Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, currently sick in England, has been virtually abandoned by his wife, Bianca Ojukwu (nee Onoh) and his erstwhile political godson, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State.
Our investigation included interviews with concerned doctors, Nigerians in the UK, family members, and close associates of the former leader of Biafra who is one of the most charismatic public figures in Africa in the last fifty years. Saharareporters has unearthed horrifying details of the plight of the Ikemba after he had his second stroke in December of 2010.
Governor Obi has told Nigerians many a time that Chief Ojukwu was receiving the best medical attention in the UK and that he, the governor, was taking care of the medical bills. But sources close to the family as well as a medical source disclosed to Saharareporters that Ikemba had been dumped in an elderly home in England due to lack of money to pay his hospital bills. Meanwhile our investigation showed that Ikemba’s wife, Bianca, is now living with her boyfriend, Uju Robert Okonkwo, in her husband’s home in Enugu. Mr. Okonkwo is a commissioner in Governor Obi’s government and Bianca reportedly nominated him for the job.
In an investigation carried out over several weeks, we uncovered grave allegations being leveled against Bianca Ojukwu by the rest of the family of Ikemba. According to our sources, when Ikemba had his stroke in December of 2010, his family and friends were not informed for ten days. Bianca refused to take Ikemba to the hospital. Instead she arranged for a Doctor Ike to treat Ikemba at home. Bianca reportedly ignored the objection of Ikemba’s family to any treatment from that particular doctor based on their past experiences with the doctor. “Bianca knew that Ikemba’s family was opposed to having Dr. Ike treat him, but she disregarded our objections,” said a family source.
Asked what might be Bianca’s reason for keeping Ikemba at home for ten days, a family source replied that it was impossible to read her mind. However, he speculated that her action could have been from “criminal intent, ignorance or misguided protectionism.”
A doctor at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) in Enugu told Saharareporters that there are serious consequences of keeping a stroke patient at home. “A stroke patient requires a series of diagnoses, medical interventions and round-the-clock monitoring to both control his condition as well as avert other opportunistic and worse scenarios,” he said.
In Ikemba’s case, he was kept at home for ten days without undergoing a CAT scan to diagnose the extent of his brain injury. One source, a doctor in Enugu, disclosed that Dr. Ike administered drip without looking at Chief Ojukwu’s medical history that warned against that type of drip. After ten days at home, Ikemba’s mild stroke degenerated into an emergency medical situation when Chief Ojukwu stopped breathing. A source told Saharareporters that when Ikemba stopped breathing, Bianca, her doctor and friends, including a cousin of Ikemba, left him for dead upstairs and went downstairs to the living room.
A family friend who was at Ikemba’s home overheard the doctor saying that if Ikemba did not receive oxygen in 30 minutes he would be brain damaged even if resucitated. The family friend rushed upstairs and with the help of the house helps transported Ikemba to UNTH at break neck speed. It was at UNTH that Chief Ojukwu finally received oxygen.
Ikemba spent several days at UNTH without receiving CAT scan. Meanwhile, our sources revealed that Gov. Peter Obi did everything to try to avoid the expenses of securing a foreign hospital and an ambulance jet to take Ikemba abroad. Gov. Obi finally agreed to bring an ambulance jet when he was informed that Lagos-based businessman, Mike Adenuga was ready to foot the bill for Ikemba’s treatment abroad.
On December 23, 2010, Ikemba was flown to London Clinic for treatment. He was accompanied on the trip by Bianca and Ikemba’s chief of staff. However, family sources said that Bianca flatly refused to allow any of Ikemba’s grown children to follow. Upon the insistence of the family, Bianca finally allowed one of Ikemba’s younger daughters, Ebele, to follow.
Our sources said that Ikemba received very good care at a private London Clinic for the first time since he fell sick. According to our sources, Doctors at the clinic described the treatment he received in Nigeria as “utter negligence, if not criminal negligence.” A family friend told Saharareporters that “Ikemba was given the Michael Jackson treatment, but was lucky to have survived it because of a friend who rushed him to UNTH.”
Saharareporters gathered that doctors at London Clinic spent 10 days detoxing Ikemba from all the cocktail of medications given to him at home. He was placed on a feeding tube and a tracheotomy was performed to assist in breathing.
A medical source in London described how Bianca was constantly intervening in Chief Ojukwu’s treatment to her husband’s detriment. As Ikemba’s condition started to improve, his wife reportedly demanded that she wanted him to start physical therapy because she wanted to take Ikemba back to Nigeria. A political associate of the Ikemba said Bianca was more interested to return to Nigeria and be seen as campaigning for President Goodluck Jonathan because she wanted a high political appointment once Jonathan won.
Sources in London said that Gov. Obi was happy with Bianca’s plan because he wanted to avoid paying Ikemba’s hospital bills. Without consulting other members of the family, Bianca moved Ikemba to The Wellington Hospital on March 1, 2011.
At Wellington, emphasis shifted to therapy. At this point, Bianca returned to Nigeria. From then on, our sources said that Bianca targeted her presence at her husband’s bedside in the hospital to coincide with the visit of high profile guests who bear financial gifts. She had also accepted her appointment as a special assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan. The overall negative response to her acceptance of the position forced her to project the image that Ikemba was recovering quickly to justify her absence from his side.
Gov. Peter Obi, on his part, was reported to be always looking for ways to minimize expenses. At the same time he was going about telling people that he was sparing no expense for Ikemba. Due to Gov. Obi’s tightfistedness and Bianca’s interest in pursuing her political ambitions, our sources said, Ikemba was released from the hospital on June 6, 2011 without any consultation with his children and other family members.
Ikemba was taken to a therapeutic center called Lynden Hill by Bianca to demonstrate a “miraculous recovery.” Saharareporters investigation revealed that the move, coordinated with Gov. Peter Obi, was also an attempt by the governor to minimize expenses. Ikemba’s new location outside London resulted in the further isolation of the former Biafran leader, keeping the ugly truth about his plight away from the public.
While Ikemba was hidden away at Lynden Hill, Bianca, now discarded with other political appointees with the dissolution of Jonathan’s cabinet, was parading about in Nigeria seeking political appointments and accepting financial gifts for Ikemba. In interviews to newspapers, she continued to suggest that Ikemba was coming home soon when he was in fact still on a feeding tube, unable to speak or sit up without assistance.
It was during this entire incident that Bianca also moved into Ikemba’s home with her boyfriend, Uju Robert Okonkwo, a member of Gov. Peter Obi’s cabinet from Nnewi and a cousin to the Ojukwus. Uju Okonkwo, our investigation unearthed, was one of the first people to visit Ikemba and Bianca in London.
Friends of Bianca who spoke to Saharareporters under the condition of anonymity said that she was tired of living under the shadow of two great men, her late father, Chief C.C. Onoh, a former governor of Enugu State, and Ikemba. One friend quoted her as saying that, “the time of both men is gone. It’s my time to shine.”
Meanwhile, at Lynden Hill, Ikemba’s health degenerated quickly as nurses were withdrawn in an effort by Gov. Obi to save money. Without nurses to look after him, the care for Chief Ojukwu became the responsibility of his daughter.
Family and medical sources told Saharareporters that Bianca and Gov. Obi decided to place Ikemba on DO NOT Resuscitate order. It means that no effort should be made to revive him if his condition became critically bad. Despite the protest of Ikemba’s children, Bianca signed herself as the sole next of kin.
On the morning of June 27, Ikemba was found unresponsive. Frantic telephone calls were made to Gov. Obi and Bianca, but it took the governor more than 48 hours to respond to the calls. Chief Ojukwu was rushed to Royal Berkshire hospital where it was discovered that he had developed pneumonia. Bianca and Gov. Obi traveled to London several days after.
Saharareporters wondered why Ikemba’s grown children had not stepped up to contribute towards defraying the cost of their father’s medical treatment in London. A family source responded that Ikemba’s grown children were ready to raise funds on their own and from their father’s many well-wishers. However, the source said it was difficult for the rest of the family to play any role when Bianca has indicated herself as a sole next of kin and Gov. Obi has been telling the world that he was doing everything for his political godfather, Ikemba. A major Igbo political source in Abuja told us that President Jonathan had offered to help defray the cost of Ikemba’s care in London, but that Gov. Obi told him he wanted to take care of it.
But our investigations showed that, as at last week, payments to The Wellington hospital, Lynden Hill and Royal Berkshire were outstanding. In London, Obi promised that he would settle the late bills. At the time of going to press, Saharareporters could not ascertain if he redeemed his promise by paying the debts.
A medical source told us that Royal Berkshire Hospital, which is a public medical facility, does not have the quality of care that Ikemba received initially at the private London Clinic. However, Gov. Obi is happy that Ikemba is at Berkshire where he is receiving treatment under the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). That means that Gov. Obi does not have to pay as much for Ikemba’s treatment. Our sources also revealed that a non-resuscitate order remains in place.
A political associate of Ikemba said he cried after visiting the former Biafran leader at Wellington. He said, “Gov. Obi exploited Dim Ojukwu even in the last elections, but he does not want to spend a kobo to give the man the medical attention he deserves.” Another source said: “All eyes are on Obi and Bianca to see exactly how callous they really are and if indeed they will trade Ezeigbo’s life for their ambitions.”
Saharareporters made several efforts to speak directly with Bianca, but she did not answer her calls. A representative of Governor Obi also failed to respond to our calls.