By Emeka Obasi
He is no Jack of all trade, this one knows his way round leadership and from the military, Jack Keonyemere Lincoln ( LKJ) Ogunewe is gradually settling into political engineering. For a man who enlisted as a teenager, his civility is infectious.
Gen. Ogunewe has eyes on the Imo State Government House which I will never refer to as Douglas House because it is a huge shame that a man who dealt with Mbaise in the colonial period is celebrated in the Imo State capital.
Ogunewe is an Mbaise man from Ezinihite. I do not not know how he feels about the colonial Douglas. For now, his attention is on the prime job in Imo State. Gubernatorial elections come up in November. Imo means so much to Ndigbo.
I was in touch with Ogunewe last week and he sounded modest. Infact, I joked that I did not mind his rank as a retired Two – Star general while handing out an order to him. He said he was standing attention already. That is humility.
The veteran may not be like other politicians who brook no opposition. ” My greatest fans are critics because I know that it is not everyone that criticises you that that should be seen as an enemy. And not all that praise you can be safely regarded as friends,” he said.
The general is well traveled and sound. With a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Nigeria Nsukka and Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad, Pakistan, he also trained in Ghana, Israel, the United States and Thailand.
He passed out as a member of Regular Course 29, of the Nigerian Defence Academy ( NDA) Kaduna. That should be same set as former Army Chief, Tukur Buratai. Ogunewe missed the position of Chief of Army Staff by a whisker but as Chief of Policy and Plans, was next in command.
Ogunewe comes with a touch of diplomacy too. As Defence Adviser, Nigerian Mission to the United Nations in New York, he scored a first. His colleagues at the world body elected him as Dean, Military and Police Advisers Community. No African got to that level before him.
It is also remarkable that as a soldier he won elections, far away from home. Obviously, the political engineering will not start with this Labour Party attraction. That experience of winning election in the home of democracy without throwing money about means so much.
Ogunewe comes from a military family. His father, Col. David Sunday Ogunewe, the 34th officer commissioned by the Nigeria Army is best remembered as the man who spared Enugu bloodletting during the Counter Coup of July 29, 1966.
Col. Ogunewe was barely six months old as commanding officer, First Battalion, Enugu when the coup that consumed Gen. Johnson Aguiyi – Ironsi and Col. Adekunle Fajuyi happened. He succeeded Col. David Ejoor who was appointed Military Governor of Mid-West Region.
Northern elements, led by subalterns like Shehu Musa Yar’adua, Muhammadu Jega and Yohanna Kure were baying for blood but Ogunewe applied diplomacy to control the situation. The officers listened to him because of his disposition.
Governor Emeka Ojukwu was in Enugu and the Ogunewe treatment saved him from danger. Perhaps, that was why the former chose the latter as Principal Staff Officer ( PSO ) when he became Head of State of Biafra. Under Ojukwu, the PSO ranked as high as a Service Chief.
At the end of the war, Ogunewe braved the consequences and stayed behind while his boss flew to Cote D’Ivoire ‘in search of peace.’ He was one of those that received Col. Olusegun Obasanjo, GOC of Nigeria Army 3rd Marine Commando division, his erstwhile subordinate at Third Battalion, Kaduna, in Amichi.
Ogunewe was part of the Biafran delegation that flew to Lagos to end the war formally. Led by Gen. Philip Effiong, other members were Brigadier Patrick Amadi, Col. Patrick Anwunah, Sir Louis Mbanefo, Prof. Eni Njoku, Mathew Mbu and Chief Patrick Okeke.
Col. Ogunewe’s leadership qualities were duly recognised by Gowon and without being detained like some of his colleagues, he was asked to resume at the Nigeria Army without any loss of rank. His rank before the war was Lt. Col. His son, Jack also joined the Army and rose to the rank of Major General. Those leadership qualities seem hereditary. The junior Ogunewe wants to make things happen in Imo. He has no godfather bankrolling his ambition and believes Ndi Imo are not willing to be bought over like market commodity.
The Labour Party is packed full, with candidates who cannot be considered as newcomers. There is Martin Agbaso, who has moved from party to party and gave his younger brother, Jude, to Rochas Okorocha as deputy governor. His elder sister was married to Gen. Buba Marwa.
Athan Achonu is a known strong man who bulldozed his way to the Senate. A hard fighting politician, he is also loaded and well connected to the North. Charles Agomuo retired from the Police as Assistant Inspector General. Kelechi Nwagwu was Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly. Joseph Ukegbu was the Labour Party candidate in 2019.
Ogunewe is battle tested and battle ready. Armed with integrity and devotion to service, his military background is an advantage.
In a state troubled by insecurity, the general is not drawing a pistol yet. He sees Imo as a land of great people that will surely bounce back under a dynamic Labour Party.