Nigeria – A rare breed of a retired soldier, Lt.- Col. David Chukwuma Okafor-Odu has taken a bow aged 92.
He was interred on May 14, after Burial Mass at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, Amawbia.
Late Col. Okafor-Odu was a man with clear vision, who was recruited into the Nigerian Army in 1952 under the leadership and command of the Royal West African Frontier Force. This happened without the knowledge of his rich father.
His character traits and clear vision endeared him to late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, when they met in the Nigerian Army.
Col. Okafor-Odu was number 74 in the Nigerian Army.
His career and rise in the army was like a thunderbolt, his promotions spanning only a 14 year interval.
The retired soldier became an officer in the Nigerian Army on Nov. 7, 1959 and was among the officers from the 2nd Battalion of the Nigerian Army contingent that was drafted to quell terrorists’ activities in the Southern Cameroon that same year.
The gallant colonel personally led the team that captured the terrorists’ leader and his followers in their enclave at Ndop Village in the Southern Cameroon, then a part of Nigeria, putting to an end the terrorists’ activities there.
Barely two months after the Nigerian independence in 1960, he was among the Nigerian Army contingent led by Maj.-Gen. Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi Ironsi that was sent on a peace-keeping mission to the Congo.
The contingent while in the Congo were informed that some Swedish doctors, who came to assist the country under the Red Cross duties were held hostage at Bacavu by the dissident soldiers.
Col. Okafor-Odu was the officer detailed to lead a rescue operation of the Swedish doctors, which he executed with efficiency and military precision.
The doctors were all rescued on the western shores of Lake Bacavu in 1961; as a result of Okafor-Odu’s bravery and mastery, he sustained severe injury on his left eye in the course of the operation.
Col. Okafor-Odu in January 1963 was appointed as the Aide-de Camp to the, then, Governor-General of Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and by October same year, the country became a Republic and Dr Azikiwe became the first president of the Federal Republic.
His son, Mr Jude Okafor-Odu said that his late father was an all round icon, whom people misunderstood because of his honesty, strictness and justice, who would not mind whose ox is gored.
According to him, his late father left many legacies, praying to God to grant the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss and to grant eternal rest to the deceased.
Mr Ebele Nwufo, President-General, Amawbia Town Union emphasised that Col. Okafor-Odu never died but merely transited to eternal glory.
He acknowledged that the deceased built many bridges for many people, noting that his selfless life would remain a testimony among Ndi Amawbia and friends both far and near.
The sister of the diseased, Madam Catherine Anisiobi described his late brother as an astute, refined, disciplined and successful soldier.
She noted that Col. Okafor-Odu was the first Military Attaché at the Nigerian High Commission, London.
According to her, the deceased was among that trained former Military presidents — Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Gen. Sani Abacha and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, at the Military School, Kaduna.
Earlier in a homily, Rev. Fr. Michael Onwukike, the Parish Priest of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, Amawbia said that the deceased was a man that lived out what he said.
Fr. Onwukike noted that even at an old age, Col. Okafor-Odu was still very agile and healthy, explaining that his memories would continue to be remembered even as he prayed to God for a repose of his soul.
The cleric urged all to live lives worthy of their calling, emphasising that death does not announce its coming. Parade by military officers from the 302 Artillery Command, Onitsha added glamour to the ceremony.