gov. Ikpeazu has assured that this is to enable the project team realize the project before the expiration of his administration.
The governor disclosed this while receiving in audience the project team led by it’s chairman, Eskon PLC, Chief Philip Orjiakor. 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 Anucha Wachuku( 1st January, 1918- 7th November, 1996) deserves it in multiples.
Jaja was a pan-Africanist and distinguished Nigerian statesman, lawyer, politician, diplomat and humanitarian.He was the first Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, as well the country’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Jaja was also the first Minister of Foreign Affairs, and first Minister of Aviation. It is strongly assumed that no subsequent ministers of that ministry has equaled his records. This is because there is no way he would have tolerated airlines cutting corners.
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 its reinstated, threatening that it would withdraw its ministers from the coalition government.
This prompted Tarawa Balewa, who had high respect and soft spot for Jaja to reinstate Blanks on 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 government at midday of January 14, 1966.
Balewa was yet to accept Jaja’s resignation when the military boys struck barely 12 hours later in the January 15 illfated coup.
Jaja’s resoluteness and principle natured paid off later when the coupists surrounded his official residence at 7 Okotie- Eboh Street Ikoyi. When Jaja looked though his window and 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 for being an honest government minister “.
The morals here is that resoluteness and leading a principled life pays. This is a big challenge for our contemporary politicians. This attests to the quote that: ” He who forgets and isn’t forgotten is not dead. To be dead you need to forget and be forgotten”.
Once again, thank you Gov. Ikpeazu for your frantic efforts to immortalise this legend. It is an honour well deserved!.