For being a consistent, firm, reasoned voice for a new Nigeria built on justice, equity and mutual self-respect; for being a model soldier with a deep grasp of the meaning of war and peace, for championing the cause of regional harmony and a national structure that recognizes and respects the political rights of its constituent parts, Commodore Ebitu Okoh Ukiwe, Akajiofo Ndigbo, is The AUTHORITY Icon.
Very highly regarded by his people and many across the nation’s eth¬nic divides, he is one of Nigeria’s most unusual personalities. Highly princi¬pled, informed and courageous, he stands firm behind the ideals he cherishes, a trait not common in many Nigerian politicians. Significantly, he is not a member of any of the political parties.
Meet Commodore Ebitu Okoh Ukiwe, former Chief of General Staff, CGS. Ukiwe was born on October 26, 1940, son of Chief Ebitu Ukiwe of Abiriba in Abia State. His father was a traditional ruler in Abiriba and Head of the Old Bende Division Local Government Appeal Court. Ukiwe joined the Nigerian Navy in 1960 as a cadet (of¬ficer), and was commissioned in 1964 with the rank of sub-lieutenant.
A Royal Naval College (Dartmouth, England) trained naval officer, when the coup and counter-coup of 1966 pushed Nigeria towards the eventual civil war, he was forced to retreat to the East and fight for Biafra. After the war, in January 1972 he was readmitted to the Navy, one of the few Igbo officers to regain their position.
Ukiwe was the first Igbo officer to be member of the Supreme Military Council between 1975 and 1977. General Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him military gover¬nor of Niger State in 1977 - the first Igbo military officer to govern a Muslim-domi¬nated Northern State. He was re-deployed to Lagos State as governor in July 1978, holding this post until October 1979. He was appointed director, Naval Faculty, Jaji (1981-1984) and Flag Officer, Western Na¬val Command (1984-1985). He became the Chief of General Staff in 1985 under General Ibrahim Babangida and retired with the rank of Commodore in January 1987 after falling out with Babangida, over issues surrounding Nigeria’s controversial membership of the Organisation of Islam¬ic Countries, OIC.
Ukiwe never agreed with the notion that Nigeria belongs to any part of the country more than the others, or that the religion or culture of any part should be imposed on the rest.
After retirement he joined the pro-democracy group NADECO, supporting Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the undeclared president-elect in the June 1993 elections, who was imprisoned after General Sani Abacha took power in a coup in November 1993. He became chairman of companies such as Bitu Properties, Ko¬bimat, Bitu Promar and Rudocons. He was adviser and consultant to Statoil (Nigeria), an offshore oil production company, for nine years.
Last year, Ukiwe was conferred with the title ‘Akajiofo Ndigbo,’ meaning, Igbo sym¬bol of authority, by traditional rulers of the South-East region led by the king of Nri, Eze Obidiegwu Onyesoh. Nri, in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, where the event took place, is the ancestral home of the Igbo ethnic group.
He is married to Aminat Talib.