One of the greatest attributes, looked out for, in the life of every man, for him to be widely acceptable to all is integrity.
The reason is that integrity is one virtue that cannot be bought with money, acquired through influence or received by accomplishment, but is only earned through discipline and core values.
It is an invaluable virtue, in which society places very high premium accessing a person or group of people. Not many can beat their chest to say that they have it, but those who have acquired it are not hidden in any society where they exist because they shine like stars, and the society accord them strong recognition, whether they are old or young.
Retired Naval Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe has integrity, his people of Abiriba, in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia state recognizes that, the people of Abia state testifies about it, the army, Navy and all the security outfits that witnessed his services to humanity can never deny it. Also this nation we call Nigeria and the entire world, particularly , those who have come across him can say that this is indeed a man of integrity. These testimonies abound, and he wears it as a robe wherever he goes.
It is integrity that stands him out from the crowd as a military man, a civilian, elder statesman, business mogul and a prince of Abiriba land.
In the days of our fathers, grand fathers and great grandfathers, money never represented the yard stick for measuring people’s integrity. Those who lived crookedly were still looked at from the point of view of not qualified to occupy certain positions in the society. Even when they exhibit the highest level of philanthropy, people still looked at them as being unqualified. Then, wealth had not replaced the core values in the society, integrity was still revered and those who had it were looked at from respectable points of view.
Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, the onetime Chief of General Staff and Vice President of the Federal Military Government wears integrity as a robe, and he flaunts it anywhere, anytime and any day, and for that, the society respects him. The quest to protect his integrity has endeared him to many people at home and abroad.
No one is known to have resigned the Vice President ship of Nigeria just to protect his integrity, apart from Ukiwe, no Nigerian had taken that initiative just because he was undermined.
That is the story of Ochiagha Ebitu Ukiwe, a onetime Chief of General Staff/Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an Abiriba prince, whose position has never been known to have diverted him from his mission of leading his people aright.
Today, because he has weathered the storms of life unscathed, to arrive at the enviable age of 80 years and he is still counting, many have decided to celebrate him .
Described as a fine and thorough bred Naval officer, with royal blood, whose integrity, simplicity, contentment, carriage, as well as his unblemished accomplishments has endeared to people from far and near.
Come Monday, October 26, 2020, his Country in Abiriba will wear celebration garb as people from all walks of life will gather to give honour to whom honor is due to.
Speaking on the life of the Abiriba Prince and the need to celebrate him at the age of 80 years, Chief Inem Nwaka his kinsman said that he glorifies God for his life and the lessons his life has made available to people both in his private and public services .
“He is a rare blessings to the family, community, state, nation and world at large. As my Uncle, I am very proud and privileged to be associated with him. As a Naval officer, the Navy continues to relish his contributions and unassailable standards he set while in service. As a Governor, citizens of Niger and Lagos States have never forgotten his contributions, and as a Chief of General Staff/Vice President, Nigeria will always remember his unquantifiable records.”, Nwaka stated.
Nwaka explained that in Abiriba Community in particular and the entire Igbo nation, Ukiwe deserves celebration, and he called on all Igbos to rally round him and give him the honnour he deserves.
A story was told of an incident that happened between him and his superiors in the office some years back when he was in service as the number 2 man (military Vice President) and the Chief of General staff, how he declined to be undermined by the people he was working with.
According to the report, the then Head of the Military Government, had plotted to undermine him by sending a Minister to represent Nigeria at the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) conference, without his knowledge as his deputy.
When he received intelligence on the matter, he confronted the then Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, a huge life risk, but he took it to protect his integrity.
And after the confrontation with the Commander in Chief of Armed Forces and other AFRC members, who had undermine his position as a vice Military president, he threw in the towel, to the surprise of the ruling Military Council.
No one imagined that the military vice president would consider choice of resigning from office as the Vice President, but he did and that earned him a lot of respect in and out of the military.
Analyzing the incident, a respondent who would not want to be quotd said that he knew that it was time to go, as further stay would give his adversaries the chance to humiliate him, and he chose the path of honour above office position and resigned , which showed integrity on his path.
Born to his traditional Ruler father, Chief Ebitu Ukiwe on October 26, 1940, he joined the Nigerian Navy in 1960 as a Cadet Officer and was commissioned in 1964 with the rank of sub-lieutenant.
In 1966, when the Civil war broke out, he defected to the Biafran Armed Forces, and from 1967 to 1970, and fought on the side of the Biafra . After the war, in January 1972 he was readmitted to the Navy, as one of the few Igbo officers to regain their positions in the Nigerian military.
Ukiwe was a member of the Supreme Military Council between 1975 and 1977, and was appointed Military Governor of Niger state in 1977. He was re-deployed to Lagos state as governor in July 1978, a position he held until October 1979.
He was also in the SMC under General Muhammadu Buhari from 1983 to 1985, while serving as Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval command. He rose to become the Director of Naval Faculty, Jaji and served therein from 1981to 1984 as well as the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command from 1984–1985.
Following the 1985 Nigerian Military Coup d’etat, he was again appointed the Chief of General Staff, to Gen Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida as his second-in-command. He was removed as Chief of General staff after opposing Babaggida’s decision to join Organization of Islamic Corporations OIC in 1986.
After retirement, he joined the pro-democracy group, supporting Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the 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, Kobimat, Bitu Promar and Rudocons, as well as an adviser and consultant to Statoil (Nigeria), an offshore oil production company, for nine years.
Commenting on Ebitu Ukiwe’s 80th birthday, a financial expert and Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Dr. Alex Otti expressed gratitude to God for upholding him to attain the age of 80 in sound health.
Otti described Commodore Ukiwe as patriotic Nigerian and a worthy statesman who has distinguished himself both as a public servant and as a private citizen.
He recalled Commodore Ukiwe’s accomplishments as a fine senior military gentleman who took a patriotic path throughout his service to the nation, and bowed out honourably when he felt the time was riped, without compromising his principles.
He described Ukiwe as his father, given the close personal relationship they have shared for several decades leading to him serving as the Chairman of his wedding over 27 years ago.
He prayed God to continue to uphold Commodore Ukiwe in good health so that the younger generation could continue to tap from his fatherly reservoir of wisdom and knowledge.
A kinsman of Ukiwe, and the Commissioner for Information in Abia state Government, Chief John Okiyi, whose opinion is a widely respected as an Abiriba prominent son, described Ukiwe as simply a very good man. What this goes to mean is that Ukiwe will continue to remain a veritable political, social, and economic brand ambassador of the Abiriba man any time, any day, and for that, Abiriba people all over the world should rise up to celebrate of their own, who has left a mark in the sand of time at the age of 80 .
Also speaking on his 80th birthday, the Chairman of Vision Africa Radio, Bishop Sunday Onuoha described Ukiwe as a great Nigerian who understands the rules of engagement and does not bend it.
“Yes, Dede Ebitu is a great Nigerian a disciplined man, sincere and honest, a man who does not bend the rules, he understands the rule of engagement, and also knows when to say it is enough. When he says it is enough, it is indeed enough.
“In the history of this Country, we’ ve never had the number two man or a man at his level, capacity and exposure, as well as political and military assignment who says I am quitting , I am no longer interested, Nobody has ever done it, he is the only man.
“So we have so much respect for him, as a man of his words, I wish him happy birthday and pray that the remaining part of his life will continue to bring hope, succor and success , not only to Igbo land, but also to people who know him and the people of this country”, Bishop Onuoha prayed.
U. K. Eke, MFR. Group Managing Director, FBN Holdings Plc was not left out, he had this to say;
“Ochịagha has an amazing intellectual capacity. He is sharp and challenges one’s reasoning ability. I see him as a model statesman who projects the attributes of a global citizen, principled, value – driven and certainly not duplicitous. He leaves you with no doubt on his stand on any matter”.
“His strength of character is enviable and he reminds us that speaking truth to power is a necessary ingredient for nation – building. In celebrating this great man on his 80th, i pray for more years in good health so he sees the Nigeria of his dream”.
On a final note, the President ACIU Lagos, Ogbonna Odim dropped another flowery words for Ochiagha at 80.
“Your 80th birthday celebration is an opportunity to acknowledge your hard work, honesty and integrity which in no small measure inspired us to dream. We’re awake to possibilities and opportunities, all thanks to you”.
“The Abiriba community around the world and especially in Lagos appreciate you and pray that you have an awesome birthday”.